27 October, 2011

For a Little Laugh Before the Race.....The Day After

I still have a million things to do before driving down to DC tonight but wanted to post these two quick videos since they've made me smile and laugh each time I've watched them!





I remember that wobble the day after the Disney marathon and how entertaining it was for my friends to laugh at me.  Can't wait for the same jokes on Monday!

OK, now back to work...need to get some work done, finish writing a paper for class tonight, pack, go to class...and THEN meet my friends so we can drive down to Washington, DC!

Tour of the White House tomorrow morning and then the expo...woohoo!

(And yes, I'm obviously in a better mood than my last post.  Still freaking out about the race but hey...can't do much about it now, right?)


22 October, 2011

Single Digit Freak Out!

I've been missing...I know! Story of my life lately. :)  But I honestly figured I'd spare you guys my venting for awhile.

It's officially 8 days until the Marine Corps Marathon and to say I'm freaking out is an understatement.

Went for an 18 mile run last Saturday and it went miserably wrong. By Mile 10 I was sluggish, by Mile 14 I was miserable, and by Mile 16 I threw in the towel and walked one more mile to my car and cut the 'run' short at Mile 17. Not sure what went wrong. I thought I was properly hydrating and eating during the run, but I must not have been property hydrated before the run. I was feeling great up until Mile 10 though, singing to the songs on my iPod, enjoying the view, taking photos with my camera, etc. And then? BLAH!

See?  Even pretty scenery couldn't help after Mile 10!

I didn't feel horrible after the run though, which I'm happy about. I was slightly sore but nothing I couldn't handle. And then? I woke up Wednesday (remember...my run was on Saturday) and my heel HURT!! With every single step. Hmm...that's not good, right? It can't be from running, since I ran 4 days prior, so I have no idea what it could be.  Possibly the stilettos I wore the night before to the bar but high heels usually never bother me.  Who knows.

Unfortunately, it's Saturday again and the stupid thing still kind of hurts. Definitely not as bad as when it started but it's there. I've been icing and rolling and stretching. We'll see.

So yeah, the race is in 8 days...I didn't get the training in that I needed, and I'm going in with some random mystery ailment.  Oh!! And the weather forecast for the race? Rain!!! Seriously... I need to get myself out of this mental funk by next Sunday!

I promise (I hope) that my next post on here will be slightly more happy. 

I did get a fabulous massage yesterday though and do feel better overall.  I think I need to go monthly for a massage just for my mental well being.  SO relaxing!  

I will say on a happier note... I am in LOVEEEEEE with my iPhone 4S!!!  Smitten!   And I have a crush on Siri.  :)  She and I are going to be the best of friends!



12 October, 2011

Race Recap: The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 9/11 Tribute Run

With all of the Disney happenings lately, I've slacked with writing one of my September race recaps! And this one, out of any race I've ever completed, was by far the most emotional runs I've ever done

For the past few years, I've heard about the September 11th tribute run that happens every year in New York City.  Living only a few miles away, so many people I know were personally affected on that day that I knew I had to run.  Yet every year I always had a wedding/family function/or was out of town.  For the 10th anniversary though, I knew I had to be there so I registered the day it opened up.

Here's a little history of the run...

On September 11th, firefighter Stephen Siller had just gotten off the late shift at Squad 1, Park Slope, Brooklyn. He was on his way to play golf with his brothers on that bright clear day when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. When he heard the news, he called his wife Sally to tell her he would be late because he had to help those in need. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear, then took his final heroic steps to the World Trade Center. When Stephen drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was already closed to traffic . With sixty pounds of gear strapped to his back, he ran through the Tunnel, hoping to meet up with his own company, Squad 1. Stephen, along with 342 other firefighters lost their lives on that day.

The run recreates the run that Stephen completed on 9/11 from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center.

My Garmin obviously had a few troubles while we were in the tunnel so it looks like I swam for a bit but here's the map from the run...



The whole day was memorable.  Guess I'll start from the wee hours of the morning....

Woke up about 4:30am and headed down to Jersey City to catch the Path train directly to the World Trade Center.  When I walked out into the street to head towards the shuttle buses to bring us to the starting line in Brooklyn, firemen that had volunteered for the race repeatedly thanked us for coming to support Stephen's memory and the FDNY/NYPD.  Every runner I saw quickly corrected them and instead said Thank You for helping out NYC over the years.

Turning the corner took my breath away for a second.  Staring at me was the World Trade Center construction site and One World Trade (the first building to start construction after 9/11) arising into the hazy sunrise.  Every runner I was walking with stopped to take a photo. 


