Today was half marathon day. Finish, you get a medal that looks like Donald's head. For those of you that aren't familiar with DisneyWorld and/or these races, don't think of them as wall-to-wall running through amusement parks. At least 80% of the miles you cover are on really boring highways between the parks. They try to jazz it up with bands and cheering sections, but it's still boring.
However, the time you spend in the parks and areas like the transportation center make it very special. For one, those areas are PACKED with fans at 7am. Cool! For two, you can high-five Mickey or Minnie or Goofy or, in my case, "who was THAT character?" (some bear-like thing). For three, you get to run down some "cast only" walkways, so you get a short behind-the-scenes tour. And for four? You are running through the middle of freakin Magic Kingdom and Epcot! (and in tomorrow's full, MGM). Even if Disney kind of nauseates you, the parks are really something special.
Even in the dark. See, the races start at 6a and it doesn't get light until a little after 7a. So as you are haulin ass through Magic Kingdom, it is still dark. It's cool. But the highway miles in the dark? Not so much.
Let's back up. If you are staying at a Disney Hotel, you have to take a shuttle to a staging area, and you have to do it between 3a and 4a. So I got up at 2:15a, did God's work (that's a euphemism), and caught the bus at 3. They have a two step staging process at Disney. At the first area, you sit around and listen to a band... you use the potty. You wait. Then about 4:45... still over an hour before the gun... they start poking you to head to the starting line.
And so you do, like sheep. For today's half, this was kind of important. The walk is at least a mile to the start. Once there? You watch the big screen and wait some more. I even made it onto the big screen for about 15 seconds, thanks to the temporary Mickey tattoo on my shoulder. Neat.
They did a well-organized wave start this year. I happened to be in the first wave (Wave A-1) behind the elites. 5:58, the wheelchairs were off. 6:00, we were off.
Like, out of a cannon. The road in the first mile is quite skinny and quite dark. As I mentioned in the first post, my goals were simple: finish, don't die, kiss women.
Given that I'm posting this, you know that I accomplished those first two goals. And I'm not telling you about the third. Ha.
It was 60-70 degrees during this race, but much more importantly, it was 100% humidity. Sticky day. Luckily, as the miles rolled by, it got overcast and breezy... which slowed me down slightly, but also kept me cooler (which then sped me up, or something... science is hard).
M1-5 take you up the highway, past the transportation center (which has one of the bigger fanbases, oddly enough) and up towards Magic Kingdom. My splits:
8:02, 7:54, 8:03, 7:52, 8:04.
As you can see, I did this weird surge-y thing that I don't quite understand... but considering recent races, this was pretty darned consistent.
M6 and part of 7 take you through Magic Kingdom. This is by far the best part of the half. You even get to run through the castle. Unfortunately, the castle comes with two penalties: 1) you have to make a 90 degree turn as you exit and 2) about 20 photographers are waiting on the other side to take your picture with the purple castle in the background. Sound cool? In theory. In practice, you go from darkness to thousands of flashbulbs and are temporarily blinded. Additionally, every year I seem to be right behind a doofus who comes to a DEAD STOP RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME at the right angle turn to pose for the cameras. Ugh.
Then you exit MK, and you are back on boring highways. In fact, it's really just a long out-and-back section that you've already done. I got my Goofy high-5 around M8, I think.
My splits for M6-8 show that I entered part two of the race, otherwise known as "the sun is up AND you went out too fast":
8:11, 8:33 (uh oh), 8:34
Now. Because of the wave start, the third wave (wave C) was still heading "out" while I was heading "back". I saw a lady with a stroller. And then. I saw a lady carrying a pillow. A PILLOW! That was a new one.
I daydreamed about sleeping on the highway (with the lady's pillow) as we did, basically, sleeprun M9-12 headed back to Epcot. But this section reminded me about one thing that never comes up regarding Disney. It's basically flat, but there are some really sneaky hills thrown in throughout the races. They are better known as "underpasses" and "overpasses". Sure enough, M11-12 has a couple of sneaky hills.
My splits for M9-12:
8:29, 8:12, 8:55 (!), 8:31
That 8:55 at M11 is due, in part, to my chatting and daydreaming.
At M12, we blew back into Epcot. You get a much better view of Epcot in the full, but in the half, you do cut through the middle of the front area. Not a lot of spectators here, but that's because they were all at the finish line.
And the finish line was quite groovy. Tons of people. I think they called out every finisher's name except mine. Oh well.
My splits for M13 and the .1: 8:10 and :46
Final time? 1:48. Certainly not my best. But better than last year. Of course I was sick last year. I feel pretty good today. Even got a 10 minute massage, the first massage (albeit short) I've ever had.
Now if I can only eat the 5,000 calories I need today.
A couple coolrunners picked me out of the crowd after the race - that was a pleasant surprise. And I saw a few Maniacs, though not many.