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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Race: John & Kirk in WDW for January 2013 Marathon Weekend

The Race: Day 2

The wakeup call came at 2:00 but I was already awake. The weather was quite warm - unseasonably so - with lows of about 60°. In fact we had left the door to the patio open while we slept both nights. Since I was already awake I turned off my iPhone alarm. I got up and dressed in my running clothes. runDisney had provided us with a large plastic bag for bag check during the race but I did not think I needed to check anything. I was planning to come back to the room to change after the race and it was warm enough I did not need to bring sweater or anything so I didn't bother bringing anything to check.

I walked from my room to the Hospitality House, where the bus was to pick us up. I was quite early - about 25 minutes so. There was already two other runners there. We sat and chatted for a while - mostly all sharing the fact that we had not slept well the night before and how warm the weather was. The message of the day was that it was expected to get hot so stay hydrated. While we sat there a bus pulled up but it was not our bus. The driver opened the door and chatted with us for a while. He talked about how the only exercise he gets is doing the "12-ounce curl". He also said "At least you have nice weather - last week at this time of day it was 40°." He closed the door and pulled away. All of the runners looked at each other and someone voiced what we were all thinking - "40° would have been awesome!"

Our bus pulled up about 2:45. We all got in and watched a runDisney video with information and tips. One tidbit - the buses would start running at 3:00 and continue every 20 minutes. So this was not the only bus and I could have easily slept another half hour if not more. Oh well, live and learn.

By the time the bus left at 3:00 a few more runners had boarded. We made our way to an area in the Epcot parking lot that had been set up as the main gathering place for the races. Here they had a bunch of benches and tables set up and there were lots of tents for vendors and such. There was also a stage with a DJ talking and playing music. I noticed one huge line of folks waiting to have their picture taken (with a character? I hate to admit I don't recall) in front of a runDisney backdrop. I opted to skip this.

There were also smaller tents set up for some of the major running teams. One of these teams was the one organized for AllEars.net. As I passed by the tent I saw +Deb Wills  who I had met some 15 years earlier on a trip to WDW and I had spoken with a few weeks earlier on a live podcast of WDW Today. Deb had told me in Twitter that she would be in the cheer squad at miles 1 and 11 so I should look for her. I almost stopped to say hello when I saw her in the tent but she was talking to some other folk so I did not want to bother her.

One of the larger tents was the Race Retreat tent. This was a space that you had to pay extra for ($110 if I recall) where there was seating, food and drinks, extra facilities (read: out houses) etc. At the advice of Mike Scopa from WDW Today I opted to take advantage of this. Honestly with the weather what it was it was probably not necessary, but it was still nice to have a place to relax. When I walked up to the tent I was told that I was supposed to have picked up a wrist band at the expo the night before, but they had a list there which they checked and gave me the wristband there. Inside there were lots of tables and chairs as well as tables of food (bagels and fruit), coffee, water and juice.

As I had gotten there pretty early it was not terribly crowded. As the morning progressed the crowds grew bigger - both in the Race Retreat tent as well as outside. As there was quite a bit of time to kill I meandered around, had a bite to eat (but no coffee - experience has taught me to avoid coffee before running), and chatted with other runners. I also alternated between being inside the tent and outside. At one point I was sitting at a table chatting with some folks when one of the CMs there told us that Tinkerbell was taking pictures. I could see that the line was not long so I went for it.

Tinkerbell was there with one of her pixie friends. A woman in line behind me told me that there is a whole series of videos with Tinkerbell and her friends - something I was aware of but as my kids are too old for that I am not familiar with them. At first I was not sure if the other pixie was a girl or a boy but when I got closer I could see it was a boy. He was dressed in brown with a hat that looked like a acorn cap. When my turn came I walked up to Tink and said "I know you're Tinkerbell, but..." - turning to the other pixie - "you I don't know." He introduced himself as "Terrence" and went on quite shpeil (sp?) about his job which had something to do with throwing pixie dust or something. I was not quite sure. One thing I noticed about Tinkerbell was how bright her blue eyes were. The cynic in me wondered if they were contacts.

Me with Tinkerbell and friend
At about 5:00 the DJ started announcing that folks should start making their way to the starting corrals. At this point you could really see just what a huge crowd this was. We walked for quite a bit - I'd say close to 1/2 mile. I noticed a row of outhouses along the way with a huge line - I wisely waited until later as there was a second set closer to the corrals with much shorter lines. TIP: do use the facilities provided before the race if you can - I could see that the lines for the facilities along the race route - especially in the beginning - were long and the waiting would cut into your race time. There were 8 corrals labeled A-H and I was in "F". I got to my corral and waited for us to start.


