Friday, January 27, 2012

My year running Disney

Happy 100th blog post to me!

Last January I was watching the Facebook updates about the Disney Marathon Weekend and I was so jealous I was not there taking part in something.  I live in Miami after all, why did I not make the 3 hour, 45 minute drive north?  Well, last year I was scheduled to volunteer at the Marathon, but pulled out a couple weeks beforehand because I had to leave for a work trip the next day.  Between holiday travel and work travel, I figured I would spend the weekend at home instead of going up to Otown.
In the end, I didn't like that decision, so I started to look at my calendar and decided that it would be possible to attend the rest of the runDisney events in 2011.  I knew it would be a fun way to spend some time at Disney... plus, I luckily have friends and family who also love Disney and I knew I could convince them to come down for the different events.

It was also this time last year I decided to start my blog.  I wanted to document what I knew would be a fun year ahead.  Of course, the blog has become about more than just running and Disney, but I am glad I have this journal of sorts, to always look back on.

runDisney does a great job with their events and I am so glad I got to participate in them all this year! 
I know my decision to return to Disney for their race weekends is based on both the organization and support provided by them at their events; but also because I have been able to hang out with my friends & family at a place we have been visiting for years, always have a great time and make lifelong memories.... queue One Republic's "This is a gonna be a good life" :) 

In case you missed any of my posts, or just want to read them again... here you go:

Princess Half Marathon 
Expedition Everest Challenge
Disneyland Half Marathon 
Disneyland Expo & Pasta in the Park
Wine & Dine Half Marathon
runDisney Meet Up & Eat Up
Walt Disney World Marathon 
Marathon Weekend Expo & Pasta in the Park
Volunteering for the WDW Half Marathon

Memories of a good year...

I see 2012 shaping up to be more of the same, gotta love living close to Disney World!
The fun starts next month when I will be meeting up with some of my favorite ladies for the Princess Half Marathon! 

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my runDisney experiences as much as I have enjoyed taking part in them!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon Recap

So over two weeks ago I ran a marathon and am just now getting around to writing about it.
Good thing I am not in journalism, timely reporting happening right here :)

Grab a drink or a snack, this is a long one... 
Sunday January 8th started with a super early wake up call... 2:15am, followed by the alarm set on my phone for 2:30am.  I am always afraid of over sleeping.
Luckily, I was pretty much wide awake and really excited to get the day started!  Even though I was worried about calf cramping, or something else bothering me during the race, I was excited.  To avoid too many nerves, I was really just focused on the fact that I would be running through the 4 Disney parks and wanted my experience to be FUN.
my new 'H' bag all packed and ready to go!
I met up with my cousin and uncle in the lobby of the hotel at 3:30am.  I am pretty sure I was a little too perky for my cousin :)
We were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and they had set out a runner's buffet both mornings for half marathoners and marathoners. So nice.
Anytime I get something for free at Disney World I am very, very excited.
The bus to the race start was right out front, so we got on and off we went.  Easy as can be.

Start Area: We got to the start area by 4am... plenty of time.  The start area for the race was the parking lot outside of Epcot.  It is the exact same set-up as the Princess Half Marathon... music/DJ, character pictures, merchandise, they also had a snack bar and some Orlando food trucks there as well.  All very easy to get around and super organized.    
We had our breakfast, visited the porta potties and took a picture, before checking our bags and heading on the trek out to the corrals.  
The walkway to the corrals opened at 4:20am.  We headed out at 4:50 and it took 30 minutes to get out there.  The race started at 5:35, so I think we timed it perfectly!
Definitely get to Disney races in plenty of time.  Don't stress yourself out but cutting it too close.  Is waiting for a race to start super annoying?  Totally, but there is entertainment in the start area as well as at the corrals, it does help the time go by. 

Corrals:  There were 8 corrals in all, A-H.  Each corral was clearly marked with huge signs, loved it!   I was in E and Amanda and Uncle Ken were in C.  The corral area was nice and big, so you did not feel crowded in. 

Race Goal:  Finish. 

