Welcome to my blog. I write mostly about travel and in particular my love of Disney, with a few tidbits such as musings about movies or theater thrown in for good measure. I have stories dating all the way back to 1997 so be sure to explore! I don't post regularly, so if you want updates be sure to join and follow this blog (links below). Feel free to share, and if you want you can also click the Facebook or Twitter links below. You can also follow me on twitter. And be sure to comment letting me know what you think!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Intro: John & Kirk in WDW for January 2013 Marathon Weekend

Intro and Day 1

About 7 months ago I decided, as a 55-year old who was never much of a runner (although I do exercise regularly including "quick walks"), that I would run in the 2013 Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I am not going to go into details of what lead up to this decision, but if you are interested about this you can read more here. I started training and stuck with it for 7 months (if you are interested in reading my training journal you can do so here).

I called my friend Kirk and asked him to join me - no surprise he accepted. I warned Kirk that my main focus was going to be on the marathon, but that said there were a few other things that we were very interested in experiencing (the New Fantasyland in particular). Another thing we wanted to do was to check out some sit-down restaurants we never went to before. That did not work out too well... as you will read later.

Anyway, I flew out Thursday night and arrived in Orlando at about 10:10 (a bit early). When I got there I called Kirk on his cell phone and was quite surprised when his wife answered. Turns out Kirk had inadvertently picked up the wrong phone and the one he had did not work. If you know Orlando Airport you know that it has 2 different gate areas that are across a large plaza from each other. So I basically just walked between the two gate areas and the two baggage claim areas until I eventually ran into Kirk.

That little glitch out of the way we hit the road and headed to Old Key West (OKW). I had rented a studio using DVC points. At first we were booked into Saratoga Springs but I put in a wait list request for OKW because the OKW studios include 2 queen size beds instead of one bed and a sleeper sofa. We arrived at a bit before midnight and checked in. The OKW studio is, indeed, quite large with a very nice bath and 2 queen beds. Our room (4120) was a bit long in the tooth and in need of a refurb, but not not too bad and still quite comfortable.

Our plan was to get to the Magic Kingdom (MK) on Friday at park opening. We rose at 6:30 and made our way to the Hospitality House. Our plan was to have breakfast at Olivia's. The problem was that Olivia's did not open for breakfast until 7:30. Good's, the counter service restaurant, was open and Kirk bought a refillable mug which he thought would be a good deal for him. I don't drink soda so I never get them. After that we hung around the resort store (Conch Flats). One thing I noted was that there was a lot of logo merchandise (merchandise bearing a logo specific to a particular attraction, resort, etc.) This is a development that is getting a lot of positive reaction from Disney podcasts as well as the DISboards discussion forums. I saw an OKW t-shirt with my name on it.
Olivia's opened at 7:30 and we were the first customers of the day. I had bacon & eggs, coffee and OJ and Kirk had a very large omelet. The breakfast was about on par with your typical diner fare (albeit a fair bit more expensive).

After breakfast we headed over to MK. We parked and decided to take the resort monorail which promptly sat in the station for about 10 minutes. *sigh* Now, Kirk and I consider ourselves to be pretty expert at park touring, but for this first day of touring we decided to try using the "Trip" application from I keyed all of the attractions we wanted to experience into the app and hit "optimize". The plan it came up with - starting with Peter Pan Flight (PP) and the Haunted Mansion (HM) - was quite different than what we would have done on our own. Unfortunately, as Olivia's opened later than we expected, we didn't get to MK until 9:30. We had to re-jigger the touring plan and now it had us start at HM.

After that we followed the plan to the tee right up until we planned to stop for an early lunch. We did Jungle Cruise (with an awesome "Captain" named Chanel), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Pirates of the Caribbean.

As I was doing the Half Marathon the next day and had to rise early I wanted us to have an early lunch and dinner, so we decided to eat at "Be Our Guest" (BOG) at 11:00. This worked out well because I had heard that BOG got very crowded later.

BOG is a first at WDW in that it is counter service during the day and switches over to table dining in the evening. I understand that it is very difficult to get dinner reservations there. For lunch you simply need to get on line and wait. Inspired by Disney's classic animated film "Beauty and the Beast" (BatB),  the exterior of BOG is in a building themed to look like a rock mountain with The Beasts Castle atop it. The Disney Imagineers use a technique called "forced perspective" - making things in the distance smaller to make them look further away and larger - to make the castle look considerably larger than it actually is. The effect is stunning.

