Sunday, March 2, 2014

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

It's been almost a week since I returned from my fabulous trip to Disney for the Princess weekend but I've been too busy catching up on my chores (and my sleep!) to write a recap until now. Luckily I'm enjoying a lazy, snowy, Sunday today, so there's no time like the present to write my recap.  Grab a drink and take a bathroom break now, because this is a long post coming your way!

Our trip was supposed to start with a 1:30 p.m. flight from Dayton to Orlando on Friday afternoon.  I love the Dayton airport because it is tiny and usually makes travel totally easy. Unfortunately that was not the case for us last Friday.  We found out right before we had planned to leave for the airport that the flight was delayed by 2 hours and now wasn't set to leave until 3:30 p.m.  We decided to use the extra time to stop for some lunch on our way to the airport, so it wasn't all bad. We grabbed a quick lunch at a new-ish restaurant here in town, BJ's Brewhouse, and then made our way to the airport.  Our flight left at 3:30 as predicted, but our travel woes didn't end with the delayed flight. The flight was incredibly turbulant due to widespread storms across the county that day, which was definitely not pregnant friendly.  Once we landed in Orlando, we actually had to sit on the runway for 45 minutes due to a "traffic jam" of arriving flights. After we finally deplaned, we waited another 45 minutes for our luggage before we were finally able to go and catch the Disney Magical Express to our hotel.  At this point, we had missed two different dinner reservations, I hadn't eaten since lunch, and I was one hungry, cranky, pregnant lady.  Note to self--do better about packing snacks next time you travel. My bad mood on Friday evening could have been so easily avoided.

We finally made it to our resort, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside, and checked into our room.  The room was perfect for the three of us and we enjoyed all of the princess details in the room. I wish I had thought to take some pictures. One of the coolest features in the room was the headboards of the bed actually lit up and displayed fireworks. I've never seen a bed that could do that before.

After we checked into the room, we grabbed a quick bite to eating at Boatwright's Dining Hall, the restaurant at the resort. The food was all New Orleans style, which is one of my favorites.  The waitress brought over a huge basket of corn bread, and I followed it up with a delicious bowl of Crawfish Etouffe.  I should probably tell you now that I was definitely in runner mode rather than foodie mode during this trip, because I pretty much totally failed at remember to take photos of anything I ate. Suffice it to say, the dinner was fabulous. Or maybe I was just that hungry.

I passed out in my bed immediately after dinner on Friday night after our long afternoon of travel. It felt so good to sleep!

Saturday morning brought an overcast day and a chance of rain.  We made a tee time for later in the afternoon to play 9 holes of golf at Disney's Lake Buena Vista golf course and crossed our fingers that the rain would move on through.  In the morning, my friend Stephanie and I headed down to the resort dining hall to grab some breakfast.
The dining hall offered cafeteria style selections for every meal. It was insanely busy and the lines took forever, but the food was delicious. I was especially excited about my Mickey shaped waffle.  Disney does breakfast right!

After we ate, we grabbed a shuttle bus to head to the ESPN World of Sports for the race Expo.  For all the travel issues we had had the day before, I was most disappointed that our delay prevented us from getting to the Expo on Friday night. I had my heart set on getting the Sweaty Band that I had seen on Instagram that said "Keep Calm and Run Like a Princess" and I was afraid they would be sold out by the time we made it to the expo.  Unfortunately, I was right, although I'm not really sure if there would have been any left by the time we would have been able to get there on Friday night, either.  Regardless, I was majorly disappointed, and I'm still hoping Sweaty Band will make more and list them for sale online. I'd still love to buy one!

Other than the disappointment about my Sweaty Band, we had a great time exploring the Expo. We picked up our race packets and I was thrilled with the quality of the race shirt.
I don't know what possessed me to order the shirt big when I ordered it last summer, but I'm so glad I did because it still fits! It's a really nice shirt and I think it's super cute. Along with all of the official Run Disney merchanise that was for sale, there were countless other vendors at the Expo selling great stuff. I was glad to see some of my favorite brands represented including Nuun, Sweaty Bands, and Running Skirts.  I would have spent all day at the Expo given the opportunity, but we probably really only stayed for an hour before taking off and heading back to the hotel for a little bit.  I did more than enough monetary damage in the amount of time that we were there though, so I guess it's a good thing we didn't stay longer.
My purchases included an adorable onesie for baby Cecilia (it even has a tutu, come on), pink Mickey ears with a tiara to wear for the race, and a sparkling running skirt to wear for the race as well.  I wasn't planning to really dress up for the race, but once we got there, the excitement got the better of me and I couldn't resist!