We quickly got to the buses and it reminded me of the seamless bus transportation for Marathon Weekend at Disney.  Dozens of Coach buses lined up and were being filled one by one before heading out to Brooklyn.

Once in Brooklyn, bag check and packet pickup were in the Ikea parking lot so I quickly headed over to pick up my bib and then sat down on a curb waiting for my other friends to arrive.  I was wearing my Marine Corps Marathon In Training shirt so it started up a few conversations with a few people, including a few Marines who were also running it.

When my friends arrived, we were slightly hungry so headed into Ikea for a quick bite.  The store was nice enough to open up their cafe hours before the real store opened and served their full breakfast menu as well as runner friendly options.  I ended up with their Swedish pancakes (slightly thicker crepes) and loved every bite.  :)

After eating, we started to make our trek towards the starting area by the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  It was CRAZY to see the number of people running this event.  Announcers kept saying that 30,000 people registered and I believe it.  It was a sea of people everywhere you looked!

One of the most touching aspects of the race was seeing the amount of firemen from around the world that flew in to NYC just to participate.  And not only did these guys (and women!) participate, but many of them ran in full gear, including their oxygen tanks.  There was a huge group of firemen from London who were definitely enjoying all the attention their sexy accents were getting from the ladies!

Just a few of the Brits & their fans

We managed to weave our way to the start line so we can see the opening ceremonies and memorials.  There was a moment of silence, along with a few songs.  From what I remember the first group to line up at the start line was a group of wounded soldiers.  They started off the race 15 minutes before we did so they could get a slight head start before the throngs of runners.  There was also a piece of steel taken from the rubble of the World Trade Center that was on display for people to touch on their way over the start line. 

After the wounded soldiers, I believe there were 1500 West Point Cadets that crossed the start line in formation.  After the cadets was another huge number of Marines and other military.


Finally it was our turn to line up and we quickly got ready to run.  I had my camera ready to go and before I knew it, we were off! 


We ran over the timing mats and immediately rounded the corner to head down into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. There were a few firetrucks parked over to the side with some of the best looking cheerleaders I've seen in awhile... ;)  (Did I ever mention I'm a sucker for men in uniform?)


Heading into the tunnel
The tunnel was the true start of the emotional rollercoaster for a few runners.  I saw a few people overcome with emotion just standing over to the side of the tunnel.  A minute or so after entering the tunnel, "Proud to Be an American" started playing over the intercom system and that got a few more tears flowing!

It's hard to hear but here's a quick video while we were running through...(and no, I promise that's not me singing)



The support for the men and women in uniform was overwhelming.  Every runner that passed someone in full gear gave them a pat on the back or asked if they were ok or needed water.  It was HOT and muggy in that tunnel just wearing a t-shirt and running shorts.  I was dripping sweat within 2 minutes of entering the tunnel.  Adding 50+ pounds of heat resistant gear must have been excruciating.  Many people stopped to walk when the uniformed person stopped to walk due to the heat and weight of their gear. 




After exiting the tunnel, we ran down the street that was lined with military holding American flags on one side....


...and on the other side was over 343 firemen holding banners with the name and photo of each one of their brothers lost. Yup, this is where I kinda lost it.  I had to slow down and walk a few times and wipe away tears.  The enormity of the run doesn't hit until you see the photos of the men and women that lost their lives on 9/11.  Saying thank you to the firemen along that route felt so miniscule compared to what they went through.  




After catching another glimpse of One World Trade, we turned the corner for the final portion of the run. 


Crossing the finish line we were met with a ton of volunteers handing out any and everything you could think of! Bottles of water, bananas, frozen strawberries (omg the best thing I've ever had post race!), chocolate cookies, etc.

Luckily since we were in the first 1000 or so people to start the race, the post race area wasn't a zoo yet but the chaos grew with every passing minute.  It took a while but I found my friends and we quickly did a lap through the post race party.  There was SO MUCH food for all of the runners and families that it was overwhelming!  Burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken wings, salad, pasta salad, pasta, beer, water, soda, dunkin donuts, coffee, etc.  You name it, it was probably there!  I grabbed a burger, water, and few more packages of the Dole frozen strawberries and we decided to high tail it out of the area.  Someone should have realized that you can't squeeze 30k runners plus their family in a 2 city block area. 

Overall, this was an amazing experience.  I would do this race every year in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately I think the 2012 race is the exact same weekend as Wine & Dine though.  For obvious logistics reasons, this is one of the only Tunnel to Tower tribute runs that can't be held on the actual September 11th date.  If I can find a close run on 9/11 though, I'll make the trek out there. 

