Friday, March 24, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017 - Race Number Four: The Marathon

I was up at 2:45 am Sunday morning. It was very cold out. The storm had blown through leaving temps in the 30's and icy winds in its wake. I wore a short sleeved shirt, with a long sleeved tech shirt over it, and a long sleeved throwaway shirt over THAT. I wore a garbage bag over that, and a Mylar blanket on top of it all. I had bought a pink stocking cap and gloves at the resort market yesterday, and I'm glad I did. And to think a week ago I was worrying about the heat!

The traffic to the race start was bad so it took awhile for the bus to get there. We had trouble finding the VIP Race Retreat tent and by the time we did it was almost time to get in our corrals. But we had our own gear check and porta potties, and we had a little time out of the wind.

The walk from the staging area to the corrals was long, probably a half mile, much like the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.  We were still walking along when they played the national anthem and the first wave began, but again we were in one of the back corrals so it really didn't matter. We found our corral and kind squirmed our way into the middle where it was a  little warmer. For the marathon they set off fireworks for the start of each corral. That was fun! They warned us to get rid of our Mylar blankets before we passed the start because they messed up the timing chips, so at the last minute I reluctantly got rid of the blanket and the garbage bag. But I still had on three shirts, my hat and gloves. I've learned my lessons from Marine Corp and New York. Cold marathons are great but you have to stay warm at the start!

The marathon ran along the roads for awhile before dipping into a park. It goes through four parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, plus the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. But you also spend a lot of time out on the roads. The roads were cold and windy, the parks a little warmer. Many people complain that running the roads around Disney is boring; there aren't any spectators, and there's not much to see. But I liked the roads as much as the parks in a way. The quietness of the roads made it that much more exciting when we entered a park. And Disney tried hard to make the roads interesting. There were bands, marching and otherwise. There was music. There were volunteers cheering us on here and there. And occasionally there was a huge movie screen projecting an animation short, often with dancing and singing Disney characters timed to music. I loved those! They took my mind off any tiredness and were energizing.

And of course there are the Disney characters. We didn't get in the long lines, but if a line only had 5 or 6 people in it we were game. I loved getting our picture taken with the big bad wolf! That was funny. I tried to make a growling face at him and I think it worked pretty well!

The first park we went through was Hollywood Studios. We entered the part close to the Tower of Terror, ran along the streets, and then back out again onto the roads. It didn't last long at all. The next park was Animal Kingdom and again it was in and out. But we wove our way through the Magic Kingdom for quite awhile. The highlight was running through Cinderella's Castle. It's so pretty, and I got all excited running through it and didn't realize that Paula had stopped to take a picture. 

This is the only time we lost each other. I stopped and we texted, trying to find each other. First she ran right by me and it took us a little bit to realize that she was ahead of me. Finally we found each other. We wanted to stay together. It's really something new for me to run a race with someone else. It made the time fly by and gave me something else to think about besides my own aches and pains and fears.

After the Magic Kingdom we were back out on the roads for awhile. Usually around mile thirteen I'm ready to stop and pee, but at Disney the porta potties always had lines, and I think the cold makes me need to pee more. We were shameless and squatted in the bushes twice, and a third time behind a shed in the ESPN Complex! One place we stopped there was a sign warning of alligators but I said I didn't care. I did face the bushes however in case one came charging out of the trees!

Somewhere along the course they were handing out bananas. I didn't want one yet, but I took one anyway in case I wanted it later. I tried sticking it in the back of my shorts but that didn't work too well. It kind of dropped into my underpants and I had to retrieve it through one of the legs, which Paula said made it look like I pooped a banana! Then I stuck it in the front of my shorts, which worked much better, although that looked strange in a different way.....

Some people think ESPN is boring but I thought it was fun too. That place is huge; we must have been inside it for close to 5 miles. We ran around practice fields, we ran around a track, and we ran into the spring training complex for the Rays and ran all around the baseball field. They even showed the runners on the Jumbotron but we never saw ourselves cause we couldn't figure out where the camera was.

Somewhere in ESPN we hit Mile 20. At 20 I start to feel optimistic about a marathon but I can't get too happy yet. A lot can still happen in 6 miles. Paula was getting a little tired and our running method changed a bit. She fell behind me a tad, still running and walking whenever I did, me checking back to make sure I didn't lose her. I didn't want to tell her too soon, but we were going to speed up a little at mile 23. I knew she could do it, and so could I. 

Right before mile 23 I told her, "starting at mile 23 each time we run, when the beeper goes off we count to 10 before we stop”. We had been using a run/walk ratio of 30/60, so now we're walking 50 seconds, and running 40.  This pace carried us through the end of ESPN and back out onto the roads. She did suggest that we walk up some of the hills, and that was fine. But we HAD to run up the one where the army guy from Toy Story was yelling at us!

Army Guy!

