After the Avengers Super Heroes 5K, I was convinced I should bypass all character lines during the Avengers Half Marathon and just focus on my running. I had spent the weekend talking about my running obstacles with my roomies Christine and Debbie, and I thought it was about time I really pushed myself harder than I'm used to in order to test my limits. Debbie gave me a great idea to help free myself from constantly staring at my watch and sticking to my strict OCD intervals: she suggested I run from one water stop to the next and take my walk breaks during water breaks, instead of at scheduled times. I thought it was an interesting concept and decided to give it try.
With that in mind, I kicked off the morning with my usual Starbucks yogurt and not-so-usual 7-11 cup of coffee. I left my room early enough to meet up with my friend Laura pre-race. I was happy to see her because I seemed to have missed out on every opportunity to hang out with her at WDW during Princess Half Marathon. She's a really awesome lady!
I finally walked to my corral where I anxiously waited for the race to start. I was close enough to the stage to see the action when Captain America saluted our nation's true heroes - those in the armed forces. I thought that was really cool.
Afterwards, Captain America wished us all a great race as well.
I was really eager for this race to get started, and as usual I was afraid of what would happen to me after mile 10. That's usually when I poop out. The waiting was getting on my nerves...and I started second guessing my nutrition and my new compression socks and tank. But you know me - I ALWAYS do something new race day, and it hasn't backfired on me.
Finally - BOOM! I took off and didn't look back. When I reached mile marker 1 I was happy to see I was keeping a great pace, but it did occur me I had better slow down since there were still a dozen miles to go.
I kept on running. The weather was nice and cool, and all the Christmas decorations were up in both parks which was just so pretty to see.
We ran from Disney California Adventure to Disneyland.
By mile 2 I had slowed my pace a bit to conserve engery, but I still hadn't made any character stops. I was determined to keep running unless I saw the Hulk or another character I didn't see at the 5K the day before.
The course ran from New Orleans Square through Frontierland and into Fantasyland by way of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Usually at every runDisney race there are characters in front of - or on - King Arthur Carrousel. This time it was all seven dwarfs! I definitely had to stop for a photo of them.
I continued running through the castle and down Main Street U.S.A., until I ran into Captain America. I had not been able to take a photo with him on the course at the 5K because he was already gone - so I decided I might as well do it now. I waited quite a bit for the photo, but considering I was already leaving the parks and hadn't seen the Hulk - I knew this would be my last character stop.
Once on the mean streets of Anaheim I knew the outcome of this race would be dictated by the Santa Ana winds. Although we didn't feel the strength of the winds of inside the parks, it was happening in a big way. I was already pushing so hard to keep running from one water stop to the next, but to push against the winds would be an entirely different challenge.
Oddly enough the winds during this part of the course didn't seem that much stronger than the winds I typically have to fight where I train - so although it did suck - I felt like I was at home. (Side note: I HATE running at home.) Not my ideal conditions, but there were some pretty views to capture along the way. Like the sun rise and the Crystal Cathedral.
The part of the Disneyland Half Marathon course I detest the most is the trail leading to Angel Stadium. I had a bad felling we'd be utilizing that path again during this race, and sadly I was correct. So I decided to stop for restroom break and mentally prepare for the dirt to be blown in my face, eyes and mouth. As I was running down onto the trail I ran into Linzie and snapped this little awesome selfie right here!
The trail was brutal. It was really windy - worse than any wind at home, so I take that part back - and on top of the dirt being blown everywhere, trash and debris also flew into my face and onto my ankles almost causing me to trip and fall on my face. I hated every miserable second of that 1 mile stretch leading into the stadium and cussed the entire time, smiling only during the photos with the cosplayers who were so super awesome.
Here you can see what the winds had done to the mile 8 marker. I heard from other runners that wasn't even there when they reached that area. In fact, for me, this would be one of the last mile markers I would see until the finish line.
After taking that picture I thought my new iPhone was broken because every photo after it also had the same weird glaze. Then I wiped off my lens and realized my phone was covered in a layer of dirt because I had carried it in my hand. You can see the difference in the photos below - one was taken before wiping my lens, the other after. If that's how much dirt covered my tiny iPhone lens, you can only imagine how filthy I was. Cleaning my ears after the race was a nasty little chore. I took a walk break and texted this photo to my daughter, who is huge fan of Mike Trout. (I'm so disappointed in her.)
Pretty soon were in the stadium, which was also really windy.
I continued to push along, still only stopping for water breaks. I looked to both my watch and Runkeeper for distance because there were no more mile markers to be seen. Well, unless you count this one at mile 10:
Mile 10 is usually my wall, and I did find myself slowing down a bit. I had never before in my life run without taking breaks at set intervals and this was hard, but it also felt really good. I slowed down for mile 11, pulled wipes out of my fuel belt and scrubbed my face and neck. I felt so dirty, and worse - I had started coughing. The dirt was not helping my asthma and allergies so I decided to stick to a decent 12:30 pace and just get this baby over with. Which I did - 1 minute and 31 seconds shy of a half marathon PR. Crazy! Had I not taken my time during the mile 7 bathroom break or taken photos or sent text messages or paused during my mile 11 "bath" - this race would have been a PR for me!
Waiting for her friends at the finish line was this lovely lady - Kelly from Sparkle Athletic! I was happy to see a familiar face at the end of the race - especially hers. She was handing out doughnuts to her friends, and I happily wolfed down a doughnut hole and smiled for the camera. Thanks Kelly!
I cried when I crossed the finish line. Not because of how challenging the wind was, but because of how far I have come. This was my 20th half marathon since I started running in 2012, and in this race alone I really broke through some of my greatest running barriers. I cried because I am so thankful to my family for supporting my running and sometimes being more proud of me than I am of myself. I couldn't wait to get home to them!
I was happy with my race results overall and REALLY eager to back to the room to shower and join Debbie for breakfast.
Bottom line: what did I really think of this race and this course? It was not my favorite. Much like the Disneyland Half, the course is ruined for me once we enter the dirt trail. Although at least this time - because of the wind I presume - we didn't have to deal with rude cyclists on the trail as well. That was a bonus. The theme of the race was great, the medals and shirts were fantastic, the merch was nice and the on-course support is always amazing with runDisney. The wind was not my favorite, but it was still better than what the weather is like here in September during Disneyland Half so I'm happy with that. I will take ANYTHING over hot and humid. Will I run this race again in 2015? I don't really know. I am trying not to repeat races moving forward so I will wait until after Star Wars weekend in January to determine what my runDisney calendar for 2015 will look like. The January Tink Half race was always my favorite runDisney race, and so I think with Star Wars now in that January slot it (Star Wars) may become the race I repeat year after year. Stay tuned - I'll let you know all about that one in January 2015.
Did you run the Avengers Half Marathon? Post your comments below!