Sunday, January 17, 2016

Disney World Dopey Challenge - Day 4, Sunday, January 10, 2016 - Full Marathon

The final day was here - full marathon day -  and I slept like a rock until just before my alarm went off at 2:30 am.  I repeated pretty much the exact same ritual as I had yesterday and we left at around the same time again - just past 3 am.  The only difference today was that we decided to bring a bag with us so we could each have a pair of shoes to change into after the race.  From my previous full marathons, I think the worst thing immediately after the race was the fact that my feet hurt terribly and I could not wait to get my shoes and socks off.

There weren't quite as many buses lined up this morning.  We made our way over to security and we got through bag check pretty quickly and made our way over to the Race Retreat tent.  We used the private porta potties and left our bag in the Runners World Challenge area as our group walked together (hanging on to a rope again but this time it went much faster) for the VIP walk out to the start corrals.  As we got to corral M, I stopped on a whim just to ask the cast members if it was ok for us to "hop" the fence into corral M because of the way we were walked over (rather than having to walk all the way down to corral P and then back up to corral M again).  The female cast member was very nice and understood what I explaining to her and unlatched the barrier for us to walk past.  This saved us a bunch of walking so the take-home message is that it never hurts to ask (politely)!

When we had left the Race Retreat, we had each grabbed a RunDisney sign that were on the tables so that we would have something to sit on in the corral (the ground was still damp from the rain the night before).  We found ourselves a place to sit and just relaxed until close to the start of the race.  At about 5:20 am, we made one more porta potty run and then returned to our corral for the start.  They saved the biggest fireworks for the marathon start, of course.  This morning, instead of bringing a long-sleeved race shirt, I had brought along a really old and stained Tulsa Runner long sleeved tech shirt that I stripped off and left in the corral before we got started.

The first part of the race was exactly the same as the half marathon except that we didn't have to make as many potty stops (although I did pull my phone out at 6:45 am to make an online check-in for our flight the next day - something that will always be funny to mention doing while running a marathon).  The course in MK was slightly different but we still passed under the castle to the cheering of cast members like the day before.

From Magic Kingdom, we headed back towards EPCOT but instead of that banking on-ramp to the overpass, we headed off a different road towards Animal Kingdom.  Seth commented on how quiet it was for a good part of the way to AK.    I had brought my Garmin watch to keep track of pace and had my iphone on low battery mode with all the apps closed just to get our text messages and use my Nike app later if my Garmin watch died.

By the time we had settled into our 2:4 run/walk interval, we were pretty much right on pace.  We reached AK and the half way mark - I was feeling pretty good and confident.  We had passed at least one sweep area where there was a bus parked and the course had some yellow cones that, I assume, would be removed and the sweepers would direct those participants onto the bus at the unfortunate time.  We entered AK from the back.

One of my favorite parts of all the races was when we passed through AK.  At one point, they had some animals from AK - all wearing race bibs.  I'm not sure why I thought it was just so funny - I almost stopped for pictures but we didn't take hardly any pictures on any of the 4 days.  These are some pictures I found from other people:

We had already discussed the option of riding Expedition Everest before the race started.  Seth really didn't want to ride it so we went ahead and ran right past it.  We saw more than a few runners detour off to the single rider line to ride it.  Maybe someday I'll come back and do it all.  This was the first park we hit that was fully open so there were people all over the place watching and cheering us on - it was really fun.  We both cracked up because this was the first time we saw runners ducking into concession stands and emerging with something to drink.  You'd think running a marathon, you wouldn't see a bunch of people bothering with Diet Cokes but, alas, that was what most of the women were coming out with.  Go figure.

After we left AK, we headed off to the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I guess I had no idea how huge the ESPN center was.  It seemed like we kept going and going and going through it - it never seemed to end.  We made another potty stop and got to run through one of the baseball fields, on a track, and finally made our way out of the complex on our way to Hollywood Studios.

We got to run up the Streets of America, Hollywood Boulevard, and right out the front of the park all to the cheering of the crowds.  It didn't take us long to get from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk - we took the path that we had walked many times before and it felt like we were speeding up from the excitement of getting done.  We hit mile 20 just as we left Hollywood Studios.

