Sunday, November 30, 2014

Guest Post: Avengers Half Marathon

As most of you know, my husband Eliot did the Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon a few weekends ago at Disneyland.  I asked him to write a guest post with a recap of his trip and the race experience.  Here it is!  Enjoy!!!

Photo Source: RunDisney
The Avengers Half Marathon was my second half marathon participating in.  However, it was my dad’s first.  My dad had three goals he wanted to complete this race:

  • 1. To Finish the Race
  • 2. To Not Get Hurt
  • 3. To Not Die

I trained all summer except the six weeks before the race due to me hurting my knee during a four mile run in late September. I was afraid of hurting  it more before the race so I decided to not run on it.  My dad, on the other hand, had not trained since May. That being said, here is how our race weekend went.

On Saturday, we arrived at the Downtown Disney Parking Lot after driving up from Oceanside, CA. My father and I headed towards packet pick-up while my sisters went into the RunDisney Expo while they waited for us.  We headed down the ramp onto the black carpet towards pickup where we signed our lives away and headed towards our assigned sign at packet pickup.

My father and I were both around the same bib numbers with me being 10268 and my dad was 10352. We were in the same line since we both showed no time to finish. In this race, there were only corrals A-H.  At the Walt Disney World half there were corrals A-P. (They have more room to line everyone up. One advantage to showing up the second day of the expo was that packet pickup was much quieter with less people.)
After picking up our bags, we headed back up the exit ramp and into the expo. Before entering the expo, we saw these flags in which you could take photos in front of.

We headed towards the line to pick up our long sleeve black race shirts.  We both signed up for an XL, however my dad decided to go with the larger size.  (They do run tight.)  We then headed across the expo to pick up our extra commemorative items. I decided to purchase an “I Did It” shirt, a magnet for the car, a Coast to Coast medal pin, and RunDisney shoe lace/bracelet lights.  Looking, back, the shoe lights weren't a great option since they have no off switch.  The batteries are not replaceable and they turn on every time they sense motion. (Making the batteries die quickly.)  We then met up with my sisters to head down towards the park.

My sisters decided to stop at Build-A-Bear while my father and I headed towards the parks to buy our tickets. My sisters and dad got season passes while I got the Premier Passport (an annual pass for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts).  We met back up with my sisters to find that they got me an Olaf Build-A-Bear!

We headed into the Disneyland and California Adventure parks for the rest of the day. My dad and I decided to leave around 6pm to head to our hotel for the night. It gave me enough time to get back to the hotel, repack my bags, and to get a good night's rest.  If you decide to do a race at Disney, I suggest you put your bib on your shirt the night before. This way everything is ready to go in the morning when you get ready. We had to be there no later than 5:30am. My dad and I took showers the night before rather than the morning. We were staying at the Motel 6 about a mile from the front entrance that night. It was much cheaper than staying at the Disney hotels. We went to bed at 9pm and planned to get up by 3:45am and to leave by 4:00am.
Sunday morning came way too fast.  (I'm not a morning person.)  I have a Fitbit and it told me I only got about 5.5 hours of good sleep. Unfortunately, my sisters arrived at the hotel just after midnight and woke me up, which didn’t help either. My Dad and I were in the car by 4:01am and headed towards the Mickey and Friends parking garage. Once we arrived at the garage, we showed them our annual passes, got our receipt and a special yellow tag and headed forwards. We turned left and stayed on the first level. Due to my father’s box on top of the car for skiing we got to stay on the bottom level. (A perk of an annual pass is free parking.) We got out of the car and headed towards the sound of the music. We then followed the corral signs and found Corral H. At Disneyland races, you get to the corrals before arriving at the morning stretching and festivities. We didn’t know this until after the race. We decided to go for our corrals so we could get as close as possible to the front of the corral. Below were the corral times.

Photo Source: RunDisney
There were 3,872 runners in corral H and that’s before some people decided to move backwards to be with friends. Below is a photo of when we go to our corral.

