Sunday, September 2nd was a magical day. It was my birthday and the day I’d finally earn the runDisney 2012 Coast to Coast Medal. I was filled with the kind of excitement, anticipation and anxiety to be expected after working so hard to attain the goal I'd set for myself many months before.
I stayed up all of Saturday night/Sunday morning finishing my costume & only managed to sleep an hour. When I awoke Sunday morning I was a mess: nervous, doubtful and worried about how I would do in the heat. I questioned my decision to run without a hydration belt. (Fact: running messes with your head. If you let it.)
When I left my room that morning at 4:00 am, nobody had bothered to wake up and wish me a happy birthday. I had started my birthday feeling just like Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles.
On my way to the shuttle, I messaged my friend Christine and made arrangements to meet-up with her. One of the great things about runDisney races: you make friends & you’re never truly running alone. There is always support from Cast Members, other runners, volunteers and spectators to motivate you along the way. I was really looking forward to seeing her and hopefully seeing other running friends.
I boarded the happy bus full of shiny faces ready to take on the Disneyland Half. [TIP: Make sure the hotel you’re staying at is a Disneyland friendly neighbor hotel and your transportation for all race weekend events will be complimentary.] Many of them were eating and drinking coffee which I had not done. In fact, I couldn't remember what I’d had for dinner the night before...
Luckily, as with all things Disney, something magical happened when the shuttle dropped us off and I made my way through Downtown Disney towards the corrals: the LaBrea Bakery and Jamba Juice were both open! I was able to grab a cup of coffee and a pre-race bagel. [TIP: This is why it’s good to carry a small amount of cash with you. You can easily stuff a $20 bill in your fuel belt/arm band or race bag that you plan to check.] Happy days were here again!
The positive energy in the bag check area was contagious. I sipped my coffee, ate my bagel, used a restroom and checked my bag before making my way over the corrals to meet up with Christine. When we found each other she gave me a big hug, wished me a happy birthday and said everything I needed to hear. We wished each other good luck and went our separate ways into our different corrals. (Hours later we wondered why it didn't occur to either of us take a picture together?!)
I stood and chatted with other runners until it was start time. Just as the race began for the runners in Corral A, I received a text message from my boyfriend wishing me a happy birthday. Yay! Soon enough, our turn to start had come. I turned on my running apps as I crossed the Start line and off I went!
The sun had not yet risen and the weather was nice. We ran up Katella and turned onto Harbor where I searched all the spectators' faces hoping to find the ones that mattered most to me, but no so such luck. Although, as we began our entry into California Adventure I did run into my buddy Hamm.
Once inside California Adventure, we made our way through Paradise Pier and headed towards Cars Land. I loved seeing the World of Color fountains turned on so early in the morning, and it was awesome to see people who had never been to the park experience it for the first time. There were Cast Members on hand to snap pics of runners in front of the water with the Mickey Wheel behind them.
A few seconds later I was in Cars Land.
I couldn’t resist stopping for pictures.
We left Cars Land, ran through Bugs Land & passed the Tower of Terror running right into Hollywood. This is when the giant coffee from earlier kicked in and I ran into the Hollywood restroom for a very brief pit stop. [TIP: Restrooms in the park along the race route are open and are a nicer, cleaner, cooler alternative to the port-a-potties on the side of the road.]
We left DCA, crossed the Esplanade and headed into Disneyland. Wow! Running through Disneyland…running up Main Street during the ½ Marathon…I was here and I was doing it!
Best moment ever!
Soon we were running by the Rivers of America and through Fantasyland. Minutes later I was in front of the castle posing for the “I just ran through the castle!” shot.
Next stop: Tomorrowland. Photo op: Darth Vader and 2 Storm Troopers. I immediately ran straight to the end of the line and happily waited. You can see the extreme geek stoke factor written all over my face. Darth wasn’t too happy with me hanging all over him. Bonus!
After that epic moment I took off and started running towards the Matterhorn and Toon Town. I was having a blast! We continued running and were soon outside of Disneyland and onto the streets of Anaheim. Once on the street we were back among local spectators and it was fun reading the signs they held as I ran by. I was having such a great time I wasn’t looking for my family anymore – I was enjoying everybody else’s.
Then mile 4 happened.
If I remember correctly, Mile 4 started at the base of the Ball Road overpass. (It may have started a little earlier.) Just a bit of an incline. There were cheerleaders on the side of road yelling and cheering us on – which was fantastic. I reached the top of the hill and raced down the other side in complete and utter disappointment when I realized what was in store for me for the remaining 9 miles.
