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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Inaugural Celebration Half Marathon Race Report

I can’t believe it’s finally here!  Time for the Celebration ½ Marathon – my second-ever half marathon!

We left home around lunchtime and headed directly to the Expo (cough”Expo”cough) to pick up my bib and what not. Traffic within Celebration was crazy-busy, but well-controlled.

We found a spot right by the Expo, and we walked right in. Got my goodie bag, then went and got my shirt.  After that we walked around the Expo, and I bought a package of Honey Stinger chews – my one and only purchase, for a whopping $2!

After leaving Celebration, we headed out to dinner at Golden Corral. I was originally thinking Cracker Barrel again (like when we went to St. Augustine), but I love a buffet (fat girl!) and hubby gave me the “it has lots of carbs” speech, so we ended up there.  Turns out that the Celebration GC is much nicer than the Downtown Disney GC, so …. Good to know.

I ate way too much, didn’t eat very much dessert, and we all walked out with cotton candy.  Then we drove to our hotel for the night – the Baymont Inn & Suites. I got it for $51 as a Top Secret Hotwire hotel (or whatever their “pay, then see” hotels are).  I was nervous doing this, because I never want a hotel that comes with two double beds, and a lot of inexpensive hotels do doubles instead of queens. But by using betterbidding.com and doing some homework, I was pretty confident in my purchase and I was right!

I had previously emailed the hotel manager and requested a late-check out tomorrow, and I reminded the clerk about it at check-in, so we were able to stay in our room until 1pm. I didn’t know if I was going to need it or not, but I didn’t want to be at like Mile 10 freaking out about our hotel room, you know?

After check-in, we found a place to park and took our stuff to our room.

Wow, what a difference between PORNge World (which was $55) and this!  Clean, new-looking, pretty nice! 

2 Queen Beds - very nice room for the price
Kitchenette with Microwave, Coffeemaker and Large Mini-Fridge
Kitchenette and Armoire/Dresser area
Big freezer on this Maxi-Fridge
Left Cabinet holds iron and board
Right Cabinet holds hangers and laundry bag (does anyone use that?)
Bathroom - LOTS of counter space!
Unplugged the hair dryer and made this our Charging Zone
Pretty standard bathroom - but the tub was so deep it was almost existential!
As I always do, my first step was to ‘move in’ – unpack stuff and set up the room the way I want, and to set up my run stuff. Bag goes here, Powerade goes here, etc. Also took photos of the swag bag. 

Snack bag, Swag Bag, my purse, running clothes, random Hubby bag
Swag Bag - Reusable grocery bag (it's big and sturdy)
This is me! 
None of the three of us knew what the hell this was (it's a Buff)
Free sample of Biofreeze
Armband you need for your free beer/alcoholic beverage
Sunscreen w/Insect Repellent wet wipe
Awesome, well-fitting gender-specific tech tee
Once that was done, it was pretty much time for bed. I think The Kiddo took a bubble-bath, but I plugged in my headphones to try a Sleep App (ambient sounds like rain and crickets).  It took a while, but eventually I fell asleep, and luckily, no crazy pre-race dreams! 

Bright and early, it was time to get up.  I hit the potty then nuked a bagel with sliced cheese and drank a PowerAde. Eventually, I woke up Hubby and the Kiddo and I began to get dressed. 

Nothin' like a toilet selfie
It was chilly last night, so I stepped outside this a.m. to gauge how chilly it was and I decided to add running tights under my skirt. 

I packed up my bags and we headed out. Traffic TO Celebration wasn’t bad, but once IN Celebration, it was another story. We were running behind (I wanted to be there super early to get a good parking spot), so we had to find on-street parking.  We ended up parking in the Bus Loop (or Parent Pickup Loop) of the Celebration School (lower grades) and walking a few blocks to the start.  

There it is - the Start Line!
Once near the start line, it was very crowded, but they had signs up (the kind that stick in the ground) for ‘corrals’ of sorts – 6:00 pace, all the way to 14:00 pace, then buried way in the back, Walkers.

 I asked Hubby to take a pic of me, which he did, and then another lady tapped me on the shoulder and said “Oh, thank goodness someone else took a photo with that! I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to take my photo!” So I took her photo too. 