When we got to our corral (around 4:15am), there were about 50 or less of us.  As the morning rolled along, many more people showed up. By the time we started moving forward to get to get closer to the start line, the corral was wrapping around the gates. We stretched while we were in the corrals and my dad and I made some friends around us. At 5:29 they started getting racers on the course with the wheelchairs at 5:29 and elite runners at 5:30. We got to the start line around 6:10am.

This is what I saw when we arrived at the start line. They had us wait about 60 seconds before they got us onto the course. My dad decided he wanted to speed walk the course and I wanted to stick with my dad as much as possible. Since we were at the beginning of the corral, we had a good start on the balloon ladies.  We headed towards the back of California Adventure first.  I tried to take picture of as many of the mile markers as I could. All of the characters were all within Disney Property or in other words the first 3 miles. The only characters that I saw that were not Avengers oriented were the fire truck from Cars (in Carsland), Dug and Russell from Up and the Seven Dwarfs (on the Carousel in Fantasyland).

We headed towards Mile 1 where we were greeted with this Mile marker.

Between Miles 1 and 2, we saw Thor and Route 66. We also got to see a festive Haunted Mansion where Jack Skellington had taken it over for the holiday season.

Between Mile 2 and 3, we saw the Seven Dwarfs on the Carousel and walked through Sleeping Beauty Castle. This is always a slow part of the race since people are taking pictures down Main Street and it is a narrow spot.

We also went through back stage area and finished the Disney parks part of the race. We started running on half of the road. Mile marker 3 was on the other side of the road.

Between Mile markers 3 and 4, you are just running down Harbor Blvd.  By the time we got on the main roads, it starting getting very windy. This race was more difficult since the wind was either coming at us sideways or a head wind.  Due to the high winds, a lot of the mile markers were either broken or knocked down.  We guessed that the wind was between 30 and 40 mph gusts and at least 20 mph constant. By Mile 4, we had already been through 3 water stations. In addition, there were a few bathroom spots before this.  However, most were just normal bathrooms in the parks. Between miles 3 and 4, we also saw the best sign ever with Baymax.

At Mile 4, we were greeted by a fallen Mile Marker.

After Mile 4, we turned the corner to head towards Mile 5 and the Christ Cathedral. There is not much to see here except companies that are all closed due to the race. Between the 4 and 5 Mile markers, it was so windy that my dad and I both got hit in the face with some small branches and debris from some surrounding trees. Just before getting to the Cathedral we turned into complex. Mile 5 was just before the water, bathroom and medical spot.

After Mile 5, in the middle of the Christ Cathedral Complex, was the biggest bathroom spot up to this point. It was also a large water spot and a medical spot. This was only the second medical spot of the route thus far. My dad and I decided to keep moving and get some water while moving. Just as Miles 3-4 and most of 4-5, there was not much to look at while between 5 and 6. We went over the highway which was the biggest bridge we had to go over (or go under) during the course.
The Mile 6 location had a special sign the runners could hold while taking a picture with the mile marker.

About halfway between Miles 6 and 7, we got to another water spot. It was also the place I finally used the bathroom. My dad was slowing down a little at this point.  However, he kept moving as I was going to meet up with him after using the bathroom. After the bathrooms, you turn onto a paved trail that is in Anaheim. Under normal circumstances this would have been perfect- in this case it was not. Since it was windy, the sand was flying in the faces of all the runners.  Most of this section of the race, from Mile 6.5 to 8 (outside Angels stadium), runners were getting pelted with sand.  I was able to get a picture while the wind was down of runners in front of us.

You can see the sand flying off to the left of the photo. Mile marker 7 was off to the side and due to the glare on my phone I was unable to get a good photo of it. Just after heading under the bridge, you were able to see the big Angels "A" that stands at the front of the stadium. At Mile 8, the “A” was still off in the distance but much closer than when you were at the bridge.

