Race Review: 2015 Disneyland 10K (9/5/2015), or: “Swept away for a moment by chance…”

blgdl10klogoThe 2015 Disneyland 10K represented the third time this particular race had been run, as well as being the start of the third Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, in which participants had to complete this 10K as well as the 2015 Disneyland Half Marathon the following day. For those of you keeping score at home, this is 19.3 miles of running over two days (22.4 miles, if you also participated in the Disneyland 5K from the day before… which we did). For most mere mortals, that’s a lot of time spent on your feet.

But… Disney Runners are hardly mere mortals, are we? We hit that universal sweet spot in which insufferable runners overlap with insufferable Disney fans and create a whole new mutant breed of Insufferability that is so incredibly potent that you’re guaranteed to have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan vying for your ideological favors! Or James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Whatever tickles your pickle. I’m more of a DC guy, so I’ve hardly got skin in this particular game.

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Anyway, you see where I’m going with this. The very moment Run Disney concocts a particular “race challenge”, Disney runners go absolutely bugfork with excitement and these challenges sell out faster than you can say “Wink Martindale”. What started out with simple 5Ks, half marathons, and a full marathon has blossomed into various 10K + Half Marathon Challenges (Rebel, Glass Slipper, Dark Side, Pixie, Dumbo Double Dare, Infinity Gauntlet), not to mention the mammoth Challenges at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend — the Goofy (Half Marathon + Full Marathon) and the Grand Poobah of them all, the Dopey (5K, 10K, Half, and Full). And let’s not even talk about Coast To Coast or Coast to Chateau…

Now would you call this Sadistic Rodentiality, or Obsessive Fanservice? A little of both? Exactly.

So yes, we’re out of our minds, but getting fit and healthy and active sure beats canned fruit-cup, so with all that out-of-the-way let’s talk about the 2015 Disneyland 10K, and why this is one of my absolute favorite races and, perhaps, why it is one of THE best races that Run Disney offers.

(Oooh, superlatives…)

Let’s jump right in, shall we? We had spent the day before the race (Friday) enjoying the holy heck out of the Disneyland 5K. This was followed by an awesome breakfast/brunch with friends over at Storyteller’s Cafe, and then an afternoon at Disneyland where we spent a fun amount of time enjoying the likes of Space Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Plus that awesome cream cheese-filled pretzel in Tomorrowland. Mmm. Boots and I called it an early evening, grabbed a light dinner, and headed back to our room at the Disneyland Hotel. I was running the next morning and wanted to be well-rested, and I was asleep by around 9:30 PM for a 4:00 AM wake-up call.

Race Day

Alarm goes off and I’m excited and exhausted and anxious and enthusiastic all at once. Since we’ve been down this road many times before, we were well-prepared; everything was laid out the night before — my running clothes, shoes, gear, bib pinned to Mickey Miler running shirt, everything. Plus we were all of a 5 minute walk from the Staging Area, so all I really needed was to scarf down my breakfast (CLIF bar and a Pop Tart), engage in morning ablutions, get dressed, and go. But not before posing for the prototypical hotel room pre-race action snapshot!

6' 2". If I could grow out a fro again, I could pass for 6' 5"...

6′ 2″. If I could grow out a fro again, I could pass for 6′ 5″…

Taking the elevator down to the lobby, we were out the doors and into the Staging Area in no time at all. It was yet another cool, wonderful morning in Anaheim, again in the low-to-mid 60s, cool breezes, maybe a touch of humidity to some (but to my swampy South Florida sensibilities, it felt glorious) yet I was loving every second it. Our Mickey Milers meet-up was scheduled for 4:45 and I once again made the team photo. You used to be able to set your watch by me not making the Team Photo (and not having my name called out at the Finish Line, he said with a bit of weekend foreshadowing…) but that’s one curse that we happily demolished.

Some pics of the Staging Area:

The Stage... where all the DISCO happens!

The Stage… where all the DISCO happens!

There wasn’t a big Miler turnout, but there were enough people there to make it enjoyable (and to make a fine team pic!):

Yay Milers!

Yay Milers!

… and of course that didn’t stop me from jumping into selfie mode:

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… which was finished off to the one place you can always find me before a race:

Yeesh...

