Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Disney World Star Wars Dark Side

I've been procrastinating on this race review a bit and I think it's partly because there's so much that I just don't know where to start.  But I'm just going to sit down and start writing, so this may end up a bit jumbled.  I'm splitting it up so today's post will just be about the race itself and I'll do a later post about the expo and the Disney trip in general.

My slowest half marathon to date

Race day starts bright and early.  Well, not bright since I had my alarm set to wake up at 2:30 am so it was still dark.  That's crazy early but race excitement made it feel not too bad.  I had set out everything I needed the night before in the bathroom so I could roll out of bed and go get ready in the bathroom without disrupting Mike.  I had also put all the stuff I wanted to carry (clif bar for breakfast, sunblock, etc.) in a bag the night before so I could just grab it and go once I was ready.  I was out the door by 2:50 or so to walk to the bus stop.  We were staying at Saratoga Springs Resort, which is a Disney hotel and that meant they provided bus transportation to all the race stuff.

The walk to the bus was pretty well lit.  And there was a bus waiting when I got to the stop.  It was pretty full and left shortly after I got on.  We got shuttled to the Magic Kingdom parking lot and there were already a good amount of people there.  There were a bunch of character photo ops set up so I hopped in a line that didn't look too long.


From memory, they had Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, BB-8 and Kylo Ren.  BB-8 and Darth Vader seemed like the biggest lines.  They also had a backdrop of Jabba the Hut set up.  BB-8 and Darth Vader seemed to have the longest lines so I didn't get those.  But I did have time for 2 photos, Kylo Ren and Jabba the Hut, so I was pretty happy with that.  I probably could have gotten another one as well but at that point I decided to get off my feet and eat my breakfast.


So I found an empty bit of ground out of the way and where other people were sitting too.  I took my time eating my clif bar and applying sun block.  Oh yeah, I should mention that there was a heat advisory for this race and it was going to be hot and humid.  So I was careful with the sunblock because a burn was the last thing I needed.  Then I just had fun people watching and checking out the great costumes people had.

And they did announce the characters would be there after the race too

Around 4:15, I got up and walked over to the corrals.  I think they might have just opened up because there were a bunch of people walking over and I ended up near the beginning of Corral F.  The Corrals went from A to G but they were broken up into smaller waves.  I heard that corral F had 6 waves but I ended up in the first one which was great.  The race started right on time at 5:30 and I went off a couple minutes before 6am.  They had fireworks before each wave, and I loved it.  I loved the combination of the dark side music and the red and gold fireworks.  It really set the mood, especially because it was still dark.  And while we were running the first mile or so, later waves were going off so you could hear the fireworks behind us and see a red glow.  It kind of felt like we were running away from a space battle :)


The first 5 or so miles were on highway as we ran from the Magic Kingdom parking lot to the Animal Kingdom.  But they still made it fun.  There was one section where there were lasers effects and fight sounds and it seemed like we were in the middle of a battle.  I loved it (though I hate that they used smoke effects in a race please!) and this felt like a fun effect toward the beginning of the race.  I think there were also a couple character stops, R2D2 and ewoks, in this section.  I don't remember where all the photo ops were but I remember there was also Chewbaca and characters from Star Wars Rebels later in the race.  There was also a photo op with the Endor speeders, the emperor's throne, and the Hoth Ice Cave.  They all had pretty long lines so I enjoyed from afar but didn't stop for a photo.

Next we went into Animal Kindom through the back.  The sun had already come up at this point so it was light out but it was overcast so the sun didn't feel too bad.  However, I had been hydrating a lot and had to go to the bathroom, which I usually try to avoid during races.  The lines for bathrooms had been really long so I think everyone was in the same shape.  But I lucked out and spotted a bathroom (A real one) in the park without a line.  Score!  I think it was just timing because there was a line when I got out so I guess I managed to just hit it during a lull.

When I got out, I kept running and then saw Heather.  It was great to be able to hang out with her for a bit and chat since we were both doing run/walk intervals.  I peeled off after a bit since I saw a water stop and had to refill my water bottle.


Approximately mile 7 to 10 was back on the highway.  As we exited the Animal Kingdom, there were some people dressed up in various Star Wars costumes.  I don't think they were Disney but instead members of a fan group who came out in costumes to support the runners.  There were also some spectators on this stretch with great signs.  I definitely appreciated the support at this point.  It was getting hotter by now and I changed my 2 minute running/30 second walking intervals to 30 second/30 second intervals.  I had no time goal for this one with the heat and was just planning to have fun.  I also started pouring water over my head at the water stops.


It was great to run into Hollywood Studios next.  We weren't in there very long at all but it was a nice change of scenery from the highway.  And a lot of cast members were out cheering, which was nice.  The parked also opened up as we were running down the main drag on our way out.  It was cool to hear the opening announcements and see the guests coming in, though some of them had very confused looks on their faces as they saw us running out of the park.

Next we ran on the path between Hollywood Studios and the Boardwalk resort area.  I actually really like this stretch.  There are a lot of spectators and I like the feel of the boardwalk on my feet as a change from the asphalt.  But it is a narrow section and can get pretty congested.  I didn't mind as I just went with the flow around me but I know that other people reported being frustrated with the congestion in this section.  The sun got brighter around now too so I put on my sunglasses and definitely started walking more and just running when I could.  Speaking of spectators, there were three runners who clearly finished fast but then came back to the Boardwalk to cheer the rest of us on.  They were awesome, so energetic, and much appreciated!


There were also more Star Wars fans here cheering us on in costume.  They were definitely a highlight of the race as well.


Finally, we ran into Epcot and had around a mile or so to run in the park.  I was definitely flagging at this point (as you can see from my splits) and just wanted to be done.  But the race was long for me (13.4 miles) and I just felt like the 13 mile marker would never come.  But of course, it finally did.  I managed to cross the finish line with a smile on my face!

After you crossed, you were kept moving down the chute.  They had water for everyone right away as well as cooling towels.  Those towels felt like the best thing ever.  We also got a banana and a snack box, and of course, the medal!


I kept walking through and got to the family reunion area, where Mike met me with a beer in hand :)  We shared the beer as we walked to the bus area and thankfully, a bus to our hotel was right there waiting.  We got on the bus, it waited a couple minutes until it was full, and then we went straight back to the hotel.

I thought the logistics were as smooth as they could be for a race of this size.  I had no problems with the bus transportation and while there were some spots that were crowded, it never felt too bad to me as I was just planning to go with the flow anyway.  The highways and Epcot felt pretty easy to maneuver in anyway.  It was just the boardwalk section and maybe parts of Animal Kingdom that felt overly congested to me.

Ready for a post-race brunch with my compression sleeves and medal

Whew!  That was a long review.  The summary is that I thought this was a great race and I loved the theming.  But I think this is definitely a race for Star Wars fans.  If you're not into Star Wars, this is probably not the race for you.  Especially because I'm assuming April in Orlando is almost always going to be hot and humid. But I came away from the race wanting to do it again at some point!