Runner’s Log: Star Wars 10K

I am one with the force, the force is one with me.

The funny thing about marathons is that you sign up for them so far in advance that you almost forget about them. I planned this 10K about 8 months ago with a group of friends and so much has changed since then.

For one thing, I never finished Runner’s Log whereby I would complete The Santa Rosa Marathon as my first full marathon. I was tired, had not trained and I didn’t want to be injured limping down the aisle as a bridesmaid for my friend’s wedding. Oh all those training sessions and people I met along the way, it was fun while it lasted.

Two weeks ago I received the Star Wars 10K waiver email, and realized I had not booked flights yet. Luckily one night I woke up with a start at 4am and remembered I had some Southwest points burning a hole in my pocket. For a total of 11 dollars to pay taxes, I had my flights booked for LA.

I used my British Airways points to book the hotel and Laurie got me a Disney one day park hopper pass to Disneyland and California Adventure, so the only thing I had to book was a rental car. But now looking back I probably could have gone without a car.

Oh yeah… the other thing I probably should have done to prep for the race was go running. I hadn’t really run more than 2 miles since September or October last year. Things got insanely busy with personal matters and work and I just didn’t feel like running. I did manage to get a couple great hikes in before the end of last year and continued to meet my trainer 4x a week for weights. My legs and core felt strong, but I didn’t do any additional cardio.

Speaking of prep, because I’m OCD, for races I usually:

  • Look up the course map
  • Mentally plot out the landmarks, and how to tackle each mile based on elevation gain or loss
  • Create a beats per minute music playlist which helps pace me to the timing I want to complete in

But this time… I just was lazy. Come what may Star Wars 10K (hey, that rhymes!).

I arrive at the hotel which is about a 15 min walk from the starting line. Race over to the expo which is about to close in an hour, buy compression socks, then grab dinner before heading back to the hotel to sleep.

I set out my run gear for the next day so that I can just wake up, wear everything then head out.

Then it’s time for bed but I’m tossing and turning. I have a 4:30am wake up call for a 5:30am run start. I get in two, 2 hour bursts of sleep for which my mind makes sure to have enough time to deliver me a nightmare. In this dream I’m talking to Carmen about running, but when I start the race I can’t actually move my legs. She’s yelling at me to just try, but they are glued to the ground. Freud might say that my subconscious is trying to tell me I should have trained, or maybe he’d blame it on my parents. That Freud and his mommy and daddy issues 😉

At 4:30am my alarm rings and I get a text from Emily three minutes later. They have already checked in their bags. I had previously decided to skip bag check in to get additional bursts of sleep. My waist pouch could hold my phone and my run shorts have a back pocket perfect for credit cards and money. As I knew music was going to be playing throughout the park as we ran, I forwent the earbuds.

Eat a quick apple sauce while walking to the starting line, then half a cliff bar. From running the Froyo 10K I learned that I do not do well trying to run distances without any fuel.

Arrive at the corrals and find Emily, Wils, Leon and Charissa. Leon and Charissa run this race every year, so instead of actually running the whole time, they have decided to take it easy and get all the photos with the fun decorations and characters that cheer you on throughout the race.

Starting Line!

I feel nervous but good. In real life my legs aren’t glued to the ground. Decided to do a slow pace to warm up till mile 3 when I usually hit my stride, but gah if there aren’t cute things throughout the course that I want to take photos of and with. This is when I get conflicted. While I really wanted a decent time for my intro 10K back into running (since DP said he’d be checking in on my time from home), the value in this race is getting to enjoy the park and whimsy.

I battle these thoughts for the first mile, seeing the long line of people waiting to try to take a photo with C-3P0 and R2-D2 and while deep in these thoughts I lose Emily and Wils behind me because they have stopped to do photos. I can usually only run with faster runners who slow their pace for me. If I try to keep up with people I usually end up pooping out early and if I run with folks slower than I am, I also end up fatiguing faster. Then I thought back on the shirt I saw in the expo, and realized I should have bought it because it spoke to me.

