Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bucket List Races

So, on the Princess Half Marathon Facebook group I'm a part of, somebody asked for bucket list races. I have an extensive list so let me just share.

1. The Marine Corps Marathon- I want this to be my first full and I can't wait. I'm just trying very hard not to sign up this year. I want to be faster so I don't have to be out there all day. It's the only big marathon without a lottery and without prize money.

2. The London Marathon- Uh, hello? It's the freaking London Marathon. Fast, flat course, great weather and did I mention London?!

3. Marathon du Medoc- French wine country, 23 wine and cheese stops, pre-party, post race party and fireworks. The website says "not a race for record seekers." Oh, yes. I think so. And there's a costume contest!

4. Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon- Okay, my love for London is showing here, but it's a race through London's parks and you get a wooden leaf shaped medal made out of a tree from the park! How cool is that?!

5. Two Oceans Marathon - South Africa, where I really want to go. Fun fact: Did you know Coca Cola has a 93% market share there? This one is actually 56K, but, uh, two oceans?!

6. Maratona di Roma - It's Rome. Do I need a good reason? It's also going to be featured in Spirit of the Marathon II.

7. The Chicago Marathon- Okay, this is because of Spirit of the Marathon. I'll admit it.

8. Oh, and I think I'll do Dopey once for the street cred. Yes. You read that right. For the street cred.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2013 Princess Half Marathon Recap

Okay, so the Princess Half did not go as well as I wanted. I woke up that morning and my foot had a stabbing pain thing going on that I did not dig. I was almost in tears as I put on my running shoes. Not great. Off to the bus.

The bus. Pop Century was full of princesses waiting for the bus. I got there at like 3:30 and I didn't keep track of the wait because I was eating a banana and pondering what the hell I was going to do about my foot for 13.1 miles. The line was silly, but there were multiple Run Disney employees and one of Pop's front desk staff handling it, so I can't complain.

So, you go on the bus and then they drop you off in the middle of an Epcot parking lot you have never been in. I followed the herd of princesses off to the first staging area. There was a line for the bathrooms, but seriously there was a wall of them. I don't think I could ask for more. I loitered with some other members of Corral E and then we realized we had better follow that other herd of princesses for a walk into the woods. This is where our corrals finally were along the highway. I do love Disney's light up corral markers. I'm not sure why, I know that was a random thought. I made my way to Corral E with 5,000 of my new running buddies and tried to find somewhere to stretch my foot. Now, there's something I hadn't realized. I've been running in Texas and in Texas there is like a one inch gap between the sidewalk and the ground so when I need to stretch my foot just a little bit, I hang off that edge. Guess what? Not in Florida. Of course there's hardly any sidewalks in Florida. I found one of the metal barricades they were using to mark off the corrals, which I think stretched my calves more than my foot. Oh, well. My calves didn't really give me trouble during the race.

Standing in E, you have to watch A, B, C and D go off. It was fun to hear Fairy Godmother's spiels for each corral and I found the number of times she used the word "hydrate" amazing. We got to do the crowd version of "Don't Stop Believin'" which anyone who knows me knows I eat up. I am the master of that song on Rock Band and am bitter every time I miss it on Arena Karaoke at the Spurs games. When I go, it's always "Friends in Low Places", "Sweet Caroline" if I'm lucky. "Livin' On A Prayer" once when my brother wanted to disown me. So, that lifted my mood a little, but my foot still hurt.

Then it was time. E was off. Now or never. My mood at this point was mostly, "Well, might as well. I did come to Florida." See, I'm not one of those people who gets caught up in pre-race adrenaline. AT ALL. I'm starting to think it might be better if I was. So, I held my own for a little while and then I started to notice the people passing me. And passing. And passing. I tried not to think about it as I was forced to walk and tried to keep myself from doing the mental math of when the dreaded balloon ladies would be coming.

