July 18, 2010

My First Half Marathon

I wrote this blog within 24 hours of finishing the 2007 Disneyland Half Marathon. My first ever. Even though I have run several since, there's nothing like your first. So what better way to start my new blog page with my first blog, written almost 3 years ago. The picture on my home page was taken at the same race the following year. My brother-in-law, Chris, is in the background on the right.

Overall, there were 13,000 runners. Slightly fewer than 10,000 crossed the Finish line. Everyone was grouped into "Waves" and then into a specific "Corral" group. I was in Wave 2 Corral E, which I think was the last group to cross the start line in the 2nd wave. I was put there because I have never run a marathon or half-marathon before and originally estimated it would take me 3 hours to complete the course. We had chips attached to our shoes so that we would know what our "real" run time was. I don't think anyone in Wave 3 (lots of walkers in this wave) crossed the Start line before 6:30am.

When my husband (John) and I got to the hotel on Sunday, it was almost 110 degrees. I was VERY worried, not just about me, but about everyone running. Extreme heat is not something you can train for if you're not used to it. We heard there were participants from 13 different countries, and 49 of the 50 US States (no one seemed to know which state wasn't represented). There had been a Health and Fitness Expo going on all weekend at the D-Land Hotel, so we headed over there Sunday night to pick up my race packet/shirt/chip etc., and see what else was going on. Of course, there were a hundred vendors there to sell and promote all different kinds of gear. I prematurely bought a shirt that said "I did it" with the 1/2 marathon logo and Mickey on the front and a map of the course on the back. The same map I'd been staring at for months for visualization. Race officials there were giving mini "lectures" on the course conditions, and what to expect on the morning of race-day. And, of course, every other sentence was, "It is going to be very hot, please plan accordingly". I'm getting nervous.

We went back to the hotel and had an early dinner (lots of mashed potatoes and water for me). Then just chilled in the room for the rest of the night. We tried to close the room up so it was as dark as could be since we were getting up at 3:30am. We were both pretty excited about the next day, and it was hard to settle down. Luckily, Superman Returns was on T.V. (we're huge Superman and thus Smallville fans), so that was a good distraction. After listening to the fireworks exploding over-head for nearly 20 minutes, we finally fell asleep a little before 10:30. John had more trouble sleeping that I did, so he was up before the alarm went off. After a snack, coffee, Gatorade and some water, we were out the door at 4:30am. John bought a Spectator VIP package, so we had a special parking pass to park at the D-Land Hotel, closer to the Finish line. When we arrived at the hotel,the party had already gotten started. There were thousands of people around, big white tents everywhere, a huge stage, music, and more Porta-pottys than I've ever seen in one place. One of the green soldiers from Toy Story got up on stage and started yelling at everyone to stretch. It was very cute, and everyone followed right along. It wasn't even 5:15 and I already had to use the porta-potty. Time to stand in line.

[This is a picture of me warming up - which was lead by the little green soldiers from Toy Story]

A little before 5:30, we were told it was time to get in our corrals at the Start line. John still had no idea where he was supposed find the VIP section at, but he knew it was at the Finish line. We said good-bye and headed out. I got to the Start line "area" among thousands and thousands of people. Luckily, Disney had it all figured out (this is the 2nd year they've put this event on). All the sections were very clearly marked and there were metal dividers in the street so it was pretty clear where your Wave and Corral were. My section was starting to fill in, so I worked my way towards the front of the group and found a spot to sit on the ground. I started talking with a girl sitting next to me, it was her first half-marathon too. Around 5:40, a woman came through our corral from the Cliff Bar Pace Team. She was trying to recruit people to run with her. Her finishing time was going to be 2:45. I had signed up with Cliff Bar previously, but decided I wanted to do this on my own for the first race, so I didn't check in with them at the Fitness Expo. I thought it was a pretty big coincidence this pace team was forming in MY corral, but I just let her pass me. Five minutes later, she comes back through, and I thought "This is a sign". Then the girl next to me looks at me, and at the same time said "maybe we should run with them". I was going to try to do the race in 2:35, but the more I thought about the heat and the awful humidity, 2:45 was starting to sound really good. On second thought, just finishing sounds really good....okay, we're in. We stand around with our newly formed team and get to know each other. It's getting close to 6am (the "official" start time) and the energy is really starting to spike. Our pace team leader leads us in a cheer. The women first say "We are strong and powerful women", then the men chime in "And a few good looking men". That gets a big laugh from the people around us. A few more people decided to join our team. At 2 minutes after 6am, we hear a girl singing the Star Spangled Banner. 13,000 people are trying to "Shush" each other. By the time we're relatively quiet, it's over. Fireworks are popping overhead, we hear a countdown from 10, spotlights are panning the sky, and the first Wave is off and running. About 10 minutes later, the corral next to us starts to move forward....we're next. Everyone in our Wave (Wave 2) is slowly inching towards the Start line. Another countdown starts....10, 9, 8......I can see Mickey and Minnie in the their track suits. The Monorail is filled with Disney cast members cheering and waving at us. More big fireworks... and here we go. Oh crap, I have to pee again....

