Avengers Assembled

Last week, I ran my first half marathon since the Best Damn Race in March. I cannot believe it’s been that long since I tackled the 13.1, but I’m still seeking that perfect balance between work and training. I’m banking on finally sorting it out by the time I retire in 35 years. My last runDisney was back in January with the WDW Half, and flying out to Disneyland would mark my second attempt at successfully completing the Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Reporting for Duty at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ

Prior to leaving for California, I officially moved to retire my 2013 runDisney NewBalance Mickeys (860v4s). After  a lengthy deliberation, I asked Meghan to accompany me to Fleet Feet Sports Orlando. She served as my wing-lady on my visit to Fleet Feet Sports Orlando (located conveniently by the Altamonte Mall). After receiving a proper shoe fitting, including the use of Brooks Ravenna 5 in fiery coral and electric blue, my shoe fit expert also fit me for orthotics. I remember wearing some previously, but I know it has been very long time since I’ve regularly worn them.

After getting to Orange County via Atlanta, I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and headed over to the Health and Fitness Expo. Back in January, I finally conquered my Hero Fear of runDisney’s Official Training Consultant, Jeff Galloway. He was kind enough to autograph my WDW Half Bib, so I asked him to sign my Avengers Half bib for good luck. His passion for the sport as well as his dedication to making running accessible for everyone is truly inspiring. What I love about professional athletes like Mr. Galloway, and my running heroines, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, is their professionalism. When they present themselves at running events, they are human and grounded like their shoes which pound the ground every day. They don’t make these events about themselves, but about the running community; something I truly admire.

IMG_9872.JPGAlways a pleasure to chat with Jeff Galloway

I do my best to buy all my race needs prior to going to the race expos in an attempt to save money. It’s like going to the grocery store hungry: very dangerous as my wallet suffers tremendously as a result. Fortunately (and unfortunately), by the time I arrived on Friday, the Raw Threads Super Series items and the runDisney official merchandise booths were picked pretty clean. Unable to find any long sleeved shirts or pull overs I liked, I managed to save money on big ticket purchases. While I eyed the Avengers Dooney & Bourke wristlet, I couldn’t bring myself to get it. With the holidays around the bend, I didn’t want to burn through all my shopping money before I even start.

The Sparkle Athletic Ladies filled in the costume gap!

My running shirt had a tiny bit of sparkle, but not nearly enough to make all those race photos eye-catching. Dropping by the Sparkle Athletic Booth, I not only got my gun metal silver (noticing a pattern here, Folks) Sparkle Skirt, but I finally managed to get my hands on a Silver Wing Shwings (Shoe Wings)! I love following the SA Ladies for runspiration, so I mustered up the courage to ask to take a photo with them. (Check out Elise’s Super-Baby-Bump!!) I always love the simplicity of their costuming, and I hope that their skirts will make my booty run fast! I may never graduate to the sub-2:15 and lower corrals or a Ragnar Relay, but simply wearing their skirts make me feel part of their sisterhood.

I finally broke down and bought a 1″ thick gun metal silver Viva Diva Sweaty Band. I’ve dodged the bullet for nearly five years, but my curiosity finally got the better of me. I later used it as a visor accent during the race, but when I tested it out on it’s own, I’m now a huge fan. The construction looks easy enough that I should be easy to replicate. I may have to talk my master seamstress (better known as Mom), and see what we can figure out.

Just Goofin’ around with this guy after the Expo!

I didn’t intend on revisiting the expo on Saturday, but after discovering a blister on the back of my right Achilles (nothing packed besides ankle socks), I decided I would take a break from park hopping, mid-day to visit the expo again. The hardest thing about the final hours of any race expo is finding what you want (especially if you are a pain-in-the-tuckus like me). I circled the booths a couple of times like a carrion bird, hoping to pick off a small animal. Thankfully, the ladies at Running Skirts came to my rescue with their Runbow Knee High Compression Socks. Although, it made Maria Hill look like a slight ringer for a baseball team when paired with my capris, the socks helped keep my bandage in place the entire race.