The balloon ladies. Every Disney race has two pacers that start after the last runner. They keep a sixteen minute per mile pace and if you are behind them, you are too slow and can get pulled from the course. I was starting with a lead on them which was lucky as I was sucking and run-walk intervals were rapidly turning into run-walk/drag right foot intervals. So, I spent a lot of my time walking and trying to stay to the right. Now, may I just say something about the right side of the road for people who complain that walkers never stay on it? In Texas, the very right of the road goes down so that your right foot is lower than your left foot which is not pleasant and not good for you. In Disney, when we were on the overpasses the right side angled badly at just the point where I was having to twist my foot to keep any kind of forward momentum going. So, if you've never been on the right and are frustrated people aren't staying there, that may be part of it. Or they just don't know what they're doing. Either way, I was getting passed right and left and had my usual race crying panic attack around Mile 3 because my foot hurt. By the way, if you're ever in a race and see a girl crying, could you please say hi to her? Because it's probably me and no one said anything. Here is my complaint about the crowding, whenever I moved my arm up to like scratch my nose or something when it came back down my elbow would inevitably hit some runner who decided that the gap from my elbow was big enough to get through and never thought it would come back down. That got annoying and some girls did apologize, but some seemed inconvenienced by my elbow. So, I had trained at one point on the treadmill looking at the course map and realized I was by the racetrack and next would be the Contemporary and through the back entrance to Magic Kingdom. Seeing potentially thousands of people between my dragging right foot and the balloon ladies I suddenly had hope for the first time in the race. There was still just about no chance of my finishing without the sweepers getting me, but I would get to Magic Kingdom. I knew from reading blogs from previous years and Facebook groups that I would not get swept inside Magic Kingdom, though they could get me on the way out. If they didn't get me there, it was going to be a matter of time somewhere on the road from the Grand Floridian back to Epcot. I was racing on borrowed time and I still couldn't run enough to make a difference.

Last year, one of the many blogs I read was According to Kelly . She had gone into the 2012 race looking to PR and had an asthma attack on the course. She decided that it wouldn't be her fastest race ever, but it would be her funnest race ever. I made that my new goal. I was going to get swept, there really was no sense in making myself miserable until it happened. I was going to get to run through Magic Kingdom, how many people don't get to do that and want to? Hell, I had signed up. I was here. It may not have been as good as some people, but it was still better than all the people who hadn't started. Again, Dead Last > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start. I would still be ahead of all the Did Not Starts. So, the iPhone camera came out and I didn't stop for character photos because I was still inexplicably worried about my time even though I had resigned myself to being swept. The lines were really long at this point and when I got to the castle there was a traffic jam from women getting fairy dusted. When we got out, I got to all out run in Frontierland. It was amazing, running through Disney and I felt like I was in the ad and then I got out of Magic Kingdom and passed an empty SAG bus.

This was the long stretch of the race. At this point, the humidity was getting to me as well. My first half, the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio had been brutally humid at the finish. Well, when I woke up that morning it was that brutally humid at the start. Not a promising sign as I slogged through the Florida humidity, ashamed that I had somehow become accustomed to San Antonio's fake humidity instead of my native hard core Florida humidity. I wondered if there was some way to put a treadmill in a sauna. I also wondered where those balloon ladies were. My foot seriously hurt and I was ready to be done. Again, for some reason, I decided I didn't want to go present myself as being finished, I would rather get swept. They were just going to have to get me. Not like crazy Thelma and Louise get me, but you know, they would have to say I was done, not me.

Then around Mile 9 almost 10 or so it happened, I got passed by the balloon lady who had a pack of people sticking to her. I tried to keep up for a while but my foot hurt too much and there she was. The bike guys advised us to stay where we could at least see the balloon lady and that worked... for a while. At the next marker, Mile 10, they announced we were a whopping four and half minutes behind pace. WHAT?! How could I be that far behind and not standing still? I'm still not sure it was right or I heard her right. Anyway, it wasn't like it mattered as I had resigned myself to sweeping back at Mile 4, so these threats did not scare me. I should also mention I was not alone. There were hundreds of people around me, if not more. Also, did this woman think I was going to make up the four and a half minutes? Did she think I was just really soaking up the atmosphere? I really wasn't in the back of the pack because I enjoyed it. It was just what happened.

Then the overpass. The dreaded overpass which made me wonder why crap like that is always at the end of races? Thoughts? After passing the Green Army Man, we were then informed we had one minute to get to Mile 11. I know if you don't know me, you probably think I'm a defeatist or that this is the moment I turn it around and it becomes all about the triumph of the human spirit or something. That would be like some Hollywood blockbuster, think of me as the weird indie film that people like, but don't know what to do with. So, I couldn't see the next mile marker at this point and a minute... Yeah, that wasn't happening. Not to mention there were hundreds of princesses between me and there. AND... the foot still hurt... I know you're getting sick of that. I was. So, there were a few more threats of sweeping to which I finally threw my arms up and muttered, "Then why don't you do it?"

