Bonk's Blog

Star Wars race in Disneyland!

Sunday, January 24, 2016
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... I was looking at races for my 2016 schedule and I had received an email from RunDisney regarding their 2016 Star Wars race in Disneyland. Once, I mentioned to my husband (who is a big fan of Star Wars) we were on a mission to get us registered and book our trip for January 17, 2016 to a couple of places I love, Disney parks and California.

We visited the RunDisney expo on Friday to pick up our packet and check out their Star Wars merchandise store. The expo was well organized and the Star Wars store had some great shirts but with our CAD$ being so... low we could not justify our cost for the shirts. The Race shirt that we received is great in design, fit and color so we were happy to have that as a souvenir. We did take some pictures and spent some time in Disneyland before heading back to our hotel to rest before a very long day in the park.

We spent the entire day on Saturday in Disneyland and I was surprised by how small and crowded it is compared to Disneyworld. Jason and I have visited Disneyworld and Universal many times and I think you could fit 3 Disneylands inside Disneyworld. Once, I saw the tighter space and walking areas I knew the running portion in the park was going to have some tight squeezes. We enjoyed our day in the park and the Star Wars rides in Tomorrowland. We left the park late and settled in for a few hours of sleep before awaking at 3:30 am to get ready for our race.

I have always loved the ride "it's a small world!"

It is Disneyland's 60th Anniversary!

The hotel provided shuttles to and from the Park for the race so we caught our shuttle at 4:30 am and we arrived with just enough time to get some pictures, washroom (which I will mention were the shortest lines I have ever experienced for porta potties pre race.) We then proceeded to our assigned coral which was A. I saw many runners in our pack and I knew that there were 1000's who had not placed themselves into their assigned corrals and just like many other races I have ran people want to put themselves as close to the front as they can no matter what their current or goal running pace is.

This are the 1000's of runners behind me with many more that loop under the bridge to the other side.

Waiting for the race to start!

The elites were off and we crossed the start line around 5:37 am and I can say that is one of the slowest starts I have ever had. The first 2-3 km. were so congested and many people were walking or walker/runners that most of the time I was walking or running a 7 minute km. After a few km's. some things I did notice was that it was very dark, the ground was slippery in spots, it was congested and I could not see much because I was trying very hard to not run into someone or many times we were stopped completely.  Some things I did enjoy was the music, lights, and just the overall feeling of "Disney" and knowing I was running through the park.

There were many opportunities for photos throughout the park as well with many different characters that showed up. We never stopped for any pictures with characters because there were long lineups of people waiting for pictures. 
The run starts with taking you through the back of Disneyland and then I got very confused as to where I was. I think the darkness and the fact that I could not see much in front of me except for other runners had me disorientated. I noticed that you do not run through the entire park but it is mixed between back lots and some of the park. I did enjoy running through Frontierland, Disney castle and Downtown Disney. 
I am going to mention some things I noticed that would improve the experience for many of us so I hope other runners will be aware of. I have noticed in the last few years that many of the races I have ran (especially if they are big) many runners are not placing themselves into their assigned corrals or waves. I realize that they may think it does or should not matter if I am walking or walking/running at a slower pace than the coral requires. When thousands are doing this it can become a problem. I literally ran into two people who had decided to stop right in the middle of the path with no concern of the thousands moving behind them. This could have been a major injury for all of us if I had not been running slow. I was not there to "race" this course but I also did not appreciate having to walk in many places or run much slower because of people not in their correct corals. I would never consider running in a much faster coral or with the front of the pack. I know I cannot run that pace and I also respect that they do not need the extra km's weaving around slower runners. This is a safety concern for all runners as well as the energy it takes to bob and weave and never find your "pace" group or wave that you can just settle into and run. In the last few years I have ran significant extra mileage from trying to get around walkers and slower paced runners than my pace and I am sure many runners can relate. I hope that races will start to have a much stricter policy and enforcement of correct coral/pace placing. Unfortunately Disneyland did not enforce this and it is very evident in the park. It is great that many people have embraced running or walking and want to participate, I just hope that everyone will learn and respect proper race etiquette and stick to their pace group.

