Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017 - Race Number one: the 5K

I'm getting ready, following my usual prerace routine which I have typed up so that I don't have to think and just have to do whatever is next on the list when there is a knock on my door. It's 4 am and it's Paula looking distraught. "My alarm didn't go off, my phone is dead, I just woke up!" I say don't worry, here's an extra charging cable, go get ready we have plenty of time. And we do, we're on the bus only a few minutes past 4:30. But I know that must have been an awful feeling....poor Paula!

Paula has done a Disney race before so she knows what to expect. The race staging area is just huge, however, and for the 5k it's a mixture of more experienced people doing Dopey, and a lot of newbies, kids, and non-runners that like Disney. But we find the bag check and meet some friends of Paula's. There are zillions of portapotties and no potty lines, so that makes me happy.

At around 5:45 they have us get into our corrals. We are in the D corral so it takes a good 40 minutes from the time the first wave starts until we finally cross the starting line.

Lots of people wear costumes for Disney races. We don't exactly wear costumes but we are "dressed up" nonetheless. I have a sparkly pink visor and a sparkly pink skirt over my running shorts. I have a pink shirt on, and hot pink calf compression sleeves. I won't wear a Dopey or race shirt until the race has been completed; I'm superstitious that way. But I don't have a problem wearing the little Dopey pin Paula gave me, I think it's for good luck!

Paula looks friendly, I look bossy. 

We have told ourselves that we're walking the 5k, but we're just so excited so yeah, we run a little. The 5k mostly goes through Epcot, which looks beautiful in the predawn air, all lit up. We stop for a few pics, but I think we're both a little anxious about this first race. It's takes us 47 minutes, so it's my slowest 5k ever, but that's fine. We're not thinking about it as a 5k. It's really just the first 3.1 miles of a 4 day, 48.6 miles race!

After the race we get our medal and our water, take our picture, get our snack box. We find our bus and before too long we're back at the resort. We're starving and head right to the food court for breakfast and the Disney bounty platter. Eggs, bacon, sausage, a biscuit and a Mickey waffle! Mmmmm!

We go back to our rooms for a bit. I get cleaned up, rest, stretch, roll my muscles. We're dressed, on the bus and ready to go just in time to meet Amy and Bill at Hollywood Studios and ride the Tower of Terror with our fastpass reservation. They didn't have fastpass 24 years ago, but it's a way to avoid the long long lines. Most of the weekend we walk right up to whichever ride we're scheduled to go on, bypassing all other people waiting for hours to get on the ride.

Tower of Terror is SCARY. First you walk through this area that looks like an abandoned hotel. You enter an "elevator" and you're strapped into your seat. It is supposed to be like the old Twilight Zone TV show. The elevator climbs up up up into the air and suddenly goes crazy. Lots of climbing followed by lots of sudden scary drops. It's a good thing I didn't really know what I was getting into before we got on it because I don't think that's something I'm doing again any time soon!
Tower of Terror - Aaaiiiiieee!

From Tower of Terror we walk right over to the Star Tours ride. This was SO MUCH FUN. I think it might be my favorite ride we went on, mainly because it was so clever. It's supposed to be C3PO from Star Wars trying to drive a Starship, with comical results. You don't really physically move, except for some shaking from side to side, but the visuals give you the sensation of moving. My brain was split, part of me was totally into the experience, and part of me was standing outside of it going "this is so cool! It seems like we are really moving but we're not!"

Amy C and Chris arrived right before Star Tours. Chris has never been to Disney World so the Star Tours ride was his first experience. He is impressed. Amy C is pretty anxious about amusement park rides so she is happy to just go get a drink with Amy D for now. In fact after Star Tours we all stop for a drink. I can drink Wednesday and Thursday but then I need to be good until after the marathon on Sunday. I have a pomegranate margarita. There's sugar on the rim instead of salt. It's delish!

We have one more ride scheduled today, the Aerosmith Rockin Roller Coaster. Amy C goes shopping for mouse ears while we do this ride. Another very clever premise...the band recording, we're watching them record, their manager comes in, says they are late for a concert, they want to bring us, their fans, along, so they get a loooonnnng stretch limo that fits us all and away we go!

Rockin' Roller Coaster - Yikes!

Beyond that is is a fairly standard roller coaster ride which is supposed to be the limo ride. I don't like going upside down, which we did, twice. I mostly kept my eyes closed but would open them just in time to see some looming neon sign pretending to be a highway sign of some sort and them WHOOP off we'd go again. Its funny...right after the ride I was like "I'm never doing that again!" but once I had a few days of separation from the event I started to wish I could ride it again. If I ever go back to Disney I will!

We all went shopping for mouse ears after that, and I bought pink sparkly ones of course. They looked great, but after awhile they hurt my head. I have a large head, unfortunately.

From Hollywood Studios we took a boat to Epcot. That's one of the fun amazing things about Disney. Once you're in the resort you really don't need a car. You can take a bus or a boat for free just about anywhere you want to go.