Damn right, I'm slow enough to be called a walker!
It was getting to be about 5 minutes before start, so I gave the Kiddo my jacket, and they headed to the spectator section of the start line, and I got ready to go – Intervals, Nike+, Garmin, Music. 

Pee?  There’s plenty of potties and no line. But there is only a minute before start.

Ladies and gentlemen, that was the fastest I think I’ve ever peed in my life!  I literally walked out of the pottie and it was 3-2-1 go time!

It’s my second half-marathon!! Let’s go!!

All races look like this in my head when I start
A wave from the family and I was past the start line and actually doing this.

Find the family!
As I’ve mentioned in a different post, my plan was to do my intervals (1 minute run, 90 second walk) until I got to the Boardwalk area, Mile 7. Then I would be able to walk (I’ve had bad luck with wet boardwalks and slippery wood). Once back on solid surfaces, I would finish with intervals until Mile 13. 

Mile 1 came really (like, REALLY) quickly. We ran through really pretty neighborhoods with very pretty homes and well-manicured lawns.

Not that you can tell from this crappy photo, but it really is pretty in Celebration!
Old school South! What would it look like with Christmas Lights?
Mile 2 had a pretty park and a set of real bathrooms, as well as a water stop. Lots of folks were in line for the bathroom, but I just took a water and a PowerAde and kept on going. I was feeling great! The weather was wonderful, though I was warming up just a tad.

Mile 2 - people taking off clothing
Soon after the Mile 2 sign, we turned on to another road, and Hubby and the Kiddo were up there to cheer me on, so I took off my base layer and threw it to them for them to carry, then kept on running.

The route hair-pinned back to Mile 3, where we turned in, and I had thought that the family would be there too – I had a granola bar in my pocket that I forgot to eat that I wanted to give them – but they weren’t there, so I kept on going.  I eventually saw them near an intersection that would take them to the Publix nearby, so I tossed them my granola bar with a smile and trotted off again. 

They planned on going to Publix for some breakfast and drinks to bring back to the car, or the finish line – whatever was easiest on them. 

Only 10 miles to go!
Mile 4 was near Celebration Health (hospital?), and I was running opposite of the route that we ran the 10k back in October. It was kind of weird.

Mile 4 was basically the start line for last October's 10k
Mile 5 began the Long Road, the road by the Golf Course that seemed to go on forever when I did the 10k. The only difference this time was that instead of turning around and coming all the way back, I would keep going until I got to the Boardwalk. Knowing that the Boardwalk – WALK – was coming kept my energy up.  I’d also puffed again on my inhaler at Miles 2 and 4, so I was feeling good, respiratorally speaking. I took a Honey Stinger gel at this point too, and was so glad that it wasn’t nasty!  It literally was like eating honey.  These may be my new goo!  I’d also been eating Bloks up to this point as well. 

Mile 5 - Celebration Golf Course coming up on your left
At about Mile 5.5, the Funny Signs started. The race director was right on point with this idea – the road was LONG, but creating anticipation from one sign to the next helped keep your mind off the distance and was super-helpful. 

This road is LONG!
Here are a few of my favorites:

I blame Dis Boards!
Or a bike, or a skateboard, or roller skates....
There is no Easy Button to Success
Hell, I've done dumber things than this SOBER!
Maybe just a few minions...
Why, do I have a fever?
If you look above the orange cone next to the lady in blue, you will see the cool Mickey Power Line
My grandmother runs better than the government and she's been dead for eight years
In 2012, 1.85 million people ran a half-marathon (I was not one of them). US population was 3.12 million
I'm almost to the potties, at least! There better not be a line... Oh. 
There were potties near the Mile 6 sign, two of them, but after waiting for about five minutes in a small line, I decided that my time was more important than draining a half-full bladder, so I kept going.

Chuck Norris wasn't even man enough to run the half-marathon
It says "Completing this race is kind of a big deal" - yeah it is!
And my derriere goes TOOT!
Dammit - you had ONE job...
How about medals and Diet Coke?
You mean, I can't find out how far I can go while sitting on the couch? 
LOL! I had to actually STOP to make sure I got a good shot of this one!
Thank you, Master Yoda
I also passed the Disney Vacation Club building, which is so pretty! I love Art Deco. There was a band in front, but they were too far away to appreciate their talent.  

Disney Vacation Club
After passing a pretty wall with the town’s name on it, I finally made it to the Boardwalk area. 

