I did it. I beat the odds. A lot of things were stacked against me going into the runDisney Princess half, but regardless I still managed to have a great job and pull out an almost four minute PR. Did I mention I did it in a tutu? How cool is that?!?
I was worried about this race for a few reasons. 1.) I have been suffering from calf cramps whenever I run fast (going on since October), so I was petrified it would happen again despite my best healing efforts. 2.) I ate like crap the week leading up to the race. It’s hard not to indulge when you are in Disney. 3.) I ran a hard three miles on Friday at the meet up, then I ran the 5k Saturday morning…then the half Sunday. Fresh legs? Not exactly. 4.) It was hot and more humid that the Disney marathon in January. I was drenched and it was pretty gross and hard to breathe. There were heat advisories and my buddy Jeff Galloway reminded everyone to take it easy. However, this competitive girl just couldn’t do that with my probably last chance to race a half this season. Let’s back up shall we?
We hoped on the VIP bus and saw the traffic and were SO glad we weren’t driving ourselves! The bus went in the back way and parked next to the starting line. It was nice to have a bathroom on the bus and to sit and hang out until time to get into the corrals.
Chillin with Jeff Galloway on the bus
After awhile, I started getting antsy and at 5:00 I texted Bobby and found out he and my dad were at the starting line. We were going to be put in the corral at 5:15, so we went ahead and walked to the start to try to find the guys and take a couple photos.
Getting excited/nervous on the bus
When we were waiting at the front and I was texting Bobby to find out where they were, one of the photographers covering the event asked to take pictures of me and Jen, and one ended up making the official album on the runDisney Facebook page!
I finally spotted the boys on the other side behind the stage so I ran over to say hello and take some pics.
The guys followed me back to the front of A and took a couple photos of me and Jen after we got into the corral.
Can you tell we are wearing fake eyelashes? You should have seen us putting them on the night before. Hilarious.
Sean Astin showed up next to me, ready to jump in during corral C. Poor guy was having a hard time untangling his headphone cord. I wasn’t sure how to help, so I just took a picture of his plight instead! I am SO kind.
Before I knew it, we were singing the National Anthem, and were about to start! The Fairy Godmother was on hand to see us off, and with a wave of her magical wand the fireworks started, and we were crossing underneath a beautiful banner for a 13.1 mile journey.
We started off running conservatively. I finally learned that it takes me a while to warm up and so I run better for the half distance when I give my body a chance to get used to the idea of 13.1 miles. Our goal was to stay between 10:00 and 10:15 minute miles for the first few and then see how I felt leaving the Magic Kingdom.
Those first few miles were pretty uneventful. I was grateful for the darkness because it was about 97% humidity out and it was quite warm. We chugged along, not stopping at the first water stop. Jen took a bathroom break and caught back up to me. We chatted, and then quickly came upon the Magic Kingdom…and I felt like I was just there. (Ummm..I was, hello Goofy!)
I was very grateful for the big crowds around the Transportation and Ticket Center. Crowds always pep me up and make me run faster, so we took advantage and had some fun. We started doing the “princess wave” and thanking everyone for coming out to see us. As we would run by, I would ask spectators if they had seen Flynn, and Jen asked people if they had seen Prince Charming. Everyone got a kick out of it and waved back, took pictures, and cheered for us. We even had a couple of stalkers follow along and “run” on the sidelines taking video of us. It was a bit odd but I guess we asked for it!
We made it up the crazy steep hill before making the turn into the Magic Kingdom. My absolutely favorite part of the race was upon us, and it did not disappoint. We hooked right onto main street as cheering filled the air, and I did my princess wave the whole way towards the castle.
You can see how absolutely covered in sweat I was, it wasn’t even halfway into the race!
I smiled the entire stretch, so thankful to be there and have the opportunity to race in Disney yet again. It was strange to me, because I have never “raced” a Disney race, and so the lack of runners was very nice. We made our way over to the same spot I took my castle photo in last year, and they had it blocked off for some reason! So we stopped next to the area and took a couple of quick photos.
We soldiered on through Tomorrowland, where there were characters standing there waving at us, with no one in line! A sight I had never seen before. We made it to Fantasyland and to the back side of the castle.
We ran through the middle, and smiled at the photographers as we went by.
We wound our way through Frontierland and out the other side of the Magic Kingdom. I looked at my Garmin and realized I had slowed down way too much running through the Magic Kingdom, and it was time to get serious. I told Jen no more silliness, let’s do this thing, and we turned onto Floridian way.
I started paying more attention to my pace, and we stopped at every other water stop. I had been taking a gel every three miles along with water and sports drink at every other stop, and it seemed to be working for me. The sun began to rise in the sky as the road opened up and the runners thinned out. I would like to mention I cannot even count how many times people would say “Hey! she’s got a frog on her shoulder!!!” Um…excuse me. If you have seen Tangled you know Pascal is a LIZZARD and not a frog thankyouverymuch.
Jen was a GREAT encourager/coach the entire way. Telling me I could do it, giving me ways to motivate myself and telling me the pain is temporary and I would get to bask in the glory of my PR forever. I was doing great until about mile ten. The humidity was really starting to get to me and my already labored breathing was getting faster. Circling around the big hill where the army man stands was brutal. My IT bands were screaming, and the solider kept saying this was the last hill. Umm…no it’s not, don’t tell people that! I walked for about 15 seconds to regulate my breathing and we were crossing over the overpass before long. I knew this was the final stretch, just 2.5 more miles and I would get to stop.
