Posts Tagged With: chear squad

Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part two)

Just in case you missed my previous recaps from the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend: check out my expo recap here, and race recap part one here.


When I left off, I had spotted my ChEAR Squad in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Now I know what they mean by the power of the spectator in a race, because it really did provide an instant boost that I needed to face the second part of my first half marathon. I stopped for some castle pictures and then waved good-bye to continue my journey.727412-1008-0014s

I will say that the second half of the race wasn’t quite magical as the first for me! Once we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom, I no longer had that BIG MOMENT of running through the castle to look forward to…and now that the sun was out (although there were plenty of clouds, thank goodness), the heat was starting to affect me more and more.

I continued my race day plan of running until I spotted a character I wanted to pose with, and vowed not to let myself stop to walk at all. I mentally gave myself permission to slow my pace down as much as I had to in light of the weather conditions, but I had worked so hard and trained for months and months to RUN a half marathon — and that’s exactly what I intended to do.

I’m proud to say that even though I was definitely tired, and did slow down through one or two water stops and took an unexpected potty break in mile 9 (let’s just say I was suddenly hit with some stomach issues that simply would not wait until I finished), I kept that promise!

DSCF2788However, all of my silliness and photo taking in the first half of the race had really started to catch up with me. The second half of the course is marked by some very narrow paths, and as I looked around at the runners around me, I saw that there were a handful of women who started in B and C…but a whole lot more with E, F, G, and yes, even some H’s, printed on their bibs.

I seemed to be the only A left, and for a brief moment panicked about spotting those dreaded buses that would whisk me to the finish line.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to time, and was pretty much only using my Garmin to gauge my pace at that point (I kept starting and stopping it for character/water/bathroom breaks)…so I was getting worried about just how far back in the pack I had fallen. My proof was right there in front of me, when I spent the majority of miles 7, 8, and 9 just trying to weave around the walkers and slower runners.

I can’t complain — it was my own fault that I was now amongst the slower princesses — but it was frustrating and pretty much impossible to “make up for lost time,” as I had hoped. I couldn’t quite find my pace as I tried over and over again to politely DSCF2787break through walls of walkers who, unfortunately, were taking up the entire path. Some of my more dangerous maneuvers included running on the grass, which was very uneven and muddy and I feared slipping or twisting my ankle…and, I’m not proud of this, but I definitely took on a few stretches of road in the oncoming traffic lane with several other runners who seemed desperate to get ahead of the pack — despite the warnings of the cast members telling us to stay on the other side of the traffic cones.

By the time I reached some of my the character photos I definitely planned to stop for, including Genie and Stitch, I knew that I could pretty much count on tacking on a solid hour to my anticipated finish time. The lines for characters were getting a little shorter — I think everyone was just ready to finish the race! — but it DSCF2795was still eating up some significant chunks of time. Worst of all, though, I found myself really struggling by miles 10 and 11, especially as we had to make our way over some hilly overpasses on the way back to Epcot…and I really, really just wanted to finish. I scarfed down the remainder of my Clif Shot Bloks in those last few miles, and that helped, and I felt fortunate that my body wasn’t aching or in pain. I was just tired.

I kept wishing I had gotten just a few more hours of sleep, or didn’t eat whatever it was that hit my stomach with a vengeance in mile 9. I cursed the weather over and over again for being so hot and humid, and I cursed myself for not incorporating more speedwork into my weekly training runs…I now felt as though I was crawling, and my Garmin showed me averaging about a 12-13 minute/mile.

By mile 11, I was mentally and physically DONE — so much so that I decided I wouldn’t stop for any more characters or photos. I kept texting my ChEAR Squad to let them know I was on my way, but that the heat was really getting to me. I argued with myself about stopping to walk a bit over the hills (in defiance to the the green army man from Toy Story shouting at us to “move, move, move!”)…but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Mind you, I was moving at a ridiculously slow pace (for me) at that point…but I just kept running.DSCF2799

When I finally saw the mile 12 marker, I knew I was going to be able to do this. The last two miles had taken a lot out of me, but with just over one mile left to go, I decided to push myself and pick up the pace as much as I could. Running into Epcot infused me with some refreshed Disney excitement, and even though I was struggling, I knew that I would be finishing my first half marathon in just a few minutes…and that it would all be worth it in the end.

