Friday, September 1, 2017

50 for 50: 21 - Walk a 5K with Cousin Roni

Cousin Roni likes fitness.  She also likes Disney.  She comes to Disneyland every year to run the races.  5K one day; 10K the next; Half-Marathon the following morning.  A couple years ago, I met her at Disneyland after the Half, and she tried to convince me to run it with her the next year.  I negotiated this down to "walk the 5K."

And I wasn't even able to do that.  I trained and practiced and got fit and then went for a trial walk in crappy shoes and did some bad thing to a ligament and next thing I knew I was waving a podiatrist's note and trying to get a refund from the runDisney people.  (You cannot get a refund from the runDisney people.)

We agreed to try again this year.  I trained and practiced somewhat less.  I started late and didn't really discover (until I tried training) that the injury had never really healed -- I'd just avoided it by the simple expedient of wearing comfortable shoes and not really, y'know, WALKING.  I got to the point where I could walk the distance, although not as fast as Disney's desired pace.  And my selected shoes for the adventure -- the only ones with the necessary combination of arch support and NOT irritating the ol' injured ligament -- were a pair of Ecco walking sandals I haven't exactly broken in.  But a week before the race, I took 'em out for a test run (walk) of the necessary distance.  Result:  finished, but too slow, and some blisters.  OK?  I'm ... ready?

Packed a bag for the weekend with a stack of blister wraps and a rainbow assortment of post-race theme-park-walking shoes to choose from, picked up Roni up at the airport and drove down to Disneyland.

Some day I will look back on this blog and not remember the experience, so let me add right here what is totally obvious to most of my friends reading this:  OMG, it is so hot.  It is triple-digit heat.  It is "walk slower and stay hydrated so's you don't fall down" hot.  I don't know whether they'll do it, but it's the sort of weather where I almost expect Disneyland to have free water stations in the parks (not just on the race) just for safety.  "Fuck, it's hot" is what I'm trying to say here.

We sign our waivers, pick up our race bibs, have some dinner, and attempt to engineer Roni's costume.

We... didn't really think through costumes this year.  We'd toyed with this particular combination last year, and (in the absence of a workable blue hair spray that would have enabled us to go as Joy and Sadness) we fell back on it.  But we were doing this on the cheap, so we sort of engineered Roni's look out of some scarves and an old sarong.  Girlfriend was literally held together with safety pins.  Meantime, I looked amusing, but nobody knew who the hell I was dressed as.  (Although, once I told some racers we met, they were all, "Now that I see the Hamilton pin, I get it.")

Probably because of the heat, the races start at 5:00.  Which was FINE.  But they told you to get there at 4:00, which was substantially less fine; and we woke up at 3:15, which was just Hell No.  I am much more likely to see 3:15 from the "stay up late" side than the "wake up early" side, and the sad part is that -- despite efforts to go to bed early -- I kind of did.

Wake up; dress up; stretch; walk down to the start line; get in our corral (why does all this walking not count?) and ... wait.  We stood around for about a half hour listening to someone trying to entertain the crowd (we were in corral D; entertainment was near the start line at corral A -- the attempts to get us all pumped up did not travel all the way back to where we were).  Met some nice people in the corral, though.  Good costumes, too.

The best thing I can say about standing around for a half hour at 4:30 in the morning is that, by the time it's over, you actually WANT to start racing.

We here take a break for a small collection of phrases that came out of my mouth this morning, for what I can only assume is the first time in my life:
"Oh, it's 3:00.  Thank God."
"I've got beard on my hand."
"Is your skirt chafing?"
"For fuck's sake, start the race already!"

I was VERY worried about finishing on time.  Disney wants you to keep a 16 minute/mile pace (or 15, if you're actually going to stop for photos).  I've never walked a 16 minute/mile, much less 3.1 of them.  But they build in some level of a cushion before they sweep walkers.  The FIRST cushion is when you start.  They put the 16 minute/mile pace keepers at the back of the last corral.  I figured if we started in an earlier corral, that could buy us a few more minutes.  So we signed up to start with the 14 minute/mile crowd.  I had some visions of starting the race and immediately getting mowed down by racers who were solidly 5 minutes/mile faster than me.  This did not happen.  We started mid-pack and continued mid-pack.  Conclusion:  MOST PEOPLE in the corral lied about their pace.