Making our way to the corrals
Not long after I got to the corral I heard fireworks and a loud cheer indicating the start of the race. I listened to the announcer shout out to different running teams, folks dressed in costume and even the occasional celebrity ("There's Richard Simmons! Hi Richard!"). As each corral started they would have Donald Duck count down and another, smaller set of fireworks were set off. After about 20 minutes or so our corral started moving forward toward the starting gate. Finally it was our turn and and after Donald's countdown and another set of fireworks we were off!


Starting fireworks



Fireworks for the start of corral F


Passing under the starting gate
The race started near Epcot. It then went up one of the roads to Magic Kingdom (Apologies - I am not familiar with the names of the WDW roads so I'm not sure what road it was.) All along the route to MK there was entertainment including character photo opportunities and bands playing. Now, bear in mind when you read this that by the time I actually passed under the starting gate I think about 40 minutes had passed since the first runners started. Anyway, not long after the first mile marker I saw some folks running in the other direction in the roadway across the divider. A bunch of folks from our side cheered them on. I realized that the other side was the return route - at about mile 11 or so - and that those folks were the first runners already finishing the race! I could hardly believe it - I had just started and they were almost done!

I mentioned the mile markers and all the entertainment on the route. I tried to get pictures of all the markers but some of them didn't come out. I also took pictures of some other stuff I thought was cool. Here are some of the pictures I took:
Captain Jack and Barbarosa
Entering the MK area
Mile marker 3
Mile marker 5. And my finger.
Entering MK into Main Street from back stage - pretty cool
Running down Main Street - what could be better?
Nice background, eh?
The WDW railroad - how awesome is that?

Mile marker 6 inside MK
Backstage area leaving MK via Frontierland

As you can probably imagine, I had a huge grin on my face all the way through the Magic Kingdom. After leaving MK we made our way back to Epcot. There was a stretch of highway on the way to Epcot that was particularly rough. It was an open stretch with no shade and the sun had come up so it was getting hot. I usually hit a wall at about 8 miles, I broke through that just fine but then the heat was getting to me up until about mile 10. They had plenty of water and poweraide stations set up along the route and I made use of all of them so I was plenty hydrated. However, the literature promised fuel halfway through, so I only brought 2 gel packs when I would have normally brought 3 or 4. Well, by the time we got to the fuel stations they were all out so I had to make due with the 2 I had brought. Luckily I had eaten at the Race Retreat,

Here are some pics from the second half of the race including more shots of me taken by the photographers they had stationed along the route:
Mile marker 7
The Princess and the Frog is one of Nat's favs so I had to take this to send to her
Mile marker 8
Mile marker 9
After I passed mile marker 10 the rest was a blur. I could not believe how fast it all went. That said, as if a cruel joke, the was one last hill just before getting to Epcot as we climbed a highway overpass. We entered Epcot and I could see guests there starting their day in the park. It was unclear to me how they managed the runners with the park traffic, but I was too busy enjoying the experience of running through my favorite Disney park to worry much about it. As we went through Epcot I started getting really excited - I was actually going to do this!


Mile marker 11
Mile marker 12
Entering Epcot
Another nice background
The only picture they got of me where I don't look like a complete dufus
After leaving Epcot we passed mile marker 13. Then the finish line! I did it!


Mile marker 13
Across the finish line
Finisher!
My Medal!
OK, now having gone through this I would like to share some tips:

  • I took a wash cloth from the room, folded in and tucked it into my shorts so I could use it to mop my forehead. This was a really good idea.
  • I started in the back of the coral because I was planning to walk/run and I did not want to get in anyone's way. OK, everyone back where us human beings lived were doing walk/run. Well, almost everyone. Do yourself a favor - get to the fron of your coral.
  • Bring what fuel you need. Do not count on any being provided.
  • When you go through MK and make the turn at the hub with Tomorrowland on your right... use the restrooms! They are clean and empty!Yes, that's right, even more facility related stuff - this is important!
  • When you get to a water station, don't go to the first person. Go to the folks on the end.
After the race I collected my medal and went back to the race retreat for breakfast. I was sore, hot, tired and hungry. I had heard that protein and carbs are important after a long run so I had eggs, sausage, fruit and a roll. It may not have been gourmet but it tasted great! I then walked out and went to the race gear tent where I bought a t-shirt that had "half the distance, twice the fun" written on it with Donald and the half marathon logo, as well as a half marathon hat. Finally I joined the very long line for the bus and headed back to OKW.