Once we entered Disney California adventure the paths got wider and the runners started thinning out so I finally had some room to relax, run and check out the scenery. I really enjoyed this part of the park and I think it finally set in that I am running in Disneyland - yahoo!
We left the parks at 8 km. and hit the streets full out or at least running full out for 2 km. I think my legs and brain were itching to be free and finally run under a 6 minute km. It was still dark and chilly but a great temperature for running. Once on the streets there are some spectators which I give major kudos for coming out in the dark at 5:30 am to cheer us on. This is one thing I have noticed and love about California races, the spectators are always full of smiles, energy and cheering at any time of the morning. 
There were some Disney and Star Wars characters along the course but again the line of spectators and runners waiting to take pictures was long so we just kept running. There were many aid stations and they looked well stocked (I carry my own fuel.) I also enjoyed the various bands and musical entertainment which played all types of music throughout the course.

I loved these Storm Troopers and all of their high fives!

The course is flat, and I guess you could say fast once you are out of the park, although if you run too fast you may miss some great photo ops and experiences. You can see by this picture that in our pace the pack of runners did thin out. We passed runners from the beginning to the end and at least it made me think I was getting faster which was fun! 
Once we ran past our hotel I knew we were almost at the finish line to which I was happy to finish but sad the experience was over. I wished and hoped for more photo ops with Disney and Star Wars characters at the finish but they never appeared while we were there. We finished in a parking lot and we were immediately given our medals which are amazing. Then you are handed a box of snacks, water, and other food before proceeding to a very large parking lot to gather your bearings, eat, washroom, get more pictures and celebrate! We did not stick around for very long as we had to get back to our hotel to catch our plane home. I would recommend you stay and enjoy the park post race as I think it would be a fun way to celebrate and still wear your costume or medal.

I really enjoyed the overall experience of running the Star Wars race in Disneyland. It is well organized from start to finish which you would expect from Disney and there are some great photo ops if you take the time. There were many runners in costumes and I loved looking at them which varied from Disney characters to Star Wars and tutus. Along the course I saw some great outfits that I am not sure how people ran in them but they must have had fun! I am not a costume gal as I like to run in clothing that is super comfortable and functional as I need all the help I can get to run my decent race.

 I would recommend you put this race on your bucket list and remember to stay in the moment and run for the experience rather that racing the clock. I am very happy that we were relaxed about our overall pace and we took the time in the park to enjoy the scenery and once we hit the pavement we settled into our steady state and just enjoyed the rest of the course. 

I hope to someday run the DisneyWorld full marathon in Florida and perhaps I will think about wearing a tutu or wings which may help give me more speed.

 I always feel blessed when I can run and participate in a race and experience the many different lessons that many "runners who race" can relate to. Running has given me the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

I have mentioned before that I am a true California girl in my heart and when I leave sunny and beautiful California a part of my heart always stays there.
May you keep dreaming, and seeking out places or galaxies far, far away....

Always in health and happiness, Keri                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Big Sur International Marathon review

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bixby Bridge (from the Big Sur Marathon website)

The day had finally come to run the Big Sur International Marathon that we had registered for in February 2014. It was hard for me to believe when my alarm went off at 2:45 am on Sunday April 26 that another race was upon me and this was going to get crossed off my "bucket list" for races.  We stayed at the Marriot Monterey which was one of the host hotels and they were great with accommodating the thousands of runners pre, during and post marathon events. There is no public access to the start line so we received our bus tickets at the expo and we were scheduled to be picked up between 4:00-4:15 am hence the very early rise. 2:45 am came fast and before I knew it I was getting dressed, taking my Isagenix shake and walking to the shuttle bus. The BSIM website gave many great tips and one of them was to wear warm clothing before the start which would then be given to a charity. I am so thankful we had brought some pants, and jackets to wear as we had a very comfortable 1 hour bus ride to the start and then we proceeded to wait in a corralled area with thousands of runners in the dark and cold for approximately 1.5 hours before the start. The waiting area was well organized considering the thousands of runners in a tight space, there were lots of porta potties and most runners like us found any spot to sit and huddle together to keep warm on the ground and curbs. 

