This may already be obvious, but I have a confession to make. After discovering Disney races I’ve become slightly obsessed with running as many as possible. Hence the fact that I participated in the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend (not the half marathon, but the 5K and 10K) at Disneyland one week after the Disney World Half Marathon back in January. Oops. It’s really hard for me to see the registration for one of the races approaching and not at least consider signing up. Most of the Disney World events are out since I can’t make it to Orlando that often, but each and every one of the Disneyland races makes me drool. The combinations of running and Disney is irresistible. The shirts and medals are pretty attractive too!
Here is the latest example of my ridiculous dilemma. This morning Run Disney announced that they’re adding a 10K race as well as a challenge (10K + half marathon) to the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend in November. Cue the temptation! I ran the Avengers Half Marathon last year, and besides the gale force winds which made the middle of the race miserable, I enjoyed it. In fact, it’s my fastest half marathon time so far. (Fast for me, but not for anyone else.) For a number of reasons I’d love to sign up for the new Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. My only reservation is that the Wine & Dine Half Marathon is the weekend before at Disney World. I had been planning to do Wine & Dine for a while so signing up for it this week was a no brainer, even without the new Avengers race information. The big question is, should I commit to another big race just a few days after I get home from Orlando? I’m torn! The obvious compromise is just to run the 10K to make sure I don’t injure myself with too much running (I can survive 6.2 miles in just about any circumstances), but part of me is dying to do the challenge! One reason is that I have a chance to be a legacy runner for the Avengers Half Marathon if I participate all of the first five years. It’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but as of now it’s be the only race where that’s even a possibility for me. Annual pass holder registration opens on Tuesday morning so I have until then to make my initial decision. I’ll think about it. If this isn’t a first world problem, I don’t know what is!
My alarm went off at 3:30 AM the morning of the inaugural Avengers Half Marathon. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, but I knew I had to get up and eat my breakfast as quickly as possible. I brought my little blender with me so I whipped up a raspberry banana smoothie and drank it (as well as a bottle of water) while getting ready for the race. It’s always weird to slather on sunscreen hours before sunrise, but it was necessary for an approximately 3 hour race. At 4:45 AM I left my hotel room and almost immediately ran into some other folks leaving to walk to the race start line. It was a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. Not bad, but not great. (I wanted to stay at one of the Disneyland hotels, but by the time I booked, the available rooms were way too expensive. I’ll have to be more prompt next time.) In stark contrast to the Disneyland Half Marathon in August, the pre-dawn air was actually a bit chilly! I knew I’d be plenty warm as soon as we started running so I didn’t wear a jacket to the start line, but I was shivering a bit before the race started when we were just standing around in the corrals. Fortunately everything was great around 6 AM when I finally crossed the start line. Running through the Disneyland and California Adventure and Disneyland parks is so much fun! I didn’t stop for pictures with any of the superhero characters (the lines were long and I didn’t want to stop running), but I liked seeing them as I passed by. Unfortunately not long after leaving the parks we started feeling the full effect of the Santa Ana winds that day. I had heard something about high wind advisories on the news the night before, but I didn’t think anything about it until I was running into a strong headwind at about mile 4. It was exhausting! I decided to walk during the worst of the winds because it wasn’t worth tiring myself out trying to keep running in those conditions. Later that day I discovered that the winds were 25-35 mph with 60-70 mph gusts! Crazy! But the worst part was running along the Santa Ana River Trail on the way to Angel Stadium. Not only was there a wicked headwind, but we were getting sandblasted by dirt from the dry riverbed. It was awful. Fortunately the last four miles of the race after we left Angel Stadium were more pleasant. I actually felt really good when I crossed the finish line, unlike at the Disneyland Half Marathon. I think a combination of walking more in the middle of the race (due to the winds) and much cooler temperatures helped a lot. My official Avengers Half Marathon finish time was 2:43:23, which was about 5 minutes faster than my Disneyland Half Marathon time. I couldn’t believe it! After getting my medal (see the above photo!), grabbing a bottle of mater, and having a couple of pictures taken, I started walking back to my hotel. The family reunion area at the finish line was closed because the winds were knocking down the tents. Crazy. When I got back to my room to take a shower I discovered that my skin and clothes were covered in a thick layer of dirt! It was pretty gross. Fortunately it wasn’t anything a long, hot shower couldn’t take care of.