Yeesh…

We chatted happily for a while, and then parted ways to make towards our various corrals. I was seeded in Corral B for the weekend, which was probably for the best, given that I wanted to challenge myself somewhat for the 10K and Half. I’ve spent the summer preparing for the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and I wanted to see how much benefit I was getting in my short game. We were about to find out.

Here was the view ahead of us:

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… and behind:

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… and because no one demanded it, my usual Start Line Selfie:

Schmucky!

Schmucky!

Up on stage at the Start Line, announcers Rudy and Carissa were just hamming it up with delight. Let me tell you, it takes two REALLY professional announcers/broadcasters to come across that free-wheelingly glib, silly, and fun. Since this was a VILLAINS themed race, there were tons of appearances by the Evil Queen and the Magic Mirror, who even provided the initial race countdown. Meanwhile in a rather quizzical choice, the National Anthem was performed by someone called “Baron von Evil”, who shredded out an instrumental version on some tripped out BC Rich-wannabe electric guitar. He did a… respectable job. It fit the Villainous theme nicely but it still felt a little awkward. No big whoop though.

The race then started promptly at 5:30 AM with the wheelchair athletes, followed by Corral A shortly thereafter. Corral B was called up at around 5:35 AM. I dialed up my “Mullet Rock” Spotify playlist, popped in my Bluetooth headphones, and at 5:38 AM I crossed the Start Line and began my latest Run Disney adventure!

The Race

Let’s take a look at the race course, courtesy of Google Maps and my trusty Garmin 920XT watch:

No need to click. Fully embiggened.

No need to click. Fully embiggened.

It was the same exact route the last two years: south down Disneyland Dr./West St., then east through the Anaheim Convention Center, and north up Harbor Blvd. Once we entered Disney property, the rest of the course took us backstage behind California Adventure, then through California Adventure via entering through Cars Land, around Paradise Pier, up past Soarin’, Cathay Circle, and Hollywood Blvd, exiting by the Tower of Terror. Then it was north and then west until we reached Disneyland, where we jaunted up Main Street USA, through Tomorrowland, past It’s A Small World which led us into a backstage area north of the park. We looped around backstage, re-entering Disneyland by Toontown, then down through Fantasyland which took us right through the Castle itself. We then headed west through Frontierland and Critter Country, then backstage again as we looped out into Downtown Disney. The remainder of the race took us west through Downtown Disney before we curved north at the Disneyland Hotel to reach the Finish Line.

Yes, I cribbed that course description from last year’s review. SO?

As we ran down Disneyland Drive, into that immediate downhill/uphill slope that passes under the Downtown Disney walkway, I immediately felt like I was going to have a great race. I felt full of energy, enthusiasm, light on my feet and strong in my desires to really run this one well. The one drawback? That first mile down Disneyland Drive/West Street is so slow and congested with runners and race walkers — even in Corral B — that I felt I really couldn’t get a good pace going. And here is why that prompted me to run a strong race — my watch was timed for 5:1 run/walk intervals. But by the time I got to five minutes, I realized that I hadn’t gone as far as I wanted to during my first interval. The congestion was too much and I hadn’t even run half-a-mile yet. So I ignored the walk break and told myself to keep running until the congestion cleared out (which usually occurs after we pass Katella Avenue).

Then the darndest thing happened. I passed Katella and while it cleared out a little bit, it was still a tad too congested for my blood. So I told myself to run to the 1-Mile mark, and take a one-minute walk break there. Which I did. And at that point, I realized I was just as full of energy and as spirited as I had been at the Start Line.

So I called an audible and decided to try “Run 1-Mile, Walk 1-minute” intervals for the rest of the race. What the hell, right?

And man-oh-man-oh-Manischewitz, did that work! I ended up running each mile faster than the last one… my mile splits were: 10:05, 9:38, 9:24, 9:20, 9:09, 8:54, and even 7:46 for the final 0.2 miles! I really felt like I was flying and I never felt winded, tired, pained, or drained. I certainly stopped for hydration — my longstanding criticism of this race stands, that there should be at least one more hydration stop — and because of my pace I had to sacrifice stopping for photos and character opportunities. But honestly, nothing feels more “magical” to me than running a strong race.

