Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hail to the Princess!

My wife, Chris, and I have taken our running shoes on more than one vacation over the last three years, and we'd stayed overnight to run some races that were just outside of a normal morning drive, such as Baltimore or Philly, but we'd never before taken a real vacation in which the primary purpose until my wife signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Florida which took place this past weekend.

Our adventure began as more of a misadventure when arrived at BWI to find that our connecting flight from Long Island to Orlando, was canceled due to a high wind advisory that had shut down the Long Island airport all day. We were put on a 2:50 flight that stopped at Norfolk, VA, but we would not have to change planes. An inconvenience, but a relatively minor one: we were stuck at the airport but would arrive at Orlando only two hours later than originally scheduled.

So we thought. We browsed the many shops in Terminals A and B, bought some magazines, and had a nice lunch at the Silver Diner in the concourse. A good time was had by all. Until we got to our gate and our plane kept not landing. Apparently, due to high winds it had circled BWI for 40 minutes before diverting to Dulles. It was not able to return to BWI until after 5:30, and we weren't in the air until approximately 6:30 -- two hours later than we should have been in Orlando.

So there went our plans to visit Downtown Disney that evening; we arrived at our hotel, the All-Star Sports Resort at after 11 and were able to grab a quick dinner at the resort's food court and a drink at the pool bar before going to bed. At least we got enjoy the warm Florida evening for a little while.

On Saturday morning, we ate a tasty breakfast at the hotel and headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports, which was nearby our hotel, for packet pickup and the chance for my wife to grab some Princess Half Marathon gear.

We spent the afternoon at Epcot, mostly in the World Showcase section of the park, where we ate a delicious carb-loading dinner in fake Italy, and found that Disney had invented a new character, allegedly Mickey's teddy bear, which doesn't appear in any movies or stories, that exists solely to be bought and dressed in outfits from every "country" and all over the Disney empire. It gave us something we'd make fun of for the rest of the trip.

Because the Princess Half Marathon takes place on the access roads and grounds of two of the biggest theme parks in the country, if not the world, there are some logistical challenges for runners. We were advised that my wife should be on the bus to the staging area outside Epcot by 3am, and she had to be in her corral by 5:00, even though her wave was to begin at 6:21. This meant we got up at 2:15.

In hindsight, it seemed like this was overkill, as we were left standing around for over an hour before she left for her corral, and I headed out to grab a spectating space near the starting line. Each wave departed to fireworks, which was cool, but I watched 17,000 women -- and a few guys -- run or walk by with no sign of Chris from my not-so-great vantage point. Meanwhile, a cool, humid morning gave way to a warm morning. What was pleasant for spectators must have felt like 100 degrees to the runners who had trained in more northern climates like Pennsylvania.

I took the monorail (MONORAIL...MONORAIL...MONORAIL!) to the Transportation Center stop, a hub where passengers park and can board or switch between the Magic Kingdom line and the Epcot line. While on the monorail, I got my first glimpse of Chris, who was probably at about mile two at that point, because soon after arriving at the Transportation Center I got the runner tracking text that she had reached the 5K point. I had a spot by the fence outside the Transportation Center, and saw her running up. She stopped very briefly to say hi and was then on her way.

I took a short walk across to the Polynesian resort while Chris ran through the Magic Kingdom. I was starting to think I'd missed her in the crowd of runners, and I looked up from my phone and the "Chris Tracker" sheet with her estimated mile times to calculate whether I should move on, and I happened to look up and see her approaching. It was mile 8 and she looked great!

I took the monorail (IS THERE A CHANCE THE TRACK MAY BEND? NOT TO WORRY MY HINDU FRIEND!) back to Epcot, and waited at mile 13. Soon, she approached and ran by to the finish of her first half marathon!

I always knew I had married a Princess, but now she had the big shiny medal to prove it.

(Unfortunately, the coach did not go to the finish line.)

Not only did she run an awesome race under some pretty adverse conditions, between getting up at 2am and running in whether 50 degrees hotter than she trained in, she spent the rest of the day hiking around Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Congratulations, my Princess. You have waited patiently for me at more finish lines than I can count -- I'll cheer you on any time!

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