My Garmin watch pretty much died at this point so I switched over to using my Nike+ app on my iPhone.  It was a little strange listening to my Nike+ app start the count down over again....."One mile completed.....Two miles completed...." and the cheering when someone "likes" my run on Facebook.  We didn't quite go all the way around the boardwalk this time and re-entered EPCOT but this time going to the right to run from the International Gateway all the way around from the UK to Mexico.  I was glad to see that the area they blocked off for runners in the world showcase was well over 2/3 of the space instead of cramming us in to a smaller space.   We're sooooo close at this point - I think this was one of the few marathon pictures with Seth actually smiling.

We had just a few more intervals to go and made one last stop in front of Spaceship Earth for our 4th picture.

It was all adrenaline from here forward.  Because there were so many tempting places to stop for pictures and we ran right by them because of a fear of being swept, I knew we were well past the sweepers and so we did stop for one picture on the course as nobody was in line in front of the LAST mile marker.  A Cast Member was there to take our picture for us.

The finish was an amazing feeling - even more sweet given not only the first full marathon for Seth but for the previous 3 days' work we had done.  My personal goal was just to finish upright and make it in under the 7 hour cut off and avoid being swept.  We had run all 4 days very conservatively and it was great to see that we came in under goal pace.

We collected our marathon medal and then headed over to the Dopey tent where they checked our bib number against our picture from packet pick up and we were bestowed our Goofy and Dopey challenge medals too.

 I had to use the bathroom really bad - having tried to minimize the number of bathroom stops during the full so I headed right off, medals clanking together, to use the first porta potty I got to.  Big. Mistake.  Now I'll always fondly remember how people who complete a full marathon are tired people.  Tired people apparently don't aim well in the porta potties.  That was possibly the most disgusting porta potty I've ever been in.

So I shook off my porta potty experience with my bladder nicely relieved and we slowly made our way over to the Race Retreat tent for the last time.  I was just past 1 pm. We picked up some food - a sandwich this time.  They had the same egg and potatoes from yesterday but the food looked a little sad.  We sat down and started peeling off our shoes and socks.  It felt so good to get those shoes off.  Coach Budd came by to congratulate us and took a picture for us.

As we were eating our food, a Runners World Challenge coordinator came by and reminded us that resort bus service only ran until 2 pm and it was already past 1:30 pm.  We finished up our food, packed up our bag, and caught the last bus to SSRS.  It was funny watching people limping around - I pointed them out to Seth and commented on how everyone looked like the Walking Dead.  As we walked out to catch the bus, we walked right past the balloon ladies.  It took people a little longer than usual to get on and off the bus - people were getting off at the first stop and hobbling off to their villas but my legs felt really good and I didn't have any trouble getting on and off the bus except for that bothersome R heel/ankle.

We took turns taking an ice bath again, cleaned up and did one final load of laundry.  We took a short nap and then headed out for Disney Springs to attend the After Party.  We really needed to keep moving and even after just a couple of hours off my feet, my right foot was already feeling better - no longer throbbing.   The boat had just started leaving when we arrived at the dock but the cast member was so sweet that he actually brought the boat BACK to the dock and let us on.  Maybe it was the medals.   I checked online for available reservations at any of the Disney Springs restaurants.  We decided to try Gloria Estefan's Bongos Cuban Cafe and got a reservation immediately.

The restaurant hostess led us up the stairs (we were wearing our Dopey medals and I was thinking, really?  Upstairs?  LOL) to be seated.  We sat overlooking the band - they were pretty loud and energetic - singing and dancing and starting a conga line.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was definitely lively.  We ordered mojitos, an appetizer sampler (the Estefan Cuban Combo - breaded stuffed potatoes with an olive in the center, crispy port bites, bacon wrapped maduros, ham croquettes, and black bean hummus with plantain chips) and I ordered the BBQ Guava ribs.  The food was REALLY good.  I especially enjoyed the fried plantains with the black bean hummus and my ribs were tender and delicious.  There was a huge amount of food so I had enough to take back with us and eat the next day for breakfast.


Estefan Cuban Combo appetizer

fried plantains

BBQ Guava ribs
I think we made it down the stairs without making it look too ugly and took the boat back to SSRS.  We packed up our things and set the alarm early again (3 am) for our 4 am departure on Disney's Magical Express.  Of course, we both packed our medals on our carry-on bags....those suckers were just about as valuable as anything else that we had with us now!  What a great and completely different Disney trip for us.

