I'm sure everyone has heard by now that Florida has been experiencing temperatures significantly below normal. It hovered around the freezing mark for most of our week at Disney, often dipping well below 0C/32F overnight and rising just a few degrees when the sun was out in full-force.
Given that we are from the Great White North, we should have been prepared for this weather. As it turns out, we packed as though we would be arriving to Florida's usual temperatures, having neglected to take the weather forecast seriously. Oops!
We had enough jeans and sweaters to get us through our days in the parks, but I hadn't packed any cold-weather running gear: no pants, no long sleeves/jackets, no hats/head bands. Major fail!
We had hoped to pick up some warmer gear at the Expo, but there were very slim pickings in terms of warm gear. I did find a 2010 Goofy Bondi Band, which would at least protect my ears. Fortunately the race shirts were long-sleeve, and we all ended up wearing one or more of them each day.
Saturday: Half Marathon
I ended up wearing capri pants with Recovery Socks to keep my calves warm, both the half and full marathon long-sleeve race shirts (big no-no, but I was desperate!) and a short sleeve on top in addition to my new Bondi Band. I added a throw-away hoodie and aluminum blanket, which stayed on for a good 20 minutes into the race.
Based on the 5:50AM half marathon start and the instructions provided for transportation, we were out the door shortly after 3AM and dropped off in the starting area around 3:30. Biting winds and an interesting mixture of rain/snow/sleet made for extremely uncomfortable conditions. We used everything we could find to shelter ourselves and stay somewhat warm. We were then advised that bag check would be closing at 4:30AM, which meant we would have to shed the majority of our warm layers more than one hour before the start. Hubs and I created a shelter of sorts using aluminum blankets from previous races, but it did little to protect us from the elements. We were freezing.
Around 5:00 we decided to make our way over to the start line, which was quite a long hike. Once we got there and buried ourselves in the crowd, we were more protected from the cold wind and it wasn't so bad. The countdown was on as we prepared to kick off the Goofy Challenge!
The four of us agreed to stick together for the half. Our only game plan was to have fun, enjoy the experience and take it easy. Hubs, U and P are all much stronger runners than I am, so they let me set the pace and ensured that I didn't push myself.
The first wave started with a bang (fireworks) at 5:40AM and we had just 10 minutes left to kill before our start. Before long, we had crawled forward to the starting line, the fireworks went off again and we were off!
A lengthy stretch of the beginning of the race took us along highways where there wasn't much to look at (especially in the dark), but we were just excited to be running. The crowds were pretty intense and there were already tons of spectators out in the wee hours of the morning.
Quick portrait at one of many pitstops. Yes, I am stylish.
I will never forget entering the Magic Kingdom while it was still dark. It was lit up absolutely beautifully and I could hardly believe my eyes as we ran down Main Street U.S.A..
Another memorable view, approaching the Cinderella Castle.
We ran through the castle from the rear, which was definitely a highlight of the experience.
(Don't mind the blurry pics.)
After running all over Magic Kingdom, we were back out on the roads on the way to Epcot.
We were chatting, laughing and even singing as the miles ticked by. I barely glanced at my watch the entire time and didn't have a care in the world. We were all so supportive of one another, truly enjoying each other's company the entire time.
Patricia and I celebrating 10 miles.
Hubs ran ahead to snap this photo of Ueli, myself and Patricia:
Pretty soon we could see the giant Epcot globe and knew we were just about done. I remember thinking, 'I am going to be so glad to see this thing tomorrow!'
We rounded the final bend toward the finish:
The four of us held hands, raised our arms in the air and crossed that line together. (To be illustrated by official race photos soon!) Best 13.1 miles ever.
Clock - 2:31:42
Place - 5768/17102
Females - 2286/9676
F25-29 - 326/1255
Looking back, I had expected this race to feel much harder. After three weeks of extreme tapering with minimal running, four days of non-stop walking all over Disney World, not paying much attention to what I was eating and having a drink or two every evening leading up to the weekend (essentially breaking all the rules of race preparation!), I had serious doubts that a half marathon at any pace could feel easy. But it did!
The finish area was pretty chaotic and we had a bit of a hard time getting our bags. There simply weren't enough volunteers and runners started to storm the bag storage area. It got a little crazy, but we eventually got our stuff and made our way to the buses. Unfortunately we were stuck waiting in the cold rain for almost 45 minutes, which was not fun. We were so cold and wet that we could hardly speak or move. I don't think I've ever been so happy to get on a bus before.
Eventually we made it back to our hotel. On the way there, hubs was excitedly telling us that we was going to buy pizza at the food court before going back to our room.... and then we all realized it was only 9AM! It's amazing what a 2:45 wake-up call will do to your perception of time. We ended up having a (hot!) late breakfast before crashing for a nice, long nap.
Next up: The Marathon...