That's how it felt, too. The joy and excitement of three consecutive days of racing had left the building faster than Elvis and had been replaced by... well, by ambivalence. It's not that I was dreading another race, so much as I didn't really care much about it. I just wasn't that into it, if you will.
|#ALLTHERACES! Temporary tattoos from Sparkle Athletic - thanks ladies!|
Still, I had people to see, things to do, so I hauled my tired ass out of bed and into the shower, pulled on clothes, and got out the door in search of a bus stop. NOTE: I strongly suggest figuring out where is your nearest bus stop A. in the light of day and B. at a time other than Stupidest-Early EVER. I knew I was too tired to operate my vehicle by that point, and really didn't want to drag myself another quarter-mile after the race to get to my car, so I opted to take a race bus. Only, I went the wrong direction, in search of the bus stop. Halfway across the parking lot, I saw a Princess heading toward me with purpose... and I asked, "Am I going the wrong way for the bus?" She smiled, said "Yes! Come with me - I'm going there, too!" and led me in the proper direction. Thanks, fellow Princess!
The bus took a while going through its many stops around the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), but arrived at the race with plenty of time before the start. A short walk and very speedy, efficient security check later, I was in the Race Retreat tent, sitting with a few running group friends.
Ah, Race Retreat. Where I could eat breakfast, lay my weary head upon the table for a 5-minute nap, use a semi-private porta-potty, leave my race bag at the last possible moment, and return later for a full breakfast, more semi-private porta-pottying, and quick retrieval of my race bag.
What is this mystical Race Retreat? In runDisney's words:
Race Retreat is a great way for runners to prepare for their race, get pampered, and reunite with friends and family once the race is over.
All this could be had for the 2014 price of $120.
Yeah, it was a lot. But... when I worked a little Fuzzy Disney Math (FDM), it totally made sense to add Race Retreat to my half-marathon day! I'd have bought myself breakfast somewhere, anyway ($12), as well as some hot cocoa ($3), water ($5), Powerade ($3) and a banana ($3). I'd get some kind of "free" Race Retreat gift ($15), too. I'd save gas and mileage on my car ($10). So for around $70, I'd get a place to eat, take shelter from any inclement weather, semi-private facilities and a quick bag check. A relative bargain when it comes to Disney, right?!
So, yeah - I spent some pre-race time trying to wake-up in Race Retreat before the call to corrals came and we headed out.
The Princess Half-Marathon corral situation is very different from the 5K and 10K setup. There were many more corrals - A through P, to be exact - and all were located a half-mile or so from the pre-race staging area. 25,000ish of us slowly made our way over and our little group split up to take final potty stops and to get into our respective corrals. I'd been assigned to corral I, but no one left in my group was in I, so I opted to move back to J with two great ladies from my running group. Anxious though I was to get the race started and over with, I wanted even more to start with some familiar faces as I began the final leg of my own Triple Crown and runDisney's Glass Slipper Challenge.
The announcers worked up the crowd, the national anthem played, corrals A - I took off, and BOOM! so did we. No pic this time, but I'm pretty sure we got something fancier than roman candles for that race.
My plan was to walk a huge chunk of the first few miles, alternating 1/4-mile walks with 1/4-mile run/walking and I quickly lost sight of one of my friends as she took off at her much faster pace. My friend Anne (go visit her at Outrunning the Fork!), though, was walk/running a similar pace and we wound up playing a little game of tag through the first couple of dark miles before losing each other.
I don't remember much about the first 3 or so miles - I didn't really feel awake, it was still dark, and I had a hard time getting into a comfortable groove. Oh, and it was even more humid than the day before. Hard to imagine? Here's a visual for ya:
|At some point, "humid" no longer applies. What was going on there was just plain WET air. |
Like running through a tunnel of WET.
With no time goal in mind, I had it in my head that I'd stop for a fair number of photos. And having missed it in the 2014 WDW Half-Marathon, I got myself over to course left to grab a pic with the hothothot exotic car display!
|Everyone else was posing with the drivers and the NASCAR car to the right. I only had eyes for the Lambo and the photog worked my phone to take a pic without the race car... but driver dude couldn't resist jumping in. FAIL.|
Three miles done, 10 more to go and I was feeling okay. Not stellar, but not bad - okay. As the sun came up, I started feeling more awake and able to take in my surroundings. I chatted with a few other runners as we wound through the Ticket and Transportation Center parking lot, and grabbed a shot of the awesome Japanese drummers out at Stupidest-Early EVER to keep us going.
The thought of entering the Magic Kingdom - and stopping for a few pictures - kept me plugging away through Mile 4 and next stop...
|Sun's up, but note the shroud of WET surrounding Cindy's castle.|
Main Street, USA!!!
Folks, if you haven't experienced this, let me say - entering Main St. after a relatively quiet few miles will get any runner going! The roar of the crowd, the smiles on your fellow runners' faces, the excitement of being in the Happiest Place on Earth - it all makes for an easy, almost too quick, jaunt through the park. This portion of the course has gone by MUCH too quickly for me in previous races, so I made a point to slow down, take it all in, and, yes - stop for more pics...
|Entering Tomorrowland from Main St.|
|About to run through the castle - see the trumpeters up there? |
They busted out a wicked-good herald of the theme from Rocky!
I had promised myself and others that this time, not only would I stop for the iconic photo in front of the castle, I'd make it an epic shot.