It's Italian and pizza for dinner tonight at Via Napoli Ristorante in the Italian part of the Epcot World Showcase. It's good, and very filling. After dinner everyone else wants to walk around and maybe get drinks but I've got to go to bed. I have to walk forever it seems to get to where the buses are, but finally I do and soon I'm back at our resort and in bed nice and early again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Injury, Illness and WDW Dopey Challenge Wednesday January 4th 2017

Pretty chipper for a 6 am flight!

Back on our cycling trip to Italy remember me falling off my bike not once but twice? Well I thought I was okay, but when I started running again something just wasnt right. My left leg has been sore off and on ever since the NYC marathon in 2014. I've done PT for it, and incorporated hip and glute strengthening exercises into my exercise routine but it still bothers me off and on. But this pain was different. When I ran in Lecce and again in Rome it felt somewhat painful but I thought I was just stiff from riding so much and not running for a week.  After our 10 hr flight home I tried running again. The next day I could barely get out of bed. I was in so much pain I could hardly move. 

This was very bad. My chiropractor said I had pinched a nerve in my back. I tried gentle stretching, ice, epsom salts and Motrin, but after a week I still couldn't run and I was still  in a lot of pain. 

So finally I went to my PC doc. She agreed with the chiropractor's diagnosis, told me no running for 10 more days, and she gave me drugs! It took a couple of days for the drugs to kick in, but one morning I woke up, cautiously swung my legs over the side of the bed and gingerly stood up. No pain! What a relief!

But I still couldn't run. I was water running at the local athletic club, which kept my running muscles active, but it was incredibly boring and I stopped as soon as I started running again.

I started running again very slowly with a lot of walking thrown in. it went pretty well. I needed to find the most walking I could do and still comfortably beat the time limit for the Dopey Challenge. Because yeah I was training for another marathon when this happened.

The Dopey Challenge is a little crazy. Four races in four days through the Walt Disney World parks. A 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday. 48.6 miles in 4 days. Before Italy my training was going well but now I was behind.

I managed to work my way back to a long run of 23 miles three weeks before the races. This would have to do. It was more important to not re-injure my leg or back and stay healthy, than put in a lot of miles.

So then it was Christmas. My kids came and it was wonderful having everyone there. On the second day of his visit Daniel started to come down with a cold. I tried to stay away from him but the day he left I started sneezing. Damn it Daniel!

I went into serious cold ministrations. Coldeze, Zinc, saline nasal rinse, Emergen-C, Robotussin, and lots and lots of rest. 

So here I am on the plane to Orlando, feeling rested and hopeful that this cold is almost over. I'm still congested but much better. I'm glad I don't have to run a marathon tomorrow, however! Hopefully by this weekend all my obstacles will behind me.

This has been the craziest marathon training cycle I've ever experienced. I guess I've been lucky up until now in my running journey, no serious injuries, no illness. But these things happen to runners even in the best of times so I must have been due.

I'm not at all worried about the first three races, but I can't help but be apprehensive about the marathon. Marathons are hard, that's just the way it is. Running a marathon after three other days of racing will be especially hard. Running a marathon with the vestiges of an injury and a lingering cold will be really really hard. All I want to do is finish all four races. The key will be taking my drugs, getting enough sleep, eating right, resting when needed. Wish me luck because I think this time I'm going to need it!


The above was written on the plane to Orlando. Once we arrived we followed the signs to Disney's Magical Express. Disney takes care of your luggage so there's no need to go to baggage claim. We find the right bus without too much trouble and Paula and I are delivered directly to our resort, Port Orleans Riverside. I think when we were here 24 years ago we stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter. Moderately priced for Disney, nice rooms. No bags yet but no matter. Off to the race expo we go!

There are massive hoards of people at the ESPN Wide World of Sports where the race expo is held. The first part, getting our bibs and t-shirts worked well but it was downhill from there. There is a long line to get into the expo itself and then a REALLY long line to get into the Disney store within the expo. Paula wants Disney apparel but I don't want to wait in that line. I figure 6 race shirts are enough! But Paula is disappointed...

We've paid for the VIP race retreat for the mornings before the half and the full, but can't figure out where we go to get our wrist bands and nobody else seems to know either. We keep asking and eventually find someone who knows someone who knows where to get them. Then for some reason, maybe because we only bought it a few days ago, we're not in their system. But they look us up and eventually all is well.
Back to the resort, my bag has arrived. I get myself unpacked and soon it's time to meet Amy and Bill for dinner. Because the races start so early Amy has made most of our dinner reservations for 4 pm and we are grateful. Tonight we eat at the Boatyard in Disney Springs, a shopping area. It's very cute, looks kind of like a New England oceanfront town. We meet at the open air bar and then head to our table.

Amy and Bill are Disney experts. They belong to the Vacation Club and know everything there is to know about Disney. When Paula and I decided to run Dopey they got right on it and have planned the most amazing time for us. They want us to love their favorite place on earth and they do a very very good job of convincing us!

