23 February, 2014

Princess Half Marathon 2014 Recap

I truly regret not writing a recap of my very first half marathon.  Tons of stupid little details have slipped away, and eventually the only memories I will have of that race are the ones attached to photos.  And the girl who ran face-first into a road sign.  I don't think I'll ever forget that sound.

Anyway, this morning was my race-iversary.  Princess 2013 was my  first half marathon, and I was so proud to just finish.  My time, 3:31, wasn't important.  I had set a goal and accomplished it.  And in the days immediately following that race, my response when people asked if I would do another race was usually the same: "I'm going to wait a few days before I decide on 'never again,' but I kind of doubt it."  I'm pretty sure I signed up for Space Coast a week later and the rest, as they say, is history.

This weekend was big for me because it represented my first major first-time challenge since last year's Princess: back-to-back races.  With the 10K on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday, I'd be running 19.3 miles in one weekend.  And it occurred to me last week that I completely forgot to train for the extra miles.  I was supposed to be running 5 miles on Saturdays and my normal training runs on Sundays, but somehow I never quite got around to doing that.  So going into this morning, I was fairly nervous.  I did all of the recovery things I was supposed to do yesterday - ice bath, rest, hydrate - but I just didn't know how my body was going to respond.

I also had a small blister from yesterday.  You know me and blisters - they make me whiny.  And I haven't had one in a while.  I didn't want to go back to wrapping in duct tape, so I put about 6 layers of Body Glide and some antiperspirant on my foot and hoped for the best.  Flash forward: the blister is the size of a lima bean, and it's incredibly sensitive to the touch, but I barely felt it at all while I was running.  And thankfully, it didn't pop.

check out that fog!
and the poster on the left!
About the race: umm...this was the third time I ran this course.  It hasn't changed - long dark road to another long dark road, MK Toll Plaza, TTC, long road under the water bridge, through MK, loooooong road, on-ramp, overpass, and around the front half of Epcot to the finish line.  It was humid (OMG the fog!) but cooler than I expected.  I was less annoyed by my fellow runners today also.  I spent a while running in the grass to get around people, and did grumble at a few groups of 3-abreast walkers I passed, but people seemed much more focused on the race than they did yesterday.

During races, I tend to check my RunKeeper at every mile marker.  That way, I'm aware of my pace and I can laugh at how much further the GPS says I've gone than the course says I've gone.  This morning, my first mile was a pretty unimpressive 13:45 pace, and I chalked it up to the weather and the crowd and figured I'd just run "my" race and let my body take the lead.  I figured a 15 minute/mile average pace would be acceptable, but I'd be disappointed with anything slower than that.

When will I learn to stop underestimating myself?  My slowest mile today was a 14:39 min/mile, and I can only imagine that was bottleneck related more than anything else, since it was from the exit of Magic Kingdom, up to the Grand Floridian.  All runners are squeezed into one lane of road through there.

Anyway, I got to mile 9 and RunKeeper said I was still at a sub-14 pace (ok, 13:58...).  I felt absolutely fine - I distinctly remember that was the stretch of road that almost did me in at the WDW Half last month - and decided to push myself a little harder.  The toughest part of the course was still ahead of me, but I was doing the "maybe... just maybe..." math and thought I could finish around my Space Coast time.

I ran strong intervals up the circular ramp from World Drive onto Epcot Center Drive.  I ran strong intervals on the flat sections.  I ran even faster any time there was a downhill stretch.  I was passing WAY more people than were passing me!  When I looked at my phone at mile 12, I figured there was no way I'd PR (the little hopeful voice in the back of my head and her bad runner math skills had started thinking it would be possible back at 9).  I didn't mind though -- I was doing so much better than I'd anticipated, and having so much fun in the process, that I was already thrilled with the outcome.

No big deal - just 12.9 miles
into a half marathon
Since my time was pretty much in hand, I even stopped to take a picture in front of Spaceship Earth, basically as a bookend to a similar photo I took during the 10K.