***Edited to add that someone actually compiled the whole Dopey Challenge to figure out rankings.  LOL.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Disney World Dopey Challenge - Day 3, Saturday, January 9, 2016 - Half Marathon

For the 4th day in a row, we were up in the wee hours of the morning.  I set my alarm for 2:30 am planning to be out the door at around 3:15 am.  I had a lot to do this morning since things were getting serious at this point - our half marathon was today which required more preparation.  I have a list of half/full marathon things to do saved in my iPhone.  Besides the usual stuff like KT tape, sunscreen, ibuprofen, and chapstick, I had to add in getting a protein drink, oatmeal, and some Powerade down before we left.  The rings come off at this point because my hands get swollen at the end of these longer races, and I switched over to wearing my compression shorts and compression calf sleeves.  I just couldn't get all my oatmeal eaten and left the half eaten package in the kitchen, used the bathroom once more, and then we were out the door headed to the bus.

I figured that this would be one of the busiest days of the race weekend because of the popularity of the half marathon distance.  As we made our way to the bus stop, we saw buses lined up down the street and knew that it was going to be crowded.  It turns out that there were only about 11,000 participants in the 10K (more than half of those were Dopey Challenge participants) and for the half marathon, there were over 21,000.  As our bus pulled away from SSRS, I counted 6 more buses waiting.

We skipped bag check again and walked right in and made our way over to the Race Retreat.  This was the first day that we would be able to hang out inside, use the private bathrooms, and have a bite to eat before the race.  It was noticeably more busy in the Race Retreat than we had seen the last 2 days.

We sat down and relaxed in the Runners World Challenge area and around 4:15, they gave us instructions about our "VIP walk out" to the start corrals.  We would all be taken through the crowd hanging on to a rope (a la "school style") and would be led over to where we would take a shortcut to the start line.  We each hung on to the rope as we left the Race Retreat but it was so slow going.  There were about 50 Runners World Challenge participants.

Once we got past the crowd, we let go of the rope and they actually led us across the grass and through the trees to the street where the start line was.  It was significantly closer to go this way than it would have been to go clear all the way around the other side (we were told the normal walk out was over 0.5 mile).  Unfortunately, the corrals were arranged differently this time with the A-L corrals one right after the other behind the start line.  The M-P corrals were parallel to the A-L corrals and to the left but the entrance to corral M (our corral) was blocked off from the direction we were walking (from the front to the back).  The M-P corrals were set up for people walking from the back towards the front so this meant that we had to walk in between the 2 sets of corrals all the way back past the P corral and then do a U-turn to get to the other side and walk all the way back to the M corral.  It probably ended up being just as far to walk as if we had taken the regular walk out route.  That was a little frustrating.

I was really hoping that the corral waves would move faster today - which it did..about 3-4 minutes between corrals instead of 8 minutes but because we were all the way back in the M corral, our start time was about what it had been the last 2 days - about 45 minutes later.  At least it wasn't over an hour like I thought it would be.  

It was definitely warmer and more humid this morning and really foggy.  I didn't take long for me to shed my long- sleeved half marathon tech shirt and wrap it around my waist.  I had to mess with it the whole race to make sure I didn't lose it ending up rolling it up and double knotting it around my waist.  The race started with even more fireworks than the previous 2 days.  After one more quick run to the porta potty after the race started, we got on our way having decided that we would be conservative and do a run/walk interval of 2:4.

It was SO crowded that a lot of our run intervals were spent weaving in and out between people.  I figured out that my right foot was a lot happier if I ran on the grass on the side of the road even though it was more uneven so I spent as much time as I could on the grass.  We didn't get very far and because I was worried about the availability of a potty, I went ahead and used the first porta potties we got to (they were actually there for the other side of the road for people who had made the turn and were heading back from the Magic Kingdom).  I figured potties would be scarce for the next 5 miles or so until we got to MK.

It was elbow to elbow with other runners pretty much the whole way.  I had even made a mistake when I saw a cast member in their car driving towards us on their way to work and waving that I put my hand up to wave back and a woman actually SMACKED into my lifted hand with her face.  She was that close.  She gave me the dirtiest look I've ever seen in a race and all I could wonder was why she was so close to me to begin with.

I remember commenting to Seth about how the entrance to the Magic Kingdom (the point at which you pay to park) is so exciting for people driving in - that the kids in the car are probably going bonkers so excited - but this entrance was a LONG way from the actual MK!  We seemed to go forever before we actually got to enter MK via the TTC.