727332-1150-0038sAnd when I finally saw the shiny “13” mile marker and the finish line in the distance,  suddenly, all of my physical discomfort seemed to disappear. I sprinted towards the bleachers at the finish line and started waving like a loon at my sister and boyfriend (I never did spot my mom!), and of course felt compelled to run over for a quick photo with Princess Minnie Mouse before hopping back into the throngs of people crossing the finish line for my ultimate BIG MOMENT.

Another quick review of ChEAR Squad: There seemed to be plenty of room for spectators at the finish line, but if you have someone in your party who has trouble standing for long periods of time (that would be my mom) or if you want those aerial shots of you crossing the finish line that can only be taken from the bleachers, you may want to consider the additional expense. My personal ChEAR Squad also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the complimentary beverages and bathrooms while they were waiting 1,000 years for me to finish the race!

I threw my hands in the air and finally, it was over. I had finished my first half marathon.

I thought back to all the training runs I had done in the sweltering summer heat or the pounding rain or in three inches of snow. I thought about all the times I was busy with writing assignments or too tired or not feeling up to running, but still forced myself to lace up my sneakers anyway. I thought about all the 5Ks and 10Ks I had pushed my body through in preparation for this very moment.

IMG_3960And somehow, all of those hours upon hours of pounding the pavement were made so very, very worth it in those two seconds I spent crossing the finish line.

Even though, as anticipated, my participating in the Disney hooplah along the course cost me A FULL HOUR of time, I have absolutely no regrets. I Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 12.21.25 PMwouldn’t have done this race any other way, and now I will forever have all of these photos to remember the time I did the impossible. The girl who was too overweight and out of shape to run a mile had just completed a half marathon, and I don’t care what the stupid clock at the finish line said — nobody can ever take that away from me.

A large part of the reason that I’ve always loved Disney is that, to me, it represents dreams. Yes, of course I realize it is, at the end of the day, a multi-zillion dollar entertainment corporation, but I do believe at its core that the heart of the Disney message is not being afraid to chase your DSCF2803goals…not matter how unlikely or “impossible” they may seem (everyone knows the famous Walt Disney quote about doing the impossible, right?!). I have spent my entire life being put down by others, and being told that I couldn’t be a writer or that I would always be overweight. It took me a long time to wake up and realize that none of those things were true…and that I had the strength inside me to pursue my dreams all along. I never could have known that, someday, one of those dreams would include running a half marathon — or that I would not only become a writer, but also successfully learn how to live as a healthy, active person. 727388-1012-0018s

That’s why I feel there was no more appropriate place to run my first half marathon, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to the serious competitive runner looking to PR because it would probably prove just a bit too darn crowded, I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon experience. If anything, this race has reminded me to stop doubting myself, and taught me the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone — and now that I’m no longer afraid of the distance, I’m already registering for my next half marathon (which I WILL run for time, to see what I can REALLY do!)

727340-1011-0027sOh, and after I was sprinkled with pixie dust and handed my very first half marathon bling, I did manage to get my photo with my favorite princess…and went on to enjoy a few more magical days in Disney, where I reveled in my accomplishment. I cannot WAIT to take on Dumbo Double Dare, and I’m already planning my next several RunDisney races — consider me an addict.

The best part of all is that now I KNOW I can do this…so there’s no stopping me now! 😀

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Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part one)

I’ve been waiting for a long time to be able to write this particular post: a recap of my very first half marathon in my very favorite place in the world. I’ve decided to split it into two sections because, otherwise, it would just be RIDICULOUSLY long…especially since I thought I’d share the finer details of our trip along with the race day stuff! I spent an unmentionable number of hours scouring the Internet for blogs and recaps of the Disney Princess Half Marathon while I was training for the race and planning my trip, so hopefully there’s something here that might be able to help someone preparing to become a princess in 2014 (or participate in any other RunDisney race)! Here it goes.

Our first night in Epcot!

Our first night in Epcot!

