Thursday, March 8, 2012

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon - Part One!

(These posts are pretty picture heavy and mostly star my sister because we took pictures of each other.  More pictures of me to come later perhaps!  I'm splitting the report up because apparently I have a lot to say!)

For my post on the Princess Half Meet Up and Expo, go here.

And while you're hanging out, why don't you enter my Larabar giveaway?

Dear Past Jenn: I know when you read everything that's written in the posts about the Princess Half you are not going to believe that it happened or that you were capable of even thinking about achieving this goal.  But you did!  Good on you! Love, Present Jenn

The Rules

My sister and I decided that we would run the race together the whole time, even though she is much faster than me.  I had put my estimated finish time as 3:00, so I was in Corral E.  Julie was in Corral D so she dropped back with me.  I wish I had estimated better so we would have had to deal with fewer crowds, but what's done is done.

I knew we had to establish a few ground rules if we were ever going to make it through the race without driving each other up the wall (or me dying).  First, I got to call the walking breaks and set the pace.  (You can see how that turned out in Part Two.)  Second, we wouldn't stop for character photos unless there was three or few people/groups in line ahead of us.  Third, which was established on the course, Julie got to weave through the crowds as much as she wanted when we were running and I had to keep up.  All fair enough.  Ready, set, go...

The Night Before / Getting There

About a week before the race, we panicked a little bit about staying off resort, so we booked a room at a host resort.  At that point we had a choice between a family suite at an All-Star resort and a studio at Saratoga Springs, both about the same price.  I picked Saratoga Springs (a little cheaper).  A few nights before the race we decided our DH would stay with us as well.  Nothing says cozy like a four person sleepover in a studio room with one bed and a pull-out!

Before we left for the race, the boys made signs to hold up for us.  My nephew helped.  (He stayed with our parents during the race because we figured it was way too early and crowded there for a toddler - we were right.)

Probably lucky he only
wrote on the sign with that

After we flipped a coin to figure out who got the bed (we won! yay!) we laid out our gear and each went for a walk with our respective DH around the grounds.  Mission - ice cream.

All laid out and ready to go.
Pre-race bedtime snack!

When we got back, we set our alarms for the ridiculous hour of 2:45 a.m. and went to bed.  We agreed to try and get on the bus by 3:40 a.m.  Julie told me I better not be slow or she would leave me behind.  I believe it was something along the lines of "I promised to get you to the finish line, but you have to get yourself to the starting line."  My sister is awesome and really nice (really)!  We pre-set the coffee maker so we didn't have to worry about measuring stuff in the morning (I am my father's daughter) and went to bed.

When my alarm went off, I stumbled in the dark to turn on the coffee and realized the coffee maker wasn't plugged in.  Fixed that, got it going, and we got ready for the day.  As we ate and drank coffee/water/nuun, we put BodyGlide on everywhere we could think of, put our awesome throw away clothes on (wish there was a picture of my "leisure suit").

There was a table in the room but it was on the other side near the sleeping boys, so Julie set up camp on the floor while I made a whole wheat bagel/PB/banana sandwich to take with me on the bus.

Breakfast time!

Julie set a second alarm for when we should be leaving the hotel room, and we left almost right on time!  She didn't leave me behind!  We made our way to the bus area (I was super happy we figured out where it was and how to get there the night before) and the bus was there waiting with plenty of room on it.  I don't think many runners were at our resort, which worked out very well for the buses there and back as we never had to wait in a line.  Also, the boys were able to sleep in and walk over to the starting line much later - Saratoga Springs was about a 25 minute walk to the starting line.

The bus drove by thousands of runners already walking to the starting area, and finally dropped us off a short walk from the first stop on our starting area journey, which turned out to be the finishing area as well.

So dark. So early.
Entering the "athletes' village"/finishing area.
Someone else called the starting area porta-potty heaven and I didn't believe it until I saw it for myself.  So many porta-potties!  But still always a line, although not too long.

Porta-potty heaven.

We checked out everyone's costumes while we waited.  There were a lot of princesses and groups of friends in matching outfits.  One girl was dressed as the "poor" Cinderella (think blue/brown and kerchief) which was adorable.  My favourite costumes were the unexpected ones, that were either not Disney at all but somehow Princess-y, or were superhero/Marvel costumes (Disney just purchased Marvel).

Best costume ever.
Custom printed back. AWESOME.

We checked our bags (super efficient and well organized, by the way!) and then waited in the starting area for what felt like ages.  I think we arrived around 4:00 a.m. because we were told it was a long walk to the corrals and you had to be in your corral by 5:00 a.m.  There was a dance party going on with a DJ but we were mostly frustrated that we had gotten up so early and it was clear that no one was even moving towards the corrals.  There was also vendors with snacks, etc. but we hadn't thought to bring any money, counting on our DH bringing money at the end if we wanted souvenirs.

We sat and stood around in this area for probably 45 minutes.  In the future, I might pay for the Race Retreat (another $99 but from the posts I have seen on it, very worth it).  Then we began the very long walk to the starting corrals.  Someone said they felt like cattle which is an apt description.  Sparkly cattle.  There were lots of port-potties along the route but the lines were long.  We stopped a few times anyway because we were both nervous about needing to go during the race.  The path was kind of creepy, a back Disney road with a lot of broken or otherwise not being used tram cars and such on the sides.

Waiting to get to the corrals.

We finally made it to Corral E shortly after 5:00 a.m.  There were still thousands of people behind us on the path to the corrals.  We were among the first people there but didn't realize at the time that we should have claimed a spot near the front.  We were too worried about making another half dozen trips to the bathrooms.  At some point, people (including us) gave up on the lines and started making their way to the bushes on the far side of the road.  They definitely need more porta-potties here in the future!  My sparkly skirt got burrs on it and I was scared of alligators, but that one last pit stop was what I needed to make it through the whole race without needing a bathroom.

Hanging out in the corrals in our
throw away clothes.

The corrals were packed and huge.  To to give you an idea, here's a panoramic shot that The American took that shows from the Elite corral to the end of Corral C at the overpass:

You know, just a run with 19,000 of my closest friends!

Ee decided to strip our throw away clothes shortly before our corral was called up to be certain we were ready to run.  It was pretty chilly but the adrenaline and other bodies kept us warm, and we were worried about stripping them off while we were running in a crowd.  A lot of people stripped their clothes around the 1st mile marker - it looked like a princess graveyard because people were even throwing away tutus and other sparkly things at that point.

Costume reveal! Not shown - green
and purple Team Sparkle skirts!

We chatted a bit in the corrals with people around us and each other, but mostly listened to what was going on with the interviewers and DJ and tried not to be too nervous.  I was still in disbelief that this was even happening - a half marathon?  Me?  I couldn't believe that 13.1 miles laid ahead of me.

The Race Itself

...will be in the next post!


  1. Very detailed post and lots of info! I've already decided that when I finally do Goofy - I'm springing for the race retreat.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your recap.

  2. SOunds good so far! Love the fancy arm warmers!

    1. Thanks! Stay tuned for a chance to win a pair of them! :-)

  3. how fun!! Can't wait to read the rest. I am SO running it next year. no ifs ands or buts!

    1. You absolutely should! I do not know if I will do it again next year yet but my sister and I are hoping to do it together every other year at least.