Saturday, January 30, 2016

Disney marathon

Last Day Disney Marathon
2:50am and the alarm sounded.  I rose out of bed and started getting ready, feeling like a zombie.  I’ve decided they need to rename this the Sleepy Challenge as the hardest part is getting up so early for 4 days in a row.  Anyways, we piled all our luggage in Damaris’ car and drove to the lobby where I left my bags with the bell hop.  There was a bus waiting so we quickly boarded and were on our way to the race.  Security line was more efficient today so we were through quickly and into the waiting area. 
The weather today was humid and warm.  I felt sticky before I even started running.  We decided to dress as Mrs. Incredible today so we weren’t in our normal, high quality Ink N Burn clothes and I could tell.  Oh well, it’s only a full marathon, right? 
We get to our starting corral and make our way up front.  The air is filled with exciting as this is the big race!  The announcers have Mickey and Goofy and Donald all up on stage to send off the runners with a blast of fireworks.  Each corral gets it’s own blast so that’s nice.  Soon, it was our turn to start.  We start running and my legs are feeling pretty good, considering.  The first few miles go by quickly.  Again, no Capt Jack at mile 2.  We get closer to MK and see Nightmare Before Christmas and Wreak it Ralph again so we skip.  We enter MK in the same side entrance and run down Main Street again.  The spectators are terrific, cheering everyone on.  We stop for a few pictures and enter Tomorrowland, then on to Fantasyland.  I see Alice in front of the Mad Tea Cups ride and stop for a picture.  The lines are going very quickly, it’s like everyone wants the quick pic and move on.  Next we veer off into the new area of Fantasyland and I’m excited to see Ariel and Sebastian in front of The Little Mermaid ride.  I’ve never gotten my picture with her so I’m pretty happy.  The castle is up next so we run through and get our pics taken.  We entered Liberty Square and there was Princess Tiana and Prince Navin.  Ok, I’m already much happier with the characters today!  We run past the Country Bears and then loop around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.  Briar Rabbit was here but he had a big line so we skipped.  Then, all of a sudden, we were out of MK.  Sigh. 
The humidity was high and I was completely drenched in sweat.  My shirt was heavy and actually pulling down over my bib number due to the weight.  Ugh.  The sun was rising and I was afraid that it would just get hotter but it seemed like the sun burned off the humidity and it stayed overcast so really, it wasn’t too bad then.    
The route is the same as yesterday, past Grand Floridian and Mary Poppins.  Then we saw Donald in front of the golf cart so we stopped for him.   Past the Polynesian and on to the back, back roads towards Animal Kingdom.  These miles were pretty uneventful but Disney did a good job with giving us some good villains for pictures.  The Evil Queen, the main bad guy from Mulan (skipped), Jafar, and CAPTAIN JACK!  Finally we found him! 


We start to enter AK and the cast members had brought out so many animals from the petting zoo area.  There were donkeys, turtles, birds and other animals.  We didn’t stop for these pictures but many people were.  We entered AK a little before 9:00.  Saw Baloo and Louie so got a pic there (Baloo’s hands were soggy from sweat, he had been hi-fiving a lot of sweaty runners).  We run into the Asia area and past Expedition Everest.  Damaris notices that a short line is forming and we stop to ask the cast member if the ride was opening soon.  They were running their last safety checks and were opening the ride a few minutes early for the runners! 
So we got into line!  It felt so weird to be waiting for a ride during a race but it was worth it!  We were on the second cart to go and it was so fun!!!  We both yelled and kept our hands up the whole time.  When we got off, we noticed that our Garmins were now a mile ahead, lol!  We laughed and ran along.  Soon we were out of the park, running along the entrance area.  Damaris had friends here, waiting for us and some other runners.  I heard my name being shouted out and was so happy to see them off to the side, with goodies!!  I chugged a Coke and ate a donut  while Damaris ate too.  Lisa stuffed Swedish Fish and Goldfish crackers in my hand as we took off, feeling refueled.  Then, about 100 yards away, we see another friend, Kristen, and stop for a quick picture.  Then, on to some more boring side roads……
These miles weren’t fun.  Just more highways and roads.  We decided yesterday to run as much as possible and walk a minute at the water stops to recover.  I think this really helped.  My legs were tired but not nearly as bad as I thought they would be.  We entered ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at mile 17 and run all through that area, including around the baseball field.  It gets pretty narrow in this area and lots of people are walking but we did our best to get around slower people.  Donald and Goofy are here but we don’t stop.  Then, we exit this part and get back onto the highway for mile 20.  