It was slight chaos with 30k runners (they didn't cap the race) but I'm glad they were able to raise a crazy amount of money for the foundation.  I heard that this race raised somewhere around $2.1M for the charity. 

If anyone wants more information on the foundation, as well as the locations of all of their other tribute runs, their website is:  
http://www.tunneltotowersrun.org


11 October, 2011

Open the Gates and Sieze the Day.... Newsies at Paper Mill Playhouse




It's obvious I'm a Disney fan (wait...really?!) but I think only some of my friends know about my love of Newsies, the 1992 film featuring Christian Bale about the news boys of 1899 and subsequent strike. 

"July, 1899: When Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the distribution price one-tenth of a cent per paper, ten cents per hundred, the newsboys, poor enough already, are outraged. Inspired by the strike put on by the trolley workers, Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (played in the movie by Christian Bale) organizes a newsboys' strike. With David Jacobs as the brains of the new union, and Jack as the voice, the weak and oppressed found the strength to band together and challenge the powerful."

It was the first time I saw Christian Bale and totally fell in love with everything he's done.  Plus there was singing! And dancing!  And sexy newsies (I was 12, I'm sorry)!  I've easily seen the movie hundreds of times, and that's probably understating it.  I remember watching it every single day for a while when I was a young teen just so I can sing the songs.

The movie wasn't a huge hit in theatres but definitely had a growing cult following as the years went on.  I honestly didn't realize exactly how big the following was until one day I was at a bar with my BFF Christina and her brother Stephen.  Somehow in conversation, Stephen quoted a line from Newsies and I pretty much froze.  I quickly said the next line in the movie and I think Stephen shed a tear.  Our Newsies bond officially started.  Poor Christina then had to endure hours of movie line quotes, singing songs to each other, and yes, watching the movie together.  :)

Fast forward to a few months ago when it was announced that Newsies was going to be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse in NJ.  RIGHT in our own backyard!  How much more perfect can this be?!  We stalked the theatre and finally found the day tickets went on sale.  I bought tickets for us immediately and the countdown started. 

As the show officially started, I read every review I could about it and watched all the promotional clips that they released.  Hearing the songs I grew up with all over again with a new twist was awesome.  I knew they had made some slight changes to the storyline (Jack now has a love interested that isn't David's sister) but I've read that all changes were for the better. 

Well Friday night was show time for our trio of Newsies fans.  After freaking out in traffic and getting to the theatre 15 minutes before show time, we quickly ran to our seats and settled in for the show.  You could tell there were a few die hard Newsies fans in the audience by the amount of people wearing the customary Newsies hats, us three included.  The souvenir booth was also selling their version of the hats. 

Honestly?  We were BLOWN AWAY.  We said, as well as everyone else around us, that this was an amazing production.   All the favorite characters were there, every memorable song, and most of the witty one-liners from the movie were in there as well.  Since it was a stage production, some things were definitely edited and changed around a bit but it was pretty much perfect.  The changes made didn't take away anything. 

Jeremy Jordan, who plays Jack Kelly, is absolutely amazing.  During his performance of Santa Fe right before the intermission, I heard multiple audience members around me just say a simple 'Woah' or 'Wow' multiple times.   At the end of the song Stephen just looked at me and at a loss for words, each said 'Holy crap!' (Yes, eloquent, I know)

The group dance numbers were all spot on as well and got the audience cheering and clapping throughout most of them.

I can only imagine how much more amazing this show can be on a Broadway stage with some Disney Broadway money thrown into the mix, along with a dozen or two extra Newsies on stage.

Yes, we're all wearing newsies caps!


No photos were allowed during the show so here's a few videos that they have released to give you guys a taste... (sorry if some have advertisements prior to the real video starting)  You'll see bits and pieces of Jeremy Jordan singing Santa Fe within these videos.  Just seeing how great he is in rehearsal, just imagine in real life! 









If there is ANY way that you guys can rush down to Paper Mill before October 16th, DO IT!  The 16th is the final performance but I'm crossing my fingers that this isn't the last we hear of Newsies! 

Umm...and yes, we're going again this Friday on closing weekend to see it again....

10 October, 2011

runDisney Meet-Up & Eat-Up Recap

A week before the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, the Disney Parks Blog posted about a Meet-Up & Eat-Up the Friday before the race with training experts Jeff Galloway & Brooks Johnson as well as Disney chef Gary Jones.  Unfortunately I wasn't one of the lucky 25 to be picked (I think runDisney might be sick of me showing my face everywhere, haha!) but I had 9 friends (yes 9 out of the 25!) that were picked to attend!

