We drove down Friday evening. Paulette is a great road trip buddy – she was happy to stop to eat (not eat on the go) and chatted with me the whole way down. We got to Anaheim around midnight, checked into the hotel, and promptly went to sleep. Saturday morning I got up and headed out for a little 3 mile shakeout run. We had a busy day ahead of us, so I wanted to get it done early. It was a boring run (just out and back down Harbor Blvd.) but served its purpose. Then Paulette and I headed to the expo. I was really impressed by it: good organization and not too crowded. We picked up our bibs, team bibs & sashes, slightly-discounted Disneyland ticket, and shirts quickly and then did a little “window” shopping. I had forgotten a headband, so I picked a cute Minnie-inspired one from Sweaty Bands and Paulette got some new compression socks. I also picked up a little Vinylmation Mickey runner (the hubs and I always pick up these little figures when we go to the Park, so I had to get one this weekend too.
After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we headed over to Disneyland. The park was busy (nice weather, 3-day weekend, race weekend – no surprise) but still a good day. We didn’t run a ton of rides but got to see a lot of the park and look at the shops. I love Disneyland and it was fun, but I admit I missed having the hubs with me. We’ll need to make a trip happen soon!
After the park, we met up with my parents for dinner at Red Robin (yum!). I worried that it would be a long wait, but it wasn’t bad at all (and my dad scored a good table in the bar anyway). It was really nice to get to see them on such a quick weekend in SoCal but it would have been nicer to spend a little more time with them. However, we had an early wake up the next day so an early-ish dinner was about all we could do. (Thanks Mom & Dad for coming up to Anaheim to see me!)
3:40am came too early but it was time to wake up, eat a little breakfast, and head over to the 5am start for the race. Paulette and I were both in wave A so we navigated our way up to the front. After we got in the wave, we hung out a little bit before I moved a little closer to the start line. Before we started, they had some characters up on the stage (Minnie and Daisy in their workout gear) and sang the national anthem (complete with fireworks – so cool!).
I went into this race without any real expectations. I hadn’t been training but had solid mileage and a few speed workouts. I just wanted to run a strong race where I felt good. I started out conservatively, my first mile in the high 7 minute range. Then we entered the parks and I really enjoyed seeing all the lights and attractions. I hadn’t been to California Adventure in ages, so it was fun to see the redesigns, Cars Land, and the World of Color lights and water show. In fact, I might have gotten a little too excited as my pace jumped to 8:30-ish – whoops! We got to see some backstage portions of both parks and some of the best parts of both. I even saw a Mary Poppins float backstage at Disneyland (I love Mary Poppins)! As much as I loved running in the parks, I was happy to get out into Anaheim where there was more wide streets and less tight turns. By this point we were coming up to mile 6 (I had missed the 5 mile marker somehow) and I was feeling pretty good. My iPod also randomly turned off at some point during this section of the race but I didn’t need it anyway, so back to racing without it. (Miles 1-5: 7:43, 8:27, 7:52, 8:12, 8:02)
Miles 6-10 I just kept on trucking. I decided to focus on a negative split and try to bring down my mile times. I’m happy to report that I did. I took some Sports Beans at mile 8 (didn’t want to crash like I did at the Big Sur half last November). Around mile 9, I decided I would just try to pass as many women as I could and not be passed by any women. (Men had started the race beginning in wave 3, so around mile 4-ish men starting passing. They got a little to crazy about passing all the ladies, but the guys I saw later on the course were really great – cheering on the ladies.) I like to think I had my friend Jenn telling me that I could pick off the women running in front of me and I did. This felt great and helped me keep pushing my miles right along. I was feeling pretty good but definitely ready to finish the last 3.1 miles. (Miles 6-10: 7:51, 8:03, 7:43, 7:56, 7:49)
Miles 11-13.1 I kept up the same plan. I had to use the bathroom but kept deciding to wait until the finish. I regretted this for about 2 minutes after I passed each port-a-potty. But I was having fun passing runners and didn’t want to lose that momentum. I just kept pushing harder to get to the finish faster. I passed one runner just as we started to head back to the parks and she caught me in the tunnel (backstage perk) before we came into the resort again. Just as she pulled up next to me, we gave each other some encouragement (nice work, type of thing) and then I pulled ahead again. I passed another runner and then two more just before the finish. I was definitely pushing at this point but felt that it was a strong finish. (Miles 11-13.1: 7:46, 7:20, 7:05, 59 seconds for last .16)
This was just the race I needed to run! I felt strong and was happy with my finishing time (1:43:05 – 15th in my age group and 65th woman out of 11,000+ runners). It was the fastest half I’ve run since my PR in 2012. It reminded that I could run a strong race and got me excited for racing half marathons again. I was also really happy that I had solid negative splits.
I have to say, I was really impressed by runDisney. I didn’t really know what to expect. I had read plenty of race recaps from Disney events that were very positive but had largely focused on seeing characters or swag. While this is great, it doesn’t necessarily make or break a race for me. But runDisney did a great job. Even through the waves were huge (for example, wave A included all sub-2 hour women runners), I never felt crowded on the course. In fact, at times I didn’t even feel like I was part of a big race seeing just a few runners ahead of me. This was great! I had been worried about being stuck in a pack and this didn’t happen at all. Additionally, there were plenty of aid stations that seemed well stocked and one with Clif Shots. I really liked the course, even outside of the parks. I thought the Anaheim route was good with some nice long stretches. They had some entertainment (sometimes we were in neighborhoods and the race tried to be really considerate of the inhabitants – they had signs “shhh… the neighbors are sleeping”) and I liked the downtown portion. There were some little hills (I would have liked a bit more) so it wasn’t as pancake flat as I feared. The finish area was great. After getting your medal and water, they had food (already boxed and easy to grab), tons of port-a-potties, and other amenities. I didn’t use it but the gear check looked well-organized too.
After the race, Paulette and I headed back north pretty quickly. The drive was really nice (just a little traffic north of LA due to an accident), we took the 101 so it was a pretty one. We were happy listening to the first hour of the 49ers game in the final portion of our drive (but of course, for Niners fans, that game ended sadly). And we were back in Nor Cal before we knew it.
I am so happy that I decided to run this race. The race itself was pretty perfect and the weekend was a lot of fun. Thanks Paulette for a great time! (PS Paulette has her recap up too, check it out HERE.)