The adventure began as I stepped off the plane in Orlando and quickly boarded the Disney Magical Express bus to the Happiest Place on Earth. As I entered the POP Century resort, I could feel the excitement building. My first surprise happened as I was checking in. Vicky, the captain of my racing team Hakuna Matata, was in the food court nearby and came over to say hello.
It was certain from the start that this would be an amazing race weekend experience. Vicky and I went to the Expo so I could pick up my race packets, Ryan's race packet, and purchase a few goodies. One thing I wanted to do was to see if I could be reassigned to an earlier corral. They had placed me in D and I did not think that was right. Well, they agreed and moved me to Corral B! Score!
Then I went to sign Ryan and me up for the new Dumbo Double Dare race in Disneyland during Labor Day. This 'challenge' is new -- with a 'new' 10K race on a Saturday and the Disneyland Half on Sunday. And if you finish both, you get a third Dumbo medal (also new). I stood in line for over 25 minutes waiting to register us but I finally got it done. Running this inaugural race will also earn me my Coast to Coast medal! So I am very excited about all the fun stuff that this Disneyland race will bring!
After the expo, I had dinner with my friend Kipp at the Grand Floridian Cafe. Yummy food! Then we came back to the POP Century resort because I was still waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. They did, they had dinner at the POP Food Court, and then it was time for bed. Ryan and I had a race first thing EARLY Friday morning!
The Family 5K
At 4am, I got myself up and ready and then finally got Ryan to wake up and get ready. We headed to the Runners Area at EPCOT with Kim Ann and Kipp. Once there, we met up with Mike, Liz, and Robert who were running the 5K as a family. It was going to be Robert's first 5K race! (Of course, he already had three medals from the Kid's races the day before.)
Disney decided to have actual corrals for the 5K race this year, probably because there were over 10,000 people registered to run the race! Ryan and I were in Corral A but preferred to run with Mike and his family in Corral D instead. While we were waiting, Ryan and Kim got caught up in all the DJ music and started dancing!
Well after all that fun, we were ready for the race! I think it took 40 minutes from the time the first wave started until we actually crossed the Start Line. That was kind of crazy. But the race itself was a lot of fun, running through EPCOT. Ryan was going to run with us but soon turned on his afterburners and left us in the dust. I decided to try to catch him but then later realized this was a bad idea -- I still had two more races to complete. All in all, we had a great time in the race and loved the medallion we received.
After the race, I got cleaned up and went back to the Expo to meet my friend Joe Taricani for the first time face-to-face. Joe is the host of The Marathon Show broadcast and he wanted to interview me. So I got down there and not only met him, but also Rudy Novotny (The Voice of America's Marathon) who is the announcer at all Disney races. It was quite the honor to meet the two of them. And then Joe gave me a gift -- a new iFitness belt! You know that I wore that belt during both the Half and the Full. It is now my Goofy Belt!
The rest of Friday was spent first at a team breakfast at the Kona Cafe, followed by some fun times at Hollywood Studios. Then I headed back to POP for our WISH Team Meet-up and Dinner. It was great seeing all the familiar faces of people I had been in contact with via the WISH Disboards for all of 2012. So many awesome friends!
The downside was that our team spent most of the evening talking and laughing in the Food Court! So instead of getting a full night's sleep before the Half Marathon, I only got about 4 HOURS of sleep on Friday night. No one really wanted to end the conversation!
The Disney Half Marathon
This time it was 2am when the alarm woke me up. I got myself ready and headed down for the buses and to meet up with the team. I ran this race with the captain of our racing team, Vicky. She was wearing her WISH Green jersey while I was dressed up as Woody from Toy Story. We got ourselves situated at the Runners Area and then walked the 1/2 mile to the corrals. We felt like cattle because it was SO CROWDED! I think there were about 26,000 runners in this race.
Rather than write up a play-by-play of the race, I encourage you to read the Race Report that Vicky wrote about the Half Marathon. She wrote a great report! I will just add that we had a fabulous time! We weren't worried about our finish times. Instead, we made a point to take in the sights, take lots of character photos, and just have fun in the shared experience.