The bus dropped me off at the Hospitality House so I still had to walk to my room. There was another runner making the same trek as I was and we agreed that making us walk to our room was cruel and unusual punishment. I had arranged to meet Kirk at The Brown Derby (BD) in Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS) for a 1:00 reservation (our one remaining reservation) so I didn't have a lot of time. When I got to the room I took a shower, soaked my feet for a bit, got dressed and headed back out. I was a bit worried about whether I had given myself enough time to make make the reservation. TIP: don't schedule anything for the afternoon after the race.

On the bus ride to DHS I chatted with a couple of women who were also running. One of them said something interesting - that I had just done something that only about 1% of the worlds population have done. Made me feel pretty good. Well, as it turns out I had no problem getting to DHS in time. In fact I got there a bit early. I hoped that perhaps Kirk might also be there early and perhaps we could get FPs for Toy Story Midway Mania (TSMM). I went to BD to see if Kirk was there, and when I saw he wasn't I went to check the attraction board to see what the FP time was for TSMM. The FP time was after 6:00 which meant we could not make it as we were planning to do the final 6:30 performance of Fantasmic. So, TSMM was out for me.

I went back to BD and sat down, waiting for Kirk to show.  At about 12:40 I got a call from Kirk. It seems he decided to take his car to the shop to fix the problem with his brakes. Unfortunately the mechanic ordered the wrong parts so he was running late. I went to the podium and the CM told me that we should just come back any time.

I had not yet seen the new Star Tours (ST) so I headed over there. ST is now in 3D, with new digital special effects  and multiple scenes that are combined in a random manner to provide multiple experiences. When I got there the sign said a 10 minute wait - it ended up being basically a walk-on. Now, I've done the Disneyland version of ST many times in the past, and I know I have been on the WDW version but not nearly as many times. I write this because I am not sure how many changes were made to the queue area of the WDW version. The anamatronics are clearly more advanced than those in Disneyland, but I'm not sure if they are new to WDW. At any rate, they look awesome. While I was in the (short) line I talked to a couple of folks - one of whom had done the half marathon and was doing the Goofy (running both marathons).

As for the ride itself - it is a vast improvement over what was already an amazing and - at one time - groundbreaking attraction. The 3D effects are absolutely perfect. The film is broken into 4 sections and these are alternated in a random manner to create unique experiences. There in an introductory section, then the first planet you visit, then a message from the rebel alliance where one of the passengers is identified as a "rebel spy", then a second planet. All of the stories (at least the ones I saw) involve C3PO having to fly the ship because the captain is not there. In my first ride the intro was of Darth Vader threatening the ship, the first planet was the "Wooki planet", the message was from General Akbar and the second planet was Naboo. The Naboo segment ended with the nose of another ship breaking through the windshield and sticking out into the audience - very convincing.

After riding ST I decided I wanted to do it again but the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show had just let out so the line suddenly got long. So, instead I went to the Sci-Fi Dine In and sat at the Tune In Lounge and ordered a beer. After I finished the beer I did ST again. Again the sign said 10 minutes and it was a walk-on. This time I saw the same Darth Vader intro but the first planet was Tatooine (where we went on a pod race), the message was from Yoda and the second planet was Corousant. My third trip (again a walk-on) had an intro of Storm Troopers and droids trying to destroy the ship, the pod race and Yoda again ending in Naboo.

After my third ride on ST I called the garage and asked to speak to Kirk. He told me that they were almost done and he hoped to be at DHS in about 30 minutes. We agreed to meet at the end of Sunset Blvd where we would get FPs for either Rock 'n Roller Coaster (RnRC) or Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TZToT). I decided to use this opportunity to rest up a bit so I sat down next to Scoops Ice Cream. There I ran into another young woman who had run the half and we discussed the experience.

Kirk finally showed and we got FPs for RnRC for 4:50. We then walked to BD for a late lunch/early dinner. Kirk told me that he had gone to DHS the night before and was able to experience TSMM as well as TZToT and RnRC several times.

We arrived at BD about 3:00 and were seated right away. The interior of BD has a nice, old-school Hollywood elegance with dark wood trim and furnishings, and wrought iron accents. The cream colored stucco walls have an old Mexican hacienda feel with a rough texture and soft edges. The walls are lined with cartoonish portraits of old Hollywood celebrities of different styles reminiscent of Sardi's in New york, which I have been to a few times.

When we arrived at BD we were told that, as I had made the Fantasmic dinner reservation (dinner plus guaranteed seats for Fantasmic), we were entitled to a pre-fixe dinner of appetizer, main course and dessert for $59 each. Neither Kirk nor I would have ordered that much on our own, but, dammit, if we were paying $59 each we were going to get our money's worth! We both ordered the appetizer size Cob Salad (a speciality of BD that I knew from the get-go that I wanted to try) and the Filet Mingon. For dessert Kirk order the Banana White Chocolate Toffee Tower (without the Bananas "Foster") and I had the Grapefruit Cake (another speciality of the house).