After finally dragging myself away from the Expo, we headed back to the hotel to change clothes for golf and to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch.  We had planned to spend an hour at the pool before lunch but the skies opened up and it started to downpour so that sort of ruined those plans.  We headed back over to the dining hall and grabbed some sandwiches. Luckily, it was much less crowded in the dining hall at lunch hour than it was at breakfast time!

Since our tee time was on a Disney golf property, the hotel provided us a voucher to get a cab to the golf course, which was super convenient.  We grabbed a cab and took the quick ride over to the golf course in time for our mid-afternoon tee-time.  Of course, the pro shop had way too much cute golf gear with Mickey and Minnie all over it, so I had to buy myself a new golf hat and another onesie for baby C...whoops.  I need to reign the baby shopping in before it gets out of control.  But the stuff at Disney was way to cute to say no to. That's all there really is to it.

It spit rain on us for a few minutes at the beginning of our round of golf, but other than that the weather held and we were able to enjoy a quick 9 holes.  The course was pretty and it felt great to swing golf clubs for the first time in months. I played pretty poorly, but I have plenty of excuses for that between pregnancy, rental clubs, and being out of practice for the winter, so I just enjoyed myself and didn't worry about our scores. As a side note, I was so glad to find that I still had some golf clothes that fit.  Thank God I bought the white skirt (pictured) last summer because it's a great stretchy material and it still fit great.  If it hadn't fit, I might have been forced to buy more clothes in the pro shop, and that probably wouldn't have ended well for anyone :)

After golf, we headed back to the hotel for some quick showers and then we grabbed a shuttle from our hotel to Downtown Disney for our dinner reservation. From our hotel, we had two options to get to Downtown Disney-- a water taxi or a bus.  The line for the water taxi was really long, so we thought we'd give the buses a try.  The buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes I believe, but somehow we waited for 45 minutes before a single bus to Downtown Disney showed up. By the time the bus finally arrived, there was a huge mob of people trying to get on. People were pushing and shoving to get a spot and lots of us entered through the back door, which is technically an "exit only" but you've gotta do what you've gotta do when you have a dinner reservation to make! The bus driver wasn't happy, but neither were we after waiting so long for a ride.

Once we arrived at Downtown Disney, I was so thankful that we had a dinner reservation! We went to eat at Paradiso 37 and the line was insane when we arrived! We still had to wait about 15 minutes for our table that wasn't to hateful at all given the crowd at the restaurant.

We sat outside on the deck and enjoyed some margaritas (virgin for me) in honor of National Margarita Day while we waited for our table. Once we got our table, we told the waiter we were in a little bit of a hurry because of our early morning wake up call the next day for the race, and he did a great job of getting us served quickly so we could get on our way back to the hotel and off to bed.  We got an order of chips and guacamole to munch on while we waited for our food, and I decided that a great "pre-race" meal would be fish tacos and rice.  The food was delicious and I enjoyed our experience at Paradiso, even if it was a quick one! We were able to grab a water taxi back to the hotel after our dinner and it was a much more efficient way to get back than waiting for the bus again.  After that initial bus experience, we decided to take the water taxi to Downtown Disney for all future visits. Aside from just being faster, it's also more fun!

We made it back to the hotel a little before 9:00 p.m. and it was off to bed almost immediately for me.

Sunday morning, we had a 3:30 a.m. wake up call  to quickly get dressed, grab some breakfast on the go (the hotel had runner boxes for sale including bananas, peanut butter, and bagels) and get out the door to the race shuttle.   We all somehow woke up a few minutes before the wake up call was scheduled for and we had plenty of time to get ready to go without rushing around.  We headed down to meet the shuttle out front of our hotel and I was pleasantly surprised to see the line for the bus wasn't too long at all.  I had heard horror stories about trying to get to the race on race morning and how the lines for the buses could be seriously out of control, but that wasn't our experience at all.  The traffic once we got close to Disney was bad, but it wasn't anything out of control. Frankly, we waited in traffic far longer this past year to get to the Air Force Half Marathon here in Dayton, so I was really impressed with how well Disney handled getting 25,000 runners into the park for the start.

We didn't have too much time to kill after being dropped off by the bus, so we made a quick pit stop and then started the (long) walk toward the start line.  I was starting with my mom in corral J, and it took us about 20 minutes to walk to our starting position.  We enjoyed the walk, mostly because there was incredible people watching.

There were people decked out as every Disney character imaginable. There were princesses, and villains, and even some princes. There were also more than a few men wearing tutus, which was pretty amusing.  Of course, there were also just people in ordinary clothes but a lot of them even had custom made tee shirts.

Despite the fact that our corral didn't make it to the actual starting line until about thirty minutes after the race officially started, I thought the time moved quickly and I was again impressed with Disney because it seemed
like they kept thing moving as fast as humanly possible with such a large crowd. Another neat feature was they shot off fireworks with each corral as they crossed the start line, so that was entertaining to watch while we waited for our turn. 