Towards the last few miles, I was having some knee pain which I was not pleased about (knowing I had the Full to run the next day), so I eased up a bit to try to avoid really hurting it. When we finished, I got it iced up and it seemed to be fine later in the day.
After the race, I decided to take my Ice Bath by relaxing in the pool at the resort. Ryan and I hung out in the pool for a good while, having some good father and son bonding time. Then we went to the Magic Kingdom for lunch at the Crystal Palace. Afterwards, I went to see Lou Mongello (of WDW Radio Show fame) with Kipp while Christi and Ryan went to ride The Pirates of the Caribbean. Then we reconnected to ride Space Mountain.
We went to the California Grill restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort for dinner that night which was spectacular (swordfish anyone?). Then while they went on more rides in the Magic Kingdom, I went back to the resort to try to get some sleep before the Full Marathon on Sunday. I was only marginally successful. LOL
The Disney Full Marathon
For one more time, I woke up at 2am for a race. No costume this time, just my WISH singlet. I got myself geared up and headed to the buses to meet the team. Vicky and I had made the decision to split the team into two groups based upon corrals, since we had team members in various corrals for this race. Vicky went with the Corral B folks, and I went with the Corral D folks. This was great because I really wanted to run with my friend Kimberly who was in Corral D. When we got to our corrals, we also found Courtney and her father in the same corral! So we hung out together as we waited for the race to begin.
Although I did not run with Vicky during the Full (except for the last 3 miles when the two groups met up in Hollywood Studios), she wrote a great Race Report for the Full Marathon which I (again) encourage you to read rather than me trying to document the entire mile-by-mile analysis myself (I guess I am being lazy...).
Kimberly and I decided to take it easy during the Full and not worry about our finish times. We wanted to enjoy the experience. And since I had already run two races previously, and doing my first Goofy, I was happy to try to pace myself through this. I mean, hey, 42.4 miles is a lot of miles over three days (at least for me it is).
So we did run/walk intervals for the first Half rather consistently, and that worked out fine. We took photos together at the Castle which was cool (last year, I did not get castle photos because it was totally dark when we got there). The Full course matched the Half course until Mile 8 (where the Genie was) because at this point we diverted to run through the Speedway. That was pretty cool. Then we met up with my running partner Mike, another awesome surprise! He stayed with us through the Animal Kingdom.
We found the WISH Scream Team outside of the Animal Kingdom and that was just so WELCOMING! I needed the emotional boost at that point because the sun was up, the temp was rising, and I was beginning to feel the effects of having run those previous races. I was so happy to see them, I gave one women there a big hug. I am not sure she appreciated a big sweaty hug, but she was very gracious about it.
Speaking of temps, the race was really hot and humid! By Mile 17, the temp was near 85F with 100% humidity levels. Brutal! So we adapted our pace, made sure to hydrate well, and kept moving forward.
Kimberly and I stopped for several photo ops along the race course and generally kept each other company, taking turns talking and keeping each other in good spirits. In reality, I think she did MUCH more to keep me positive and moving forward than I was doing for her. She was a real gem... a 'diamond in the rough' as it were. I am not sure I would have finished if she hadn't been there.
Suffice to say that the mile markers kept moving past as we ran and walked our way through the Wide World of Sports, Hollywood Studios, and finally EPCOT. My body was tired and hurting -- knees, tight calves, shoulders, and feet. But I kept on moving. I was NOT going to DNF (Did Not Finish) this race. I wanted that Mickey medal and I WANTED that Goofy medal. I had come too far to stop now.
The second WISH Scream Team outside Hollywood Studios was another welcome sight. Again, right when I needed an extra energy boost! And those iced washcloths were heavenly!! Thank you all who were there!!!!
When we entered EPCOT, I was on the lookout for my family, who I knew were going to be there somewhere to cheer for me. I kept running but not seeing them. When I got to Mile 25, I made a decision. I was not going to walk any more of the course. I wanted to run strong for my family -- for my son. I wanted them to be proud when they saw me. So from somewhere I know not where, I found the strength/resolve and started to pick up the pace. Kim and Robbie were commenting that I was "kicking it into high gear". I kept running as fast as I could 'will' myself to go. I was gritting my teeth as I ran.