Mile 21 comes and that’s up an on-ramp with the Toy Story army guys yelling at the runners.  He sees Damaris and I dressed as Mrs. Incredible and tells us to run like Dash so I powered up the hill the best that I could.  It actually felt kinda good so I run ahead to stretch out my legs some.  They are feeling surprisingly good.  Instead of the usual Wall, I’m feeling pretty refreshed.  I can’t say how Damaris was feeling but she kept up with me just fine so I think she was doing good too.  Soon, we enter Hollywood Studios.  They had lots of characters out so we stopped for pictures.  I was hoping for someone from Star Wars but nope.  Instead, we were thrilled to see the Incredibles again, finally a picture with our matching outfits!  The park is open to the public but the cast members are experts at moving the crowd around for the runners so you didn’t really notice the extra people.  I cheesed it up for the photographer as I ran down Hollywood Blvd and out of the park. 


Next we’re on the sidewalk area that takes us to the Boardwalk.  Damaris has another friend here that we find and chat with for a minute.  There are lots of people along this area with signs, cheering us all on.  Then, suddenly, we were entering Epcot.  We entered in England and ran around the World Showcase.  I see Belle with no line!  I think most runners were just concentrating on finishing now as we only had a mile left.  I stop for her and Snow White and Mulan. 

Then, the best part of the day, the margarita stand in Mexico!  It had been our plan to get these wonderful drinks and enjoy them for the last mile so we do.   And they were delicious.  So cold that I got brain freeze but it was worth it!  We see some runners with beer and fish and chips from England and give them a toast as we walk along.  Several runners commented on how we were finishing the right way with our drinks and the crowd seemed to enjoy it as well.  We walk towards Spaceship Earth and turn towards the finish area.  The gospel choir is singing at mile 26 and I get all emotional, knowing we were nearly done.  We check the time and see that if we ran, we would finish under 6 hours so we did.  We ran with our drinks in hand and crossed that finish line at 5:59:45! 

We go through the finishers chute, collecting our medals, drinks and bananas.   Then we stop  in the Dopey Challenge area where they check our finishing pictures from the previous races to verify that we did finish each race before giving us our Dopey and Goofy medals.  I’m so happy to have those hunks of metal around my neck!  They clank as I walk around to gather my gear.  It’s at this point that Damaris and I say goodbye.  She was heading to the hotel to get her car and I was getting on the monorail to go to the Magic Kingdom.  We give each other a hug, thanking each other for a wonderful time together.  She went left and I went right.  Sigh.
I get on the monorail and arrive in MK by noon.  I know that I don’t have a lot of time there but I really just wanted to experience that park and revel in the sense of accomplishment that I had.  I cleaned up and changed in the bathroom.  Then I rode Pirates of the Caribbean, got my picture taken with all my medals under the castle, talked to Goofy and Donald (who made me show him his medal), went to Stitch’s Great Escape, ate an amazing meal of mac n cheese with pulled pork and coleslaw.  And then I took the train to the front of the park and sadly, walked to the bus stop.  A quick ride back to the hotel and I was on the Magical Express, back to the airport, ending my amazing trip. 

You know how sometimes when you’re really looking forward to something and build it up in your mind but then it doesn’t meet your expectations and you’re left feeling disappointed?  This wasn’t that feeling.  I had really high hopes for my trip and it really exceeded them.  Damaris and I got along really, really well.  The hotel was good.  The food was great. The drinks were yummy.  The friends we met were special.  And the races were magical.   I really hope to do it again but not until I sleep!