Before we knew it, we had made it to the starting line and we were off.  Unfortunately for me, between the walk to the start and our wait for our turn, this preggo needed to pee again as soon as we got started.  I was feeling uncomfortable trying to run because of my full feeling bladder. I stopped off at the first porter potties we came to, but after waiting for a few minutes and the lines not moving, I decided to push forward a bit because I hated to stand around waiting so close to the beginning. I was also feeling terrible for making my mom wait on me.  Once we approached the second send of porter potties, the lines were much shorter so I decided to stop and I sent Mom on ahead so she wouldn't have to wait and I could stop feeling so guilty for messing with her race. She had put in so much hard training for this and I didn't want to screw her up. Although I had been talking all weekend about how I might be able to do the whole race if I felt really good and walked most of the second half, I hadn't put in the training and I knew deep down that most likely, I was only going to finish about half of the race. I was just happy to be out there!

My recent runs had all been using 2:2 running/walking intervals, so I fell into a pattern using that and was able to reconnect with my mom just outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. 

I was glad to have caught back up to my mom and I was able to enjoy the remainder of my race with her.  We took some photos, enjoyed the people watching and took in the sights.  We were able to maintain my 2:2 intervals pretty consistently except for one more bathroom break (this one didn't involve porter potties because the real bathrooms inside the park were open--year for that) and a few stops for photo opportunities.  The other factor that messed with our running stride just a bit was the sheer number of people and the tight path at time during the race.


By far, the best part of the race came near the end (for me).  Around 5.5 mile into the race, got to "storm the castle" and actually run down Main Street USA and through the famous Disney castle.  Of course, we had to stop for a photo with the castle in the background.  There were men with trumpets (or some sort of brass instrument) standing on a balcony of the castle and they played music as we ran through, which was super cool.  Every time they stopped, the crowd would cheer and shout "do it again!"  There were also spectators everywhere at this point in the race with signs saying things like "Have fun storming the castle".  It was really a unique experience.

Once we made it through the castle, I knew I was going to have to make a final decision soon about whether I was going to push it and keep running or bail out at the race. According to the map that I'd scoped out the day before, I knew there was a medical tent somewhere between mile 6 and mile 7, and then not another one until after mile 9.  I was feeling fine, but I was hot and it was getting really humid, and I just didn't want to do anything risky or find myself farther along and wanting to quit but not really having an option.  I decided I was going to call it a day when we got to the medical tent, and I was proud of myself for making the right decision for my baby.  I was glad to be able to grab a quick photo with the Princess and the Frog before Mom took off to go finish the race without me.  I'm so proud of her for all the hard work she put in and for rocking the race!

After I split off from my Mom, I grabbed a quick photo by myself with Woody because I didn't mind waiting in line at that point, and let's be real--who doesn't love Woody? I've seen all three of the Toy Story movies and they are some of my favorites. Actually, Adam and I saw Toy Story 3 together on one of our very first date!

Shortly after my photos hoot with Woody, I crossed the 10k mark, and shortly after that, I found the medical tent.  I stopped explained to the workers what was going on--I was pregnant and I didn't feel comfortable continuing the race, and I wanted to get a ride to the finish line.  I sat down in the tent for a couple of minutes and waited for further instruction.  While I was waiting, I started chatting with the other gal that was waiting to get a ride to the finish line.  She was visibly upset and I asked her if she was doing okay. She said that she was so embarrassed that she had to quit and that she was dealing with a recent medical diagnosis that was preventing her from running the race she wanted to run.  I told her I was sorry and did my best to make her feel better.   After we started talking, a security guard came to us and told us to walk a little bit farther down the road to pick up one of the Disney buses that would take us to the finish line.  We walked down to the bus, and then sat on the bus for nearly an hour.  Turns out, the bus was going to pick up all the stragglers at the end of the race that weren't keeping up with the pacing requirement.  Being on that bus was quite the experience--as the bus started to fill up with runners, I saw a little bit of everything.  There were people in tears because they were disappointed that they were being "swept off the course" and then there were other people that were proud to have made it as far as they had.  One woman said that this was her very first running race ever, and to make it 7 miles was a huge success. 
Some people were having medical issues as well--luckily there was a nurse on board and she was able to try to help the people who were hurting or having other issues until we made it to the finish line. By the time the bus was full, it was one stinky vehicle.  I was so glad to finally get off of it at the finish line.