Race Start:  Mickey, Donald & Goofy were brought up on stage to give some encouraging words to the runners.  I am sorry but their voices are so funny/cute, I was totally laughing at them the whole time :)
from runDisney's Facebook page

Mickey counted down and the race started on time at 5:35am.  I was off at 5:51. 

The weather that morning was PERFECT!  It was a little chilly actually and I kept my fleece on instead of checking it.  I knew I would see my parents at mile 2.5 so I figured I could hand it off then.  There really could not have been better weather conditions.

Miles 1 to 5:  Plan for the day was to do the 2/1 run/walk ratio.  I started that right away and it worked out really well.  
The were a lot of runners, but I did not think the course was overly crowded.  We were running on the road outside of Epcot and there was a surprising amount of spectators cheering on the runners as we started.  There was also a school band within that first mile.  
I reached the Mile 1 marker and had to pull over to go to the bathroom... annoying, but since I knew I wouldn't win ;) (the leaders passed us on the right hand side of the highway, they were at mile 5 while I was at mile 1) the bathroom stop was fine.
As we were entering the Epcot parking lot around mile 1.5, I took off my fleece and held onto until I saw my parents who were at the monorail station with my friend Annette, aunt Renee and cousin Laura.  I am glad my mom had a sign I could easily spot (blue one... since I made it).
Annette was my personal photographer for the first half of the race and at the finish line.  It was awesome, she got some good shots.  
She was also the official Facebook updater.  I didn't realize she had done this until I was back at the hotel, but I loved it!  Thanks Annette!
I then left them and ran into Epcot and through Future World.  The course took a left into World Showcase.  After running past Mexico (one of the Caballero ducks was out) and Norway, the course headed out of the park between Norway and China (where Mushu was taking pictures).  We ran through the Epcot cast parking lot.  There they had another school band, and a picture op with Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
The course then took us on the same path as we walked out to the corrals on.  We ran past the start line (it was on the other side of the highway and was already being disassembled, no time wasted there!). By mile 5 we were running the overpass and making our way down to World Drive. 