And then I saw them! I was all the way to the left of the course path and they were all the way to the right. But I saw them and we waved! Christi was trying to tell me something but I couldn't understand or hear her. And there was no way I could stop because if I did, I was worried I would not have the energy to start again. So I just kept running. As Mike would say "Just Run until someone hands you a medal!" Later, Christi told me that Ryan was going to run with me but she stopped him.
Kimberly was still with me. And we kept running. When we passed the Gospel singers, I almost cried. I was going to finish! I was going to be a first-time Goofy Finisher (only a year after running my first Half at Disney)!! Running that last tenth of a mile was an emotional high for me. Rudy called out my name as I gave Donald Duck a hi-five and crossed the Finish Line! WOW!
As Kimberly and I walked to get our medal (and I went to get my Goofy medal), we ran into Mike and Liz, who had finished a bit before us. That was really awesome! We got our finisher pictures with them, and then with Robbie. It was a special moment for us to be sure!
I won't lie though. I hurt a lot! My feet were really sore from the pounding, and the fact that we had been on the course for 6 hours and 44 minutes! My worst Finish time ever! Of course, at the time I didn't care about that, just that I was sore! So we met up with the WISHers at the Runners Area, where I immediately sat down on the asphalt and took off those running shoes (while I drank both a Muscle Milk and sports drink). I was afraid to look at my feet for fear of blisters or worse. But alas, my feet looked fine. Yay!
So after a few more photos, and a chance to meet Kimberly's parents and her son (and to tell little Isaac that his Mom was an amazing person!), I made my way SLOWLY to the bus back to POP so I could shower and rest a bit. I realized at that moment what Christi had been trying to tell me. They were leaving to catch their flight home after the race so I wouldn't see them again until I arrived home on Tuesday.
I met up with my cousin Doug and his family at the Food Court about an hour later to chit chat and eat something. It was great having some time with them!!
Then it was time to meet with the team for our team dinner on Sunday night at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. Dinner was very tasty. Afterwards, Vicky, Kipp, and I went to the Magic Kingdom to do rides, watch the fireworks show, and enjoy the late hours in the park. But by 10pm, we were exhausted. It was nice to go to bed without having to get up early the next morning!
Post race Activities
Monday was just a fun, relaxing day which started after a good 9 hours of sleep! I went to the WISH Breakfast meetup with Kipp and had a great time hearing about everyone's experiences over the weekend. I had a nice surprise when John Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield tapped me on the shoulder to say Hi while I was there on The Boardwalk. They congratulated me, and Jenny gave me some tips on recovery since I had another Full Marathon to run three weeks later (the Surf City Marathon).
After that, Kipp and I went to Epcot for a while and rode the new Test Track. Awesome!!! Then I went to the Saratoga Spa for a one hour massage. That was MUCH needed! My legs and feet felt a ton better! Then I hooked up with Mike's family and got to spend some time with them in the Magic Kingdom!
Then I went to find Vicky, Robbie, and Shaun who were doing the "Drinking Around the World" tour at EPCOT. Thanks to the Find Friends app, I was able to find them and had a good German beer there. Then Vicky and I went to have dinner with Dave and Sally at Kouzzino's on The Boardwalk. Excellent dinner, followed by some great ice cream! A great day!
Tuesday was a day of packing and getting ready to leave for Chicago. After eating breakfast at POP, Vicky, Dave, Sally and I went to Hollywood Studios to ride the Toy Story Mania attraction. I had never done it before! Oh My Gosh! It was too much fun! I did it three times! We stayed there until Vicky and I had to go to Magic Kingdom for lunch with D.K. Peterson at the "Be My Guest" restaurant in the new Fantasyland. What a cool Castle and restaurant! We had a good lunch too!
Then I had to 'literally' run to try to get transportation back to POP to catch the Disney Magical Express bus to the airport for my flight home. That was quite the adventure and I missed my bus! But I caught the next one, and was able to successfully catch my flight home.
I had the TIME OF MY LIFE at Disney this year! And what made it most special were all the friends and family that I got to share the adventure with! To be able to say "I am a Goofy (Dopey, really) Finisher" is an awesome feeling. But the true blessing of this WDW Weekend was that I had such awesome people there with me.