Danielle and Patrick were both generous enough to write a recap of their experiences for me (I swear I didn't bribe them with food and wine during the festival!).  I thought it would be nice to include two views since they broke up the attendees into 2 running groups and Danielle and Patrick ran in separate groups.  Other than the run though, all sessions were done together.

Hopefully I can merge both of their recaps seamlessly and don't confuse everyone with repetitive information. 


Pre-Event:

~Danielle....
About a week before I was set to leave for Florida for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon (my first race ever!) I was at work waiting for a meeting to start and decided to check Facebook on my phone (shhh! Don’t tell!) -  there was a post from runDisney that said the first 25 people to respond would be invited to a special Meet-Up and Eat-Up event the Friday before the race…I quickly sent my e-mail and just a few hours later I received a reply saying I was chosen to participate!

I’ll save everyone the story of my trip down to Florida, but a broken down train and a missed flight later I eventually made it to Orlando!  {Not to mention she ran into me randomly on Disney's Magical Express!  Talk about a small world!}  On about 4 hours of sleep I got up and took a cab over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the 7am meeting time for the event.


The Meet-Up:

Olympic Track and Field Coach, Brooks Johnson:

~Danielle...
Once everyone was there Bob Hitchcock, PR Manager for runDisney, gave us a quick rundown of our schedule for the morning and then we all got into golf carts and were driven over to the track where we were met by our first guest speaker of the day, Olympic Track and Field Coach, Brooks Johnson.

Mr. Johnson handed out a document called “The Need for Speed” and from there it was a bit like a high school physics class!  Inertia = Mass x Velocity and Force = Mass x Acceleration…  I wasn’t too great at physics the first time around, and I have to say as someone so new to running (I just started about 3 months ago) all I was worried about that weekend was finishing 13.1 miles without collapsing so this was all a bit beyond me at the moment.  However, that being said, he was a great speaker, very entertaining and funny and I really did enjoy when he got us up and had us do a few drills on the track - he really did watch each person and give feedback on their form!

Photo courtesy of Danielle
~Patrick...
Brooks has been coaching athletes for over 50 years and has coached an athlete in every Olympics since 1968. This guy definitely knows running!  He started off by explaining some basic running principles. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say he threw in a few physics equations to explain how to run faster. It was a little early for a physics lesson (7am!) but he used it to illustrate some basic principles.

Photo courtesy of Patrick
After the quick physics lesson, we split up into smaller groups to get some on track coaching. Brooks wanted to evaluate our running technique, so he had us run 20 yards in a straight line. He used this exercise to illustrate the importance of the arm swing. It acts as the “metronome” for running. The faster you swing your arms, the faster you will run. Give it a try, you’ll definitely see what he means.

Also, the length of the arm swing influences the length of your stride. The longer your arm swing, the longer your stride. Putting these two concepts together really makes a difference. It feels really strange at first but you get the hang of it quickly.

Brooks coaches track athletes, not long-distance runners and because of that I did feel that most of what he demonstrated was geared towards short-track running. However, one could apply the lessons for the last mile of a marathon when you want to have that last big kick to the finish line.

Photo courtesy of Danielle
2010 Wine & Dine Champions Melissa Wisner & Anton VanZyl: 

~Patrick...
The next speakers were Anton Van Zyl and Melissa Wisner. Anton was the 2010 W&D men’s winner and Melissa was the women’s winner. (Anton also won this year’s race) It was a short Q&A session where we got to ask questions about race prep, the course, and running strategy. Everyone in the group wanted to know about proper eating in preparation for a night race. Melissa said that she will have a big breakfast followed by a smaller meal around lunch time. She stops eating at 4pm to make sure that she doesn’t have any issues during the race.


Photo courtesy of Patrick
~Danielle...
Melissa Wisner and Anton Van Zyl talked a bit about the course and the challenges of running a night race since it was something new to most people.  I was a bit surprised when they talked about the number of hills on the course, I was expecting a race in Florida to be pretty flat, I hadn't realized we were going to have to run up the overpass ramps!

Official runDisney Training Consultant, Jeff Galloway: 

~Danielle...
Lastly we heard from the Official runDisney Training Consultant, Jeff Galloway, who I was really looking forward to meeting, I had read some of his books and listened to a podcast he was featured on during my training and I really liked his "you can do it" approach to running, it was very motivating for a new runner looking to jump right in to doing a half marathon.  Jeff handed out a document with articles on “Eating and Drinking BEFORE an Evening Event” and “Recovering After a Night Race”.  He talked a bit about the information in the articles and did a bit of Q&A and then it was time to head off on a run!