In this race I really enjoyed being lost in my own thoughts… behind this girl running with a BB-8 around her torso so she couldn’t move her arms, behind a guy fully garbed as Lando Calrissian, a girl in Padmé’s white outfit with a sweater tied around her shoulders, and so many men dressed as Leia. It was then that I remembered why I love running races. There’s a spirit and energy that comes from the people around you. They spent the time dreaming up these costumes to run in or coming up with signs to cheer people on. Races give me this beautiful feeling of community spirit and energy that you can’t get running by myself.

You don’t feel alone.

With this newly restored hope I see an empty Mile 2 marker with a Disney castmember ready to help take photos and I stop for my first break. I mentally made a rule that if I were to stop, I would only do so if the line was less than five people. The value here is getting the photos, running through an empty dark Disneyland and feeling like you experienced everything there was to offer while balancing the true desire to finish with a decent time.

For once the mileage didn’t seem long, as this race was a feast for the senses. Seeing Disneyland and California Adventure without the crowds and hearing John Williams’ music blasted over the speakers throughout the park. With each mile marker came the anticipation in trying to guess which characters would be featured for each stop and folks in costumes that you could take photos with. Then there were the classics: It’s a Small World lit up at night, the tea cups ride (best ride in Disney IMHO) looking beautiful, Storm Troppers roaming about, The Cheshire Chat smiling at me from the rock, and going through Cars Land with all the neon signs was gorgeous.

On the mini hills I ran through, I purposefully shortened my steps, like Steve once told me I should do, and on the down slopes I let my legs take longer strides making sure I kept impact in the balls of my feet and toes. I let myself feel and control my muscles during these specific parts of the race. These tricks helped me keep running consistently. Except whenever there was a photo op, I didn’t stop to walk at all. Being able to run consistently is something I haven’t been able to do in any race I’ve done before. Yay. A first.

About a mile from the end I could feel fatigue coming on. In all my previous races my mind usually wears out close to finish by knowing that the end is near. With these thoughts I end up walking the last .5 normally. This time I didn’t want to do that. I tried slowing the pace a bit and constantly checking my watch. I wanted to sprint the last .1 as I knew I couldn’t sprint the last .25 mile since I’ve failed this before on multiple races.

When I saw the 6 mile marker I wanted to make sure I got a photo of it, so I stopped. As I started running again I tucked my phone back into my waistband. Continued to get my run on, while wondering where the finish line was. The last .2 was the longest .2 of the race by far. Then I see the Disneyland Hotel in the distance and know that the end is near. Pushed my stride a bit more at the finish and then it was all over! Victory.

Looking back at the official race photos I realize that aside from training to run, I should also practice taking race photos. I basically either did a RBF in every shot or looked ridiculous with double chin in everything. Oh well. Next time! If there is a next time.

The best part? The finish line with the snacks and photo ops. If only other races were this well thought out.

Leon and Charissa had mentioned that the next day I would get Rebel Challenge envy when I saw the other medals. The Rebel Challenge is a special medal that you get from completing both the 10K on one day and then the half marathon the next day. I honestly thought I wouldn’t but then the day comes I see a plethora of folks with potbellies and their multiple medals and there it goes as they predicted, envy.

Gah. Maybe next year. Also if I were to do it again, maybe I would try sprinting from mile to mile to get in line for all the cast member photos. It was what most people did and seemed to pay off for making the most value out of the entrance fee.

A good return to running. It felt good at the time and was an awesome experience. I am now going to be limping this week because something is up with my ankle post run, but other than that the soreness has subsided and I’m doing fine.

To quote a fish from a certain Disney Pixar movie.

Just keep swimming.

In this case running.

Mileage: 6.4 miles
Pace: 11:00/mi
With Me Along The Way: Emily, Wilson, Leon, and Charissa

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