Sunday, May 3, 2015

Inaugrual Star Wars Weekend - Pre-race and 10k

Disney has been expanding their race weekends with the addition of Avengers and now Star Wars.  Unlike Avengers, Star Wars was setup to support a challenge, called the Rebel Challenge.  Like normal challenges by Disney (Glass Slipper, etc), this was a combination of the 10k and half marathon.  Unlike the other challenges, this race weekend was a week after Disney's biggest event, their WDW Marathon weekend.  This is significant because many of the racers will have run at least one of the four races in Disney World before flying out to the west coast and running these.  That would include me, as I participated in the Dopey Challenge for the second year in a row.

Since Sallie had just finished her first marathon, she would not be racing in Disneyland, so she headed home early Wednesday after her race.  I stayed a bit long, eventually leaving late Wednesday night and arriving in Los Angeles in the evening.  After arriving in Anaheim, I headed to my hotel, unpacked, and went to bed.  I knew I needed to be up early Thursday to make sure I got to the Expo for any inaugural exclusives, which would not last past the first few hours.

Star Wars Weekend Expo

I woke up at 5am, with the intent of reaching the Expo by 6:30am.  The Expo wouldn't open until 9:30, but I knew there would already be a line.  I got dressed and drove over to the Expo.  While it was within walking distance, I felt lazy and drove anyways.  Once there, we were directed up a flight of stairs to a holding room.  Here we would wait in line until the Expo opened.  To all of the Expo guests surprise, Disney decided to show the original series to the waiting crowd.  By the time I got in line, they had already started Empire Strikes Back.

As we got close to 9am, they asked us to stand up and get ready to head down to the Expo, giving us what we thought would be an early entrance to the Expo itself.  Instead, they were actually moving us to the second queue line, down in the expo.

From here we waited, as they let in about 20 people every 5 minutes.  Unlike the first holding area, we where not treated to the movies.  Instead, they just projected a marketing slide for the race weekend, which was a little disappointing.

I finally got into the Expo and the Official Race Shop.  Here there was a mass of Star Wars race gear, which I grabbed a great deal of.  Once I headed out of the Official Merchandise area, I wandered to the packet pickup to retrieve my bibs for the next two races, as well as Sallie's Cheer Squad passes and accessories.  Each ramp to and from the packet pickup area had rugs designed specifically for the race.


From start to finish of the Expo, Disney kept you in the mindset of Star Wars and I was getting excited for two races I expected to be horrible at, after last weeks four race weekend.  Now it was off to lunch, then to meet up with Coach Shannon at the Wookie Welcome Party later that night!

Wookie Welcome Party

After the park closed Thursday night, they allowed us into the park to hang out with the Disney Star Wars character over at Tomorrow Land.

The party hosted a large amount of runners, with deserts and drink throughout the park.

They also allowed us to ride any of the Tomorrow Land rides, which Shannon and I took advantage of.  We both rode the Star Wars Tour ride at least four times, and I jumped on the Space Mountain ride once.

In the center of the festivities they had a stage were Jedi Chip and Jedi Dale were dancing it up to the music being mixed by the park DJs.

Every hour they would have some of the Star Wars characters come up to the stage for a skit, from the movies to the animated shows like Star Wars: Rebels.  All in All it was a great night of deserts, rides and Star Wars fanfare!

Friday Pre-Race Wandering

Friday was a relaxing day for me.  With the Expo out of the way, and all of the races in the challenge starting Saturday, I had the day free to wander Anaheim.  I went out for a short run to stretch out the legs and get a feel for how they had recovered from last weekend.  They were a bit sluggish, but that was to be expected.  I then headed out to a local Boardgaming store to see what Southern California offered their gaming community.  After a bit of lunch and some preparation for the next two days of racing,I headed off to LAX to pick up Sallie and head back to the hotel.

Saturday Storm Trooper 10k

The morning came early, though not as early as last weekend.  Since most of the hotels in Disneyland are within walking distance of the race start, I didn't need to get up a 3am for a race at 5:30.  Instead, I got up at 4:30am, grabbed a quick snack, and wandered down to the lobby to meet Shannon and Sallie.  The course for this 10k was different then previous 10k courses, as it started on the streets and over the hills for the first 2 miles, then head back into the park, where it would stay for the rest of the race.

We then walked over to the starting line, where both of us would start in Corral A.  Shannon and I were al set in costumed for this race.  Shannon had an awesome Ewok costume, while I was dressed as Luke on Dagoba, with Yoda on my back.

As we entered Corral A, we could see the starting line, where they had a huge screen that kept showing clips of the original movies as we waited.