Miles 6 to 13:  Mile 6 had the Three Little Pigs and I thought they were so cute!  At this point, I really liked running down the off ramp onto World Drive, as opposed to running up it for Princess :)
Miles 6 through 13 were my favorite part of the race.  There was a lot of entertainment and I felt great and it was just really easy.  Am I a jerk for thinking running 13 miles is easy? 
On World Drive, there was the hot air balloon and Scrouge McDuck (I think that is who it was).  As we approached the race track, there were race cars and drivers out front.  Running through the Magic Kingdom parking lot, there was a collection of classic cars and a DJ set up.  That was cool.
I love running through the Ticket & Transportation Center because it is always full of spectators and they are cheering loudly!  After passing through there, I saw my parents and Annette again.  This time I stopped and chatted.  They also had GU for me and some endurolyte pills.  It was really, really awesome to not have to carry everything with me. 
After I left them, the course headed up past the Contemporary Resort and into the Magic Kingdom!
Running down Main Street is just awesome.
We then turned right and headed into Tomorrowland.  Stitch was out for pictures, and then it was onto Fantasyland where they had Alice & the Mad Hatter, Tangled & Flynn Ryder and Cinderella, Prince Charming and her ugly stepsisters.
As you can probably tell by now, I didn't stop for character pictures.  I wanted to get pictures with the icons of each park (failed on that), and knew the Princess half marathon would be my "picture" race, but now I regret not at least having my camera with me and not stopping for a couple of pictures.  Oh well.
I did get a picture in front of the castle.
snagged this from the Brightroom website
I have no idea where I thought I was going to fly off too.  What a stupid pose.
After stopping at the castle, I headed into Liberty Square where Princess Tiana was.  Next up was Frontierland where we saw Woody from Toy Story, we ran past Splash Mountain and then out of the park through a backstage area.  There was an Aladdin parade float set up in the backstage area and I think Peter Pan was the character taking pictures in front of the float.
Heading down the road towards the Grand Floridian, there was a DJ, the Reedy Creek fireman, Mickey & Friends were playing golf and I think Winnie the Pooh & Tigger were somewhere along here as well.
I saw my parents and Annette one last time at mile 13.
Looks like I was really giving it my all in the third pic, eh? :)
This time I got another GU, more endurolyte pills and a banana. 
I did realize that thank you. 
I was half way done and having fun!  
 Miles 14 to 18:  I had read that miles 14 to 16 were boring miles on a service road to get over to Animal Kingdom, but I didn't think it was boring at.  These were hard miles for me mentally, but I was not bored.  My right thigh started to bother me, so I stopped at the medical tent for some BioFreeze around mile 15.
Along this part of the course, they had the Villians, they had these two super funny "tourists"/comedians, there was the Pirate ship with Jack Sparrow and one of his pirates.  Pocahontas and John Smith were also out and as we were going into the Animal Kingdom they had a bunch of animals out.  I had read they did this last year and I thought "who cares", but then when I saw the animals I thought they were so cute!
By the time I was at Animal Kingdom the park was already open so there were actual guests at the park and they were kind of just staring at the runners like we were freaks.  
We reached Mile 17 while in Animal Kingdom and as we passed the sign a lady behind me said "We are at a single digit countdown, 9 miles to go".  That made me feel really, really happy! :)
It was also here in AK that I was getting a second wind, so that felt great.
We headed out of the park and into the parking lot.  It was here that I knew I would see my sister and Lily!  
Amanda & Uncle Ken saw Sarah & Lily way before I did!
Sarah also had some supplies for me...  The Stick and Pringles.  I was really happy to have something salty to eat and using The Stick on my right hamstring never felt so good.  My niece even helped me out by massaging my thigh.
If that is not one of the cutest things you could ever hope to see during a marathon I really don't know what is.  I love that little girl so much.  
Sarah, just ignore the fact that her hair is not brushed... my sister HATES when Lily's hair is anything but perfect :)
Lily even helped my sister make me a sign (she put all the stickers on!)
Miles 19 to 23:  The part of the course along Osceola Parkway was rather bland.  There was a band setup and there were also sports announcers near Mile 21, but other than that I can't remember any other entertainment.  I made another stop at a med tent for more BioFreeze and Tylenol, and continued on my way to Hollywood Studios.
Along World Drive they had "Sweet Caroline" playing over and over. 
Once in Hollywood Studios they had the candy table set up, I think it was about Mile 22.  At first I grabbed a mini chocolate bar, but then the thought of actually putting it in my mouth repulsed me, so I gave it back and took some gummy bears.  Those were good.
I don't really remember much else about the studios... I think the Incredibles were there, as was the old man from 'Up'.
Once outside of the Studios I saw my friends, Derek & Celeste.  I had a couple more Pringles if for no other reason than to get rid of the sweet taste I had in mouth from the gummies.  I told them I was ready to get this thing over with.  I mean, I guess after 23 miles it's ok to think that! 

Miles 24 to 26.2:  Mile 24 was just before the Boardwalk/Beach Club area.  I knew there would be a lot of spectators in this area and I was glad there was!  The last couple of miles I was just thinking "Keep moving, don't stop, you're almost there".  
Once in Epcot the course took us around World Showcase one last time.  I was ticking of the countries one by one in my head.  Running back through Future World, we exited out of the park across from Spaceship Earth.  
Mile Marker 26 had the Gospel choir to sing us into the Finish Line.

I waved to my family off to the left hand side and got this thing done!  
Minnie pic is from runDisney's Facebook page

also snagged from Brightroom, but I am actually going to buy this one.
Finish Line Area: I got my Mickey medal!
also snagged this from the Brightroom website

I also got a mylar blanket!  My very first one!  I totally didn't need it, at that point the temps were in the 70s, but I still took it.  I felt cool.
Everything else about the finish line area was easy and organized, so very Disney :)
They had all your typical post race food and drinks.  I wasn't in the mood for food at that point, so I just took a little cliff bar.  They did have diet coke and I popped that bad boy open.  I was totally craving diet coke after my 16 mile training run and was craving it after the marathon.  That does not usually happen, weird.
Collected my bag from the bag check tent, took off my shoes and socks and changed my shirt before meeting up with Annette & my family!
the marathoners!
thanks Annette for coming to watch and taking all those pictures!