The food was quite good. The Cob Salad was a nice mixture of tastes. The server will ask it you want them to "mix it up" for you - I opted to do this but Kirk did not. The steak was a good quality filet - it was tender as you would expect a filet to be and cooked correctly. Kirk said his dessert was quite good. My cake was delicious - I would recommend ordering it if you like the taste of grapefruit (as I do). My only complaint with the cake was that the outside, large end - which is usually my favorite part of a cake as it is covered in frosting - was dry and rather tasteless. Otherwise it was very good. The service was OK. Kirk had asked to have his dessert first - when I got my salad. The wait for the main course was a bit long and Kirk said he would have preferred if they had gone ahead and brought his salad too. Also, Kirk had asked for no chives on his salad and I noticed that they forgot to leave these off.

After dinner we went to the end of Sunset Blvd. to experience two of our favorite attractions - RnRC and TZToT. First we got 5:40 FPs for TZToT, then we rode both RnRC and TZToT using our FPs. By the time we were done it was 6:00 and time to take out seats for the 6:30 viewing of Fantasmic. The seats for the Fantasmic dinner are in the last section to the right. A complaint I have often heard about the Fantasmic dinner is that you pay extra for the privelege and the seats are not very good. Also, now that there are more shows throughout the week, it's not that difficult to get in. Indeed, the show we saw was not sold out - it was perhaps 80% full. Now, I agree that the dinner show package was not worth it and if I had it to do over again I would not have opted for it. I don't agree that the seats are lousy though - to my mind all the seats are good. I suppose the center section is the best, but the way the show is laid out you can get a good view from any seat. One good thing was we were able to sit in the front row of the section which is nice.

This was, I think, the third time I've seen Fantasmic. I have only seen the Disneyland version once many years ago when it first opened. I have to say I did not get what all the fuss is about. That said, this is a show that grows on you and I must say that I enjoy the WDW version a lot and have liked it better with each viewing. The next time I go to Disneyland I am going to make a point of seeing Fantasmic again to see if my opinion changes.

A quick fun side note about Fantasmic - and I want to say I've read this somewhere or heard it on a podcast - but one character you see on one of the boats in Fantasmic that, to my knowledge, is not seen anywhere else, is Meg from Hercules. Cool seeing one of the not-seen-so-often characters. I tried pointing her out to Kirk - who has never seen Hercules - but by the time I noticed her on the boat it had already passed by.

Kirk had driven to DHS so after Fantasmic we made our way out and drove back to OKW. By now I was really feeling the effects of the half marathon and the Jacuzzi at OKW was calling my name. Loudly. Now you may recall that the OKW CM at the front desk had mislead me about when the race buses ran. Well, at another point I had also asked about the Jacuzzis because there was a note in our room about Jacuzzi refurbs and I wanted to make sure I knew where the nearest Jacuzzi to my room was. The CM at that time told me I'd need to go all the way to the Hospitality House. Well, I did not want to walk that far and Kirk was not planning to join me and I did not want to make him drive. So, when we got to OKW we needed to stop at the Hospitality House so I went to the front desk and asked again. They said no, there was a Jacuzzi at the pool right by our building. So I had been misinformed again.

Ahhhh... the Jacuzzi felt awesome. There were a few other folks there including one guy who had also run the half marathon that day and was planning to run the next day as well, therefore completing the Goofy. That was one of the unexpected pleasures of the trip, everywhere I went I ran into other runners and we exchanged stories, thoughts and tips. It really was one of the high points of the trip. Kirk did not use the Jacuzzi but he did come out and sit by the pool for a while. He went in before me - I was just enjoying that Jacuzzi - as well as the company of the other folks there - too much to go in. But finally exhaustion settled in and I called it a night. What an awesome day.


Here are shortcuts to all the entries in this blog:

Intro and Day 1
Day 2 and the Race
Day 3 in the Parks
Final Day 4



Here are some quick links to some of the more popular posts:

Europe trip 2012 including Santorini Greece, Athens and London
John & Kirk go to Williamsburg VA and Washington DC
Orlando 2010 including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando
Adventures with my good friend Kirk including Walt Disney World, Vegas, Disneyland and more
A Daddy/Daughter jaunt to Walt Disney World in 1998
A trip to Southern California including Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in 2002
Middle School Rock Band trip to Walt Disney World  2010
Key West 2002
South East Florida 2012

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