Photo courtesy of Patrick


~Patrick...
After the Q&A with the winners from last year, Jeff Galloway was up next. Jeff spoke very briefly about his run-walk-run method and how to prepare for a night race. We got the chance to ask a few questions as a follow up.

Photo courtesy of Danielle

After Jeff finished, it was on to the 2 mi training run led by Anton, Melissa, and Jeff. We were split into two groups, those that wanted to run the entire 2 mi would be running with Anton and Melissa. Those that wanted to do a run-walk-run would be in Jeff’s group.

Run with Jeff Galloway:

~Danielle...
While I wasn’t planning on using the run-walk-run method for the half marathon the next day I decided to go with Jeff’s group – how often is it you have the chance to run with a former Olympian!

The run was a 2 mile loop through the grounds of the Wide World of Sports, Jeff kept a very comfortable pace and the whole group stayed together and chatted the entire time.  Jeff was extremely personable, answered everyone’s questions and really made the run a great experience - I was just glad I brought two pairs of sneakers to Florida with me, it was a trail run and the pair I had on was all wet and sandy by the end!

Photo courtesy of Danielle
Run with 2010 Winners Anton & Melissa:

~Patrick...
I decided I wanted to run with Anton and Melissa, so I joined their running group. After splitting up into our respective groups, we were off. The run was on a “trail” through the grass/wooded area around Wide World of Sports. It was a nice change from running on pavement, but at that early hour, the grass was still damp. By the end of the run, my shoes were pretty wet.

During the first mile of the run, I got a chance to talk to Anton. He was a very friendly guy who was willing to answer any questions we had. I asked him about fueling during a run. To my surprise, he suggested that Coke can be used as a sports drink. He said that many elite runners use flat coke that’s watered down. I don’t think I’ll be trying that anytime soon, but for those adventurous types, give it a try and let me know how it goes.

For the second mile, I ran with Melissa. She is currently living in the DC area and we discussed the Marine Corp marathon since I’ll be running it at the end of October. Unfortunately she isn’t running it this year, but she has in the past. She said that it was a great race and that every runner should do it at least once in their life. I’m definitely glad I decided to sign up.


Eat-Up:

~Patrick...
Once everyone finished the run and hydrated, we headed over to a cooking demonstration given by Disney Chef Gary Jones. Chef Gary is quite active and competes in triathlons, so he prepared a breakfast dish that was good for athletes. It was a quinoa dish with fresh fruit added in. He had a couple of attendees help him prepare the dish and hand out samples.


Photo courtesy of Patrick

~Danielle...
After the run we were taken inside the Wide World of Sports and were met by Disney Chef Gary Jones and the one and only Mickey Mouse (all ready to make us a post-run snack in his Chef’s outfit!).  Chef Jones gave some great nutritional tips and then (with the assistance of two of the participants and Mickey!) made us Quinoa Birchermuesli (a Swiss Cereal with South American grain), something he said he has for breakfast often before he works out (I’ve included the recipe below).

I love oatmeal and this Quinoa had a very similar texture (in fact you can substitute oatmeal for the quinoa if you want) and had nuts, fresh and dried fruit in it.  It was substantial because of everything that was in it and will definitely make a great pre or post run snack - definitely something I'll make at home!

Photo courtesy of Danielle


QUINOA BIRCHERMUESLI RECIPE

4 cups cooked Quinoa (you can also use oatmeal)
1pt skim milk
1 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts 
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 apples shredded
1 pear shredded
1/2 cup brown sugar

You basically just mix all the ingredients to taste!  It is a very flexible recipe you can substitute the walnuts, apples, pears and cranberries for any nuts, fresh or dried fruit of your choice!  Same with the yogurt, milk - feel free to substitute skim, soy, lactaid or a flavored yogurt!

Photo courtesy of Patrick


Post Eats:

~Danielle...
After our quick snack we were given goody bags which had a t-shirt and a small ESPN Wide World of Sports backpack and then we had a chance to pick up our race packets and check out the expo before they opened the doors to the public.

~Patrick...
After the cooking demo, we all got a chance to take pictures with Mickey and Jeff. We also received our goody bags which included a personalized shirt. Nice touch!  Since many of us were running in the either the 5k or half marathon the next day, we got a chance to go down to the expo for shopping and packet pickup before the official opening. After picking up our bibs, we were free to roam the expo.