Volunteers:  Awesome, plentiful, helpful.  Water and Powerade was always available.
I swear it seemed like medical tents were set up every mile.  They were well staffed and helpful.  They had plenty of Biofreeze, vaseline and tylenol on hand.  They also have water and Powerade at the med tents... just an FYI for future Disney races if you miss a water stop.  The volunteers on the bikes were awesome.  They were visible, vocal, plentiful and definitely looking after the runners.  
Can't say enough good things about all these people.  THANK YOU! 

Spectator Tips: Here is what my family & friends did to see us along the course, in case you ever need spectator tips.
Annette, my parents, aunt and cousin all saw the marathon from 4 different spots.  They started out at the monorail station outside of Epcot (mile 2.5).  Then they took the monorail to the Ticket & Transportation Center and saw us there (mile 9).  They then walked down the road in front of the Polynesian Resort to the corner where the golf course is (mile 13).  I am not 100% sure of the names of the roads, but since I don't want to look it up, I would guess it was the intersection of Floridian Drive and Seven Seas Drive.  After we passed the half way mark, they took the monorail back to Epcot to see us at the finish (mile 26.2!).
Sarah & Lily took the bus from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Animal Kingdom park.  The course goes right in front of the main entrance and that is where they were standing.
Derek & Celeste walked from the Boardwalk to the entrance of Hollywood Studios and watched there.  They then took the boat back to the Boardwalk Resort area.

Overall thoughts:   
-Amazing.  Loved it and will likely run this again in the future.  I would also not be opposed to going for Goofy (half marathon on Saturday and marathon on Sunday)... I mean, why not, right?
-Obviously I would recommend this race to anyone.  Runners, walkers, runner/walkers, they are all there. 
-I can tell you that I will not run a marathon again until I know I can train for it right.  I was definitely under prepared for this because of a crazy busy fall, but when I have to choose between living life and training rigorously for a race, I will always pick living life. 
I didn't put forth my hardest effort, and I would like to run a marathon where I do.  My main focus here was to have fun and not get hurt and I accomplished both so I am very happy with that.
-I did not have any calf cramping at all!  I was so very happy about this!  Before the race started I was just hoping to make it to mile 20 with little to no pain, but they never came.  I don't know if it was because of the endurolyte pills I took, but something went my way.
-I took GU at miles 4.5, 9, 13, 19.  I planned on taking a 5th, but just couldn't stomach the sweetness anymore.  The gummies at mile 22 was just fine.
-I ran the 26.2 miles with no music and was fine with it.  I had given my sister my ipod, so if I needed it I knew I could grab it from her at mile17/18.
-The Galloway run/walk/run method definitely has some good points (quick recovery from long runs), but I think I will go back to my usual running with walk breaks through the water stops.  
I think I used the walk breaks too much as a crutch and really didn't push myself at all.
-What all did I give to my friends and family to keep for me along the course?  They all had GU, endurolyte pills, vaseline, BenGay and moleskin.  I also gave my mom a banana and I gave Sarah and Derek & Celeste swedish fish and Pringles.  Sarah also had The Stick and my ipod.  All of these things were definitely above and beyond what I even needed but it was nice to know it was there.
It was also really nice to not have to carry these things with me and to have course support the entire time!  Thanks so much everyone, you definitely made the miles fly by!
I had never had anyone cheering me on before because usually everyone is running the race.  It was really fun to have "fans"!

Once we got back to the hotel, I took a quick soak in a cold tub, before showering and heading to lunch with everyone.  My sister had got us a cake and we all had a champagne toast! Good times!
Thanks Sarah for the cake!
Thanks to everyone else for your well wishes, everything was so motivating!