Then I was at Mile 11 and looking around and... we were still going? So, wait, I had to finish this race now? I had been expecting to be swept for eight miles and now I had to finish? Let me explain about the back of the pack, it's not the best mindset back there. It's a lot of people being dragged by relatives/friends and people wondering why the hell they paid $140 to do this. My mindset was improving with the slow realization that I might actually finish and not have to worry about what to do with a medal for a race I didn't finish. I was also by this girl and her grandmother. The girl was dressed as Ariel and Ariel clearly belonged in a faster corral, but was helping her grandma. I say this because Ariel was dancing at Mile 11, shouting, "Come on, Grandma! You got this!" as she danced some more. Grandma did not answer, she clearly had the look of one of the people who was wondering why the hell she paid to do this and who decided this was a good idea? Surely, there was a Matlock rerun on somewhere. Grandma, to her credit, refrained from saying all of this out of love for her grandchild or possibly because she was too damned busy walking. Ariel cracked me up, though and it was encouraging when she turned to me mid-dance to say "Come on, Cinderella! We've got this!" Oh, footnote I meant to be Merida, but due to a costume complication in my hotel room, my costume was a aqua blue tank and Sparkle Skirt and I had a Cinderella bib so one might have not unreasonably concluded I meant to be Cinderella. Then we could also see the traffic leaving the race and one princess leaning out of her car window waving her medal to shout, "You've got this! Go get it! It's right over there!"
And you know what? It was. We were at Epcot. I had long ago come to the conclusion that if I reached this point, Disney probably would not go to the trouble of busing me to the Finish on the other side of the parking lot. Even the photo stops were shutting down, except for Mulan. Mulan's handler was talking in hushed tones to the pace warning lady, but Mulan was still cheering people on and it sort of seemed like she was motioning for people to come for pictures behind the pace warning lady's back. I mean, what? Is she going to say no to Mulan? She's a princess!

So, into Epcot. I just had to go to the lagoon and out. At this point, the park was open and there were packs of tourists staring at us, wondering why the hell they had to wait to go get Fast Passes for Soarin', which is what I assume they were thinking. Though I was disappointed to see the Coca Cola Refreshment Zone was not opened as an aid station, the employees and volunteers were still cheering us on, even the ones on their breaks backstage. At the exit, there was a security guard who managed to crack me up with, "Thank you for coming to visit Epcot today. Please come back when you have more time and money to spend."

Oh, and the gospel choir. They could use more gospel choirs for this much humidity, I think.

Then it was Mile Marker 13. Hmm, could I run the last point one in a last ditch attempt to get a cool looking finisher picture? I'm not the only one who thinks like that, right? Wait, just a minute, there's Mickey! Which must mean.... MINNIE MOUSE!!!

At this point, my five year old brain took over and I ran to Minnie Mouse. I stood and waited as one of the professional Disney people took a photo of her and some other girl. I assume it was Disney because they gave her a medal to put on for the shot. That girl finished and then another girl jumped in front of me and did one of those holding the camera out poses with Minnie. Minnie's handler then apologized to me and said it would just be a minute. I said that was okay, I was pretty sure I had already missed out on an age group award, which did make him smile. Then Minnie!!!

Okay, was it the race I wanted? No. Would I have liked to have done better? Yes. Am I glad I finished? Hell yes. Do I feel a nagging need for redemption at the Disneyland Half or possibly Princess next year? You betcha. I would like to know what the middle of the pack looks like. Am I going to do the thing where I show you my time and splits? No. Let's just forget about time. Besides, if you're that interested, you can go find out. It was not pretty, but it was a finish, so let's just focus on that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Princess Half Marathon Expo SURVIVOR

Last week, I finally got to achieve my goal of running the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Well, schlepping, mostly, but that's a long story. Let me begin with the story of the Fit For A Princess Expo.

I love expos. It's shopping only with stuff I want and then you know, like protein powder... So, yes, I was looking forward to this one.