Finally at 6:30 am Jason and I got rid of our extra clothes and lined up at the start line while thankfully the sun was beginning to show and now the reality was sinking in that my day was here! Our wave started at 6:45 am and as we crossed the start line, I was surprised by how stiff, cold and shaky I was feeling, my legs felt like jello and my toes were numb, I just kept hoping this would pass once I got warmed up and it was not a forecast of how my race was going to go. 

The first 10 km. (I will be going back and forth from miles to km. according to what the signs were saying and by my garmin) was an easy and gradual downhill that again the race had warned us many times as well while we waited to start to watch how fast you run your downs because as we know that is where the quads will come back later to scream at you! Because I was stiff and cold it worked in my favor because I had to run slower to allow my legs to warmup and come to life. Jason wanted to run faster with many of the other runners that took off but I had told him that we would pay for it later and to just relax and enjoy the ride because I had studied the course and I knew (or thought I did) what was coming ahead. We ran miles 1-5 through the Big Sur community and Pfeiffer state park, which had beautiful redwoods and it felt like an enchanted forest. I was singing to myself (I hope not out load) and thanking God for my healthy body, beautiful scenery, and asking Him to bless me with a strong body, mind and heart! 

The forest opens up with the most spectacular view of the coastal mountain range on the right and the majestic ocean on the left. That was a surreal moment when I looked farther and realized that huge, long hill (mountain in my world) was where we were heading. This is also where I noticed the very strong headwinds that we had been warned about. These lovely head winds stayed with us until just about the end, I just wish they would have switched to tail winds up the hills. At approximately mile 6 we started ascending with +2182 of elevation gains over the course. I can say I have never ran uphill (or mountain) for that length of distance and time which is approximately the next 4 kms. Many of those same people that I had seen take off at the beginning started to slow down and I realized the approach of slow and steady up the inclines was feeling good and working well for me. 

When we finally reached the summit of hurricane point we did take the opportunity to stop and take some pictures and look at where we had come from with the thousands of runners still ascending. It is a view that I can say was truly breathtaking and at that moment I knew that all the sweat, hard work, time and effort to get to this race was worth it! As we began to run down the hill towards Bixby bridge, I felt strong, energized and I was just living or running in the moment. I was very surprised that when we got to Bixby Bridge it was so much smaller than I had imagined and we crossed it within a minute and that was also stopping for pictures. All the years of seeing the pictures and advertisements with the Bixby bridge in the background I wanted that moment to last longer. It was also one of the few stretches I can recall that was flat and without any steep camber to the right or the left. I had been chatting to some fellow runners as we were coming to the bridge and he commented that enjoy this section because this is one of the few spots that is flat (he was not lying!) Once we crossed the bridge we were entertained by the drummers and then started ascending again while listening to the iconic pianist playing for all of us at the top of the hill. 

After stopping to take some more pictures with the pianist we were over 1/2 way and I was still just enjoying the views and following my strategy for running the ups with a slow, strong, steady, and keep my head slightly down which helped me with the strong headwinds and not getting overwhelmed with the remaining climb. On the downs I tried to stay very relaxed, open my stride and try to find any flatter pavement as the sharp right and left cambers in the road were brutal on my ankles and ITbands as I listened to many other runners commenting on their painful knees and of course more black toenails.

Between 25-27 km. I knew that Jason was starting to struggle and I was not sure what he was going to do. Jason had not been able to run for the previous 2-3 months before the race as he was suffering with achilles tendonitis and for the past 8 weeks had been in physio which got him running 3 weeks before the race. He had done all of his cardiovascular training on bikes, elliptical and he also trained with TRX and resistance. I knew that this would not give him the proper training he needed to run a tough paved, and hilly, marathon. He had decided he wanted to try and run the race and do the best he could and hoped for some inspiration from the beautiful course to carry him through. I decided to stay with him, give him support, and try to stay in front of him which he has done for me many times when I have been struggling in races. We continued on together with him fighting through his grit and me enjoying stopping at every aid station for oranges (I have never taken the time before in other races to really enjoy the aid stations.)