I think I succeeded!
|Princess air, baybee! Still waiting on a good package to purchase...|
I'd also been tasked by a friend with getting a few unusual photos during the race. I failed pretty epically on most of the list, but I did get this. And I am super-crazy glad I did - it might be my favorite photo from the whole damn race weekend!
|Can you believe this isn't an official photo stop?! Luckily, a very nice Cast Member was right there, taking time to cheer us on, and he was happy to snap a pic for me. Thank you!!!|
Although... this one is a contender for Favorite, too. :)
|Louis, my favorite character in The Princess and the Frog!|
Louis had a pretty decent line, but I was glad to stop moving for a bit. In fact, not moving felt pretty darned good. By the time I got up to Louis, I was enjoying not moving very much and was starting to feel sleepy again... and Louis was soft... and plush... and I seriously could have closed my eyes right there and been asleep in seconds, resting my head on his shoulder. I wasn't even remotely bothered by the fact that Louis' plushy softness was no doubt slathered in the sweat and germs of 10,000ish previous runners. That's saying... well, something.
After exiting the Magic Kingdom around Mile 6, I mentally prepared for the next chunk of my race. I'm a second-half runner: give me any distance, and odds are I'll run the second half faster than the first. It's a strategy that's good for my body, as it has lots of time to warm-up and find its groove, and for my soul, as it nearly always means passing lots of other tired racers in the later miles. Second-half racing worked beautifully for me when I ran the 2013 Princess Half - I wound up finishing that one feeling strong, fast and energized. And I had expectations of the same this year.
I dug deep, prepared to do less walking, more running and pick up the overall pace, and... nothing. I just had no motivation at all. Thinking maybe I just wasn't quite ready to pour on the speed, I pulled over for another photo...
|I don't even particularly like this guy, let alone his movie!|
I'd have done almost anything at that point to not run.
I stopped even thinking about running after that. Walking along, I began entertaining thoughts of dropping out. I wasn't very serious about it, but pulling over to sit a spell sounded good. And if the sweeper unit came along to bus me to the finish, so be it. My feet were hurting, and my right shoulder was tight, but I wasn't injured and nothing was debilitatingly painful... I was just tired of running. And. Walking.
And then... I saw Anne. ANNE!!! I don't even recall if I caught up with her, or she caught up with me, but man-oh-man, was I happy to see a familiar face. As we walked together, I told her how OVER the race I was, she expressed a similar sentiment, and I'm pretty sure we agreed there and then that we'd neither of us do Princess weekend again, lol! But, we agreed, we were within a couple miles of the finish and it was silly to quit. So we kept plugging along with the agreement that if either of us felt like running, we'd run, and the other could choose to run or not, and we didn't want to hold one another back if we managed to find some hidden reserves of energy.
We snagged this...
|Barbosa does NOT do Jazz Hands. Aaaargh.|
... and kept on keeping on. We walked, and talked, and ran a little, and pulled over for big globs of Biofreeze to smear on any parts in need of numbing and refreshing, and eked out another couple miles. We yelled out to some friends who passed us and did some leapfrogging as I ran the uphills and walked the downhills (IT Bands HATE downhill running, trust V), while Anne walked the uphills and ran the downhills. And soon, there it was... the Big Ball, off to our left, behind the Epcot parking lot!
From our vantage point atop an overpass, we could see thousands of runners still behind us. THOUSANDS. As slow as we'd been moving, that was incredibly comforting. Laughing that we could literally crawl the rest of the way and not be swept (um, yeah - in hindsight, I suspect we were a lot closer to being swept than we thought...), we strolled slowly a little longer, got through Mile 11, and made our way into the backstage of Epcot.
I didn't stop for any more pictures, and I thought I remembered feeling only slightly more energized by knowing we were only a mile away from being DONE, and thanks to some very un-Princess-like folks pushing and jumping their way in front of us at each race photographer, I didn't think we'd have any photographic evidence of our exhausted selves dragging it home...
|PROOF... that we had fun!|
Wow - for a couple of tired ladies who were totally DONE, we sure looked to be having a great time! Okay, maybe we were just delirious and veryveryvery happy to be near the end, but I think there was a healthy helping of having fun, too.
We walked a bit more through Epcot and back to the Big Ball and agreed that we'd run from there to the Finish. I willed whatever I had left into my legs and beat feet through the finish line with a "WOOOOO HOOOO!" and immediately turned to Anne, to offer a huggy and heartfelt "Thank you!!!" for helping me through those last few miles. I know I could have gotten through them alone... but I'm awfully glad I didn't have to!
Anne and I grabbed our medals, made our way back to Race Retreat and pretty much dove into the buffet. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see eggs. And potatoes. And melon. And brown water labeled "Coffee" mixed with brown water marked "Hot Chocolate."
Worth. Every. Freaking. Penny.
Another runner joined us at our small table and it was so nice to sit back, relax, sip coffee and water and chat about our individual races. And as we sat, a big-screen TV played live footage of the race... we got to see the very last person cross the finish and, for me, that was the moment I finally felt DONE with the race. #ALLTHERACES had been run and were closed, I'd gotten through my self-afflicted Triple Crown Challenge, and I had four medals to prove it. That pretty much required a champagne toast to celebrate!
|To us, Princess Anne - ROCKSTARS, the both of us!|
Anne and I parted ways and I grabbed a bus (yep, I was, indeed, happy not to have to schlep all the way back to my car) back to CBR, where I rushed through the fastest shower I've ever taken post-race, into clean clothes, and out to my car. Within an hour of finishing the Princess Half-Marathon, I was racing back to the Magic Kingdom to meet my running group for medal photos.
Only four of us made it, but it was worth the effort - I'm not sure I'd have managed to get this otherwise...
5K, 10K, Half-Marathon and Glass Slipper Challenge - a medal for each.
I said goodbyes and thank you's to the fabulous folks with whom I chat online almost daily, and headed into the park for lunch, but faced with insane crowds and endless lines for food, I quickly returned to my car and headed back to CBR, where I enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch in the shade by the marina. It was the perfect way to rest my legs, get in some calories, and reflect on a very long weekend of experiences and accomplishments.