Day 5 Donald’s Half Marathon

Once again our alarms sounded at 3:00.  We rose and dressed and were at the bus stop before 3:30.  Damaris and I had decided to dress as pirates today, wearing Ink N Burn pirate capris and short sleeved tops.  Weather was promising to be dry and overcast, so pretty perfect for running in Florida.  The security line was very long and slow, which became a concern as 15,000+ runners and spectators had to get through and nearly everyone had a bag with them.  But in true Disney fashion, they recognized the bottleneck and made some type of adjustment and we were through security. The massage tent wasn’t open for us to wait in but the temps were comfortable so it didn’t matter.  We waited around with several of Damaris’ friends and soon were off for the long walk to the starting corrals.  The previous races started in a nearby parking lot but the longer races started actually on a highway so we had to walk close to a mile to get there.  Richard was in a different starting corral than we were so we said goodbye and walked to corral G (I think there were nearly 20 corrals).  Plenty of people were sitting around and I weaved my way around them until we were just feet from the front.  I wanted to be as close to the front as possible so we could maybe have shorter lines at the characters and therefore a faster race.  Months before, Damaris and I had decided that we didn’t care about our finishing times but we did (me more than her) did care about pictures so I was going to get every character picture that I wanted. 
The race started with fireworks and each corral was walked to the starting line behind a large tape held by volunteers and released about 5 minutes apart, in the efforts to keep the course from getting too congested.  Soon it was our corral's turn and the volunteer asked for the nearest ladies to carry the tape with him so Damaris and I made our way to the front and held the ribbon, walking to the starting line.  So we, much to our excitement, were on the front row!  My toes were on the timing strip and the guy next to me crouched into a sprinting position to which I kinda made fun of, I mean come on, we’re corral G, you’re not going to win.  But anyways, once the fireworks went off and Donald said Go, I took off like a rocket, just to say that I was first for a few yards!  It was so funny, as least to me it was…..
The race was pretty uneventful for the first few miles.  We were looking forward to mile 2 because Capt. Jack and the Black Pearl has been there for the past several years and we wanted pictures with in him our pirate outfits.  Well, we were sorely disappointed to see a large hot air balloon and a huge light up Sebastian from Little Mermaid instead.   Oh well, best laid plans…  We kept running along and were soon approaching Magic Kingdom.  The monorail would sometimes honk as us as it passed along side the runners.  We ran past the characters from Nightmare Before Christmas without stopping (haven’t seen the movie, didn’t care for a picture).  I was getting disappointed that there weren’t more characters out.  But just before MK, I heard the theme music from Wreck It Ralph
and knew we needed to stop for a picture.  Plus, I think we both were ok with a chance to catch our breaths.  While we waited in line, Damaris looked for and saw Richard but he didn’t notice us.  We got the picture and made our way into MK.  It’s so exhilarating to come in a hidden side entrance and see Main Street.  And this time was even better as a huge Christmas tree was still up at the entrance.  Spectators were thick here, all cheering for us.  I ran down Main Street and got a little emotional when I saw the castle all lit up in icicle lights.  I had worked so hard with training and saved for so long for this moment, I just wanted to stay on Main Street!  But alas, soon we were turning toward Tomorrow Land but not before a few pictures of the castle. 
Tomorrowland was in front of us and I saw a line of people but they were waiting for Mike from Monster’s Inc and I had already had a picture with him so we skipped.  Next was Fantasyland and there was the Red Queen and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, nope, not interested.  In my mind, I was thinking there would be princesses ahead and longer lines.  A few yards away was the mime from Tangled, which we also skipped (probably should have stopped but I didn’t recognize who he was until we had past).  Next thing we knew, we were ready to run under the castle and off to the left, 