My “ChEAR squad” (mom, sister, BF) and I arrived in Orlando on Thursday morning, and after checking into our hotel room at Coronado Springs and freshening up a bit — I don’t even need to tell you just how drastic of a temperature change it was between New Jersey and the unseasonably hot, sticky, humid Florida — we headed to Epcot for the first of our pre-race festivities. I’ve found that it’s the perfect Disney park to hit when you only have half a day, because it handles crowds well and if lines are too long, you can always just hang out in the World Showcase! We had our “yay, we arrived!” dinner at Le Cellier — my first visit to the restaurant — and, of course, did a little light shopping before heading back to the room.

On Friday, I hit the expo (check out my recap here) while my mom and sister visited IMG_2495Seaworld (let’s just say my sister likes dolphins as much as I like Mickey Mouse) and my boyfriend alternated between enjoying Coronado Springs’ pool and helping me lug my expo purchases back to the room. We hooked up again in the afternoon to re-visit Epcot for missed attractions (we never made it on Soarin’ this trip because I refuse to stand in 60+ minute lines for anything and the Fastpasses were gone both days), but we did see everything else and enjoy Illuminations from one of my favorite World Showcase restaurants, La Hacienda de San Angel.


Having a “wild time!”

Saturday was supposed to be a “relaxing” day, with a few hours at Animal Kingdom (the only Disney park you can experience in less than one full day, IMHO) and an early dinner reservation at The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary.

But it still occurred to me that I was doing pretty much everything wrong in terms of preparing for a half marathon. I was eating foods that were new to me (kind of hard not to when you’re not at home and cooking for yourself), my sleep schedule was completely out of whack from the traveling and park touring, the extreme humidity was making it hard to stay fully hydrated, and worst of all, my legs and feet were starting to feel a little sore from all the walking…even though we took things at a much more relaxed pace than usual!

Do I look nervous?

Do I look nervous?

By our last dinner before the half, I was a wreck. We hit the hay at a respectable 8pm that evening, but I don’t think I ended up with more than an hour or two of sleep before my alarm started blaring at 2:30am. I tossed and turned all night long, wondering if my training had been enough and whether I’d ever see that finish line. I even started mentally kicking myself for making a RunDisney event my first half marathon — with so many unknowns, it made it hard for me to relax and stop obsessing over not being able to finish the race.

DSCF2710But as I got out of bed and made my breakfast (I brought a mini-blender with me so I could make a smoothie in the room, my go-to pre-race meal!) and started putting on my costume — a lovely runner-fied version of this store-bought Ariel costume, expertly tailored by my sister — I tried to focus less on the enormity of what I was about to do (me, a former 260+ pound woman, running 13.1 miles!) and more on the fun of it all. I knew this race would be amazing and magical and everything I could ever want from a first half marathon, so I decided to make a plan right then and there that my one and only race-day goal would be to JUST HAVE FUN. I would stop for as many character photos as I wanted, as many fuel/potty/water pit stops as I needed, and just focus on FINISHING the race.

I headed out to catch a bus to Epcot around 3am, and luckily snagged one of the last available seats on the first bus (my family was going to travel to Epcot by car a little bit later on) where I munched on a banana and a Luna bar. I had purchased the race retreat when I first registered for the race, not really knowing what it was, so I headed for the retreat tent to nibble on half a bagel (NOT a tried-and-tested food for my sensitive stomach, but at 3:30am, I knew I had at least two hours to digest and should be fine) and enjoy some much-needed coffee.

DSCF2716I jumped in line for my first photo op of the day with the mouse from Cinderella, not knowing that there were character ops with princesses right outside, including the one photo I really wanted: Ariel. By the time I finished enjoying a visit to the retreat’s “private” port-a-potties and went outside to enjoy the DJ and character ops, it was almost time to head to the corrals and Ariel’s line was LOOOONG…so I only hoped I’d be able to get my picture with my favorite princess dressed in my costume (and, hopefully, with a medal around my neck) after the race.DSCF2745

Quick review of RACE RETREAT: Unless you’re going to attend the breakfast after the race (I did not) and celebrate with your fellow runners and/or ChEAR Squad members (Platinum level only), in my opinion, it might not be worth the price tag.