And especially a strong race on a course as awesome as this one. Except for the roughly 1.5 miles you spend running through and around the Convention Center, the majority of the course is spent on Disney property — and about 3.5 miles of those are literally spent in the parks. You get to see almost everything: the beauty of Cars Land lit up in its neon glory, the cliffs of Radiator Springs, Mickey’s Fun Wheel and the World of Color fountains beautifully presented, the Tower of Terror looming ominously over you… and then pretty much almost everywhere in Disneyland. Nothing beats that initial run down Main Street USA:

No time to stop. I'm on a mission....

No time to stop. I’m on a mission….

… but then you have Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toon Town, and all the various backstage areas. Even the animal stables! As focused as I was on running as strong a race as I could, the festiveness of my surroundings were never lost on me. Nor was the smell of the animal stables! STILL MAGICAL!!

The lines for the photo stops were pretty sizable, and I saw plenty of crowd-pleasers as well as a few of the less common characters out there. Another time, perhaps. Meanwhile, I was on a mission. Run long, run strong. Ted Nugent’s ‘Wango Tango’, Blackfoot’s ‘Train, Train’, and Saxon’s ‘Wheel’s of Steel’ propelled me through the Magic Kingdom. By the time I reached the Mile-5 marker in Fantasyland, I disregarded my scheduled walk interval and kept running for the rest of the race. It almost felt like flying. Through the Castle I went, into Frontierland, past New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America, into Critter Country and out through the backstage area.

I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t stop. By the time I reached Downtown Disney, on the last stretch to the Finish Line, I realized that I had a PR in me if I could keep up the intensity and concentration. I didn’t push it into overdrive, but I worked to maintain my faster (for me, anyhow) pace. I made that right turn at the Sorcerer’s Hat at the Disneyland Hotel, where I found Boots stationed with her trusty camera and awesome smile. She grabbed these shots of me making it into the home stretch:

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I could see the Finish Line. I didn’t make a last-minute acceleration overdrive burst of absolute velocity, but I maintained whatever pace I was at and motored. Y&T’s ‘Don’t Stop Runnin’ was roaring in my earbuds, but not so loud that I couldn’t tell that my name still wasn’t called out among the other Finishers. Maybe this was never meant to be? Or… no let’s not get ahead of ourselves. With that final surge of energy I pushed past the Finish Line…

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… and almost immediately (and obsessively) checked my phone for the Official Race Result. My overall 10K PR was 59:10. Last year, I had run this race at 1:00:49.

What was my Race Result this time?

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57:46.

I nailed it. Another PR at Disneyland. Holy crap.

I think you can tell how pleased I was:

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I was over the moon. I almost felt like dancing, except that if you’d ever seen my moves, they probably brought you to tears. No matter. I had just PR’ed a 10K on a beautiful morning at an absolutely fantastic race. As I mentioned before, it could be one of THE best Run Disney races. You spend so much time in the parks, with plenty of entertainment and photo opportunities — even if I didn’t take advantage of any of them. And that’s fine, too. Using all of that fun and excitement as a motivator can actually help you run a faster race. God knows, it did for me.

After collecting my medal, Powerade, banana, and snack box, I made my way to Boots by taking the longer-in-distance but shorter-in-time route to the Sorcerer’s Hat through the main entrance to the Disneyland Hotel. We watched the remainder of runners heading towards the Finish Line — some of our buddies so quick that they zipped past us before we could capture their picture! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. My buddy Darth Ann ran over and nearly impaled me on her light-saber. She’s utterly terrifying. Soon I was starting to feel a little tired and maybe a “little” bit chilly, so we motored over to the Disneyland Hotel Coffeehouse where we grabbed coffee and muffins, and sat outside as I bored the pants offa Boots with my excited “Tales from the Race” tirade.

Check out that awesome bling!

Check out that awesome bling!

In the end, the 2015 Disneyland Half Marathon was such a great race. Even if I hadn’t PR’ed, I still would have loved it. It has such a great feel, such great energy, so much to enjoy, that it makes the entire schlep out to California more than worth it. Plus it’ll make you so happy you’ll start dancing for no reason, to no music, and to much consternation of those around you, once you cross that Finish Line. The Villains theme — noticeable in all the race decoration, mile markers, characters on the course, and so forth — gave the entire affair a strong “Disney” feel, which is the reason why we’re paying that premium up-charge. It was worth it. Place this 10K on your Run Disney bucket list. It’s worth it.

Here’s the Very 80’s Video:

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