The first mile is an easy jog to California Adventure. We enter the park and find Disney characters everywhere. Runners are stopping to get their pictures taken. Even though the park's not open yet, some of the rides are moving... we are all very excited, and trying very hard to keep our pace slow. We pass mile marker 2...that's it....I have to find a porty-potty, and soon. I let my team know I have to stop and pull over. Luckily, these are no porta-pottys. It's a real bathroom. And there's no wait. I hear other women coming in.."I can't believe I have to stop already". I'm not worried. In less than 90 seconds, I'm out the door and back on the course. Now I have to catch up. Our team was running intervals, 5 minute run-1 minute walk. I speed up a little, but I'm already drenched with sweat and I don't want to work too hard this early. It's still early in the race, and I have to weave in and out of groups of runners to try and get around them. Finally, I see our team. Next, we enter Disneyland park. We run through the front gates, around what the employees are calling "Disney Backstage", and somehow end up near the Matterhorn. I'm not sure how we got here. We make our way through Fantasyland and run under Cinderella's Castle. More excitement as people are jumping around and "Woo-hoo"-ing as they run under the castle. There's a photographer taking pictures. We run around the main quad area, back to Frontierland, cross in front of Pirates of the Caribbean (Jack Sparrow and his crew are on Tom Sawyer's island shooting cannons), out through the Adventureland entrance, back down Main Street, and out of the park. We'll mostly be on the roads until the last leg of the course now. The next 5 miles go by pretty fast. But it is getting HOT. The sun has started to come up and we are running straight into it for almost a mile...and there's no shade. Our pace team leader is leading us in camp songs and cheers, all while reminding us to keep pouring water on our necks and heads at every water stop. I'm carrying my own water too. We hit the mile 7 marker, and no one can believe how fast it's going by. There are spectators cheering us along the way, high school marching bands, dancers, cheerleaders, and now we see someone with a hose to the left. It's a guy working at a nursery and he's spraying runners as they go by. I'm so there... it feels GOOD.

Miles 8 and 9....I'm starting to feel pain in my back. I was barely able to sit without pain a few days before, but I'm not going to let it stop me. We pass behind the Honda Center where the Ducks play. I know Angel's Stadium is mile 10, and then we're in the home stretch.

[This pic is from the 2008 DLand Half but I thought it fit in here well]

We enter the stadium parking lot and see hundred's of Boy Scouts lining the course. They have signs and all want us to give 'em five as we run by. Some people have spray bottles and are trying to spraying us. I wish they had a hose. More excitement builds as we run onto the Angel's field. Yes, we're ON the field. The Jumbo-Tron is on and the announcer is reading off the cities where people are from as we come in. I'm listening for Calabasas, but what I really want is to see myself on that screen! We come in at right field, run to home plate, up towards third base...and there we are on the Jumbo-Tron. Wow... only 3.1 miles to go now.

Miles 11 and 12... My back is still hurting, and now my knee is throbbing. I don't care... I'm finishing this if it kills me. Our leader is doing a great job keeping us distracted. More songs, more cheers, more conversations. I see a young girl down on the sideline.... she's overheated and paramedics are trying to cool her off by dousing her with water. We press on. I have no idea where we are, but I can tell we're getting close to being near Disneyland again. Another runner is down on the sideline. I can see the Mile 12 marker coming up. This is it...just 1.1 more to go. We decide to stick together as a team and not take off on our own. We made it through together this long.....

Mile 13. We've somehow ended up back at California Adventure. I know we're almost there. I am hot, totally soaked, tired and in pain. The moment I've been waiting for is almost here. We hit Downtown Disney. Hundreds of spectators suddenly appear as we come around the corner. "You're almost there" they scream! I'm starting to get emotional....are those tears or sweat drops? The anticipation of seeing the finish line is overwhelming as we hit the Mile 13 marker...only 1/10 of a mile to go. More crowds, more screaming... THERE IT IS! Our team leader tells us to "Go". I grab my new friend Katie and say let's "Let's hit it"! We're 150 feet from the Finish line. I know John is somewhere around here, but I can't see anything but the Finish banner. We break into a full-on sprint, through our hands up in the air (smile for the camera!)..and we're DONE! Whew.... I did it. 2:44:01. What an experience. I can't wait until next year!!!!

John took this picture of me celebrating my victory as I crossed the finish line. Am I the only one around me that was excited to finish? Throw your hands up people!

1 comment:

Jill said...

"13,000 people are trying to "Shush" each other." Ha - that must have been loud!