Between Miles 8 and 9 was Angels stadium. 

We got to run into the stadium, onto the field (around the outside) and then out of the stadium. I was able to get a quick photo of my dad as he was coming into right field.

After leaving the stadium, Mile Marker 9 (like so many before it) did not work out very well. This time the Mile Marker was facing down.

After Mile Marker 9, we were able to get a Cliff Bar Shot that they were giving out. By the time we had arrived at the station, they only had Citrus (my favorite) and mocha (least favorite).  I grabbed four from four different people, slurped them down and kept moving. Just after the Cliff Bar stop, my dad and I saw what we never wanted to see: the balloon women.  I wanted to stay with my dad but he told me to run ahead and keep pace with the balloon women. My dad kept falling behind and I pushed ahead. As I was trying to push ahead and keep up with the balloon women, both my calf muscles started to pull extremely tight. The only thing I could do was push through it and hope that jogging would eventually stretch them out. They eventually did as we were nearing Mile 10.  However, I was still in pain due to the calf muscles. People behind me kept yelling out how close the balloon ladies were and we would start to jog after we heard them.  Mile 10 is usually the last time they pull people off the course; however, they can do it as late as just before mile 12.  Since I was pushing through Mile 10, I was unable to get a photo of it.
Between Mile 10 and 11 you head underneath a highway.  This time it was completely flat. I passed the hotel we were staying at. Below is a picture of Mile Marker 11.

Runners turned another corner and headed towards Mile 12.  I knew I would be able to complete the race. At this point, I had no idea if I was going to see my dad cross the finish line. We got to Mile 12 and ran into the back lot of California Adventure. I kept pushing ahead. As everyone was slowing down I was speeding up for the last 4 miles of the race. I made it to Mile 12, which was outside the back lot. I kept hearing cast members tell us how many miles were left throughout the back lot.  I started to hear the cast members say 1.1 miles then 0.9 miles then 0.5 miles. Then, as you head into the finish shoot, people were lined up on both sides. I was unable to get pictures due to my phone dying (I was tracking our progress) and taking so many pictures early on.  I then crossed the finish line.  (I know Marathon Foto has the rights to these photos but here is me crossing the finish line.) 

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
I finished with a time of 3 hours, 39 minutes and 25 seconds. My dad finished in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 23 seconds.

Photo Source: RunDisney
Unfortunately, I did not finish under the allocated time runDisney gives you, but I did get to do most of the race with my dad.  I got my medal, something drink and missed the Coast to Coast medal entrance. I had to walk back around to get my medal. After I got my medal, I looked towards the finish line hoping my dad would be able to cross. After approximately 10 minutes (that felt like forever), I saw my dad walking towards the medals.  He had finished!

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
I was so proud of him.  We then got our pictures taken together.  I could tell my dad was spent.  I was spent hoping he would cross.  (Here's another Marathon Foto copyrighted photo with my dad and I.)  

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
We headed back towards the car (very slowly) and relaxed before heading back to the hotel.  We showered, changed into our “I Did It” shirts and headed into the theme parks. We had to leave at 6 so I could catch my 9pm flight from Long Beach to JFK and then back to Maine where it was very cold upon my return.

Overall, this was a great weekend.  You will remember the 3 goals of our weekend.  I got to do most of the race with my dad, my dad finished, was not hurt and did not die. It was a success and he completed all three of his goals. In fact, he enjoyed the race experience so much that he wants to do another one and to complete it in under 3 hrs. I hope he is willing to do Disneyland Marathon weekend in September 2015.  Maybe we can do the Dumbo Double Dare together (10k Saturday and the Half Marathon Sunday).  Perhaps someday I will convince him to do a full marathon with me as well... maybe the WDW Marathon weekend?  
I'm so proud of Eliot and father-in-law!  I'm glad they had a great time!!!  °o° 

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