Not long after I finished my first half marathon, my sister decided to take up running as a hobby too. I was so excited to have another person who runs at my pace to share encouragement and training plans with. The problem was that she lived in Hawaii and I live in Alabama! We both continued training and running and vowed that one day we WOULD run a half marathon together. That dream came true just 2 weeks ago :)
Jaki and Rob moved to Mississippi this summer, and finally we were close enough to be able to schedule long runs together. Our Dad offered to pay our entry to a race, and we quickly signed up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half before he changed his mind. My sweet husband then offered to pay for our accommodations for the trip leaving us with just the cost of gas, food, and Disney park admission to come up with. I was kind of feeling like a sponsored runner!! Suddenly the race was on the calendar and coming up fast.
On race weekend, my best friend Larisa came and picked me up for our 8 hour drive to Orlando. Jaki, Rob, and my sweet nieces met us at my house and we hit the road. We made it to Orlando in time to pick up our race packets and look around the expo.
On of my "must visit" booths was the KT Tape table. I got my knees taped up even though they hadn't been bothering me much lately. My philosophy was "better safe than sorry!!" This proved to be a smart move on my part.
On Saturday we got up and took my niece Caydence out for a big birthday breakfast. I still can't believe she is already 6! We ate a huge buffet breakfast, and then I didn't eat much until a few hours before the race started. After breakfast we ventured out to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping. We decided not to do too much as we would be up late that night.
Around 3:30, I decided to take a nap. I knew it was going to be a long night, and I wanted to make sure I'd last through all the fun. I laid out my running gear and my glow necklaces and bracelets and climbed into bed.
Before I knew it, Larisa was waking me up! I snacked on a slice of pizza and we headed out the door to venture down to the shuttle to the starting line. Larisa dropped us off, and then she was able to go into Epcot for the after party. Yes, she was Wine and Dining while we were running! Lucky girl...
Jaki and I were on one of the first shuttles to unload at the start. Luckily for us, we were able to take a photo with Minnie Mouse without waiting too long. If we had gotten there 10 minutes later, the lines would have been too long to wait in.
After our photo shoot, we strolled on over to the "runners only" area. There were what seemed like hundreds of port-a-potties lining the fence. We took advantage of the emptiness and used them...twice!! LOL
I also took some time to stretch and relax before we had to move to our corral. The weather felt fantastic and I couldn't have asked for better running conditions. The announcers kept warning us to stay hydrated as it was really humid...but they must have never visited Mobile! It wasn't humid at all to me. Haha!
I managed to catch up with Ryan and Sarah Jett before the start. They are both teachers who work with me. Ryan is the one who encouraged me to choose this race. This was actually his first half marathon, and he rocked it!!
Look at those crowds now!! This photo was taken about an hour after the previous photo of the near empty field. Jaki and I decided to visit the potties again. This time we had to wait quite a while. We definately drank too much water as we were waiting around.
Eventually it was time to head to our corral. We crammed in with thousands of our closest friends and sang along to some catchy tunes. Suddenly, the first corral was off and we could hear the fireworks going off. We were happy to see that each corral was sent off with a bang! Here is a shot of our start:
We didn't have a plan for this race. We didn't have a goal time in mind, no time to beat. We wanted to be able to stop and take pictures whenever we wanted. Remember what I said about drinking too much water? Well, we stopped at mile one for a potty break. At least there weren't any lines that early on!
The first few miles dragged by along Disney interstate and overpasses. We were relieved to finally see we were entering the Animal Kingdom. We needed a change of scenery!
The Animal Kingdom was decked out for Christmas already! I enjoyed seeng the decorations as we ran through. Our site seeing surely led to those 17 minute miles we averaged. Ha!
And then the character stops began!! We ran most of the first 6 miles, only stopping for pictures and water. My knees were holding up well, though at one point they did feel like there was some weird pressure sensation. I honestly believe that this is where the KT Tape saved the day. The pressure subsided, and my knees felt fantastic for the rest of the run.
Around mile 8 my left calf suddenly felt as if it were being squeezed in a vice. I had to stop and stretch it so that I could keep running. It was so tight and sore that I was almost limping. Jaki's lower back was causing her a lot of trouble too around this point and we decided to walk for a quarter mile to see if that helped. We also stopped for more photos! This hilarious army guy promised us that he was "diligently searching for the people who stole our sleeves!"
We trudged on, stopping occasionally to stretch and walk a little bit. We were getting a little tired by this point. We weren't used to being up this late!
Darby and Tyler were super jealous to see this photo! They love Star Wars :)
We stopped to visit Buzz and Woody...
And Lilo and Stitch!
My favorite part of the course was in Hollywood Studios. Check out these Christmas lights!! Jaki and I took our time and walked pretty slowly so we could enjoy every magical moment.
Before long we were in the home stretch. I even managed to eat a gel! I normally have a strange gag reflex for power gels, but on course the were offering Clif chocolate gel. I grabbed one because I felt like I needed the calories. I was really feeling the pain in my left calf, and by this point my right ankle was aching too. I think I was over compensating my stride to relieve pressure on my calf. Honestly by this point I was ready to be done!! And that's when we saw this...
We were finally done! We did it!! We found Larisa and were so grateful that we had someone there to drive us away. We didn't stay for the after party. Neither one of us wanted to be on our feet any longer. Larisa was a great race supporter! She drove us around Orlando at 3 a.m. so that we could find something to eat. We owe her big time for that!!
I now have my first Run Disney medal to add to my collection. It is definately one of my favorites :)
Sunday morning I woke up to a very tender left calf. It felt like someone had used it for a punching bag all night. I iced it, but it was painful to the touch. I decided to miss out on the Magic Kingdom, but Jaki and Rob took the girls on their first Disney experience. I just couldn't see myself walking around for hours when I could barely stand on my left leg. I lived in my Swiftwick compression socks for the next 3 days! Those things worked like a charm. By Wednesday my calf was feeling good again.
Larisa and I decided to hang out by the pool instead. It was too cold for us to get in the water, but we enjoyed meeting new friends who kept us well entertained. It was a great way to end the weekend!!