I started out early because I wanted to get my Run Disney merchandise which sells out quickly. I got my bibs, got my 5K shirt and had a look at the Run Disney merchandise line... It was long, so I decided to get in it before getting my shirt for the half.

Did I mention the line was long? Disclaimer: I have served many holidays at Old Navy. I have seen Black Fridays, $1 Flip Flop Days, $10 Jeans Days, $2 Tank Top Days and the list goes on and on. Take that and multiply it by about ten. Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder about lines and realize that Disney is different than Old Navy, but this wasn't a line, it was a monster.

First mistake I could see as a retail professional? The merch booth was walled in with two entrances/exits. It was the only thing that was walled in. Therefore even to see what you wanted you had to go in. Two long lines going in both doors and somehow I was already in line to pay? I don't know. It was fuzzy. So, I summoned all my retail skills and started looking around. I saw a tank top that I regret not getting. I passed by the table of I Did It shirts because my belief in jinxing myself is just too strong. I hurried back got my Limited Edition pin, a car magnet and got in line where I would pass the Runner Mickey Vinylmations and medals. The line moved slow and I was able to put my retail skills to work as I stood in front of the Mouse Ears and tiaras, offering them to whoever happened to be looking. I think some people thought it was weird. Not as weird as when I saw a race exclusive Bondi Band had fallen on the floor by some other ladies and asked them to pick it up and give it to me. What? Did you want it?

It was about this time I noticed an older lady in a mobility scooter on the phone with a bunch of stuff. I'm going to think positively and hope she was getting it for a granddaughter or something... Not trying to hose people on the Internet because she wasn't running the race. I did have some ladies in line behind me who understood my logic with the Bondi Band and once we spotted them for real offered to let me jump out and pick another color, but I had finally arrived at the front of the line and it was now or never. I paid and hurried out...

Where I saw the biggest line I had ever seen by the half marathon shirts. It did cross my mind to forgo my shirt, but then I realized I needed it so people at the gym would know what a bad ass I was. So, I tried to find my way around the line to another entry point that would be easier.

Let me tell you what I know about lines. I know that people need to know which one they're in. It is one of the basic rules of lines. This huge one was apparently the Medium Shirt line. I went back and it intersected with the New Balance line. Second thing about lines, they shouldn't intersect with lines for other things. So, I worked my way back around and had to cut through a sea of humanity. I'm serious. I'm not claustrophobic, but I thought I was about to be. I had a very similar feeling in the top of a bell tower in Poland. Wait, maybe I am claustrophobic and it's going to strike out any time now. Whatever. You want to know the third thing about lines? It helps no one when you say, "This is crazy." Yes, it was. Do you know where I just heard that? The other five hundred people I had to pass to get here! It's not some revolutionary thought, we all think it's crazy! I forged my way through and came out somewhere around the XXL shirt line. I wear an XL. I decided this would have to be close enough. I got in line and prepared my best rantings because someone at the end of the line was going to have to give me a shirt or I don't know what would happen. I tried to think of all the best rants directed at me over the years and all I could think of was the time a lady got mad at me because I told her to hold her own return while she shopped and she lost it somewhere in the store.  The best part of that was when she yelled at my two managers for talking to one another when she had first come up. She left the store in an angry rage and we found her bag on the girls' graphic table two minutes later. We never heard from her again. That anecdote would not be helpful in this situation. So, I got to the front of the XXL line and explained I needed an XL. I didn't know what line it was or at the least how to get to it, I just wanted my shirt. The volunteer- and really, God help people who were not getting paid at this thing- gave me my shirt and told me it was the last one. Free at last!

I will say that while that half of the hall's organization sucked, I did see Run Disney people with walkies looking at the situation and trying to move some of the merchandise line. The Bib line went quick. I have no clue why the shirt line couldn't move quick. They had the look of people who didn't know what to do about the sea of princesses while they talked on walkies about it. I guess they hadn't expected everyone to come AT ONCE but when you create a hype around merchandise, that's what happens. $1 Flip Flops, people. I'm sure there was other great stuff at the expo. The Run Disney nutritionist Tara Gidus was there giving a good talk, but I had to get out of there, which was a shame because there was lot of stuff I would have like to have seen.  Could we offer Fast Pass for the Expo next year?