Overall:

~Patrick...
This was my second runDisney meetup (I attended the DL meetup) and I have to say that the runDisney folks keep improving each time. There was a lot of good info for runners during the 3 hour session and everyone had a great time. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one!

~Danielle...
Especially as someone participating in their first race it was really exciting and interesting to be a part of the Meet Up, I learned some great tips and met some really great people.  The entire event was well organized by the runDisney staff and the opportunity to be a part of it really did add something special to my first race experience, hopefully I'll get the chance to participate in another in the future!

Photo courtesy of Danielle
Photo courtesy of Danielle

~~~~

Thank you Danielle and Patrick!!  First drink after the marathon in January is on me.  :)

Sounds like it was definitely an amazing event and each runDisney Meet-Up just seems to get better and better.

runDisney also posted this awesome video recap about the meet-up and doesn't that guy Patrick at the very end look familiar?  :)




(You can find Patrick on Twitter @InIronsPL.  We're still trying to convince Danielle to sign up for an account!)

07 October, 2011

Race Recap: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (aka Redemption!)

My whirlwind weekend is finally over and I'm starting to go through photos and jot down thoughts about the Wine & Dine Half Marathon adventure. I figured the most important part of the trip was the race itself so I'll skip over the other parts of the trip for now and jump right into the fun, sound good?

If anyone remembers my adventure from last years race, you'll remember it didn't really go as planned for me.  Hit the "wall" around Mile 9 or 10 and it just went downhill from there.  After spending over an hour in the medical tent puking my guts out, I missed most of the after party and was overall miserable the remainder of the night.  There were definitely a few mistakes on runDisney's part (not what got me sick though!) and a ton of mistakes on my end.  If none of that jogs your memory, the recap can be found here

I am thrilled to say that this weekend's race went off without a hitch!  The issues that many runners had with runDisney's logistics last year were completely non-existent this year.  A few months prior to the race, runDisney issued a statement acknowledging that changes would be made to the 2011 race.  They stuck to every promise and I think the race was very well run. 

So now lets see how it all went down in 2011....

The Expo: 

Packet Pickup Area

I think it was well organized and ran smoothly.  Keith and I arrived around 10am Friday as it opened and it wasn't too chaotic.  Packet pickup went quickly and we enjoyed wandering around the expo booths looking at new products and getting a few samples (big thumbs up for the free Oikos Greek yogurt!).  Stopped over at the Running Skirts booth to say hello to Heather and Ernie and then just wandered and kept running into friends and other Running of the Ears members.  Wasn't a huge fan of the runDisney merchandise that I didn't already own so ended up with just my usual wine glass.



The only blip we had was with transportation to and from the expo.  On the way to the expo was totally my fault.  I remember the Polynesian being a host resort last year and just assumed it would be again this year.  Since we were at Bay Lake Tower, we jumped on the monorail to the Poly and asked about transport.  That's when I realized the Poly was no longer a host resort.  Apparently there were no host Magic Kingdom resorts, which I found odd.  Keith and I jumped in a cab and made it to the expo in record time so I guess it all worked out.

Transport from the expo was slightly chaotic.  There wasn't a cast member anywhere near the bus stops and not much signage.  We only saw signs for buses back to Pop and Caribbean Beach.  After seeing a Beach Club (the 2nd resort we stayed at that weekend) bus pull up on the other side of the parking lot, we quickly sprinted across the lot before it left us.  (Transport to the race on race day, however, went seamlessly.)

Leading Up to the Race:

Last year I definitely exhausted myself by running around the parks the days leading up to the race.  This year?  I TRIED to be better.  I really did.  The day before the race, we went to the expo and then wandered Epcot's Food & Wine Festival sampling a ton of food.  Didn't do too bad with the walking.  However, it was Walt Disney World's 40th birthday on race day and I knew I wanted to be at the Magic Kingdom for park opening.  People started arriving at 6am for the ceremonies but we ended up getting there slightly before 8am for the 9am rope drop.  Quickly sprinted to the castle and stood around until 10am when the ceremony started.  After the ceremony (which lasted maybe 30-40 mins?) I enjoyed stuffing my face with breakfast foods at Crystal Palace and then attempted 3 rides before calling it a day.  Our chaotic ride adventures will be saved for another post but a quick recap:  Got on Pirates, got stuck on Pirates for an hour, got evacuated from Pirates.  Went to Thunder, Thunder broke down right before we got on.  Went to Carousel of Progress, it broke in the last 'future' room.  We gave up! :)

We got back to the room fairly early and both attempted to nap, didn't really work.  Started getting ready about 5:30 and got so bored and antsy in the room that we headed for the buses around 7pm instead of 7:30.

