The Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon on Sunday started in much the same way the 10K did on Saturday, specifically with a 4 AM wake up. Except for the Disneyland fireworks waking me at around 9:30 PM I slept pretty well the night before. I’m not always successful at getting to bed that early before a race so even with the brief fireworks interruption I call it a win. I wore an Iron Man running shirt to represent my favorite superhero. I had Captain America shirts for both the 5K and 10K, but Iron Man is always going to be my favorite. Once again I was able to negotiate my way to the front of my corral (E this time) so I wouldn’t get stuck in traffic once we crossed the start line. And it worked just as well as Saturday too. My original intention was to take it relatively easy during the half marathon, and I ran my first few miles at a fairly leisurely pace, but after that I started to speed up. When I saw that miles 5 and 6 were both under 11 minutes each I had a fleeting hope of achieving a new half marathon personal record that day. The Avengers Half Marathons in 2014 and 2015 both earned me new PRs (2:46:24 and 2:39:47, respectively) so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for 2016 to have the same result. But I didn’t think about it too much, and I certainly didn’t do the math in my head to see how fast I’d have to run to break my 2:34:18 Long Beach half marathon time from October. That would have stressed me out too much so I just ran at whatever pace felt comfortable. I felt great most of the time (even when the sun came up and it started to get warm), including while running through Angel Stadium (see above photo). Usually I’m exhausted by then (around mile 8 or 9) so it was nice to still have some energy at that point for a change. It wasn’t until I glanced at my watch at mile 12 that I knew I’d done it. I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon with a time of 2:27:44 – a PR by over 6.5 minutes! I couldn’t believe it! I was completely elated as I collected my half marathon and Infinity Gauntlet Challenge medals and walked back to my hotel. An even better result of the week was maintaining my Avengers Half Marathon legacy status for a third year. If I can make it to five years I’ll be thrilled!
The Doctor Strange 10K on Saturday was amazing! The 10K distance is definitely my preferred distance, and over the last three years the Avengers races have proven to be my hands-down favorites. That title was successfully defended this past weekend. I rolled out of bed in my hotel room at 4 AM on Saturday morning and got ready for the race. Taking into account my expected finish time and the time of sunrise for that day I decided not to wear sunscreen. Just call me a rebel! I probably should have, but putting it on would have taken time and effort that I wasn’t willing to spend. After walking to the start line I managed to maneuver myself to the front of my corral (C) in order to avoid a lot of dodging and weaving of slower runners and walkers once I got going. Because I’ve had some luck running races at a decent pace lately I had a fleeting idea to go for a 10K personal record. That usually doesn’t work too well at Disney races, but with almost front-row corral placement I was trying to keep the possibility alive. And it worked! Last Thanksgiving a friend paced me in order to get a 10K time of less than 1:10 (1:09:40, to be exact), but I finished the Doctor Strange 10K in 1:07:01! It felt amazing to get a PR of over 2 minutes! I was still in shock as I walked back to my hotel, with my medal around my neck and a stupid grin on my face. The weekend was starting off perfectly.
After a quick shower in my hotel room I drove to McDonald’s for breakfast. I was really hungry after the 10K and only my favorite breakfast would do – Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke. The Florida vs. South Carolina football game was going to start at 9 AM and I decided to go home and watch it there where I could comfortably lounge on my own couch. I didn’t quite make it home before the game started, but luckily the XM radio in my car allowed me listen to the beginning of the first quarter as I was driving. Continuing the positive nature of the weekend the Gators beat the Gamecocks! This is a better outcome than the Arkansas game that I attended with my family last weekend. The offense actually showed up this week which was a nice change. Let’s hope Florida can keep it up for the rest of the season. After the game I drove back to my hotel in Anaheim and then walked over to Disneyland. It was crowded this weekend so I skipped most of the rides. I did make sure to catch the two movie previews in California Adventure, though – “Doctor Strange” and “Moana.” Both movies look really good and I can’t wait to see them. Before leaving the parks for the evening I had a big pasta dinner (lasagna, to be precise) at Wine Country Trattoria in preparation for the Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon the next morning. A good race starts with a good carb load meal the day before. And in order to set myself up for success on Sunday I walked back to my hotel after dinner and went to bed early. It was going to be a long 13.1 miles in the morning!
If you run the same Disney half marathon each of its first five years you become a legacy. One of my friends is earning her Tinkerbell Half Marathon legacy status in May and I’m jealous. But with my late appearance on the running scene the opportunities for me to attain this kind of distinction have been minimal. But last November I participated in the Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland, and began my journey towards legacy status without realizing it. This year when I signed up for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (Inaugural Captain America 10K + 2nd annual Avengers Half Marathon) keeping my legacy status alive was forefront in my mind. Granted, it doesn’t really mean much, but I must admit that I’m slightly addicted to running perks. Shirts, medals, photos, etc. At least it’s a healthy addiction, right?
On Sunday morning I woke up at 4 AM rather than 3:30 AM. I didn’t want to spend as much time out in the cold with only a mylar thermal blanket for warmth while waiting for the half marathon to start. As lovely as the weather was for running, it was too chilly to be standing around doing nothing for over an hour. I decided to wear an Elsa t-shirt for the race because it kept my shoulders and back covered (less frustrating sunscreen application required, and it also kept me a bit warmer pre-race), but I stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of red, white, and blue in the corrals. You’ve never seen so many people dressed like Captain America in your life. In stark contrast to the Disneyland Half Marathon, I was one of the few runners in princess-inspired gear. Dare to be different! I actually intended to wear an Iron Man pin as an homage to the superheroes, but I forgot it in my hotel room. Sorry, Mr. Stark! When I crossed the start line I had no idea how the race was going to treat me. Was I going to be fast or slow? Was my breathing going to be easy or labored? The answers were not immediately obvious, but I wasn’t feeling too bad early on so I had that going for me. The weather was nice and cool which helped a lot. When I passed the 10K mark and got a text on my progress for the first 6.2 miles I realized that I was on pace for a personal record. My fastest half marathon (by about 5 minutes) was this same race last year and the thought of setting a new PR on the same course was really exciting. And I did it! The last couple of miles were tough, but I pushed myself to finish strong when all I wanted to do was walk. As I crossed the finish line I knew I had achieved a PR (based on some rudimentary subtraction I did in my head when I saw the clock time). This led to an embarrassing celebration on my part, which should make for some interesting professional photos. I’ll let you know once they’re available. My official time was 2:39:48, which is more than 6 minutes faster than my previous personal record. That’s incredible! I was so happy. After collecting my Avengers Half Marathon and Infinity Gauntlet Challenge medals, a new mylar blanket, and a much-needed bottle of water, I walked back to my hotel room for a lovely shower. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I drove back to Seal Beach, ate a delicious late breakfast at McDonald’s, and then spent the afternoon on my couch catching up on TV shows. It was glorious. While basking in the glow of my spectacular success I was already looking forward to next year’s Avengers Half Marathon so I can not only maintain my legacy status, but also chase a new personal record. This is definitely my race!