The run through the Magic Kingdom was pretty awesome - running down Main Street towards the castle all decked out in shimmering lights and as we went looping through Tomorrowland and into the back end of Cinderella's castle, there was a snow machine (soap bubbles) and Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Aurora were waving from up above as you passed under the castle.  The cast members from the Royal Table were lining the passageway cheering and clapping.  There were a ton of photographers snapping pictures as you went through and out of the castle (and, I realized later, some rabbit ears hovering behind me thanks to Seth).

We were a little behind in pace to begin with but eventually caught up a bit with some more speed walking.

The run back to EPCOT was pretty boring and was especially brutal when we had to take a wide, banked on-ramp to take an overpass.  It seemed to go on forever.  We finally made it to Spaceship Earth for the third time and stopped to take a picture although Seth was having trouble seeing because his glasses were so fogged up.

We finished off the half marathon running the last 0.2 miles and came in right under goal pace.  We had actually made up a lot of time because of the 3 bathroom stops along the way. This time, instead of mylar blankets, Disney gave everyone a cooling towel after they finished.

It was right back to the Race Retreat for us and we relaxed for a bit and had something to eat.  I finally felt like we were really earning some bling now.

I was relieved that my legs really felt pretty good after the race.  My right foot was complaining but not much more than it usually did after a training run.  We decided to pick up some food from the Artist's Palette at SSRS and take it back to the villa with us.  When we got back to our villa, we took turns taking an ice bath.  We had filled up pretty much all of the glass and metal containers in the kitchen with water and had frozen them over the last couple of days in the freezer.  It worked pretty well and we filled them up again to get ready for the final race.

We ate our lunch and took a brief nap then made our way back to Disney Springs to catch the 2:15 pm showing of Star Wars - The Force Awakens.  It was a good way to relax without just hanging out in our villa.  

We had dinner reservations off-property at an Italian restaurant but Seth really didn't want to go out for dinner so I cancelled it on Opentable and booked us a last minute reservation at the Turf Club right at SSRS.  We had eaten there once before and it was pretty good.  We got there just before our reservation at 5:30 pm and were seated outside on the covered patio which was nice and just starting to cool off a bit as clouds moved in and it eventually starting pouring rain.  

We decided to share the crispy shrimp appetizer as well as the Turf Club pasta which was just the right amount of food without getting too stuffed.  The pasta was just ok.  We made our way back to our villa in the pouring rain and got ready for our final race setting the alarm at 2:30 am again. 

I spent a little time googling and reading a bit about the Balloon Ladies and about being swept during the marathon.  I was a little worried about the possibility of being swept and had that little nagging doubt that always seems to creep in when you're about to undergo a big race even though you know you're prepared for it.  The Balloon Ladies are volunteers that walk the Dopey Challenge (with Mickey balloons from Disney) from the very back of the last corral at exactly a 16 minute per mile pace.  Each of our 3 races so far were well under the 16 minute per mile pace cut off and we were 3 corrals ahead of the Balloon Ladies so I felt more confident and quickly drifted off to sleep.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Disney World Dopey Challenge - Day 2, Friday, January 8, 2016 - 10K

After all my checking, watching, and fretting about the weather for the past few weeks, this morning was what I had been most worried about - it was raining and cold.  We had the good sense to grab some RunDisney mylar blankets after the 5K yesterday which really came in handy to at least try to stay a bit drier in the rain and warmer.

I woke up about 10 minutes before my alarm went off and got up to go through what was becoming a familiar routine.  Putting on running clothes (I'm glad I had brought along a pair of calf length running tights), putting KT tape on my right foot which had been having a couple of issues with both plantar fasciitis and tarsal tunnel syndrome, having something to eat (a banana and protein bar), putting my hair up under a cap, and taking a zyrtec and about 800 mg of ibuprofen.  One last potty stop and we were headed out the door around 4 am.

Since we knew there was going to be a bit of a wait with 8 minute corral starts and we were in the same corral again, we had arrived a little later and didn't have as long a wait before heading out to the corrals.  When we reached our corral, we found 2 spots on the ground to sit and wait for the start and try to stay dry and warm.  The rain wasn't a downpour - thank goodness.  It seemed to come and go in waves.