The most amazing thing though?  The WEATHER!  The 2 days leading up to the race, it was HOT and gross.  Low 90s and humid.   I was having flashbacks of last year, ugh!  However race day?  Perfect running weather.  About 70-ish at the start and it dipped down to the low 60s by the time the race ended.  Perfect! 




A semi-full bus was waiting for us when we got to the bus stop so we were on our way in a few minutes.  It took awhile for the bus to get us from the entrance of Wide World of Sports to the drop off point but we had a ton of time so I just sat and relaxed while the traffic eased up.

Bag check was a breeze this year.  Went into the correct line (ordered by last name), dropped off my bag, and went on my merry way.  I didn't really have any issues last year with bag drop off either but I remember hearing the lines were chaotic last year after awhile.

Last year I never got a chance to get a photo with Mickey since the lines were so crazy so we immediately went and jumped in line.  While there, we met up with Danielle and Lisa and also ran into a few other twitter friends after sending a tweet that I was in line and wearing a red hat (Hi Jim!).  The line went fairly quickly and we just chatted until it was our turn to meet the Mouse.  


We then found an empty area in the grassy area and plopped down waiting for others to show up.

Nicole and I met last year in the same grassy field...it was our Friendiversary!
Part of the running crew.... Lisa, Megan, Collin, Adam, Daniel, Keith, me, Patrick, Danielle


The Race:






After getting into the Runners Only area, we all made one more quick pitstop, ran into a few more friends, and then broke off to head into each of our corrals. Who in their right mind thought I was fast enough for Corral A? :)  Regardless,  I'll take it!  My first (and hopefully not last) Corral A start, woohoo!  


We moved about halfway up into the corral. I knew I didn't want to push any further up because some of these guys were SPEEDY!


The never ending Corral A
Before I knew it, the national anthem was being sung and everyone was doing their last minute stretches. I'm used to at least waiting for one corral ahead of me to start running so this was all new to me to start running exactly as the gun went off! As I ran by the announcers booth, I tried to snap a few pics.


And it starts! The first few miles were the typical "run on the highway" miles of a Disney race. There were a few characters along the way but I felt that there weren't as many as there usually are.  The lines were definitely shorter than I'm used to but then I realized it was because all the speedy runners in Corral A don't normally stop for photos.  I only stopped for a few long the way....

Oops, cast member forgot to zoom out!
Animal Kingdom is always fun to run through and it wasn't any different for this race! I love running past Expedition Everest and hearing the Yeti.  They also had the 'red tusks' along the course again this year but instead of all red, they were multicolored and changing.  I think I liked the all red ones better last year.  Made it seem more 'creepy'.

Also, THANK YOU runDisney for putting those random glowing eggs/footballs all along the course.  Not sure if I got a photo of them, but they were key!  The course this year was much more lit and I didn't run into any pitch black areas. 


After exiting Animal Kingdom, the long trek to Hollywood Studios started. I remember last year there was an out-and-back, the same as the marathon pretty much, but they had changed the course slightly this year. I thought the race flowed a lot nicer without the out-and-back and was happy to snap a photo with this dude at the top of the hill/ramp. Yes...I look scared (or possessed...) , I don't know why.....


Around here my mouth started to feel reallly dry so I tried to drink more Gatorade and grabbed a few waters along the route.  Nothing was helping so I made a conscious effort to keep a steady pace but slightly slow down.  I didn't want a repeat of last year!  

Hollywood Studios was also cool to run through at night. I remember last year, runDisney claimed that this was the longest run inside a park for any of their races, and you could tell. It honestly felt like you were in the park FOREVER! Not that it's a bad thing though. Better than running on straight highway!  After every turn or every time you thought you were going to exit, the next turn led into another area of the park.


When entering the backstage studio tour area, I was SO relieved to see that the ventilation fans were on throughout the whole costuming tunnel.  Last year was so muggy and hot through there that I think it was the start to my demise.   The draft from the fans felt fabulous! 

Somehow I got all turned around and lost my sense of direction. I couldn't for the life of me remember where the Osbourne Lights were in relation to where I was running. After a while, I was getting worried that they wouldn't be lit this year! Finally I caught the roof of one of the lit areas and it eased my fears!


I know a few runners I talked to were disappointed that not all the Osbourne Lights were lit but I've been keeping up with Studios Centrals updates and knew they weren't all installed yet. runDisney pretty much has nothing to do with the installation so you can't really blame anyone. Work on the lights just wasn't as quick this year than last. I did love that Christmas music was playing and all the cast members in the area were saying "Merry Christmas!!". It was a cute touch.

