After running the Enchanted 10K on Saturday, I was feeling my Plantar Faciitis a bit more than normal, and a twinge of knee pain. Since my sister had suddenly come up with a shopping list for me and I wanted to grab another Handana anyway, we headed over to the Wide World of Sports to do our last minute shopping and wait for the soccer matches later in the evening. (Our home team, The Toronto FC were playing the late game).
I was delighted to see there was NO line at the KT Tape booth, and quickly learned that it was because they were out of tape. Totally and completely out. Luckily, I’d brought a roll. Hey, I was at the expo in January. I know how this works. I only had enough tape to do my knee and one foot (oof) so that’s what we did. Still, it felt better and I left happy in the knowledge that tomorrow would be that much more comfortable.
That is, until it rained. Big, ploppy, mushy drops of rain that gathered into huge unavoidable puddles. We got soaked. Our shoes were squishy. We stayed for most of the games, though.
When we got back to the resort, I grabbed the hair dryer and went to town, trying to salvage my KT Tape job. The knee tape held up alright, but the foot tape was essentially just decoration at this point.
Also, I’d stupidly worn my Nikes for our little outing. The shoes I was planning to wear for the Half Marathon. They were now water-logged.
Nuts x 2.
Looks like I’d be wearing my Newtons again tomorrow. I crossed my fingers and went to sleep.
I was in a much more serious mood the next morning. I drank my coffee, got dressed and scarfed down a container of Fage yogurt as I walked to the bus.
I’d been wavering back and forth about this race. Do I run it for time, or just a ‘good time’? I mean, the whole point of running this race, and running it solo was so that I could focus on just myself and making a PR. I’d invested in a one month McMillan training plan to get me through between the Goofy Challenge and the Princess Half Marathon, and I’d loved the focus, and the purposefulness of each of the runs on the schedule.
I’d had a couple of dud-runs, mostly on a treadmill at a local gym. Those runs shook me up a bit, since they seemed harder than they should have. But I’d also had some great runs. As a result, I honestly had no idea if I was capable of meeting my goal of 2:45 for this race. That’s 12:36 per mile. I’d picked up a Clif Pace band at the expo, and then promptly forgot to put it on.
The bus queue at the main building of Old Key West wasn’t bad, and a gentleman (spectator) waved me ahead of him in line. By the time I was done with my yogurt, the bus had arrived and I slid into a seat. It took almost 45 minutes to get from Old Key West to the Epcot parking lot. I knew Greg was planning on trying to catch me at the Magic Kingdom, and so I texted him saying he should be sure to leave a lot of time. It was kind of a mess.
I had packed my SPI belt with my pouches of ENERGYbits, so I went through the security line for people with bags – very fast, no wait – before making my way over to the Race Retreat to relax for a few minutes. I ate a bagel with peanut butter and was part way through a bottle of PowerAde before I realized that I shouldn’t be drinking this much, this close to the race.
Nuts x 3.
I was going to need a potty stop during the race.
I looked around the tent. It was much busier than the day before. As I sat there with just my SPIbelt and my bib, I remembered back to my very first Half Marathon. The Princess Half Marathon in 2012, when Greg and I had sat in this same tent. I remembered how nervous I was.
Was I going to be able to finish? Would we get swept? Was everyone else here WAY faster than me?
Back then, Greg said you could tell we were newbies because of how ‘geared up’ we were. Water belts, SPI belts. Lots of throw-away layers. Way more nutrition than we’d ever need… There had been another couple sitting at our table sitting calmly eating bananas with just their bibs and a SPI belt. Those were the real runners. They knew what they were doing. I wanted to be them when I grew up.
Here I was, two years later. Calm. Not loaded down with gear. Knowing what to expect of the course.
I grabbed a marker and wrote “See RoadID bracelet” on the back of my bib where the emergency contact info belongs and then strapped in. I’d made the decision.
I was going for the PR.
The humidity meant you couldn’t see very far in any direction, so that was pretty cool. I walked to the corrals, weaving my way through the crowd (boy, that’s easier when there’s only one of you), trying to keep my shoes dry by walking on the grass as little as possible.
