Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2014

Ok, this post has nothing to do with gaming but I wanted to post this some where and this blog drew the short straw.

My wife signed my up for this race since she knew that if she didn't she would be going alone and she didn't want to go alone. The Tinkerbell Half Marathon is a Disney race held in Disneyland every January that is marketed towards women. Men are not allowed in the first corral and get no medals nor prizes. As a result of the 13000 participants this year only about 1500 were men. Note I wrote "participants" and not "racers" or "competitors". It is a timed race but the vast majority are not out there to break any records, in fact I would go so far to say the vast majority do not even run.

I have to say the race is very well organized. It starts at 5am but there were thousands already present when we arrived just after 4AM. The race is divided into 5 corrals. When you registered you were asked to submit a previous run time from another race. They used that time to place you in the appropriate corral. The faster you are the closer you start to the front. As I said earlier even though I can run a half marathon about 50 minutes faster than my wife she started in corral A and I was back in B. I'm not sure I understand the logic of not letting the men be in A. Someone told me that it was so that a woman would be the first to cross the finish line but if that is so they needed to give Corral A a bigger head start since even with an 8 minute lead over the men, a man was still the first to cross. One guy I talked to said that last year the men had to start in Corral C which was a nightmare since he spend the first half of the race trying to run around slow women running or worse walking in packs. He still finished 9th overall so I guess it wasn't that bad.

I think it is a result of different objectives. If it's a real race and I am being timed and I am going to go full speed and run the best race I can. My wife first goal was to get lots of good pictures with Disney characters; a decent finish time was secondary. They should put the people who actually intend to run at the front and let the rest follow behind.

There was good security at the starting line. I guess Boston scared organizers last year and I saw several sniffer dogs at the start and again at the end. Security also ensure everyone was in the correct corral. You could move back but not forward. I saw one guy get escorted back to B from A just before the race started. Did he really think he would not stand out in the group of all women?

Apparently slow people at the back in Corral E complain that they might not have enough time to get pictures and still have time to finish walking the course. My response is "Run bitches!" but I'm not the most empathetic of people.

As I said, Corral A left at 5am and then we slowly moved up to the starting line where they held us for 8 minutes. Then we were allowed to begin as they moved up the groups behind us which they staggered as well. The first part of the race consists of running around the north perimeter of Disneyland. The streets are closed to traffic and since I was at the front of the pack in Corral B it was a nice start. Some people passed me early on but I'd be seeing most of them again. Eventually on the far side of Disneyland we entered the park through an employee entrance, went through a tunnel and then found ourselves in Disney California Adventure which is to the south of Disneyland. By this point I was moving into the back of the mass of female runners from Corral A. Running through the park was kinda cool but at the same time a pain in the ass. There was lots to look at but the paths were fairly narrow and women would randomly start to walk, pull a 90' turn to get a picture with a Disney character, and worst of all were the water stations where all of the female runners would slow down and grab a drink (why?) without moving off to the side. I had a couple of near misses and actually clipped a rather svelte Buzz Lightyear whose stupid wings hit me in the face.

We also ran through the backend of the park. It was neat being in areas the public doesn't normally see like of some of the studios and offices but I have to admit I was focused more on my pace than anything else.

Finally around the 10km mark we passed out of the park into the dark streets of Anaheim. Ironically as I left the park I had also left behind the bulk of Corral A. It was so peaceful running down Walnut street I have to admit it was probably my favorite. My pace increased significantly and yet my heart rate went down. There was no more dodging and weaving on tight turns in the park it was just long straight roads, cool night air and the occasional light breeze. As I moved down West Broadway I caught up to a younger Asian fellow who congratulated me on my race. I wished the same to him and then he picked up his pace a bit and we pretty much ran together for the rest of the race.

There was a slight downhill slant to the last few km (or at least I convinced myself there was) so I kept picking up my pace. When my Garmin beeped 20km, I decided to go kick it up one last notch. I pulled ahead of my running buddy and did my best to sprint to the finish (although it turns out my sprint was not all that much faster than what I'd be doing previously). I kept going around these corners only to find that I wasn't there yet. I could hear the finish line in the distance and I knew I was close but it seemed it was always one turn away. Finally I passed two more females and there it was! I did hear the announcer call out my name and where I was from, but I was pretty much blind at this point and all I could see was the last corner and the finish line peaking out over the spectators.  I crossed at 1:31:41 chip time or 1:39:57 gun time which was fast enough to make me 26th or 28th overall depending on which standings you look at (the standings on the Tinkerbell site are broken up by sex and division which make it really hard to compare to the amalgamated list). I found my running buddy in the standings. He finished only a second behind me but technically finished ahead of me since he started a minute later.

There were lots of photographers in the finishing area so I got one done and then went to get my food and drink. The photos are ridiculously expensive. At the Calgary Half last year, marathon photo harassed me for months with increasingly betters deals to buy a picture. If I have any decent ones I'll hold off a while before I shell out my hard earned cash for a digital picture.

The finishing area is well set up. Lots of room and an obvious progression. Even later when it got busier I'm sure it would have not been too congested. The bag pick-up was sorted by last name which would have been good had I checked anything. I was eatting my banana as my wife texted me she was at the 16km mark. I wandered over to the finishing area knowing it would be at least 30 minutes before she showed up.

I am amazed at some of the costumes people run in. Tons of women put on a shiny skirt and many had fairy wings strapped to their back. Some guys dressed up as Tinkerbell as well. There was one guy dressed up as Minnie mouse holding a camera. Apparently he is super fast but must have stopped for lots of pictures or was taking it easy since I beat him by about 15 minutes. I saw guys dressed up as Jasmine from Aladdin, Captain Hook, and one guy running in a 3 piece suit with a name tag that said Walt. It's neat how many people really get into it. My wife finished with a 2:20:00 which is pretty good since she spent a total of 12 minutes doing pictures.

My favorite part of the race was definitely the second half. It was faster and more relaxed at the same time. Running through the park is cool and all but if you want to enjoy that part of the race why not just lollygag your way through the 10km race the day before which takes place solely in Disneyland. I just found running through a horde of slow moving sight seeing women stressful.

If you are wondering what the actual course looks like you can find the route HERE

Overall I really liked the race. It was very expensive however and I can't see myself doing it again anytime soon. I'm running the Princess Half marathon at Disney World next month so we'll see how the two events compare. It's another female oriented race so I'm sure many of my current complaints will apply. It may have gotten hopelessly crowded and congested later on but we didn't see any. Of course we had time to finish, return to our hotel room, finish packing, sit around with our feet up for a while and were down waiting for the shuttle to airport when the last walkers crossed the finish line.

Personally I was very happy with my run. I came in 19th once on a 10km race but there were only a total of
500 runners. This race had over 13,000. My 26th place finish would be more impressive if it was a more athletic event but I'm still pretty happy I knocked 5 minutes off my best time. I think some of it had to do with perfect running conditions: temperature about 10C, no sun, no wind, no hills and it is at sea level which makes a big difference (Calgary is at about 1100m elevation).

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