No edit, no filter, no lens flare effect – that is a photo of what was beating down on me and everyone else as we blindly made our way down Ball Road. My sunglasses were in the bag I’d checked earlier, my hydration belt was 350 miles away in my closet and I don’t own a visor in any zip code. I don’t run in high heat, and the only time I allow the sun to beat down on my like this is when I’m in Hawaii sipping mai tias. I was hot and sweaty & and it wasn’t even 7:30am yet. What if I overheated like a car on the Grapevine? What if I became dehydrated? What if…what if…?
You cannot run as fast when the temperature rises above 60F/14C. If you slow down 30 seconds a mile for every 5F increase above 60F, you can be the one who is finishing strong, passing other runners at the end. For every second you run too fast during the first half of a race on a hot day, expect to run 10 seconds slower at the end.
I went back to my original plan of running and walking 30 second intervals at a slow, steady pace and started to pay attention to the entertainment and hydration stations. I was there to have fun and the sun wasn’t going to ruin my day.
Anaheim PD agreed.
So did this guy.
As I continued to rack up the miles I kept my 30/30 pace going, stopped at every hydration station for water and Powerade, and sent text messages to my friend Christne to make sure she was OK too. I also sent pics via text to my boyfriend and let him know how I was doing. His replies were supportive and I could tell he was genuinely excited for me.
Along the way to Angel Stadium, I ran by cheerleaders, dancers, hula dancers, a mariachi band, a car show and multiple bands. People shouted happy birthday & words of encouragement to me as I ran by.
Once in the stadium parking lot, my inner baseball geek woke up and my energy level was renewed.
I come to this stadium a couple of times a year for Supercross, but I've never watched a baseball game here and I've never run alongside the field. I was like a kid in a candy store taking pics and shooting (bad, shaky) video. The support from the crowd was very cool. I sent my boyfriend video from Angel Stadium letting him know I was having fun.
By mile 11 my left knee, the one affected by my IT band issue, started hurting. My face was covered in salt and it hurt to smile. I love smiling, so at the next hydration station I threw water on my face and pulled wipes from my fuel belt to clean myself up. [TIP: fold a few face wipes into a tiny sandwich bag and place them in your fuel belt for moments when you need to clean your face or hands.] As I neared mile 12 a group of cheerleaders starting yelling my name and cheering me on. They were shouting "Happy Birthday, Jindy! You can do it. You're almost done! Run, run!!"
My daughter is a cheerleader. I know how hard these athletes work. Some people lift weights, cheerleaders lift people. Knowing that they had been up just as early as me and had been standing in the sun for longer than I had been running really motivated me. I made sure I stopped and thanked them for being there for us.
I reached mile 12 and was back at the Disneyland Resort. Cast Members along the course were counting down the distance to the finish line for us. When I had less than 1/2 a mile to go I heard a man's voice yelling my name. It was my boyfriend! He had been using the text messages being sent to him by the runner tracking system along with my text messages to figure out when he should leave the hotel and find a spot along the return route to cheer me on. He'd run all the way from our hotel to the Finish line, but it was so crowded he knew we'd never see each other there; so he started running backwards along the course until he find a spot where he thought I might see him. In so may ways it was pure chance that we saw each other. I was so excited I grabbed him, kissed him and had a spectator take a picture of us. I was REALLY looking forward to our celebration dinner at Carthay Circle later that night.
After our PDA session I started running again and was happy to see SO many specatators along the final stretch of the course though Dowtown Disney.
Before I knew it, I was finished! I received my Disneyland Half Medal & my Coast to Coast Medal. I pulled my Princess Half Medal out of my fuel belt and headed over to the finisher photo section. [TIP: coast to coasters, carefully pack your medal in your fuel belt and pull it out while waiting in line for the finisher photo, because the finisher photo section is located BEFORE the bag pick-up area]
After that I picked up my checked bag and made my way out of the runner's area. It would take a full 10 minutes to find my boyfriend again as AT&T service was non-existent. While we walked back to the hotel I thanked him a million times for being there for me. This was the first time since I started running that anyone had ever come out to support me on the course. That was an awesome feeling!
I finished the race in 3:11:32 a PR over both my Princess Half and Diva's Half San Francisco finishes. All 3 of the running apps I used on my iPhone noted my average pace as 14:09 for 13.5 miles. Strava is able to pause itself when you're not moving and noted my actual running time as 3:03:16 with a 13:33 pace. Below are the results as well as a map of the actual run.
My splits from the Strava iPhone app
Watch the entire run here at my Nike Plus dashboard.
I loved this race and had a great time. This was definitely the best birthday I've ever had. Maybe because I felt I really earned the celebration that followed. If you have ever thought about starting to run or are already a runner considering the Coast to Coast Challenge - I absolutely recommend you sign up at runDisney! It was an incredible experience and a really great accomplishment. A year ago (and even the morning leading up to the race) I was filled with doubt, but I did it! If I can do it, anyone can.
For more race photos - check out the gallery.