Bad: Fought a Blister | Good: Motivational Bling 

As folks laced up and smashed the 5K on Saturday morning, I caught up on my sleep and prepared for a full day of hitting the parks. I figured the lines for the Avengers Character Greetings would be substantial, but I knew with certainty, that I wouldn’t have the energy to wait in line after the race. I queued up for Thor: Treasures of Asgard, and while we waited outside the very modest exhibit, had the opportunity to check out some of the weapons used by the guardians of Asgard. I was quite excited to see Fandral’s rapier amongst the relics of Asgard, but there was distinct lack of accompanying photos. The exhibit is modest, with some beautiful discoveries, including Loki’s helmet and shackles inside the transport area. At first, I didn’t understand why it took the wait time it did, but after entering the vestibule which housed the Gateway to the Bifrost connecting Earth to Asgard, I suddenly became a little claustrophobic.

IMG_9928.JPG Thor caught me sneaking into the Throne Room!

I loved the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms that the agents wore, though with the Men and Women in Black  simplicity, it was clear why they were kept inside. Initially, I was frustrated that I got directed to the end of the line, it ended up making my experience a little more personal. Unfortunately, with the popularity of Avengers (not simply because of the race), I felt rushed and almost guilty spending more than three seconds talking with Thor. He made an effort to make the last feel certainly not least, even with one insistent S.H.I.E.L.D. practically tapping his watch in the corner. My favorite moment was seeing Thor pose with the Tiny Avengers, including the cutest Little Widow and Pocket Thor (sisters), I have ever seen.

There is not a clear indication where the snaking line for Captain America: The Living Legend and Symbol of Courage begins. I asked the one cast member closest to the line, and he actually rolled his eyes at me! I couldn’t believe it. (“You HAVE to go ALL the way around past the ASIMO Theatre.”) I understand that there is not clear signage within Innoventions that would direct the flow of guests appropriately, but guests should never be made to feel as if they are missing something completely obvious to those who practically live in the park. I tried looking around and using the park provided literature to no avail. Thankfully, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents assigned to assisting Captain Rogers were far more polite and welcoming.

IMG_9946.JPG Captain Rogers is quite the stand up guy! 

Ah, no greater feeling than crawling into bed at 7:30PM on a Saturday night in wait for that lovely 2:30AM wake up call on Race Day! With my hotel nearly a mile from Disney Way, I was relieved that the buses were running at 3:30AM, so I could safely get to the event area and corrals. I threw on a pull over, thinking I would be freezing, but it turned out that I was comfortable without one. I overestimated how cold Anaheim would be at this time of year.

IMG_9972-0.JPG Race Days demand Flat Runner Photos!

 I hopped on the Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) bus with several other runners and kept warm while we plodding up Harbor to the staging area. With the smaller participant volume, the pre-race staging area is significantly smaller than those held at the WDW property. In traditional Disney fashion, there was a DJ, some S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents milling about, gear check, and the obligatory “Macarena” dance to discover any hidden HYDRA Agents! I met a lovely lady named Terri who was dressed as Nick Fury, so we had to take a photo together, and then run away before they started playing “The Chicken Dance.”

I did queue up and take photo for the DPB Costume Report, but, sadly, I wasn’t selected. There were so many awesome costumes, that mine really couldn’t compete. Any ideas if they would send me my photos? The only difficult thing about the beginning of the race was the grouping of the corrals. Corral G had far too many people and too wide a scope of paces that it was dangerous. Faster runners were practically pushing slower runners out of the way at the start.

IMG_9977-0.JPG Yes, East Coast S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Undercover

Disney Parks Blog revealed that fellow Avengers Hawkeye and Black Widow would be having an important mission during the Avengers Half, so I could not pass them up during the race. Unlike, Thor and Captain America, who have their own installations at the Disneyland Inventions Pavilion, these two are typically running around on other special top secret assignments. With few photo opportunities outside of the park property, I carved out some worth-the-wait-time for these two.