Entrance to "Be Our Guest"
You enter the restaurant in something of an anteroom where you queue up to order. You pass through a hallway lined with suits of armor. Listen closely - OK, you don't have to listen that closely - and you will hear the suits of armor talking to each other! As you pass through this hallway you also get a chance to peruse video kiosks that illustrate your dining choices. Click here (thanks to +The DIS ) to see the full menu.

Next you are greeted by a cast member (CM) at a podium who will ask you how many are in your party and give you a "rose" (a small plastic RFID locator). You are then directed by another CM to a video kiosk where you place your order. This part could use some refining - I noticed that the CM directing guests to the kiosks were not very careful about making sure they pulled from each line equally. As a result the line we were in went very slow. Before you are directed to your kiosk you are asked if you will be paying cash or credit. Most of the kiosks are unmanned and require a credit card while two (I think? Maybe one?) are manned and you can pay cash. Once at the kiosk you hold your "rose" to a reader (so it knows who is ordering) and you place your order and pay.

The Ballroom
When you have finished ordering you go into one of the restaurant's three dining rooms and find a seat. The largest and most elegant of the dining rooms is the Ballroom. This room is themed to look like the ballroom from the iconic scene in BatB where they dance to the film's theme song. It is a very large room with exquisite chandeliers, cherubs painted on the ceilings, and a row of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over a landscape with perpetual snowfall. The other two smaller dining rooms are the Rose Room and the West Wing. The West Wing is themed as the room where the Beast goes to be alone. The rose from the story sits in the corner, the curtains and wall hangings are all torn and tattered, there is a constant thunder storm and the torn portrait of the Beast before his transformation hangs on the wall. Every few minutes the thunder gets louder, a petal falls from the rose and a flash of lightning reveals the Beast in the portrait. The Rose Room has a sculpture of Beauty and the Beast dancing in the center of the room and the walls are lined with artwork featuring key scenes from the film. This room looks, to my eye, like it is geared for family's with younger guests.

Ok John... blah blah blah... how was the food? Well, I ordered the Tuna Nicoise salad and Kirk had Braised Pork. We both had water to drink and our total bill came to $26.14. My salad was very good and the tuna tasted surprisingly fresh. Kirk said that the pork was the best meal he had ever had at MK. (Of course anyone who has eaten at MK knows that's not that much of a recommendation - but the food was quite good). One interesting thing, Kirk realized after ordering that they give free refills for soda so he decided he wanted a soda. Thing is, they really don't have a good way of adding to your order. When he asked the CM at the drink station, she just told him to take some soda and she said it was his "pixie dust" for the day. So, overall I would say that Be Our Guest should be your top choice for lunch at MK. 

The Beasts Castle in the distance
After lunch we did more park touring at MK. We got a FastPass (FP) for Peter Pan Flight (PP), then looked around New Fantasyland for a while before watching PhilharMagic. New Fantasyland is absolutely spectacular. The whole area has much more room now, something it sorely needed. Technically it is still under construction  because the Seven Dwarfs Mins Train is not yet complete. It's unusual to see construction in WDW where you are able to view it up close. I was impressed with the size of the ride structure. I had imagined a smallish "kiddie" coaster. Not true - this is a massive undertaking and will be an awesome addition. Unfortunately right now it sort of divides New Fantasyland, making it impossible to get from the Enchanted Forest side to the Storybook Circus area without walking around the construction.

Mine Train construction

We did not experience either of the two new attractions in new Fantasyland - Enchanted Tales with Belle and Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. This was my fault. I want to experience them for the first time with my daughters - especially as Ariel (along with Repunzel) is Charlotte's favorite Disney princess. I did NOT however say I would not have my picture taken with Ariel who is my favorite as well! Still, when Kirk and I went to Ariel's Grotto, the wait was 40 minutes. I knew we were coming back and hoped I would have another chance.

Journey of the Little Mermaid ride building

We then headed over to Tomorrowland for a ride on the People Mover, Carousel of Progress and Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor. Laugh Floor is interesting because each show is different - and this particular show was mediocre. We then got a FP for Space Mountain (SM) and rode PP using our FP. I wanted a Dole Whip but the afternoon parade had started and got in the way of me and my pineapple dessert. Kirk wanted to ride HM again but the line was too long so we headed back to Tomorrowland and sat while we waited for our SM FP time. Once our time came up we rode SM and left the park about 4:00.

I needed to get over to Disney's Wide World of Sports (WWoS) to pick up my race packet. I should mention here that we had made 4 dinner reservations. Our first reservation was for Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge at 5:00. We also had reservations at Le Cellier and
Monsieur Paul in Epcot as well as The Brown Derby at Disney Hollywood Studios. We had decided to cancel the Monsieur Paul reservation, then my return flight changed so we needed to cancel Le Cellier. Well now here we were leaving MK later than expected so our Boma reservation was looking iffy as well.