When we entered Epcot suddenly there were huge crowds screaming and yelling for us. It was pretty thrilling. And people had Skittles, Snickers and Twizzlers they were handing out to the runners, which is so wonderful in the last miles of a marathon when the thought of another gel makes me want to puke. At mile 25 I said "okay for the last mile we count to 20 at the end of each run sequence before we stop!" So then we were walking 40 seconds and running 50. I'm sure Paula hated me a little bit right then but she was game and stuck with me.

When we entered the finish chute we agreed - no crying until after the finish line - and we ran over the finish hand in hand. We were so HAPPY! I was so relieved, this was a race I wasn't sure I could do, but we did. My 7th marathon and Paula's 2nd. Yay!!!!

We got our picture of the finish line, our marathon medal, our water. My leg felt fine, no need to stop and get ice or biofreeze. I had stopped to use some biofreeze sometime during the late miles of the race and I think that really helped. My quads were very tight, but I've certainly felt worse at the end of other marathons.

We went to the Challenge tent and got our Goofy medal (for completing the half and full marathons) and our Dopey medal. We went to the VIP tent, retrieved our gear bags and got a little something to eat. They had an amazing brunch spread out, but my stomach had been bothering me the entire race so I didn't eat as much as I would have liked. I did eat some mac and cheese and drank hot chocolate and they tasted great.

Paula really wanted to get our picture taken with Dopey, but I really wanted to make it to the buses before the last one left for the resorts at 2 pm. Dopey wasn’t there anyway, but there was a nice-looking backdrop so we took advantage of it. Paula had put all the medals in her gear bag and she lent me hers so we could both get our pictures taken with all 6 medals.

We made it on the bus just in time. A hot shower, stretching, and rolling my sore muscles all felt great. We had time to rest a little before it was time to try to get to Narcoossee's for dinner with our friends. Unfortunately we just missed a bus and the wait was going to make us late to our reservation so we took an Uber instead. Disney free transportation is great, but it's been nice to have Uber as a backup just in case.

Paula and I both proudly wore our race shirts, and our Dopey medal. Lots of congratulations came our way as we made our way through the Grand Floridian Resort. The only thing was it was COLD outside and we had to walk quite a ways through the grounds of the resort to get to the restaurant. I was just freezing. Narcoossee's was nice, however. I had a celebratory Manhattan. I had their lobster bisque which was wonderful, and warming, and then Paula and I split an order of the scallops. That way we had room for dessert. We got the chocolate cake and the almond cheesecake for everyone to share. Cheesecake isn't my favorite dessert but that almond thing was one of the best desserts I've ever tasted. It beat out the chocolate which is saying quite a lot.

After dinner we took the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort and went up in the tower, which is exclusive to Disney Vacation Club members. We could go up there as Amy and Bill's guests. It was very crowded because everyone goes up there to see the 8 pm fireworks. The view is better outside on the balcony and there's music too, but it was just too cold.

After that Paula and I were ready to cash it in. The Contemporary is a huge resort and it took us awhile to figure out where the lobby was so we could catch another Uber back to our hotel. We finally did, and it wasn't very long before I was in bed. I woke up once at 5 am, and thought NOOOOOOO and the next thing I knew it was after 7!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017: Race Number Three - The Impromptu Half

Posing with some of the people that cheered us on!

The one concession we made to the cancellation of the half marathon was to sleep in a little. We needed to wait until the worst of the storm passed anyway. So we got up at 5, ate breakfast, watched the radar, and got started on our Grumpy Half around 9:30 AM.

There were SO many runners out! It was amazing, and inspirational. We ran along the bayou, from The Riverside Resort where we were staying, to the French Quarter Resort, and back. There were lots of different paths so we could change it up a bit. I hid a water bottle in the bushes, so we would circle back so I could get a drink occasionally. We saw other runners doing it, so we even wore our bib numbers, only upside down.

Posing with an Alligator Statue

There were people out being our spectators, cheering and clapping. We found some Disneyesque statues in a park in one of the resorts, and took our "character" pictures with them. People wore their costumes, smiling as another rainstorm blew through. And late in the "race" some spectators even had little cups of beer for us!

Beer! Note the Upsidedown Bib

We used a 30/45 run/walk ratio for this race. Our time was 3:10:39, 14:33 mpm, not too bad for an impromptu "race". It's funny though, I did find this run more challenging. It didn't give me the adrenaline rush that I usually get from a race; it felt more like a tempo training run. And my left leg was bothering me too. But we got our 13.1 miles in, and we could proudly take that half marathon medal, knowing that we earned it fair and square.

After the race we took our showers and got some lunch. Paula wanted to go to the Expo, get her medal and refund and try to get some Disney race apparel, but I wanted to stretch and roll and relax again. Eventually I decided to try to go to the Expo too, but by then (3:30 PM) they had stopped running the buses because it was too crowded. Oh well! I sent RunDisney an email requesting my refund and decided to just relax. We had a big race on the agenda for tomorrow anyway!