After making my way to the corrals and hitting yet another port-a-potty (at least I knew my desperate attempts to stay hydrated in the days before the race seemed to have worked!), I stood in my corral and tried to calm myself down. I knew I wasn’t the only one running by myself, but I seemed to be surrounded by groups of friends and sisters and mother-daughter duos and I suddenly felt completely alone in this — as I knew I would be. This was something I had to do for myself and by myself, but I was having a hard time enjoying the pre-race interviews and excitement because it was all hitting me: I was about the run the longest distance I had ever run, on very little sleep, in high humidity and heat that I hadn’t trained in for months. By the time the Fairy Godmother said the magic words and the fireworks went off for Corral A to begin, I was little more than a bundle of nerves.

727342-1003-0001sBut then I started running. This was really happening — all of my months and months of training were paying off. My body knew what to do. I forced myself to focus on the moment and what I was doing, and relaxed into a comfortable pace of 9:30, even though the sweat was soaking right through my tiara-themed BondiBand by the end of the first mile. I was jamming out to my RunDisney playlist and found myself grinning like a dork by the time we reached out first character stop: the pirate ship. I was under the impression that starting in Corral A might guarantee me short lines for characters, and that might have been true for the first photo or two, but as I kept stopping for pictures…with the princes, with villains, with Lightning McQueen, I already saw Corrals B and C catching up, and the less-than 5-minute character lines were already turning into 10 or more minutes each.


As a side note: at the expo, I submitted my most recent 10K time of 56:17, which placed me in Corral A. I know there has been lots of talk about the overcrowded course and walkers/slower runners blocking the paths and people being placed into the DSCF2757incorrect corrals, etc. so let me just say that despite my ridiculously slow finish time (more on that later), I legitimately earned my place in the first corral…and, yes, I did use that extra time cushion to soak up a little bit more of the race day magic and stop for almost EVERY character photo and tons of other photo ops in front of the castle, mile marker signs, and other points along the course. I knew going into this race that there was no way I’d be able to maintain my usual 9-10/minute mile pace with so many Disney-fied distractions along the way, and I didn’t want to go home with my shiny new medal and an amazing finish time but know that I didn’t stop to enjoy any of the fun along the course. I wanted to do my best but still take advantage of everything a RunDisney race has to offer — mission accomplished!

I was running from character to character, feeling physically great and mentally pumped, and having the time of my life. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I’d be running down Main Street, and I was getting closer and closer. I stopped for a potty brDSCF2761eak at the TTC where I began taking a few of my cherry chocolate Clif Shot Bloks — my absolute lifesaver during long runs, and quite possibly the only reason I had the energy to finish this race!

After passing the fifth mile marker, I knew my BIG MOMENT was almost here, and I saw several volunteers and fellow runners looking at me strangely when I started getting emotional when I saw the castle in the background from where we were about to enter Main Street USA from “backstage.” I was getting close to the halfway point, and even though the clocks on the mile markers were showing times that were SO MUCH SLOWER than I knew I was capable of running, seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time during the race reminded me of why I was doing this and just how big of an accomplishment it was for me to even be running this race…so I decided right then and there to continue enjoying the course and not to waste my precious mental energy obsessing over my finish time.

DSCF2766When I finally reached Main Street, elated really isn’t even the word to describe how I felt. I was struggling a bit to maintain my usual pace, so I had slowed down to about a 10-11/minute mile pace in between characters and water stops (I decided it was very important to keep stopping for water and Powerade, because this princess was NOT used to long runs in the heat/humidity!), but no matter what, DSCF2779_2I was DOING IT…and I was going to make sure I finished this race.

Before I knew it, I was running down Main Street, through some of my favorite “lands,” and then out through the castle. Of course, I stopped for a few photos with friends along the way, and I saw my “ChEAR Squad” waiting for me in the hub right in front of the castle. I put on a little show for them and then continued on to the second part of the race.

DSCF2777Quick review of CHEAR SQUAD: If you care at all about having those extra few photos in front of the castle, or seeing your family and friends in front of the castle, or really having anything to do with the castle, then ChEAR Squad is the only way to do so…all other spectators were relegated to Main Street.

Check out parIMG_3788t two of my race recap here!

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