After dinner we walk along the dock and admire the beautiful antique boats. Lee would love this part wouldn't he demands Amy? Yes he would, they are absolutely gorgeous.

I'm back at the hotel and in bed by 8 pm. I've got to be, awake up is at 3:15 tomorrow morning. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rome - Walking Tours, The Vatican, and Home

Wednesday Nov 2

Lee and Lynn do Roma. We've seen The Forum and The Colosseum years ago. So first we go climb The Spanish Steps, which we haven't seen before. Then we meander over to the Jewish ghetto and do a nice Rick Steves Audio Tour of the area. We eat lunch there; Lee has a pastrami sandwich and fries, I have spaghetti carbonara. Then we cross the Tiber and do another audio tour of the Trastevere. Then back across the Tiber once more to the big food market. Then back across it AGAIN to make our way back to the hotel. We stop for gelato and coffee on the way which we have earned by walking eight miles according to my Fitbit!

The Old Synagogue in the Ghetto

That evening we try something different, a modern Roman restaurant with cocktails, ramen, small plates, called Septembri. But it's hard to figure out how their menu works and the confusion is off-putting. I get the ramen, which is huge, and decent, but not up to San Francisco standards. You'd think since it is just another sort of pasta they would get it, but no. Oh well!

View from the Spanish Steps

Thursday November 3

its our last day in Rome and we are all set for a tour of the Vatican. We went to the Vatican when we were here fifteen years ago but the Sistine chapel was closed for a holy day so I must go back.

Our tour is not until 2:15. First I go running along the Tiber. There's a great bike path along the river. It feels better running today, although my bad leg is still very sore. it only bothers me as I change from running to walking. I need to get back to stretching, rolling, strengthening and then I'll be okay, I hope. But it's no problem to run four miles, and soon enough we're ready to stroll about Rome again and find some lunch.

We're early so first we stop at a cafe for cappuccinos. Then we head to our chosen lunch spot, Il Sorpasso. This turns out to be a really good little restaurant. The weather is perfect so we sit outside. We try some antipasti, then a salad, and a parmigiana. I get a cannoli for dessert too!

Frank and a bunch of Busts in the Vatican Museum

Now we head to the Vatican to meet Frank, our guide for the afternoon. He is quite a character, and somewhat full of himself, but he is very knowledgeable and he has a system that avoids the worst of the massive crowds that plague the Vatican nowadays. 

We spend several hours wandering through the Vatican museums with their massive collection of sculpture and art. Frank sprinkles our tour with history and humor. I just wish we could wander more but he has us on a schedule.

We go through the Raphael rooms right before we enter the Sistine chapel. They are breathtaking. Frank has sat us down for a lecture before we get to the chapel so when we enter it we know what we are seeing. God the Creator, the dismissal from the garden of Eden, Jonah and the whale, Moses, and so very much more. I have tears in my eyes. We sit along the far wall and view heaven, purgatory, and hell. It's overwhelming. I try to drink it in because chances are I will never see this again.

We leave the chapel as it is closing for the evening, and enter Saint Peters Basilica. There is The Pieta, so beautiful. I gaze upward in this soaring space but my mind can't take in anything else.

We leave the Vatican in the cool crisp evening air. Back to the hotel we go, to pack for tomorrow's flight home. We choose a little trattoria a few blocks away and have one more quiet Italian meal.

Friday November 4.

Several days ago I got an email from VBT. Air Atalia changed the airplane for our flight and the plane they are using doesn't have premium economy seats. When we get to the airport and check in they give us seats in economy, and the promise of a 75% refund on our tickets. We shrug, it can't be helped, no point in making a fuss.

But when we get on the flight and start walking to our seats we are in for a surprise. There IS a premium economy section after all, perfectly empty! I turn right around and march back up to the front of the plane. I explain our situation. "We had premium economy seats, they changed them to economy, now I see you have premium economy seats after all, and we want them!" Those of you that know me realize that I can be a bit, shall we say, pushy at times. The head flight attendant hands me off to the the purser who rushes off the plane with the stub to my boarding pass to make sure we are really deserving of premium economy seats. Meanwhile the head flight attendant skillfully defuses my indignation. Soon enough the purser returns and escorts us to the empty premium economy section. "Take which ever seat you want!" So we do. We are the only passengers in the entire section. We are treated with a mixture of kindness and amusement for the remainder of the flight. At one point a flight attendant calls this section our private room, and so it is, lol.

This has been a fantastic vacation, although we are both more than ready to be home. I can't wait to see our dogs, our house, our friends. Cycling is an amazing way to vacation, and we both enjoyed being on an organized tour more than we expected we would. We would like to do this again, maybe in Ireland in 2018. We are also considering an upgrade to our bicycles at home, and upping our training before we do this again so that we are in better shape for the rigors of the more hilly landscape we will encounter on the Emerald Isle. Our mileage was sufficient, but it would be good to practice cycling for several days in a row. Stay tuned!


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