IMG_0011.JPGHelloooooo, Hawkeye! 

Black Widow represented the Ladies!

 It’s no big secret that I runDisney for fun, not for personal records. Fully aware that I neither properly trained for this race nor was I intending on bypassing the fun, I went in simply to complete not compete. Having visited Disneyland one other time for the Tinker Bell Half, I was unaware of the infamous Santa Ana Winds. For at least fifty percent of the race, we had the wind in our faces. This was great for all the capes and long, flowing tresses, but when paired with the gravel and sand, it turned into getting sand blasted for four miles. Between miles six and eight, along the Santa Ana River trail leading to Angels Stadium, the SAW whipped the sand off the dry river bed and we trotted slowly along the narrow path. It was probably the most frustrating part of the run.

The shining moment was at the 6.5 mile mark when the Club Cosplay gang awaited us. For at least a quarter of a mile, along a narrow biking path, quite possibly one of the best and committed cheering sections I have ever passed awaited us. The Avengers, along with a bevy of other comic book characters awaited us in amazingly detailed costumes and held out their hands for much needed high fives. I laughed, getting admonished by a spot on, Director Nick Fury! It’s my sincere hope that these folks show up for the Star Wars Half in January because after warming up with the 10K the day before, I’m going to need their channeling of The Force to see me through!

IMG_0013.JPG Director Fury and the Club Cosplay saved Mile 6.5!

After clearing Angels Stadium, the remainder of the race was a steady pace. At the last .1 mile, I threw what remaining energy I had and sprinted, breezing past the announcers’ stage and the assembled Avengers. With the pacing requirements and the spacing of the corrals, it was hard not to be one of the folks that got swept up. I am glad that I finished, but I need to sincerely work on my pacing if I plan of successfully completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in January.

With the terrible winds, it was no surprise that the Family Reunion area was being torn down as I crossed the finish line. I hoped to get a second chance to nab a character victory photo, but I was thankful that I got half of the team on the parks the day before, and the second half during the race.  I know that many folks were bummed out that there weren’t any post-race photo ops, Finisher Merch, or a dance party, but if the Disney Folks say it’s not safe to be there, listen to them. It’s like being on an airplane. If the flight attendant is sitting down and advising you to take your seat, just go with it. Safety at a race is just like safety on a plane: it is their number one customer service and priority. Don’t get me wrong. Making memories is important, but you want to make the right ones: happy and healthy ones. Do not waste your breath and their time by arguing about it or pitching a fit. Safety is a non-negotiable item.

Second Storming of The Castles? Mission Complete!

Race Split Times

  • 5K: 57:39 (Pace 18:34)
  • 10K: 1:37:26 (Pace 15:41)
  • 15K: 2:25:59 (Pace 15:40)
  • Finish: 3:21:27 (Pace 15:22)

After ambling past the finish line, I slowly made my way back through Downtown Disney, stopping to devour a bag of Wetzel’s Pretzel Bits before plodding my way home. I cannot thank Anaheim Resort Transportation enough for coordinating race weekend access to the parks area from the local hotels. I unwittingly went for a hotel by the price tag, and wound up nearly a mile from Disney Way and the entrance to the parks! I was fearing the long post-race walk home, but they came to my rescue. Chugging my post-race treats of chocolate milk and coconut water, followed by an amazing victory shower, I power napped and then hit the parks before meeting friends for dinner at House of Blues! I finally checked out The Golden Vine Winery, and later sipped a lovely California red at the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian Resort Hotel while I waited. I could easily make that part of my post-race routine.

 Oh, and if you look closely you might see me (…oh, and Black Widow’s there, too!)

IMG_0113.JPGResting with my laurel and Riesling at Sonoma Terrace.

Run Disney also included the footage in their “See Ya Real Soon!” Promo for next year!

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