My racing bib
We caught the monorail back to the Ticket and Transportation Center, got back to Kirk's car and headed over to WWoS. As soon as we got there it was clear that we would not make our Boma reservation - WWoS was extremely busy with a line of cars going in and - more important - a huge line coming out. So I called Disney dining and cancelled our reservation. 

We were directed to a building where I filled out a waiver and picked up my racing bib and a bag I was told I should use for bag check at the race. From there I was told to go to the Health Expo at the Josten's Center to pick up my shirt. One thing I would have done differently - I would have given myself about 2 or 3 hours (as well as $200 or $300 dollars) to spend at the expo. It was awesome! I wish we could have spent more time there. For one thing there was a lot of race specific merchandise - a lot of it was very cool stuff. One thing I noticed was a booth for a company that makes something called "the stick" - a sort of roller bar used to knead out aching muscles. My chiropractor recommended this to me for my knees and it worked wonders. I stopped by their booth and told them how much I liked their product - they seemed to appreciate it.

Me with Jeff Galloway
We were starting to leave when I heard over the PA system that running guru Jeff Galloway was greeting people at the runDisney booth. Now, I read Galloway's book and i have to say that without his advice, and without his "run walk run" method, I'm not sure I could have done this race. I had to meet him. So we went to the runDisney booth and I waited for a few minutes to chat with him. What a great guy! he could not have been more gracious. The weather was expected to be unseasonably warm on race day so Jeff was advising folks to take it easy. In my case he asked what my "walk run" interval was. I told him 2 minutes/1 minute. He suggested I start at 30 seconds/30 seconds and go no higher than 1 minute/30 seconds. I thanked him and we left.

TIP: Plan to spend time at the Health Expo!

We left WWoS and, as expected, the traffic leaving was pretty bad. Although we had cancelled Boma we still needed dinner so we went to the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. I had a salad and a french dip sandwich and Kirk had meatloaf. The salad was good and the sandwich was OK, Kirk said his meatloaf was passable.

After dinner Kirk kindly took me to Goodings so I could get some epsom salts. I packed a tub for soaking my feet with my luggage, but I did not want to pack epsom salts and I knew I would want to soak my feet after the marathon.

Before heading back to the room Kirk was kind enough to take me to Goodings so I could get some fresh fruit and epson salts - two things I figured I would need the next day. As we drove Kirk complained that his car was pulling to one side and it felt as if the breaks were being applied. Then, just as we pulled into OKW, smoke started pouring from the front passenger side wheel. Clearly something was amiss. More on that later.

Kirk dropped me off at OKW around 8 so I could try to get some sleep. It was Extra Magic Hours night at DHS so Kirk headed back there. I set my alarm for 2:30 and also called in for a wakeup call for 2:30 just in case. Then, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I suddenly realized that I had no idea how I was going to get to the race. So, I called the front desk. They told me that there was going to be one and only one bus at 3:00 to take folks to the race. Also, the bus was going to leave from the Hospitality House which was a 10 or 15 minute walk from our building. So, I asked to change the wakeup call to 2:00 just to be safe. With that I tried to get some sleep.

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

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 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
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

Park Day: John & Kirk in WDW for January 2013 Marathon Weekend

Park Day: Day 2

The day after race day was to be a big park day for us. The plan was to go to Epcot in the morning, then switch to MK in the evening and enjoy the fireworks and the Castle light show. At 5:30 I was awakened by the sound of fireworks - the Full Marathon had started. I heard others staying at OKW mention how they were awakened in the same way on the day of the Half Marathon, and one woman said she could not get back to sleep because there were more fireworks every 5 minutes of so as each corral left. I expected the same and assumed that I would not fall back asleep, but I did fall asleep with no trouble. Still, we easily rose quite early since we had both gotten to bed pretty early the night before. I did hear the final corral leave, but that was the only one.

Kirk drove us to the Hospitality House. We had learned out lesson the morning before and planned to have breakfast at Good's, which opens at 7:00. Turns out they did not serve hot food until 7:30 anyway, which was not a problem as I usually have a light breakfast and Kirk is not much of a breakfast person anyway. For me the important thing is to have some fresh fruit (I had a banana as all the apples were waxed and I avoid waxed apples). I also has a cheese danish which tasted surprisingly fresh. Kirk just refilled his refillable cup with soda a couple of times.