I’d been texting back and forth with Greg and hearing his escapades trying to get to the Magic Kingdom. There were still runners trying to get buses from our resort at almost 5AM. Cutting it close. Especially since they’d stopped the buses (and closed the roads to cars!) between 4:30 and 6:30. He grabbed a cab, but gave it up to the runners who had been turned back by the police when they’d tried to walk over to the corrals (he was turned back, too). When he finally did get a bus, the driver had to stop and ask for directions. He was NOT having a good time trying to get to see me. I couldn’t even imagine the hassle my mom was going to have when she tried to drive over from her RV park.
I found my corral (I) and ducked in to stretch and relax. I’d brought a bottle of water and a banana. I ate the banana while they set up Corral A to go, and then used some of the water to take my ENERGYbits when they sent off Corral G.
Before long, it was our turn. There was a large Clif Pacing group with a 3:00 goal right towards the front of the corral, so I made sure to edge myself in front of them. I didn’t want to see them again after we started, and I sure as hell didn’t want to try and weave my way through them. They had a very friendly and vocal leader so they seemed to be in good hands. The 2:45 pace group was in the corral before ours.
We took off, and I clicked on my Garmin. I knew that if I was going to make my time, seconds counted. I wasn’t going to stop for photos of mile markers or characters. I was just going to GO.
Mile One: 12:24 It was a little faster than I wanted to go, but the way I figured it, any time I banked now I could use later if I needed to stop, or if the fog burned off and it suddenly got hotter.
Mile Two: 12:24 Solid! I was pleased since this mile contains that bottle-necky turn onto World Drive. I was genuinely surprised by how manageable the crowding was early on, and I was very glad I’d started towards the front of my corral. I will also admit to briefly asking myself why I was doing this.
Mile Three: 12:17 How can you go slowly when you’re headed towards the Magic Kingdom? You can’t. I attempted a photo, and then quickly realized it was too humid for my camera.
I tucked my camera back in my pocket and kept moving.
5K Split: 38:55
Mile Four: 12:00 Ok, easy tiger. We’re all excited about getting to the Magic Kingdom, but let’s not kill ourselves.
I grabbed these shots as I was running, and texted them to Greg so he would know where I was, in case my splits weren’t going to his phone.
What was worrying me, though, was the attention my bladder was demanding. I ran past portopotties. My goal is always to not stop until the Magic Kingdom.
Mile Five: 12:19 Just outside the Magic Kingdom. Almost to Main Street. Almost to bathrooms! (I mean, the Castle!)
I turned the corner and ran up Main Street, pulling off briefly to take these shots:
Can’t resist a castle selfie.
But then, back to business. Through the hub, through Tomorrowland. I was starting to think all the bathrooms would have line ups, until I got to Fantasyland and my favourite bathroom. It’s a little off the course, but totally worth it. I was the only one in there.
Quick like a bunny, I was back on the course and running through the castle as the trumpeters played a fanfare.
I love running through the castle – like, actually running through it. That’s totally fun. I kept to the right and skipped the ‘front of the castle’ photo. I had bathroom time to make up. My Garmin tracking was now a little off kilter thanks to the off-course bathroom stop.
Mile Six: 13:26 (Darn bathroom).
10K Split: 1:19:26 – faster than yesterday!
We reached the halfway point and “Let it Go” from Frozen was blasting through the speakers. Women around me started singing along and I just kept gulping back air trying not to cry. Why was I starting to cry? No idea. Not a clue in the world. For real. When I ran the Princess in 2012, the halfway song was “Stronger”, and that song still chokes me up. I remember reaching the halfway point and realizing I had plenty of ‘gas left in the tank’, I was going to finish strong! I couldn’t believe it. Now here I was again, on pace for a PR. I think I’m going to have some long-term emotional aftershock with this song, as well.
At the next water station, I doused my head and got my head back on straight.
Mile Seven: 12:18
Time to start looking for Greg. He told me he was standing on a rock outside the Shades of Green Resort. And there he was!