Only about 450,000 Americans finish marathons in a year.  That is a pretty small number and I am definitely proud of myself for being one of them :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Volunteering for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

On Saturday morning I was up bright and early (1:15am!) to volunteer for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.  My shift was 2am to 7am and I would be working at the Pre Race Water table.
 As always I had a great time volunteering, despite the super early start time.
Volunteers parked over at ESPN Wide World of Sports, checked-in, picked up our snack bag, our volunteer jacket and then boarded a bus over to Epcot.
It was extremely cold that morning and I had on 4 layers of clothing and would have been happy to have more!  Luckily as soon as we got to Epcot they had hot coffee and hot cocoa for the volunteers.  
Once we started working pouring, and pouring the the water I didn't feel cold anymore. 
The time flew by as we watched all the runners head over to the start corrals.  Watching everyone heading off, I definitely had half marathon envy, but knew my time would be coming soon enough the next day for the marathon!
Watching 20,000+ runners pass by was something else.  I never thought the stream of people would end.  
Can I please say tell you that runDisney runners are so nice and friendly!  I got more "Thank yous" from the runners at 4:30am then I have ever heard volunteering anywhere else.  I do believe runners should always thank the volunteers, but I also know how happy I was helping them out before their race. 
Once all the runners were off and racing, we headed over to the finish line area to help set out bottles of water. 
Once we were done "working" (can you really call volunteering at Disney World "work"?) the wheelchair winner was about to cross the finish line and shortly after the male and female winners.  It was fun to see the end of the race... all before 7am!  The winner took about an hour and 10 minutes to get through the course and the female winner took an hour and 16 minutes.  So awesome, congrats to both!
Finishers of this year's half marathon received this awesome medal...
I headed back to catch the bus to my car, but not before getting in a picture with Chip & Dale... I was at Disney World after all, gotta take advantage of those fun perks!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Disney Marathon Weekend Expo & Pasta in the Park

The 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend started off pretty much the same way any runDisney weekend starts for me... with the Expo!
My parents, cousins, aunt, uncle & myself arrived at the Expo just before 11am Thursday morning at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.  Number pick-up was quick and easy at the Milk House.
My parents, aunt, cousin & I were picking up our bibs for the Family Fiesta 5K (my sister ended up running with my number while I stayed at the hotel Friday morning with my niece).
Me, my cousin Amanda & Uncle Ken picked up our bibs for the marathon!  It was me & Uncle Ken's first marathon and Amanda's third.
I loved the long sleeve tech shirt we received.  It was my first long sleeve shirt and I loved the Disney Parks icons down along the left arm.
Before leaving the Milk House I shopped for my marathon souvenirs... a hoodie, wine glass and magnet (which is at work and not pictured below).
There were super long lines at the runDisney merchandise area, but there was no way I was getting out of line.  I learned my lesson at Disneyland... you either get in and buy what you want right away or you miss out (Coast to Coast tech shirt).

We then headed over to the Josten's Center for the main expo area and also to pick up our goodie bags.  It was pretty crowded in here, so I rushed through just to get out.  My parents had already been through the expo area and picked up their Pasta in the Park tickets before I met up with them.  Wish I knew to pick up my Pasta in the Park tickets at that time, but I thought I could get it at the will call window upon our arrival at Epcot that night....

Anyways, off we went to check into our hotel, Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I love visiting that hotel and I was so excited to be staying there for the weekend!  As it turns out Trista & Ryan Sutter from the Bachlorette were also staying there (Ryan ran the half marathon).  Huge sad face for not seeing them, I would have been so excited!
After we checked into our rooms, we decided to take my niece down to see the animals in the savannah area before heading to Pasta in the Park.  At this time, I checked with the Guest Service desk to see if they could print my ticket for me.  They could not and I had to go back to the Expo to get the ticket.  I was pretty annoyed, but since there was still time before we would leave for Epcot, I walked around the Expo a bit more.  
I signed up for the Princess & Disneyland half marathons and found this awesome tech shirt....
Blue... um yes please!  Totally my favorite color.  So excited since I missed out on one last year.