You see this when coming IN to the town of Celebration via one of the local highways
There was a DJ there, playing loud music and cheering us on.

Ooooh, can I hold one?
Mile 7 was after the first stretch of wooden boardwalk, and I was walking by then. This area was gorgeous, with natural lands and ponds and such.

Mile 7, no boardwalk yet
The blue tent is where the DJ was (and the blob on the left is my Bondi Band)
Heading towards some boardwalk
More "boardwalk" that turned out to NOT be boardwalk
About halfway between 7 and 8, I was passed by the first Marathoner.  I felt pretty good about that because I had silently bet myself that I would be passed by Mile 5. Either I’m going faster, or they were slower! I like to think I was faster. 

I'm all alone...
After Mile 8, we were back on ‘land’ and it was time to step it back up. I’m doing good – not too tired, nothing is hurting too much, I’m kicking ass!

I'm NOT alone, there's people up there!
I passed more beautiful houses (like this gorgeous one with a vintage muscle car in the driveway – red, of course!)

Can I have THIS house, but with MY mortgage?
I got to Mile 9 in just over 2.5 hours.  This is an awesome time for me! I really need to pee now, but again there is a line at the few potties here, and after waiting (again, and with the same people) five minutes, I took off. I want to kick ass and get a good time – not regret that I wasted time standing around.

Why does the 'satellite' icon look like a piece of hard candy?
I should’ve peed – there were no more potties after those.

Mile 9 - I was already in "Behind Pace" Danger at PHM by this point
At Mile 10, I had to stop and get a photo of ME with the mile sign. If you remember, Mile 10 kicked my ass at the Princess, and I was so happy to be at Mile 10 with plenty of energy left!

Because pointing at the sign makes the words even more noticeable! 
I rounded another beautiful (man-made) lake, full of beautiful houses before crossing a wooden bridge to Mile 11. The sun was coming out, other marathoners were passing me and they were so encouraging – I got lots of “good jobs” from these guys!

This photo doesn't really do it justice - it was breathtaking (and jealousy-inducing) 
At 11 miles, my time was 3:16.

Love the sign, don't like the house (boring)
Yes, plenty of people can do a half in that amount of time. Hell, plenty of folks can do a full in that amount of time. But I’m not them – I’m me and I’m kicking ass!

Kicking ass and (slowly) taking names! 
I rounded yet another lake, with yet more gorgeous houses, and passed the Mile 12 sign.

How gorgeous!!
Yes please!
Mile 12 - hell yeah!!
Not gonna lie, I began that ugly-crying where you are trying not to cry. I’m doing a half-marathon again, and I’m doing good!  And I’m almost done!

At 12.5 miles, my time was 3:39. More ugly not-crying. I’m going to make it under my Princess Time!

Stop taking pictures of your watch and run, bitch!
One more boardwalk, a small one, and then we were almost there! This guy was trying to amp up the runners, but he sounded like a lunatic maniac!

Those green stickers are awesome, too - there were a lot on the course
Around the back of the Celebration Hotel, OMG, I can see – and HEAR – the finish line from here!  I can’t cry while I run – I won’t be able to breathe!

I asked a local who was out walking his dog what that building was, and he looked at me like I was crazy
Rounding the lake and coming back into the center of Celebration was probably the furthest “last bit” I’ve ever run! I wanted to be done, not because I was tired or over it, but because I was doing so good, I wanted to beat 4 hours!

I can see the finish area! I gotta make it to the bright pink building and bright teal building!
I passed where we started, the humongous Porta-Pottie village, then turned into the City Center and crowds were EVERYWHERE!  It felt like the whole town was there, cheering for us! Finishers stuck around to cheer us in, too, which I love. 

Finally, I rounded the final corner and entered into the Finish Chute, I am about to lose it right then and there – I am coming in under 4 hours! I cross the line at 3:54!!!!  I did it! I beat my Princess time!!!!  My official time was 3:54:41 (I beat a whopping 41 people, and came in 1533rd place, 175th place in my age group).  My official PR was 17 minutes and 51 seconds.

I was neither fast, nor last!  (Also, see how busy it is, too crowded!)
I found my family and lost it. Just completely LOST IT!  Ugly cry, snotting all over his jacket, just grasping him with all my might, like if I let go, I would find out I was wrong. All I can remember saying is “I beat 4 hours! I did it!” and sobbing like a little girl who lost her balloon. Betty found me and came to congratulate me, and I ended up snotting all over her too!  I could not get myself together for a good 5 minutes.