After I cleaned up and rested a bit, I slathered myself with sunscreen (again) and walked to Downtown Disney for lunch. I figured my diet was already out the window that weekend so I splurged on Earl of Sandwich for lunch. That ham and cheese sandwich and Coke tasted so delicious after the half marathon! Since I was already close to Disneyland I decided to brave the crowds and walk over there after lunch. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I ended up spending about four hours just wandering around the parks, shopping (I bought even more pins plus some Christmas Minnie ears), and treating myself to a chocolate milkshake at Ghirardelli. Delicious. And then I had a corn dog for dinner later. Didn’t I say my diet was out the window? (As a side note, I actually don’t miss bread since going (mostly) grain free, but I do miss certain items – like Earl of Sandwich and Disneyland corn dogs!) After dinner I was determined to see the fireworks that night (the same ones that woke me up the night before), so I staked out a spot on Main Street about a half hour early. I was completely exhausted after being awake since 3:30 AM, but I hadn’t seen Disneyland fireworks in years so I was excited. Unfortunately the fireworks were cancelled due to the winds. Shoot. At that point I was too tired to wait in line for any of the rides so I just went back to my hotel room and crashed. What a long day! But a really good one.
On Saturday morning I was stressed. All I absolutely had to do that day was check into my hotel near Disneyland and then go pick up my race bib for the next morning, but there was a long list of other things I wanted to accomplish as well. My first order of business was breakfast. Since I had a half marathon in the morning I considered the usual restrictions on my diet were flexible. This meant I ate a McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin with zero guilt. And it was delicious. At 9 AM the Florida vs. South Carolina football game kicked off, and I started doing a few things around the house. Watching the Gators play is way too stressful without another distraction. So I make an egg casserole for breakfasts next week (and used up some eggs that were on the old side) and washed a whole bunch of dishes. I didn’t want to come home from Disneyland on Monday and be faced with a sink full of dirty dishes. Unfortunately the Gators lost their football game in overtime (after letting the Gamecocks tied the score right at the end of the 4th quarter). Boo! As soon as South Carolina secured the win and I cursed at the television a bit, I left the house to drive to my hotel in Anaheim. After unpacked my things in my hotel room I walked to the Disneyland Hotel to pick up my Avengers Half Marathon race bib, shirt, and half marathon pin at the expo. At this point it was way past lunchtime and I needed to eat a decent meal (and not just the chocolate covered pretzels I bought at the grocery store that morning) in preparation for the race the next morning. I figured my best food options were inside Disneyland so I walked over there and braved the insane crowds and the mess caused by the afternoon parade to find a meal with mashed potatoes. I was still trying to avoid grains as much as possible so I figured mashed potatoes were the best way to get some carbs in preparation for a long run. I ended up having meatloaf (which I’m sure contained grains, but whatever), mixed vegetables, and the much-needed mashed potatoes. It was pretty delicious. When I was done with lunch/dinner I decided to wander around the parks for a while, do a little shopping (my Disney pin collection is a little out of control – more on that another day), and get some hot chocolate at Ghirardelli in California Adventure. Their sea salt caramel hot chocolate is absolutely delicious and it was just cold enough for a hot drink to work wonders. Have I mentioned how lovely it is to go to Disneyland wearing a jacket? We had such a hot summer here in Los Angeles that fall so far has been glorious. I’m going to be spending a lot of time at Disneyland while the weather is this pleasant. After a few hours walking around the parks I went back to my hotel room to go to bed. My alarm was set for 3:30 AM so I wanted to get as much sleep as possible. I was out around 8:30 PM, only to be woken up by the Disneyland fireworks an hour later. It seriously sounded like bombs were going off in the hotel parking lot. They scared me to death! Luckily the fireworks lasted about fifteen minutes so I was asleep again quickly. And it felt like in no time at all my alarm was going off, telling me to get ready for the Avengers Half Marathon!