I made it to the finish line in time to be able to watch my Mom finish the race, which was fantastic.  She and Stephanie both did a great job, and I was so proud of both of them.  And I was also thrilled that I still received a medal even though I didn't technically finish the race.  Thanks for that, Disney!  Mom, Steph and I grabbed a quick post race photo with our medals and then got in line for the shuttle back to our hotel.

After arriving back to the hotel, we grabbed a quick lunch and then headed out to the pool.  Our good friends moved to the Orlando area last year and Becca had done the race too, and they were able to come and meet us at the hotel after the race. 

We ate lunch with them and they enjoyed a couple of hours at the pool together.  It was so nice because the sun finally came out and the cold water in the pool felt great on our legs after the race.  We had so much fun catching up with Becca, Wes, and Noah and enjoying the beautiful Orlando afternoon.  It seriously made me want to move to Florida and not come back to the polar vortex that I knew was about to hit Ohio.

I tried to take a nap on Sunday after our time at the pool (seriously, you would think after the 3:39 a.m. wake up call and then running half of a half marathon, I would have taken a nap) but I could never manage to fall asleep.  Instead, I just rested for a bit and then we headed back to Downtown Disney via water taxi to do a little poking around in some of the shops and have dinner at Fulton's Crab House. Of course, we wore our medals to Downtown Disney since the official race "after party" was going on while we were there.

Stephanie and I hit up the Gharadelli shop and indulged in some delicious ice cream sundaes that we had seen the night before--we figured we had earned them after our hard work at the race that day.  Holy yum, those sundae were to die for! I had a salted caramel sundae that also had hot fudge and it was simiply divine.  Of course, I didn't want much for dinner after eating that--whoops.  But sometimes, you just have to eat dessert first!

We had another quick dinner because we were all pretty much exhausted by that point, but the food at Fulton's was delicious.   We grabbed another water taxi back to the hotel and called it an early night.  We had to catch the Magical Express at 8:00 a.m. the next day to take us back to the airport and head back home to the old in Ohio.

Overall, my Run Disney experience was a great one.  As a runner, I fought an internal battle with myself all week about what I was actually going to do on race day.  Part of me was having such a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of going to the race and bailing out in the middle of it, even though that had been my plan all along. Once I arrived, went to the Expo, and got caught up in the pre-race excitement, it was hard for me to fathom getting out there and not finishing the race.  However, I knew it was what I needed to do and I'm glad I made the right decision on race day.  As a mom-to-be, I know my priorities need to change and that is in the process of happening every day.  I was proud of myself for getting out there and running 6.5 miles, especially since I really hadn't been running more than 3 or 4 miles at home in training. It felt good to push myself, but I didn't do anything stupid or push myself too far.  I was satisfied with the performance I put in, I was thrilled I was still able to experience a Disney race and share that with my Mom, and I still did everything necessary to keep me and my baby safe.

I also really loved the concept of a race vacation and I definitely would like to do that again. This was my first time doing a "destination race" and it was so awesome. It was a great to have something to look forward to in the middle of the winter and an excuse to get out of Ohio, but it was even better because it was for a great reason and it was a healthy vacation. Plus, it was so cool being at Disney with thousands of other runners. Seeing people running all over our hotel, seeing girls decked out in princess costumes everywhere we went, and seeing people walking around in race shirt and medals just made the whole experience very cool.  I definitely felt like I was part of something and felt the running community present the whole time.

My complaints about the Disney race were that there were too many people and sometimes the running path wasn't wide enough to accommodate all the people. The race felt sort of claustraphobic the whole time.  Also, I was disappointed that more of the race didn't take place in the actual parks, and I heard this complaint echoed from other runners as well. It definitely would have made for a more enjoyable race experience if more of the race took place going through the parks.  From what I heard, after I quit only maybe another mile of the race actually went through the parks, and that was at Epcot at the very end.

Overall, I definitely plan to do another Run Disney race in the future. I'd like to shoot for the Coast to Coast challenge someday-- a goal for the future!  Also, I'd like to think Melissa at Cashing the Sun Travel (chaingthesuntravel@gmail.com) for all of her help in making my first Run Disney experience go so smoothy. She was amazing in helping making reservations and answering all of our questions.

If you took the time to read all this, thanks! Happy Sunday, friends and I hope everyone has a great week!

Question: Have you ever done a Run Disney race? What was your experience?

Question: If you haven't done a Run Disney race, have you ever done a destination race somewhere else?


Question: Have you ever had to bail out during a race before?

2 comments:

  1. All these posts about the Disney half is seriously making me want to go to Disney...not to run though, haha. I heard before it was very crowded as well. have done a 5k at the NJ beach, that is about as destination as I get! :)

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  2. I want to do a Disney race so bad! I'm sorry you weren't able to finish, but at least you got to take some great photos :)

    Ashley @ http://www.downsizingashley.com/

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