 I have to give credit and Jason also agrees that we had started using the amazing supplements from Isagenix for the first time training for a marathon and also for my fuel during the race. We both stuck with using their Replenish for electrolytes, E+ for added energy, followed with a few honey stingers, oranges and strawberries. I have suffered with GI distress during training, and races which has brought me to my knees (literally) many times. I want to share how amazing these products are since I had NO GI issues, felt steady, constant energy (no crashes) through the entire race and I was able to eat post race (which rarely happens because I am usually in GI pain for the rest of the day.) I have tried so many products over the past decade and I believe in proper fueling. Jason and I discussed that he felt without the Replenish and E+ he would have been walking, cramping and suffering more than he did. Again, I am only sharing about a product that has changed my running and races, and I am thrilled to finally have found great supplements that work.

The signs on the race course helped for mental relief from the hills.

Miles 22-26 claim to be the hardest, with more steep hills and I think by this point I had just resigned to the fact there were NO flat sections and everything was either going up long or steep and then controlling your speed on the downs with those nasty sharp cambers. Overall, I felt good and the only problems I was having was some pain in my ankles that was starting to affect the pace I was running with Jason. I decided I needed to run my pace and stay within a short distance ahead of him since I just wanted to get done with the hills as the novelty was wearing off. I had never gone into this race with a specific goal (race) time as we had both decided we were going to enjoy the course, take pictures, stop and look at scenery and I wanted to remember everything and not get caught up in making my splits. I planned to run a decent, strong pace, (for me) push myself, feel good, enjoy as long as possible before the bear down and grit happens. Around 28 km. I realized that my race time would be approximately between 4:10-4:15 which I was content with considering the toughness of the course and then I made the decision to stay with Jason because I realized that my time did not matter anymore as we were going to experience this together and he needed me for support. I am so proud of my tough husband! I do not know many people who could run that difficult race without proper training, an injury and finish.

At mile 23.5 we stopped to enjoy the strawberry station and they were a wonderful treat at the real "hurt" point in a marathon. Jason and I agreed I would run my own pace until the finish as again I needed and wanted to get it done with my ankles suffering anymore damage. At mile 25 there is one more steep hill which I think is just to remind you that you have to fight right until the end. When I summited that hill, I threw my arms up and let out a cheer when I realized it was downhill to the end where there is spectators for the last 1 mile of the race. Up until this point the race is very quiet except for the various bands, and the wind blowing in your ears but there are no cheering or spectators yelling your name.

Once I finished and claimed my Big Sur medal I was standing there waiting for Jason and the Race Director shook my hand, congratulated me and it was so heartfelt that I felt I was part of the races 30 year history. The green race was well organized, with great aid stations, amazing volunteers, Camelbak stations, and great runners! I love California and running races there, I always feel at home when I enter that state and I like to think I am a California girl as my heart really does stay there when I have to come home. I hope someday that sunny California can become my home but that is a dream which I keep close to my heart.

We spent the next day walking and recovering at the beautiful Carmel beach.

This is a remarkable race that I recommend you include on your "bucket list." It is a tough course (not for the faint of heart or legs) with never ending ascents and descents that will make your legs chatter and scream but the breathtaking views, majestic mountains, rolling waves and the serenity made me realize how truly blessed and thankful I am that I was able to experience the Big Sur International Marathon. I did not plan to "race" full out this time and I am glad that I got to experience a course that if you take the time to be aware of all your surroundings it is designed for all our senses and for me spiritually I was in complete awe of the beauty, tranquelity and serenity I felt through the entire race. Train hard and be prepared for a race that will give you serious INSPIRATION, PERSPIRATION, and LOTS OF HEART!

Thank-you Big Sur for filling my heart with more love, gratefulness and happiness!

Keri Bonk