Thursday, August 08, 2013

My Best Tips for the Disney Princess

I’ve run in quite a number of races where you pull up in a parking lot, grab your bib and t-shirt, and start running. They’re low key and don’t take a lot of planning. Princess is NOT that race. The logistics are complicated. And a little bit of knowledge can go a long way, so here are a few things that I’ve learned:

DO get a bus as early as possible. The first year we ran, we stayed in All Star Sports. The line wrapped through the main building and all the way around the pool. I think we were in line for about half an hour, but the trip itself was pretty quick. This year, we stayed at Port Orleans: Riverside. Remember that the race buses will pick up at all of the shuttle stops at POR – we just walked to the nearest one and caught the first bus that stopped. BUT, a ton of people came behind us and I don’t think they all got on that bus. Traffic was horrible: it took us nearly an hour to get from the hotel to Epcot (a bus lane would have been a hella good idea, runDisney). Then, it was a long walk to bag check (and potties). It’s another long walk to the corrals. We were on one of the first buses of the morning and we got to our start corral with about 5 minutes to spare (and we’d been hurrying!). You’ll have a lot more of a time buffer if you’re starting further back, but do NOT underestimate how long it can take you to get to the start line.

DO plan where your spectators will be. We had a rough idea of where we’d see Duchie’s husband and my cousin, based on where he’d been two years before. Even so, it was pretty obvious that there were a lot more spectators than before and we had to do some searching. It really helped to know approximately where they would be and what they were wearing/what their signs looked like. It isn’t a half bad idea for them to have a balloon or something, too. If they’re good, they can catch you at least three times on the course! Make sure they sign up for runner tracking, too, but tell them not to be too alarmed if it doesn’t work (it's buggy).

Related: DON’T tell your spectators to go to the start line. They’re going to be on the other side of a four lane highway with a berm down the middle. There’s no way you’re going to see them or they’re going to see you. Just tell them to go to wait outside Magic Kingdom (and get a coffee while they wait), instead.

DO think about breakfast. Plan out what you’ll be eating/drinking before the race. POR has coffee makers in the room, so our morning tea/coffee was sorted. When we stayed at All Star Sports, we brought our own kettle to boil hot water for tea and oatmeal. I think we both just bought an extra bagel and cream cheese the day before the race this year and stashed them in the room to eat on the way to the race. Do not count on the quick service to be open for you to get food the morning of the race: it won’t be. I also spend a lot of time fantasizing about my post-race breakfast while running. Mickey waffles and bacon are the breakfast of champions. FACT.
DO bring your own fuel. Disney only gives out energy gels once along the course (around mile 8). Unless you’re fast (and this is Princess, so, honestly, the chances are that you aren’t…even I’m “Disney” fast and I’m not fast at all), you’re going to need more than one of those little puppies. Bring it. I think I did three gels this year: one before the start, one around mile 4 and the one at mile 8. Plan this, practice it, and don’t just think that what’s provided out on the course will be enough. Also, if you aren’t used to heat & humidity, think about carrying your own water, too. I carry this water bottle, but do whatever works for you...

DO hold hands. If you want the photographers to capture that moment of you and your best friend running through the castle/crossing the finish line together, HOLD HANDS. Otherwise, they’ll crop you out of your friend's photo. And that would suck. We got pretty awesome photographic results with the hand holding method!

DO plan how to meet up with your family and friends afterwards. We’ve found that right outside the baggage tents is really good (bag check is better at Disney than anywhere I’ve ever seen), because they’re sorted by last name. As long as you checked a bag: you WILL be exiting through a specific tent “door.” That way, you can’t miss each other.

2011 - but for an idea of the engraving...
DO pack some cash. If you want to get your medal engraved, they have someone who will do it on site. I think it’s $20 and that it’s money well-spent.

DO wear your medal to the parks. This serves a dual purpose: showing off your awesome bling (the cast members are super cute and will ooh and ahh over you) and jump-starting your recovery with some gentle walking. I wore my compression tights (under a dress…yes, I’m super stylish with recovery wear). Hey, whatever works. But, you know what: we CLOSED down the Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom that night. It was amazing (no, I really have no idea how we had the energy for it).