Seth under his mylar blanket and cap trying to take a nap
When we got around to the start line - it was still raining and they warned everyone to remember to not cover their race bibs with the mylar blankets because the readers wouldn't pick them up.  We power walked most of this race and finished the 5K faster than the day before and, in the end, did a little interval running which actually felt really good.  I didn't really train much with power walking so it wasn't super comfortable for me to walk that way for so many miles - my back hurt the most.  It was a relief to do a little running.

We snapped our 2nd selfie near Spaceship Earth and ran the rest of the way to the finish in 1:36.  

What was nice about the 10K was that the text alerts that I had signed up for from RunDisney finally started showing up which gave us some nice information:

This time, we stopped to pick up a banana and RunDisney food pack before heading over the race retreat tent for breakfast.

We had a leisurely breakfast and took a few photos - the characters today were Briar Rabbit, Briar Fox, and one of the bears from the Briar Patch.

This time, we used the porta potties at the Race Retreat before getting on the bus to SSRS.  It was still raining and we had each gotten a new RunDisney mylar blanket to use.  We hung them up in our villa to dry so we could use them again in the morning.

We did another load of laundry - it felt great to get out of our wet stuff.  I had read online sometime ago a recommendation to bring an extra pair of race shoes - that recommendation paid off as we had a fresh pair of dry shoes to wear for the next 2 days.

We headed to the Magic Kingdom after showering and getting cleaned up.  We had fastpass+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so we headed there first.  I was a little worried it would be down in the rain, but the rain had slowed down quite a bit now and we got on without much wait at all.  I had also read an article online about hidden gems (food) to eat at the Magic Kingdom.  My favorite pre-race meal is a baked potato so we headed over to the Liberty Square market where we each had a baked potato - not too big - with cheese, butter, and sour cream.  It hit the spot.  Afterwards, I wanted to find the cart near Aladdin's Magic Carpets that sold Cheeseburger Spring Rolls.  It didn't take long for us to find the cart and we were pleasantly surprised at how much the spring rolls tasted just like a cheeseburger - beef, cheese, even the taste of onion and mustard.- they were delicious and rounded out a nice, lighter lunch.  I really didn't want to have a large lunch since we had dinner reservations at the new Morimoto restaurant at Disney Springs fairly early....5:15 pm.  This was, by far, the cheapest lunch we had at Disney.

We had some time to kill before our Buzz Lightyear fastpass+ time slot so we made our way across the bridge to Tomorrowland and stopped in at the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, and then rode the People Mover.  It felt good to put our feet up.  My legs felt great but my right foot was bothering me a bit as expected.

We always enjoy the Buzz Lightyear Ranger Spin.  Seth didn't want to ride Space Mountain so we headed back across the bridge and stopped for a photo op with the Photopass cast member.

We went ahead and headed back to SSRS for a short siesta and then walked over to the boat dock to take the boat to Disney Springs.  On our way to the dock, we were surprised to run into a couple of friends who were also staying at SSRS and were planning on doing the half marathon in the morning - Laura and Katelyn Mehlhaus.  We had met the Mehlhaus's a few years ago on an Adventure by Disney and had a few things in common with them including kids close in age and Laura's husband who is also a family medicine physician.  We rode the boat with them to Disney Springs where they were having dinner at the House of Blues.  We stopped for a selfie before parting ways.

We headed over the Morimoto Asia for our 5:15 pm reservation.  This new restaurant is pretty cool looking and we were seated in an enclosed area that felt a little more private with only one other couple in our area.  At first when I saw the menu, I was a little disappointed.  It seemed pretty ho-hum for an Asian restaurant.  My favorite pre-race dinner is either pasta or Asian noodles so I ordered the ramen noodle soup with BBQ pork.  Seth wanted to share their spicy tuna rolls and to try the Morimoto ribs.  I was a little hesitant to try the ribs because the sauce had cilantro as an ingredient but I tried some and it was absolutely delicious - perfectly cooked.  We also had the steamed pork belly bun which was actually just a strip of pork belly wrapped in a steamed bun - this too was excellent.  My ramen soup was fantastic - it was obvious that the noodles were handmade.  So, all in all, I loved this new addition to "Downtown Disney" and we will definitely be back in the future.  We read through the dessert menu but were too stuffed to try any of it.

We got back to SSRS for another early night.  Since we had to be at the Race Retreat in time for our "private VIP walkout" to the corrals by 4:15 am, the alarm was set at 2:30 am.