I went up another hill towards EPCOT and grabbed some water at the water stop. Jen told me no more stopping, this was it until the end. We made it around the circle where everyone shouts where they are from and Jen yelled “NEW ORLEANS!” For me. I halfway smiled but kept my head down and kept going.
I kept praying those last three miles, over and over, simply saying “Lord give me strength, Lord give me strength.” It was the only thing I had the energy to think of, and I kept clinging to it. I kept trying to talk and Jen politely (haha) told me to stop talking to save my energy. We had one more beast of a hill to go up, and it was a killer but I kept going. We hit mile twelve and I knew this would be the hardest mile of my life. We started seeing some spectators and Jen would yell “cheer for my friend Heather, she is about to PR!” and then everyone would yell for me.
I kept my eyes on the ground in front of me, trying to focus on the task at hand. I was cursing myself for running the prior two days before this, and for eating so poorly all week. All of my professional photos show me looking at the ground at this point, and I don’t look happy! We made it to the turn around in Epcot, and I was pushing as hard as I could go. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw we were running low 9:00’s, woo hoo! Jen told me I was absolutely going to PR, now I just had to decide if a PR was good enough, or if I wanted to work my butt off and get as big of a PR as I could. Obviously, I was going to kick some butt, so I just nodded and kept pushing. Jen had been texting the boys the whole time letting them know where we were so they would be ready at the finish.
We passed the gospel choir and I honestly did not even look up, but I could hear them, and I knew I was going to make it. We passed mile 13, and made that final turn towards the finish line. I could SEE it, I was about to finish my 19th half marathon, and finally PR in the distance after a year of injury and disappointment. I had so much determination in me that final 200 meters, I kicked hard and looked straight ahead.
I glanced over to my right at the VIP area and saw Bobby and my dad, holding up a sign for me. I had made it. I smiled as I went by, so happy to have them there cheering me on.
Pain mixed with determination
Carissa the announcer yelled out my name. She knew I was going for a PR and she asked me if I did it, all I could do is give her a thumbs up as I ran by. They congratulated me as I raised my hands in the air triumphantly and crossed over that sweet finish line. To be honest, I didn’t cry like I thought I would. I was so focused, and just so glad it was over, I don’t think I had the energy to cry!
I stopped my Garmin and had to look down at it because I didn’t even see the clock as I went by. I had done it, 2:11, a near 4 minute PR in less than ideal conditions. I know a sub 2:10 would have easily been in my reach on a normal race day eating normal food the week before and without a 5k the day before, but regardless I was happy. I worked hard, and accomplished yet another goal. This is proof that no matter what injury you may get, or sickness you may deal with, you CAN come back stronger than before and reach your goals.
Jen snapped the below photo of me right after I crossed. Pascal was happy to be done, too.
Here is the video of me crossing the finish line:
Excited Bobby caught this special moment on video! We got our beautiful medals, and headed off to the VIP area where we reunited with my dad and Bobby. This was followed by lots of picture taking.
We went into the tent for some breakfast (omelets, french toast, amazing bacon…yes please!) and had some champagne to celebrate.
I finally had the nerve to take off my shoe…I knew my foot was bleeding, it was hurting and it felt…sticky. Surprise! I was right.
After eating and resting for a bit, we went back outside to take some photos and wait for my mom to finish. I found the super speedy Tara
As well as Biggest Loser sweetheart Ali Vincent
We kept waiting for my mom, I was so nervous for her. I know she was struggling (I had talked to her on the phone at mile 11) and was just ready for her to cross.
Waiting on my mom to cross
We finally spotted her, and we yelled and screamed and I held up her sign. She had a huge smile on her face and Bobby got the best photo of her.
Jen and I ran around to the other side of the finish to grab her before she got lost in a sea of people. We of course, had to take some pictures. I am so proud of her, she finished in 3:01!
I was so happy she made it in ok, now we could relax and celebrate. More mimosa’s anyone? We ate and relaxed and stood on the sidelines cheering for the rest of the runners. It was such an amazing morning and I am so glad I got to spend it with my family and friends in my favorite place on earth.
Here is my Garmin info from the run:
Mile 1: 10:06
Mile 2: 10:10
Mile 3: 10:18 <— stopped for gel
Mile 4: 9:51
Mile 5: 10:02
Mile 6: 10:37 <— stopped for gel
Mile 7: 9:59
Mile 8: 9:41
Mile 9: 10:15 <— stopped for gel
Mile 10: 9:43
Mile 11: 9:38
Mile 12: 9:43
Mile 13: 9:24
Mile .27: 2:20
avg. pace 9:56
Hooray for negative splits!
Overall this race was amazing. I was blessed to get to run with my best friend, PR in a tutu, and do it all at my favorite place on earth. What more could a girl want? Better weather of course but that’s not Disney’s fault! runDisney did an amazing job as usual. Everything went so smoothly with the race, I have no qualms at all. As I always say, they keep outdoing themselves and I have no idea how they are going to keep it up. I highly recommend this race, especially for a fun girls weekend with some friends. The excitement in the air was amazing, I loved seeing all the strength and the girl power, and I can’t wait for my next runDisney race.
*You can now sign up for the Tower of Terror ten miler!
QOTD: How do you adjust when conditions are not ideal? Who is ready to run Princess 2014?
Disclosure: runDisney invited me to this fun weekend as media, which means my hotel accommodations, race fees, etc. were taken care of. However, all opinions are my own, who doesn’t love runDisney races?!?