Eventually, the announcers came onto a stage near the starting line to do a few skits and then release us.  This would be the beginning of my attempt at pacing.  I knew I wanted to stop at as many characters as possible, so I needed to make sure my pace was controllable and comfortable.  Corral A had a ranch of elite to middle of the pack paces, and I set myself up near the front of the corral.  It was still quite dark as the race start loomed.

Miles 1-2

With the race started, I setup a pace of 8 minute miles.  This would allow me to get a good feel for my capabilities, without worrying too much about burning out for tomorrows race.  If I felt good after the first two miles, I would speed up a bit.  These two miles were on roads in Anaheim and they started at the entrance on the road next to the Expo.  We then headed out to Ball Rd and turned right onto Harbor Avenue.  This part crossed over two bridges, which were considered the hills for the race.  Once we were on Harbor Avenue, it was straight and flat until we got to the entrance of Disneyland.  My legs started off feeling tired and a bit weak, but the overpasses quickly woke them up.  I had some good discussions with fellow racers and we came to the entrance and headed through the turnstiles to the Magic Kingdom.  At this point I felt good enough to start pushing the pace a bit.  We actually entered the attractions a 1.75 miles into the race.

Miles 2-3

Once we entered Magic Kingdom, we headed to Frountierland.  We would run through the main paths there, past Tom Sawyers Island and on to Fantasyland.  The course was flat, with only minor quick bumps for hills, but there was a lot of turns that were tight.  As we reached Tomorrowland, I was averaging a 7:30 minute mile and felt good.  I was chatting with a few racers about the lighting of the different sections of the park until we came to Toontown.  From here we would enter the back lot of Disneyland.

Miles 3-5

The back lots are always an interesting place to run.  You have the opportunity to see the behind the scenes activities of the park, repairing attractions, creating new art, and just interesting random artifacts.  This also meant that we could not take photos, which was odd, as one of the cooler things Disney did for this part of the race was to project different symbols and art onto the walls.  Things like the Imperial seal, Rebel emblems, Droid silhouettes, and other fun things. My pace was still averaging 7:30 minute miles as we reentered the parks at California Adventures.  After the longer, straighter parts of the back lot, we were headed back into curves and sharp turns.

Now halfway through California Adventures, we headed to Paradise Island.  I knew this would be a bit straighter and flat, so I was expecting a kick up in pace, as we only had two miles left.  I pushed my pace to 7:14 minute miles as I came to the 4.5 mile mark, Paradise Pier.  There at the entrance of the bridge stood Boba Fett himself.  This was the first real character we had run into, and he had a line, but I had to stop!

 It took about a minute to wait and then get the photo, and I was off.  I had been running with another runner from our area who had dropped a bit in pace through California Adventure.  My delay allowed him to catch up and we agreed we would kick the pace to 7:16 from here and finish strong.

Miles 5-6.2

From here we took off, weaving a bit through races as we pushed to the end.  There was a bit more weaving until we got to the back lot of California Adventures, where it straightened out, eventually dumping us into the parking area for the park.  From here we would circle around to Disney Wat, with is a parking lot road for Disney Cast.  This would be the last bit of road on the course, before we came back to some parking lots and to the finish line near the Expo and Disney Downtown.  We kept the pace at a 7:15 minute mile until we got to the last stretch, which was the entrance to Downtown from the parking lot.  I bid my buddy good luck and kicked up my pace to the end.  I averaged a 6:45 minute mile pace until the 6 mile mark, where a sprinted at a 4:44 minute a mile pace to the end.  Sallie was waiting for me on the other side of the finish line, where she pointed out that Darth Goofy was at the finish line giving high fives and I had just blown right by him.  It was still dark as I crossed the line at 46:40.

Cheering and After the Race

Once I got through the gauntlet of medals, snacks, and racing retreat areas, I headed back to the finish line to cheer on Coach Shannon.  Other racers were out there as well, including Sean Astin, many with amazing costumes.

Courtesy of Karen Chu
As Coach Shannon came into view, we screamed and cheered and watched as she triumphantly crossed the finish line.  Now it was time to meet up near the Runners area stage.  With it finally becoming light out, it was time for breakfast and some park walking.

 Knowing that we had another race tomorrow, we decided to load up on some carbs and protein, heading to Black Bear Diner for a large and tasty breakfast.

After we finished gouging ourselves, Coach Shannon headed off to meet some friends and family, while Sallie and I walked California Adventures.  After a day of running, parks, and food, we hit the sack for a big day tomorrow.