 I see a guy kneel down and propose to his girlfriend!  How cool!  Elsa, Anna and Christoph were on the balcony of the castle and fake snow was coming down but I didn’t even stop to try for a pic as I can’t stand Frozen.  So, we ran through the castle, slowing down for as many photographers as we could and pulled over to get pics right in front of the castle.  Suddenly, I heard a man call my name and I looked in the crowd and saw an old high school friend who lives in Orlando waving at me!   What are the odds?!  He must have see what I was wearing on my FB page and kept an eye out for me.  Thanks for saying hi, Danny!
So after the castle was Liberty Square and Frontierland.  Clarabelle Cow was there but I was getting mad at the quality of characters and refused to stop for her.  I kept remembering the last time I ran through here it took nearly an hour with all the photo stops.  Oh well, nothing I could do about it.  Just outside MK though, we find Capt Hook, Peter Pan, Smee and the Lost Boys!  We knew we had to stop, it might be our only picture with a pirate while dressed like pirates!  Wendy was funny and backed away as we walked up and the Lost Boys goofed around.   I think the picture turned out pretty well. 
We ran out and hit the very narrow side streets leading away from MK.  We run about a mile and go past the Grand Floridian.  I recognize Gene, the founder of Charity Miles, cheering here so I yell out his name and got a wave back.  Mary Poppins and Burt were up next so I did get a picture with them.  Then we found Goofy by a golf cart so got a picture with him as well.  We ran past Polynesian but skipped Stitch as I had his picture already.  Soon we were back on the boring highway and making our way back to Epcot.  There are a few hills here, including a ramp at mile 10 where the Army men from Toy Story stand and yell for you to run harder.  Quick picture here and we’re moving on. 
Before we know it, we’re entering Epcot through the front gates (different than what I remembered from before), run under Spaceship Earth and back towards World Showcase.  I see Scrooge McDuck and stop for a picture and then see Genie dressed as a tourist and have to stop again.  Also, there were no lines for the photographers in front of Spaceship Earth so we get pictures there too.  We turn at the entrance of WS, run back to Spaceship Earth, pass the gossip choir singing hymns at mile 13 and run to the finish line.  We finished in 2:52, which was a PR for Damaris and I in the half! 
We make our way through the finishing area and find Richard and start sharing stories.  The bus ride back to the hotel was quick and we decided to have breakfast in the café there.  We were all pretty hungry and the eggs, bacon and coffee hit the spot!  Richard was planning on driving home that day so he packed up and we said goodbye.  Damaris and I laid down for a nap but weren’t too tired so we took the boat over to Disney Springs to pick up my finished ornament and then decided to visit the hotel hot tub.  That was so relaxing.  We talked to the other runners there (it was pretty full of people relaxing sore legs) and got a few drinks.  The pool area was pretty cool, I think my kids would like this hotel a lot.  We returned to the room very relaxed and took a nice nap.
Yes, that's a real backscratcher in my drink
That evening, we decided to go back to the monorail resorts to visit some of the other bars that we missed on our first night.  We found several of Damaris’ friends at the Contemporary Hotel’s Outer Rim bar so we just stayed there for a while.  They were all very friendly and everyone was happy to share race stories and strategies for the marathon the next day.  But Damaris and I did have dinner reservations at Kona Café at Polynesian so we said goodbye and took the monorail there.  We were early so we went back to the Tambu Lounge and I got a Backscratcher drink (so, so good) and we split another order of pork nachos. The bar was very busy, that poor bartender was earning his money that night.  Soon our dinner table was ready and we were surprised to have our waiter from breakfast and even more surprised that he remembered us.  I don’t remember anymore what I had to eat but I know the sweet bread was amazing and I had no leftovers of my dinner!  One thing we did right, we ate some amazing meals!! 

After dinner, we headed back to the room to pack up and prepare for the marathon.  I had decided that day to buy a one day ticket to MK and go there after the marathon was finished so I needed to have my bags to the bell hop the next morning.   It took some arranging and forethought but I soon had my things for the race, after the race and things I wouldn’t need at all that day packed up.  I think we got to bed about 11pm.  Only one more early morning left.  Bittersweet. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dopey Challenge day 4 Minnie 10k