After exiting Hollywood Studios, I knew there was only a mile or so left until the finish line.  When I got to the resort area of Beach Club and the Boardwalk, I tried to pick up my speed.  The crowds all long that part of the course were awesome.  Little kids giving high fives, cow bells everywhere, just a ton of energy.

I got really excited when I was approaching the International Gateway...the finish line from last year.  Then I realized that they changed the course slightly and when I looked at my Garmin, I realized I had about another .3 miles to go, doh!!  By then I just wanted to be done though so it was hard for me to enjoy the rest.  There were a ton of cast members along this part with funny signs.  I remember seeing the "Only 400 yards to go!" and then realizing that 4 football fields was a long way!

Crossing the finish line felt awesome!  And I didn't feel sick!  Happy dance!  The race was definitely not my best but by far not my worst but I'll take it.  It's not every day that you can run through the parks at night and have Epcot open for you until 3am.  


The Finish Line Area and After Party:

The finish line area was so much more organized this year, I was highly impressed.  After getting your medal, you followed the path to the food area where they had water, Powerade, and a goodybag of food that had a banana, a bagel, peanut butter, and...possibly a muffin?  I was in no mood to eat though so I grabbed a water and chugged it as fast as I could.

Quickly found Keith and we headed over to the bag check area, which was also a breeze.  Right past bag check there were changing areas for both men and women.  Pretty much just huge tents where you could go in and change out of your clothes.  I do have to say, the tents were not for the modest.  There weren't any changing 'rooms' so you had to pick a spot or a corner and change in the big tent along with everyone else.  Didn't bother me since all I really wanted was to get out of the gross sweaty tank top!

The path then led to the 'free drink' area, which runners had an option of either soda or Budweiser or Bud Light.  I SWEAR that at some point, an email came out saying that runners had the option of getting a free glass of wine but it was no where to be found.  I despise soda, Budweiser, AND Bud Light so I just grabbed a Bud to bring to Patrick or Daniel.  I wish they had extra waters in this area because I really could have used another one!

Walking into Epcot was slightly crowded but was honestly well organized.  Runners had a completely separate entrance than non-runners so it was nice.  The pathway along the runners entrance was lined with family members looking for their runner.  After getting out of the crowds, Future World didn't seem too crowded at all.

 
While trying to find a bathroom in Innoventions, we stumbled upon the Character Spot and saw that Goofy and Pluto were there!  Of course I had to run in and grab a photo! 

 


We met up with Daniel and his brother as well as Patrick and his sister and then all just started SLOWLY wandering around the World Showcase.  The lines were AMAZINGLY shorter!  Every booth we went to had no more than 5 people on it, compared to last years 30-50.  Everyone seemed much happier and in the partying mood this time around.  Not sure if the cooler weather played any part in that though! 

I wanted something refreshing to eat so quickly jumped in the Greece line and ordered the Greek Salad.  This Greek girl definitely approves!  However, I probably should have waited a little longer to start eating as my stomach started feeling funny right after I ate.  After buying a bottle of water and slowly sipping it, the nauseous feeling went away and then I was FAMISHED! 

As we made our way around, we each kept running into people that we knew (Hi Sarah, Holly, & Kevin!!) so it literally took us 2 hours to make our way around the World Showcase.  It was nice and relaxing though. 

When we finally made our way to the other side of the festival, I stopped at Argentina and had the Beef Empanada and the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée, both were AMAZING!  And I swear it wasn't because I had just ran 13 miles.  I've heard they're some of the most popular items at the whole festival. 

Right about then we realized that it was almost exactly 3am so we quickly ran/shuffled over to Test Track and were the very last people on the ride for the night.  Sadly the photopass photos weren't working though that late so we didn't get our awesome photo displaying our medals!  


Overall: 

Overall, I think the race was awesome and an amazing improvement from last year.  runDisney definitely listened to all of the criticism and made changes accordingly.  The after party ran much smoother and the addition of Future World and some attractions being open completely helped. 

The only small complaint I can even think of is the on course entertainment.  I, as well as others that ran previous runDisney races, all commented that there seemed to be hardly any characters around.  We also noticed it at Disneyland and heard about the same thing at the 5k too so not sure if this is an ongoing thing. 

Even without the additional characters though, just wanted to say thanks runDisney for another great weekend!  

And thank you to Mr. Walt Disney himself for sending the amazing weather on Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary (and race day). 

And will I do this race next year?  Well I can't stop the tradition of heading down for my birthday weekend now, can I? :)