The girl in this photo?  She has already run 19.1 miles of her 19.3 mile goal for the weekend.  She has a blister on her foot, is having some chafing on a part of her body that I won't mention here, and literally has completely sweat-soaked every piece of clothing on her body.

And that is not a fake smile.

That girl?  She's beaming.  She is prouder of herself than she can possibly articulate.  She is feeling like a rock star -- a sweaty, sweaty rock star.

And so, in the tradition of Disney races, I rounded the corner just after this photo was taken and passed the gospel choir at Mile 13.  At that point, I stopped my music, took out my headphones, and finished without the RunKeeper lady talking in my ear.  As I approached the finish line, I don't think I stopped smiling (though the race photos may tell a different tale...).  I high-fived Mickey Mouse.  And I ran across the finish line with my arms high above my head.

A nice older man put my medal around my neck (though I had to ask him to do it) and told me congratulations.  I immediately stopped to take a photo with my new "bling" and headed on to the same basic set-up as yesterday.  Though after I picked up my Powerade, I noticed that volunteers were handing out mesh backpacks similar to the ones we got at the 2013 race expo.  This was the best thing ever, because it gave me a place to stash all of the things volunteers were handing me.  I got in line to pick up my Glass Slipper Challenge medal (the shoe! it's so sparkly!), took my finisher photo, got my bananas and snack box, and enjoyed the long slow walk to my car.

Ironically enough, the girl handing out the GSC medals actually did put it around my neck.  But it was backwards, so I had to immediately take it off and flip it around.  That's not a complaint though.  I can't possibly complain about the volunteers.  For the "payment" of a one-day WDW ticket and a thin jacket, those people gave their all to support me and more than 20,000 of my closest friends today.  If my math is correct, I believe there were 8 water stops and I took 3-4 cups of Powerade/water at each one.  That's 30 people I breathlessly thanked while running.  And it doesn't count all of the ones high-fiving us, cheering, telling us which way to go... It's absolutely mind-boggling just how many wonderful volunteers were out there.

A friend asked me this morning if I was still planning on signing up for the full marathon next year.  I told her I thought so... as long as nothing catastrophic happened today to break my confidence.  I have to say if marathon registration opened right this second, I'd jump up from the couch to get my wallet.  I talk a lot about runDisney getting too expensive for me, but this weekend really made it obvious that nobody does it like Disney.  It wasn't always wonderful, but I really had a great weekend overall.

Oh, and you know how I said I knew I wasn't going to PR?  Well...

My Race Stats:
Clock Time: 3:38:09
Chip Time: 3:08:40 **PR** (by 39 seconds)
Pace: 14:25 min/mile
Overall Place: 11,681/20,751 (almost in the top half!)
Gender Place: 10,755/19,282

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 13:45 min/mi
mile 2: 13:25 min/mi
mile 3: 13:48 min/mi
mile 4: 13:25 min/mi
mile 5: 14:00 min/mi
mile 6: 14:21 min/mi
mile 7: 14:39 min/mi
mile 8: 14:17 min/mi
mile 9: 14:02 min/mi
mile 10: 13:59 min/mi
mile 11: 14:04 min/mi
mile 12: 14:23 min/mi
mile 13: 13:55 min/mi

Random Observations: 
* I will run, no matter how tired I am, if it involves high-fiving a bunch of cheering spectators or volunteers.  I love that!
* Watered-down yellow Powerade is the nectar of the gods
* If you are spectating and holding a poster, angle it toward the runners.  Otherwise we can't read it as we fly past you at dizzying speeds!
* Another argument against white race shirts (leftover story from the 10K): I ran for a while near a girl who was apparently wearing a new pink or purple sports bra under her white race shirt.  Four miles into the race, the shirt looked like it had been tie-dyed!
my shiny new medals - time to reconfigure the rack again!

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