Yes, 3:00am came very quickly.  We were up and ready and at the bus stop by 3:30, actually running the last few yards to catch the bus.  It was rainy and chilly, not ideal by any means, especially because this was our only race that we were wearing non-tech running clothes.  We decided to dress like lions from the Lion King and wore brown tee shirts and matching tutus.  Cotton absorbs water which makes you cold and increases chafing.  Ugh.  We arrived quickly to the starting area and found some seats in the massage tent again.  I had costume makeup that I used to make Damaris and I look like Scar and Simba.  I think we turned out pretty good!  Not everyone recognized who or what we were but the people that did, really liked it.  Soon it was time to line up in our corrals and wait for the start.  The rain kept going for our entire run.  I think this kept some of the characters off the course.  We saw the duck from Ducktails and the bugs from It’s a Bugs Life.  I felt no desire to stop for pics so we kept running.  This course did have us out on the bridges and on ramps outside Epcot so it wasn’t a complete piece of cake run.  We entered Epcot and saw Mulan and her dragon outside of China so that was our first picture.  Next we exited WS like we did for the 5k but this time we ran around the Boardwalk area.  I got my picture with Mike from Monster’s Inc and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible! 
Damaris and I are soaked by this time but not cold as the running warmed us up.  But our make-up was water spotted so bad that it looked like we had skin infections!  Back into WS and around to Innovations West where we saw Phineas and Ferb so I had to get my picture taken with my favorite guys.  Then on to the finish line!  Our finish time was a respectable 1:18:00 or something.  Back to the room for showers and back to sleep.   
We decided to enjoy a big breakfast so we went up to Wilderness Lodge and enjoyed their unlimited and amazing breakfast skillet which included scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits with gravy and waffles.  We both had our fill!  Then we drove over to Disney Springs (formally known as Downtown Disney) for some shopping.   I found some gifts for the kids and ordered a custom painted Dopey Christmas ornament.  We wandered around some more, enjoyed some beverages and then drove over to Wide World of Sports for a group meet-up I wanted to do. 

I run a lot of my runs with an app called Charity Miles.  It’s a free app that logs your running or walking miles and corporations donate 25 cents per mile to a charity of your choice (they have 15+ to choose from).  I started using Charity Miles for most of my run in July and have been able to donate over $150!  The founder of the app, Gene, was arranging a meet up for his users at 3:00 and members of the Hogwarts Running Club, who also use the CM app for “house points” were meeting as well.  (I will write a blog about HRC and Charity Miles soon to better explain, it’s a really great group that I’m very happy to have found.)  So anyways, about 3:00, I wandered over to a group of people standing around and asked if they were there for Charity Miles and they were.  Conversations about which “house” people were in and charities they run for quickly started.  Soon, Gene arrived with a box of CM tee-shirts, which he gave each of us to wear for a large group picture.   Then we did a HRC group pic and separate house pics.  It was really special to meet the founders of HRC and hear that they were going to two different charities that afternoon to present checks for tens of thousands of dollars, raised by people running virtual HRC races.   They also told us that one of the wheelchair athletes in the half marathon was using a chair or “broom” that our contributions purchased through Achilles International.  It made me feel really good to see the things that my small contributions were helping make happen.  #somuchgood
Gryfinndor HRC Hear us Roar!

Next thing I know, Richard, Damaris’s husband, arrives from Miami to pick up his half marathon packet.  He was only running that race this time. It was very nice to finally get to meet him.  Then we headed into Orlando to find a place for dinner.  They are Puerto Rican and wanted me to have an authentic experience so we went to Melao Bakery, a Puerto Rican restaurant.  I was anxious and took Richard’s advice on what to get.  I don’t remember what it was but it was SO GOOD!  I do remember very sweet tasting plantains that I devoured.  Next we drove over to the Orlando Eye, a huge ferris wheel, but it was closed for repairs.  We did walk around the area some and enjoyed some ice cream.  

We returned to the resort to show Richard around and prepared for the half marathon the next day.  Richard might not have wanted a 9:00 bedtime but Damaris and I needed it!    

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 3 and Pluto's 5k

The alarm went off at the insane hour of 3:30 and all I could think of was that the next 3 mornings would start even earlier!  But that’s the main downside of the Disney races so you know what you’re getting into.  We are up, dressed and ready by 4:00 and walk to the bus stop.  It was a short wait and there were plenty of runners and spectators waiting as well.  The bus arrived and we headed to Epcot where the race would start and end.  Damaris and I coordinated all our running outfits so this day we were wearing Ink N Burn May the 4th long sleeved tops (looks like Stormtroopers shirts) with our Robot capris.  We got lots of compliments.  I’m glad we were in long sleeves because it was only in the mid 50’s while we were waiting for 90 mins.  I did find the massage tent that was empty and open for runners to wait in so we stayed warm in there until it was time to walk to our corral at 5:00.  We are in corral B so we get in our spot and wait for the start.  Soon the fireworks went off and the race officially started.  

