Travel, Arriving & Packet Pick-Up/Expo:
I left Dallas at 6:30 am, and landed in Orlando at 11am Friday morning. I met up with my Mom shortly thereafter, we hopped on a Magical Express bus, and arrived at the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort (POFQ) at approximately 12:30 on Friday afternoon. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we stored our luggage and headed over to Disney's Wide World of Sports to go to packet pick-up and Expo. We arrived at WWoS quickly, and easily picked up both my Half Marathon
packet and dad's Goofy Challenge packet, as well as our Race Retreat packets for the Half. We continued browsing around the Expo until Dad (who was on a later flight) showed up (a particular favorite booth of ours was the Clif Bar booth where they were giving out samples & had the pace bracelets)! When Dad arrived, he announced that he had realized on the plane that
he had forgotten to pack both pairs of his running shorts, gels, and a couple other racing "necessities," so we went on a scavenger hunt through the many, many, booths trying to check everything off his unexpected shopping list. Fortunately, the Expo is comprehensive enough that we found everything relatively easily, and he didn't have to go without!
The Night Before The Half:
After getting back to POFQ, we picked up our luggage and headed to our room - in a great spot on the 1st floor of building #1, close to the river - cool! Wanting a better pasta selection than those offered at the POFQ food court, we headed over to Port Orleans Riverside (POR) for dinner. Dad and I both got a make-your-own-pasta dish and Mom took advantage of the awesome salad station. Once back at the room, it was time to start the pre-race preparation process. This starts with me trying on every possible combination of race clothing to find the "perfect" outfit for the next morning - taking into account temps, wind, sun, pace, etc. I finally settled on a longsleeved black tech shirt and my black compression
tights. I laid out the clothes and my costume "accessories" (Minnie apron, Minnie ears, red hair ribbon, & white gloves); I filled out the emergency contact info on the back of my bib and added it to my fuel belt, put a gel and a couple tylenol in the pocket of my water bottle, and threaded the D-tag through my left shoe. Finally, I laid out my visor and sunglasses, and after plugging in my Garmin, cell phone, ipod, and my Flip video camera, I felt confident I was well-organized for tomorrow. We set a couple alarms for the next morning and got in bed. I'm not sure exactly what time we finally got to sleep, but I imagine it was somewhere around 9:30pm.
Race Day - Pre-race:
2:15am Saturday - ugh, whose bright idea was it to do this anyway? Oh, that's right, mine. Well here goes nothing! Sports Shield on, HRM on, clothes on, shoes on, costume on, fuel belt on, accessories and electronics on. Check, check, check. Out the door and on a bus by 3:15 am, right on schedule! Since this was our first year to do the Race Retreat (RR), we wanted to have plenty of time to enjoy the amenities. As the bus was pulling into the Epcot parking
of champions) and settled in at a table to relax and enjoy our surroundings. Heeding the announcer's urgings to make your way towards the start line, we checked the bag (consolidated into one) and made another bathroom stop before going back outside to start the 20 minute trek to the corrals.
One of the ASI photographers grabbed us to take a quick pre-race picture just as we were stepping through the fence. Dad was slated in Corral B, and I was in E (the lowest/fastest Corral I've ever been in for this race), so after yet another port-o-potty stop (pre-race nerves, plus lots of
liquids), we went our separate ways and lined up in our corrals. I joined the other runners stretching and chatting and waited for the race to start. Music was blaring from speakers, big-screen TV's were everywhere, and the race M.C. was making announcements and getting the crowd energized - you could feel the excitement building with every passing minute. They interviewed Al Roker, Meredith Vieira,
and Natalie Morales from The Today Show, who were all running. Then for the moments that had the whole crowd tearing up - they explained the story behind the Disney Half Marathon Heroes Race happening simultaneously in Baghdad, Iraq - a husband and wife team who had run together last year but couldn't this year because he was deployed in Iraq.
Finally, with the singing of the National Anthem, and an incredible burst of fireworks, the first wave of runners were off! At this point, considering how nervous I was in the days leading up to the race, I was amazingly calm...
**You've made it through Part 1! If you're willing to continue reading, Part 2: My Race is up next!**