But it was pretty clear that I'd finish this thing on time.  They say that they take video of the race from 5:00 to 6:20.  I didn't know how much after 6:20 they kept the finish line open, but I knew I could finish in an hour (a zippy 20 minute/mile pace).  Our corral started by 5:20, so I was confident I wouldn't get swept.  So, yay.

I concede a surprising amount of emotion at the race start and finish.  I'd been planning this for two years; got delayed by injury; was operating on no sleep; was getting strange looks for my costume; had blisters; had to pee since 4:00; really needed some tea; and, oh yeah, both me and Roni are fighting colds.  So I wasn't exactly my usual cool, collected, intellectual self.  In truth, I would've been hard-pressed to put together a compound sentence and remember where it started.  So, yeah, I got stupidly misty-eyed at the start and finish of the Disneyland 5K.  Don't tell Roni.

Because Disney was behind this, the whole race was very Disneyfied.  Through the parks.  California Adventure was lit up pretty; Fantasyland had a bunch of the rides going even though nobody was riding them (empty teacups spinning!  empty Dumbos flying!) and they had photo ops with many Pixar characters throughout.  (And race photographers taking pictures and telling you "Don't stop for selfies in the middle of the course" even though annoying people were stopping for selfies in the middle of the course.)  Roni kept stopping to take pictures of me (while I kept my steady pace going -- impulse power all the way) and then she'd jog to catch up.

But, also, along the way, lots of Disney employees and/or volunteers are cheering you on.  (At one point, the race gets kind of, er, smelly, as you walk in a "behind the magic" sort of area where the garbage is collected.  I had just started wondering why they walked us through the Disney Dump when I saw a cheerful sign encouraging us on from the Disney Custodial Staff and saw a couple of custodians, in uniform, waving at the racers.  And I totally did a 180 on it, thinking that it was genuinely cool that Disney included the custodial staff in the cheering-on-the-racers thing.)  Many of the Disney peeps were wearing Mickey gloves and offering the racers "High-Fours!" as we went by.  Spectators can also pay to be part of a ChEAR squad (see what they did there?) to stand along the race path and wave encouraging signs at you.  Found the nerds near the end, waving a sign that said "Basically, run!" with a little TARDIS next to it.  (Had a Harry Potter sign, too, but I couldn't read it.)  Love ya, nerds.

So, we finish the race.  (6:19 a.m. and 38 seconds.)

 The finishing area is where they give you all your free stuff, and I took one of everything.  (Free bottled water!  Free Powerade!  Free box o' treats!  Free cooling towel!  Free banana!)  Consumed Powerade and banana before we even left the finishing area/parking lot.  We weave through the crowds and back to Downtown Disney. ("I'm still walking.  Why am I still walking?") The race path takes you down Downtown Disney and we need to go back, so we're pretty much crossing the race path.  We have to wait for some racers to cross and, as it turns out, we are waiting for the Very Last Racer.  Big dude, just pushing himself as hard as he can.  Behind him ... RIGHT behind him ... is a golf cart carrying a few racers I can only assume were either swept or gave up.  Behind that is a golf cart with a Disney employee who has picked up all the cones along the race path.  The twenty or so of us waiting to cross the race path just let out a huge cheer for last racer guy.  Doing this race was no picnic for me, but it's unbelievably hard for him, and he's like 2 tenths of a mile away from finishing.  Roni and I are pleased that Disney is letting him finish.  (I check the clock to see how much time they really gave you.  Looks like they close the finish line right around 6:40.)

We stopped at the REAL happiest place on earth (the Disneyland Starbucks), filled up on tea, and came back to the hotel for, in no particular order:  bathroom, shower, blister-check, and utter crashing.

For me, the weekend is now a couple of a fun days at Disneyland with my cousin.  Cousin Roni has two more 5:00 a.m. races.

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