This 5k goes around a parking lot, then down some behind the scenes roads and finally enters at Mexico in the World Showcase.  It’s always so exciting to enter the park, you feel like you’re really running a Disney race then.  We skipped the first character stop (Chip and Dale) and continued into Epcot.  I was surprised to not see any characters in Mexico, Norway or Germany as I’ve seen them there in the other 2 5k’s I’ve done at Epcot.  Then I notice Timon from The Lion King at the Australian area but I decided to skip stopping for him as the line was long.  Next up was Mittens from Bolt at America Showcase.  I’m not a Bolt fan but darn it, I wanted a character picture!  We continued on and found Marie from Aristocats in France.  Ok, so it’s an animal theme, I get it, it's Pluto's 5k after all.  I was surprised that the course veered out of World Showcase when we crossed the French bridge, heading towards the Boardwalk hotels area.  We did a little loop and came back into WS in England (guess they eliminated some of the parking lot run and needed to add the distance back).  We continued past Canada and turned towards Spaceship Earth, which was lit up beautifully.  I was surprised again when the course turned left towards Soarin’.  I stopped for a picture with Stitch here.  We continued running past Soarin’ and Finding Nemo, back under Innovations West and turned again toward Spaceship Earth where we exited the park and ran to the finish line.  Our finishing time was 48 minutes or so, not bad considering the 3 photo stops.

Stormtroopers ready for battle (pic mentioned below)
Hi Stitch!

Posing so pretty with Marie
One fun note, I had taken a really good picture of Damaris and I before the race and put it on my Instagram.  After we finished, I was thrilled to get a request from Charity Miles (an app that tracks your running or walking miles and corporations donate money to charities for each mile you move, it’s really cool and I use it for most of my runs, it also helps me earn points for my Hogwarts Running Club house but that’s a whole other story) to use my picture on their page!  Of course I said yes.  And later that day, Damaris and I checked our emails and saw that Ink N Burn used our picture in their newsletter that day!  Eek!  So exciting!

After the race, we went back to the hotel to clean up and then headed to the Polynesian’s Kona restaurant to have breakfast with a group of Damaris’s friends.  Everyone was very nice and welcoming and I really enjoyed myself.  And of course, the Tongo Toast was insanely good.  It was pretty much half a loaf of bread, stuffed with bananas, coated with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with strawberries.  I inhaled it.  
Next up was our day at Hollywood Studios, another park that I haven’t spent much time in but was excited to see all the Star Wars things.  I was not disappointed!  My Disney Chase Visa got us into a free photo op with none other than Darth Vader!  He was very tall but kinda thin.  But still did a good job intimating us. Damaris held strong with refusing to go to the Dark Side but I admit, I probably would have as he was staring me down! 

Since I haven’t been to HS in a long time and the times I’ve gone, I’ve had small children, I haven’t done any of the big rides.  So we had Fast Passes to Star Tours (really awesome), Tower of Terror (I screamed like crazy) and Rockin’ Roller Coaster (so fast but the G force gave me a headache).  We also enjoyed a healthy lunch of frozen adult beverages (with a Millennium Falcon and Death Star in them!) and a BB-8 cupcake.  I was so excited that my fellow Avon Disney fanatics, Connie and Kate, were also visiting HS that day so we found them for a quick hello and picture.  Before long, we were getting tired and decided to head back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. 
Connie, me, Damaris and Kate (watch that light saber, Kate!)

Mt. Kilamarita (made with cranberry juice)

Dinner!  Oh my! We had reservations at Boma, the African buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  One of the effects about traveling with just one person is I could afford to eat at some nicer places since it was just me, not a family of 4.  We enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail at the Victoria Falls Lounge (I had a Mt. Kilmarita) while we waited for our table.  We were soon seated and the waitress explained the food at the buffet, which I appreciated as I’m not familiar with African food.  But the best thing about a buffet is you can sample everything!  I really enjoyed the roasted pork and the West African peanut soup.  Highly recommend Boma! 

Our fun day was soon over and we returned to the hotel for bed, after all, 3:00 alarm and another race awaited us!