Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Experience Running the runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland - [Part 1] "Training" and Check-In

I'm not a runner.  Sure, I can run... but I don't consider myself to be particularly great at it.  I'd much rather get my strength and cardio workout from the comfort of a stationary bicycle in a Cycling with Rachel class (that's a shout-out to the best cycling instructor I know, my little sister, who teaches at Fike Recreation Center in Clemson) than running on pavement under the hot California sun.

So when Rachel and I signed up in August 2014 to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland, we were reaching a bit out of our comfort zone.  Both of us had always wanted to participate in a runDisney half marathon, and we had run the miserably hot Castaway Cay 5k just a few months prior.  We thought that this would be a great goal for us to work towards and a unique way to keep us connected from coast to coast.



Fast-forward to March 2015.... neither of us had really been running.  I was still pretty active, going to spin class twice a week and weight training 3-4 days a week.  But no running.  Rachel found the Hal Higdon's 1/2 Marathon - Novice 2 Training Program app and suggested that I use it to train, as well.  It's a nice app to run with because you can play your own music through the app, and it updates you throughout your run with distance, time, and pace.  But as far as how great it is for half marathon training, I can't really say, because I only ran with the app maybe a total of five times.



Spring quarter in architecture at UCLA was torturous for me.  I was regularly pulling three to four all-nighters a week, and my workload was more stressful than ever.  I didn't have any time to hit the gym, and my runs were becoming more and more rare.  Rachel and I started asking ourselves why we ever thought this was a good idea.

Now two weeks before the race, I had just hit up the Nike store at Third Street Promenade for some new running shoes to break in when I got a call from Rachel.  "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I'm going to be studying abroad this summer in Brussels!  The bad news is that I leave May 8, so I won't be able to run the half marathon."  I remember holding back tears as I sat in rush hour traffic because (remember, I'm sleep-deprived) I was really looking forward to seeing Rachel in two weeks, and I didn't know if I could do this by myself.  I didn't know if I wanted to do this by myself.  It was something that we were supposed to conquer together.

After a period of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I would run the half marathon solo.  Marathon weekend happened to align perfectly with my school schedule, falling right after midterms, so it was really the stars aligning so that I could take off and go to Disneyland for the weekend.  I took advantage of a SoCal resident promotion and purchased a discounted 2-day/1-park pass.  And I had already booked a hotel for Saturday and Sunday night for $96 per night at the Motel 6 because it was the cheapest (available) hotel with complimentary event transportation.

Race Weekend - Saturday

As a not-so local, living in Los Angeles, one would think that this could be a (very long) one-day event in which I get up early and drive to Anaheim on race day.  However, how Disney gets you and almost demands a one night stay is by requiring all runners to pick up bibs and runners' packets before race day at the runDisney expo, held at the convention center in the Disneyland Hotel.  The half marathon event took place Sunday, but I had to pick up my packet by 4:00 PM Saturday.  Why would I drive (almost an hour, more if heavy traffic) to Anaheim just to pick up a race packet, then turn around and drive back?  No... Disney had me.  I was at least going to stay and eat a meal at a resort or Downtown Disney.... but then why double my driving time, especially when I had to be back by 5 AM Sunday?  I'll just spend the night.  Then how am I going to spend all day Saturday?  I might as well go to the parks, make another day out of it..... Disney, congratulations, you were once again successful at getting me to spend money.

Disney's California Adventure Park

I drove to Anaheim on Saturday morning and paid the ridiculous $17 parking rate, as check-in for the Motel 6 wasn't until later that afternoon, and I wouldn't have my complimentary ART (Anaheim Resort Transportation) shuttle pass until I picked up my runner's packet.  I decided to spend my first day of my pass at California Adventure, mainly because I really wanted a picture in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland after I received my medal the next day.

Guys.... something tragic happened.....

I lost almost all of my pictures from the weekend!  I must have been careless in my card cleaning and formatted a memory card before I took the photos off of it.  It made me physically sick when I realized my mistake, and it's one of the reasons that I took so long to write this review.  On top of that, I washed my iPhone 5s (in the washing machine.... on accident), and I lost almost all of the photos and videos that I took on my cell phone that weekend.  The only photos that I was able to salvage were the ones that I had imported into VSCOcam and was able to retrieve through the app.  All I can say is.... let my mistake be a lesson - back up, back up, back up (ironically, I have 'taught' others the same back-up lesson multiple times before, so maybe I should start learning from myself).

So due to the lack of pictures and my fading memory, I'll just cover a few highlights from the day.  I was finally able to ride Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land, and it's pretty awesome.  Being a single rider turned out to be advantageous throughout the day, and I was able to ride back to back to back with little wait in between.  For lunch, I tried the "Chili Cone Queso" from the Cozy Cone Motel.  I think I'm actually spoiled by FastPass+ at Walt Disney World because I was getting tired from walking from attraction to attraction to get FastPasses.

Radiator Springs Racers

When I went to the Disneyland Hotel to pick up the runner's packet, I found the layout a little bit confusing.  It took me two attempted entries to actually get in to where I needed to be.  There were two levels - on the first, I submitted a signed waiver and picked up my packet.  On the second (this is where I got lost), I picked up my t-shirt and also my complimentary weekend ART pass.  My complaint about the shirt is that it was a running shirt made out of stretchy, lightweight material, and I really just wanted a t-shirt that I could wear on a more regular (because I'm not a regular runner) basis, bragging, "I ran a half marathon once."  In addition to the complimentary things included in the registration fee, the second floor was packed with booths from different vendors, selling everything from running shoes and gear to hooks and other ways to display your medals.  There was also a stage area with people who I believe are famous in the running world, but I am not part of the running world, so their names didn't mean anything to me.

During the time of my half marathon "training" and terribly exhausting quarter, my friends encouraged (then demanded) that I see a doctor for a chronic cough that was getting on their nerves.  After five years of a chronic seasonal cough, I was diagnosed with asthma at 23 - huh!  (But thanks for being so generous with the Codeine, Redfern doctors!)  So I realized that I shouldn't skip out on medication on race day, but I would need to take it while in the line-up, so I did some quick browsing in the expo to find a way to carry my inhaler with me.  I ended up purchasing a stretchy fabric belt that sat around my waist and held my phone, wallet, and inhaler.  At almost $30, it was more than I wanted to spend, but it worked perfectly for race day.

I dropped my goody bag off at my car and then headed back to California Adventure because I had a FastPass for Tower of Terror, my favorite.  I ate dinner in the park and then grabbed FastPasses for World of Color before leaving to check into the Motel 6.  The hotel is right outside of the Disneyland Main Gate, so it's a very short drive.  Check-in there went smoothly, and I requested a room on an upper floor for safety reasons.  The room was clean and basic (sorry, no photos!), and I could tell that the resort had recently been refurbished because the interior was very contemporary.

After resting for a bit, I decided to drive back to the park just to watch World of Color, since I had never seen it before.  I photographed it.... but I no longer have those photos.  And, even worse, I forgot my phone in the car and refused to turn around once I realized it, so I don't even have any cell phone photos or video, and I didn't have my phone to entertain myself as I waited around for the show.

NEXT: Race Day!