Once I was done at the expo (again!), I swung by the hotel to pick up my family and then headed over to the Boardwalk Resort to park and walk over to Epcot.  With the Pasta in the Park ticket we could enter Epcot at 6:30pm, have dinner at the ShowPlace Pavillion and then there was a special section for us to watch Illuminations.  The ticket was $48 for adults and kids 2 & under were free.  I don't know what the kids ticket cost, luckily Lily was still 2 Thursday night... her birthday was on Sunday!
After having attending the Pasta in the Park at Disneyland and really liking it, I also thought Pasta in the Park at Disney World was totally worth it.  There were a lot more people at this one, but there was never a line for anything.  There were at least 10 buffet lines set up for dinner, several cash bars and non-alcoholic drink stations set up around the room. 
The food was simple and good... pastas, chicken, salad.
The Fab 5 characters made appearances as well.  We got our picture with Minnie Mouse.  My niece loved her!  Last year, Lily was scared of the characters and just wanted to see them from afar, but this time, she went right up to Minnie and gave her a big hug... so cute!

The characters were just in their regular outfits, whereas at Disneyland they were in their track suits which I thought was cuter.  Oh well!
We left dinner at 7:30 and used the last hour and a half the park was open to go on rides.  We went on Nemo, Spaceship Earth and the fiesta boat ride at the Mexico pavillion.
We came out of Mexico just as Illuminations was starting.  We walked along World Showcase during the show.  We have all seen Illuminations in some form or another over the past two decades, so it was nothing we needed to really watch.
It was a nice, quick visit to Epcot for dinner!  Love those kind of nights!

My friend Sue had looked up Pasta in the Park for Princess weekend but it is already sold out - what?!  That is craziness!  All those people are lucky because it is totally worth it, enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Team Gab Virtual Race!

As I patiently wait for my sister to send me pics from last weekends Disney Marathon Weekend, I wanted to tell you all about an awesome virtual race...

Heather (who is awesome and has an awesome name!) over at 365 days of awesome is holding a virtual race and fundraiser for her daughter Gabby.  
Gabby is 5 years old and last year was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  She has been going through treatment for the past year and still has another year and a half to go.
Heather is raising money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.  Click here to donate your cold, hard cash.
OR if you want to do some running, click here to find out how you can win some cool prizes, log some miles and donate to a good cause.
I have already donated and will be running the ING Miami Half Marathon at the end of this month for Gabby.
Please stop trying to decide if you should donate to a company that researches cures for pediatric cancer.  Just do it already.  $5 is not too little for a donation and $5 is not too much for you to spend.
Thank you for reading this and, if you are able, thank you for your donation!

P.S.  Who else is excited for the Patriots/Broncos game tonight?
I never thought we would be playing the Broncos, but since this is the case...

Dear God, please let this be Tim Tebow's last game of the season.

Hey if good ol' Timmy can pray for sh*t, so can't I!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I am a Marathoner!

Remember when I said I was over the 26.2 miles?  Well... I may not be of that opinion anymore :)
I had so much fun on Sunday I am sure I will do another marathon some day!
More details to come... just trying to collect all the pictures from the weekend from my family & friends!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Disney Marathon Weekend!

After a very busy week of celebrating my cousins birthday on New Year's Eve/Day...
Visiting Key West and going to some of my favorite places...
We are finally heading up to Disney World in the morning!
I am looking forward to a weekend in one of my favorite places, with my family and some friends, all surrounded by the excitement of the runDisney Marathon Weekend.
Some family members are running the 5K, some are attending the Pasta in the Park Party, I am volunteering at the Half Marathon Saturday morning.
It all ends Sunday morning when my cousin Amanda, uncle Ken & I are running the marathon on Sunday and everyone else is getting up early to watch!
My parents will be at miles 2, 9 & 13 with this sign...
I am pretty excited for the 26.2 miles to be behind me, but in the mean time, here is one final thought...