We did design your own pasta at the food court for dinner. I had fettuccine with pesto, mushrooms, chicken and spinach. We went to bed early. We were ready to complete our Dopey!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017 - Race Number Two: The 10K

We have to get on the bus by 4 am for the next three races so it's up at 2:45 AM for me. It's a nice day for running, cool but not cold, calm breezes, sunny skies. The 10k goes all around Epcot again plus out on the roads a bit more to get us to 6.2 miles. Paula and I use a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds running/90 seconds walking. This is really her first experience using run/walk and she thinks it might be okay! We have a lot of fun during this race, taking selfies, getting pictures with characters. We talk and laugh and can hardly believe it when we pass mile 5. This race just flew by! We finish in 1:39, which is again my slowest 10k ever, but that's not the point of these races as I have to keep reminding myself. We're getting to 48.6, slowly but surely.

Today we are meeting our friends in The Magic Kingdom for breakfast at the Crystal Palace. This is a breakfast buffet AND it's a character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and several of the other characters from The Hundred Acre Wood.

Now I’ve never cared much for the Disney version of the Pooh stories, but I absolutely love the books by AA. Milne. So I kind of surprised myself. When Pooh came up to our table to say hello I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him! I practically started crying! It was surprisingly emotional for me. I'm not exactly sure why, except that it felt like I was meeting a bit of my childhood right there.

After breakfast we followed Amy and Bill on our perfectly timed tour of the Magic Kingdom. We used our fast passes to bypass the very long lines, and made our way to The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain. Amy created today's tour just for me, as these rides were the highlights of our Disney visit 24 years ago. The Haunted Mansion was just as silly and charming as I remembered it. My favorite part is where they make some ghost appear to share the seat next to you briefly on the ride. From there we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp and all. This ride showed its age a little, but it was still fun; the animatronics are just so well done. 

We had a little time to wait before it was time for our fastpass to Space Mountain, so we went into the Tiki bird show. At first I had no memory of this at all, but gradually it came back to me. All the different birds singing and moving, in a very Disney-like fashion. Cute! And we got to sit down for awhile too.

Hurtling Through Space Mountain With Paula and a Gross Bill

Space Mountain! 24 years ago, before fastpass, the kids and I conquered this ride. We went at a time of day when there were no lines, so we rode it over and over again, 5 times to be exact! This time, even the fastpass line was pretty long. Space Mountain is a roller coaster in the dark, and it was way scarier than I remembered. The coolest thing about this ride, however, was Amy C. She has some bad memories of Disney from coming here as a little kid, and probably being dragged on rides that were too overwhelming for a 5 year old. At first she said she wasn't going to go on rides at all, but Amy D and Bill took her on a few gentle ones, and she came on Pirates and the Haunted Mansion and enjoyed them. So much to everyone's surprise, maybe especially her own, Amy C said that she was going on Space Mountain! And she did! And she liked it! We were all so proud of her.

After Space Mountain it was time for our dinner reservations. Amy D and Bill had another Disney experience lined up for us: dinner and a show. We all had tickets for the Hoopdedoo Revue at Fort Wilderness. We took a boat from the Magic Kingdom to the fort. It was a beautiful evening. 

We got our pictures taken and then we're seated in a replica of an old fashioned music hall. The show itself was very cute and clever. The actors would come out and sing and dance a bit, make some jokes, and then we'd eat part of our meal. More dancing and singing, more eating. Everything was served family style, and there was lots of it too. The only thing was, with a half marathon to run the next day I didn't think it was a good idea to eat a lot of fried chicken and BBQ, so I ordered the vegetarian option. It was pasta with veggies, and very tasty, but it was a ridiculous amount of food. When I was full my plate looked like I had just nibbled on it. And there was strawberry shortcake for dessert too!

After dinner we had to make our way back to our resort, and it was a little complicated. We had to take a bus to the entrance to Fort Wilderness, and then catch an Uber from there. The free Disney transportation only goes from resort to park and back, not from resort to resort. So we could have taken a bus to one of the parks and then a bus to our resort, but that would have taken a long time and we were tired and wanted to get back to our rooms as soon as possible, so Uber was a good option.

Before too long Paula and I were settled in our rooms, expecting to be up around 3 am again. But suddenly Paula sent me a text. They've cancelled the half marathon for Saturday! What??? WHY??? A large storm was barreling down on Orlando, with strong winds, rain, falling temps, and lightning. It was the threat of lightening that made them cancel the race.

Well as you can imagine, we were distraught. All the work, the training, everything, down the drain. I sat in bed and just sobbed for awhile. It seemed like fate was just throwing one roadblock after another in the face of my struggle to run the Dopey. I called Lee and was abjectly complaining about my bad luck when a sudden thought struck me. Disney was already saying they would give everyone a medal anyway. And they were offering refunds in the form of a Disney gift card or a park pass. But there was no reason we couldn't run 13.1 miles around the resort tomorrow once the storm had passed. We could go out there and earn our Dopey anyway! I talked to Paula and she was game. And on Facebook all the half marathoners, Goofy, and Dopey Runners were having the same idea. The first ever Grumpy run was born!


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