He had my post-race jacket tied around his shoulders and a clementine in his pocket for me to snack on. Yum! Sweet treat! He gave me an Olympic Men’s Hockey Game update (Canada was up) and I gave him my camera and a quick kiss good-bye and said I’d see him at the finish. I ran away peeling the clementine. It smelled so GOOD!
Things started getting foggy, mentally. Since my Garmin was now almost a quarter mile off, I was constantly forgetting if I’d reached the next mile marker or not. I started to worry that I was really behind my pace.
Mile Eight: 12:28
Out of habit, I grabbed a Razz flavour Clif Shot when I hit the fuel station, but I kept using my ENERGYbits as fuel.
Mile Nine: 12:05
Mile Ten: 12:14 Only 5K to go! (or slightly more, thanks to my detour). It seems like there was a glitch in the timing at various points during the race. I crossed the 15K mat, but I have no chip time for that split. I like this mile. I remember looking back during the 2012 Princess Half and marvelling at how many runners were still back there, how far we’d come and how close we were to finishing something amazing. That moment was not lost on me this time around, either. There didn’t seem to be the same sea of wall to wall bodies when I looked back, which I attributed to being in an earlier corral, and the corrals being more spread out. I hear that things got more crowded the farther back you went.
Mile Eleven: 11:57 That’s right. I clocked myself a sub-12 minute mile. It cost me, though. Things got tough. Greg told me he was waiting to see me by the bus stop in Epcot. Seconds before I got to him, the traffic controllers shifted the runners to the other side of a cross-walk, and so we could just wave and blow kisses with the cast members saying “Aw, oh noooo” when they realized we’d been torn asunder! It was ok, I was planning on running by and saying “can’t stop!” anyway. The time was getting that close. I knew I was going to be over my 2:45 goal. The question was, by how much?
Mile Twelve: 12:19 I fully intended on running from 12 to 13 non-stop. I kept telling myself to slow down my running pace a smidge so I could keep it up, but I was hot. My head was swimming a bit and I was starting to suck air. Darn. Walk breaks.
Mile 13: 12:41 Pushing. Sucking air. Pushing. I hit the finishing chute and did my best impression of a finishing kick.
Mile 14 (.41): 4:35
Official Finish time: 2:45:26 – technically 2 seconds per mile over goal, but frankly, I’ll take it. It’s a PR. I had a potty break. It was 100% humidity. I like what my Garmin had to say about it – since it recorded the half marathon by it’s own tracked distance rather than the actual course, it gave me a PR of 2:41:57 (and a 10K PR of 1:15:43!)
I’m calling this one a victory.
Thankfully, both Greg and my mom and individually made it over to the finish, so they both saw me cross the line. My mom said she shouted for me, but I couldn’t hear her – no surprise, it was loud and I could only hear the blood pumping in my ears.
I saw volunteers pixie-dusting finishers, and I waved one over. I’m getting sparkly, dangit! I walked over to get my half marathon medal, loaded up on PowerAde and water which I tucked into the mesh bag they handed out. I was grateful for the cooling towels they were handing out. Those felt great.
From there it was a quick stop to get my Glass Slipper Challenge medal, a runner’s snack box and I was off to the Race Retreat where I collected my commemorative towel and flip flops.
Greg met me outside with a rose and I gave him my medal to take to get engraved with my PR time while I had a glass of champagne and some breakfast (more bacon!). So hungry!
The line for the medal engraving was insanely long, and he told me that the runner tracking was down, so they couldn’t look up anyone’s time. Lucky for me, we knew mine. When the medal was finally done, he looked at it and realized they’d spelled my name wrong. So… new medal… they had extras on hand, fortunately!
My mom gave us a lift back to our resort for a shower and a nap before we all reconnected for brunch later. Such a good nap. Such a good race.
I’ll write up an ‘overall impressions’ recap about the weekend, but generally speaking, I’m really glad I decided to jump into this challenge and I loved doing it alone. I found it very empowering.
Did you run the Princess Half Marathon this year? How did you like it?
I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.