Once I did get myself together, however, I found one of the (marathon) pacers, and borrowed her for a photo, since she had a 4:00 Pace Sign. 

Yes, four fingers means FOUR hours! 
Also, got a photo with Betty, who came in at I think 3:20, which is a kick-ass time for her too!

I didn't ask permission to use Betty's photo, so I cropped her out
Back to normal, I went in search of water and whatever card I needed to get all the free food promised at the end of the race. I got my card, and saw that the raffle booth was set up, with a list of winners. I glanced at the list to see if I recognized any names, and I did – MINE!  I won a blingy 13.1 sticker. Pink.

I won this. Not gonna stick it on my car! It's on my Inspiration Board by my treadmill now
Also on the list – Leah Powell, the Queen Mum herself, creator and owner of my beloved Sparkle Skirts!  I wish I had seen her and been able to meet her…

I don't know what a "theRunnerStickers.com picture" is, but I think I got a better prize!
Here’s where I have to say something negative about this race. Well, not the race itself, but the Post-Race Celebration.  The “massive amounts of free food” that we were promised when we signed up was pretty much gone by the 4 hour mark.  I think there were supposed to be more than 10 places to get a bite to eat (local eateries from Celebration), but I only found 2 – the pizza place, and the bakery. The pizza booth only had garlic knots left (they were very good), and the bakery only had brioche buns (they ran out of the sammich fillings for the buns).  I didn’t want beer, but that truck was still there.

Also, the Finish Line area was very (!) congested and crowded (see the photo above), making it difficult to move around and enjoy yourself. I wanted to stick around for a while (walking helps move stuff around in your muscles) but it was too busy. We ended up heading back to the car and driving to the hotel. 

At the hotel, it was the dreaded Ice Bath time.  I've never been able to handle the ice bath for very long, but man it does help with the soreness!

Yes, you are supposed to ice bathe while wearing clothes. No one wants a frozen woo-woo
After 10 minutes (10 long, cold minutes), I couldn’t take it anymore and switched to a hot bath. Ahhh, so nice!

We packed up the room, loaded the car and I headed to check out of the hotel. Once that was done – it was time for lunch!

Generally, after a race, I pick where to go to celebrate, but because the race was so close to the Kiddo’s 16th birthday, which we also go out to eat for, I had suggested that we combine the celebratory meals and she can choose where to go. (Plus the fact that we would be at Disney was a bonus!) She wanted something cheap but fancy. I tried to point her towards Via Napoli in Epcot or The Plaza at the Magic Kingdom, but she actually chose Wolfgang Puck at Downtown Disney. Hubby wasn't super-happy (he doesn't like DTD that much), but it was a good meal.

Hubby and I got chicken fingers.

Chicken Fingers and Herbed Fries - $12
The Kiddo got the chicken Alfredo.

Cavatappi Chicken Alfredo (sans peas) - $15
Another selling point of eating at DTD was that we could go to Goofy’s Candy Store afterwards for dessert. Unfortunately, Hubby and I were both so stuffed (and we even took home a doggy bag), that dessert was not an option! Kiddo got a Goofy Glacier. (I highly recommend banana Glaciers – they are to die for!)

Once we finished at DTD, it was time to celebrate in a park, and which park? Epcot of course! It has LOTS of places to walk, which is what I needed to do to keep the muscle soreness at bay. I hate that I have discovered that walking works, because Hubby makes me move, no matter how much I want to sit!

I'm Celebrating!  Check out my medal!
Our first stop was Spaceship Earth. It’s quick, I can sit, then get right back up again.

Next, we walked over to Test Track, but even the single rider line was way busy, so after a round of “I dunno, what do you wanna do?” we backtracked over to Universe of Energy. I don’t know why everyone hates this ride. It’s stupid, but funny, and a 40-minute opportunity to take a nap or stretch your legs!


Gratuitous "Pretty Flowers" shot of the Universe of Energy Pavilion
My legs felt much better afterwards, but at this point, it was time to make our way home. It was a great weekend, and I can’t wait to do this race again next year – it’s already on my calendar with a reminder to sign up!

Heyyyyy, Race Photog!