Sunday, September 4, 2011

Race Report - 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon & Coast To Coast Challenge

Some pretty cool heavy metal bling and a nice tech shirt.
Pre-Race
Anya and I arrived at LAX Friday afternoon around 4PM local time. After an interesting shuttle ride to our hotel in Anaheim just outside Disneyland, we dropped off our bags before turning around to get on yet another "shared" Disneyland/Anaheim bus shuttle to the Disney Helath & Fitness Expo, where we needed to go to get our race packets, e.g. bibs, tech shirts and other free goodies.

After picking up our race packets and browsing the Expo for more running stuff to buy (we learned our lesson at the Disney World Expo in January, where all event related gear was gone before the event even took place), we left with a couple of new t-shirts ("Coast to Coast Challenge" t-shirt plus a running hat that I later added) to find a place to eat. We opted for one of the express service restaurants at Downtown Disney before we headed back to our hotel to rest. Anya had a big day at the parks planned for Saturday.

We got up bright and early on Saturday, had our free breakfast at the hotel and headed to the parks. We managed to visit both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park, but spent most of our time at California Adventure Park with the plan to experience Disneyland Park to its fullest on Sunday after the race. We decided to head back to the Expo for a brief period Saturday afternoon before getting a pre-race pasta dinner at Napolini, a nice pizza & pasta express restaurant at Downtown Disney. We chose to eat early, so we could head back to the hotel to get our running gear ready for the next day and get some much needed rest before our 3:30 AM wakeup call.

Race Day
3:30AM came quickly and Anya really, really didn't want to get up any earlier than absolutely necessary. We wanted to get on one of the race shuttles around 4:15AM, which to her meant she still had 45 minutes of sleep;-) I managed to fix a couple of cups of coffee before we headed to the nearest bus stop, where about 10 fellow runners had already assembled waiting for the bus. We arrived just in time, boarding the arriving bus just 2 minutes later.

We arrived at Disneyland Resort just 5 minutes later, beginning our 15 mintue walk to the start area that would lead us between the two parks, through Downtown Disney and past the Disneyland Hotel. The pre-race area for runners was very similar to the Disney World setup up last January. After getting some water and trying to warm up (it was a little chilly) we slowly walked towards corral D.

Due to about 15000 registered runners, the race start was broken up into 7 seperate start corrals A through G. While I was listed in corral A, I lined up in corral C with Anya so I could pace her (the rules allowed for faster runners to line up in a lower corral, but not the other way around). The differences in start times were not as extreme as at Disney World. We started just about 15 minutes after the first corral took off.

Just before Anya and I took off, she let me know that she was having some serious stomach troubles. Unfortunately, this would set the tone for her race and she had to deal with some serious stomach pain (and later back pain) for the next 13.1 miles.

The race started at Downtown Disney going south on Disneyland Drive before turning left on Katella Drive and again on Harbor Boulevard. After just a little over a mile, we ran briefly through California Adventure Park before entering Disneyland Park. Between miles 2 and 3, we encountered the first special moment that is o so typical when running any runDisney event. Yes, you guessed it, we ran through the castle before running another mile or so through other parts of the park. Once we exited Disneyland Resort, miles 5 through 9 were pretty uneventful. There were numerous cheerleeding squads and bands from numerous surrounding schools and other local dance and music groups and their enthusiasm was not only very much appreciated, but also very helpful in making those miles pass just a little faster.

Anya and I exiting the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
The sun finally started to increase the temps just a little bit, but that really didn't make this race any easier for Anya. She continued to struggle with the same problems she started the race with. Only now, there was another problem. Because she was running tense for most of the race due to her pain, she now had to content with back pain, which had never been a problem for her before. We now needed to add very short breaks to allow her to at least try to stretch her back and provide some relief.

Just before mile 9, we entered the narrow but welcome Santa Ana River Trail before experiencing what I consider the second highlight of the race. After 5 miles through some of the lesser known part of Anaheim, we entered the grounds of Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After running past first base, home base and third base and watiching ourselves on the jumbotron, we exited the stadium again, heading into the "final" stretch of the race, leaving us just a little over 5K to cross the finish line.

Anya and I passing home plate at Angels Stadium.
Those last miles were extremely rough on Anya and I am so proud of her sticking it out and making it across the finish. There was jsut no way that she wasn't going to finish this thing and get that coveted "Coast To Coast Challenge" medal reserved only for finishers of an East Coast Disney World Half/Full Marathon and a Disneyland Half Marathon in the same calendar year.

The 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon course.

We crossed the line after an exciting (for me) yet painful (for Anya) 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is amazing to me. Having only finished her second ever half marathon and doing it barely 15 minutes slower than her very first half marathon after dealing with the issues she had to deal with is absolutely amazing and something I am very proud of her for. I was also very pleased to hear that she is already planning for another half, wanting to redeem herself (although there really isn't anything she needs to redeem herself for). In only her second race, she managed to overcome something no one can ever train for. I had a great time and I cannot wait to pace my better half in another race in the near future. For full race results, please click here.

Two very happy "Coast To Coast Challenge" Finishers.

Post-Race
After a quick nap at the hotel, we headed back to the parks for some additional excitement. I had decided even before the race that I would reward myself with one of the famously ginormous turkey legs for lunch. Anya couldn't muster more than a corn on the cob in butter, but we were both pretty happy. We knew we had another treat coming at dinner time at the Blue Bajou, were she had made reservations for us months ago. Dinner didn't disappoint either as I enjoyed a fantastic filet mignon with veggies. The only thing that would've made this meal even better would have been an ice cold beer, but (as I found out that evening) that is not on the menu:-(

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