We then we boarded the Epcot bus. On the bus I started chatting with a couple of women who has also run the half marathon. One of them told me that she had taken up running some years back but had to stop when she found that she needed a kidney transplant. She told me tat the kidney donor was a "live donor" - a man who had been an avid runner but had to stop running because of his knees. She said he was thrilled because she was "taking his kidney out for a run". These are the kinds of stories you hear from folks - like the man I ran in to who did the half and would have loved to do the full marathon but, because of a heart condition, his doctor would not let him - that really make you realize what a passion some have for the sport. And I can say that - sore feet and all - I am now one of them.

Anyway, as I was so busy chatting with other runners I was not paying attention to where we were going. Kirk broke in and said "Do you see where we are? We're at the Magic Kingdom!" Well, technically we were at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Of course, it made perfect sense. Because of the marathon they were limiting buses going to Epcot, so they took us to the TTC to board a monorail. This turned out to be serendipitous because, once we got there, Kirk (who had heard me talk about the crowds at Epcot during the half marathon) suggested that perhaps we should rethink our plan and go to MK first. I wasn't crazy about the idea because we wanted to be back at MK for the fireworks and I wasn't crazy about the thought of going back and forth between Epcot and MK twice. Still, looking at the number of folks going to Epcot vs. MK, the logic of Kirk's plan soon won me over and we were off to MK.

The ferry was there and about to leave and Kirk and I have found that, if the ferry is there, it's the quickest way to MK, so we boarded. And it was immediately obvious that we were the only guests on the ferry. And I mean literally, not figuratively. The crew outnumbered us. That was pretty cool, having an entire ferry to ourselves. I wish I had asked one of the crew members to take a picture.

We got to the entrance of MK about 20 minutes before rope drop. We were at the entrance on the left side, right under the railroad underpass. The CM there made sure that everyone knew that our position was not a great one for watching the opening show - Kirk and I had both seen the show before so we were OK with that. The show started and we were able to listen, and I got a glimpse of the new "talking" Mickey which I pointed out to Kirk and is, I must say, quite cool. It came time for us to enter - and I was the second person through the turnstile which was pretty neat.

A quite empty Magic Kingdom

Our plan was to see some of our favorite attractions before having an early lunch. First we got a FP for PP (9:40), then we rode HM followed by PotC. From there we went to Tomorrowland and got a FP for SM (10:35), rode Buzz Lightyear's Spin (my score was awful, Kirk did much better), used our PP FPs and finally used our SM FPs.

We talked about going to Pecos Bill for lunch, but after our experience at Be Our Guest we decided to go back there instead. As it was a bit earlier the line was a bit shorter. This time we sat in the West Wing, and while Kirk ordered braised pork again I decided on the croque monsieur. Kirk said the the braised pork was just as good as the first time (although a bit fatty). The croque monsieur, basically a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, was OK but not nearly as good as the salad I had on our first trip. I would not recommend it - there are better things on the menu.

Gaston's Tavern next to Be Our Guest

After lunch we went to see the length of the line at Ariel's Grotto again. The sign said 20 minutes so I decided to go for it. Kirk took the opportunity to ride HM again. The wait ended up to be more like 15 minutes.

Me and Ariel
When I sat next to Ariel she looked at my half marathon t-shirt and we had the following exchange:
Ariel: Did you run yesterday?
Me: I did. Did you?
Ariel: (looking at her fins) Well...
Me: Well, at least I'm sure you could beat me swimming.
Ariel: I could swim a triathlon!

After my visit with Ariel I met up with Kirk and we headed out. While I was waiting I ran into a CM near the new Repunzel tower. I mentioned that I heard it was going to be a Repunzel meet and greet. She told me that was the rumor, but all that has been confirmed is a new rest room. Well, I guess that is necessary... On the way out we saw that the piano player next to Casey's on Main Street so we stopped to listen for a while. After that we went out and took the monorail to Epcot by way of the TTC.

Future rest room and rumored meet and greet

Once at Epcot we immediately went to Soarin' and got FPs (4:50). We then headed over to The Seas to see Turtle Talk with Crush. As we did not want to ride the Nemo we entered through the exit to Nemo to see Crush. This attraction uses similar technology to Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor where an improvisational performer manipulates a puppet that is immediately represented as a 3D animated image on the screen. The success of an individual show is dependent on the skill of the performer and his ability to interact with the audience. The performer for this show was quite good and it was very funny.

We then went over to check out the standby line for Test Track (TT), but at 70 minutes it was too long. Kirk wanted to check out Club Cool so we went there. We tried a few, there is one that has something of a watermelon flavor that I like, but they are all sugar sweetened and too sweet for my taste. Plus Kirk is diabetic so he didn't want to try too many. We headed over to Mexico and rode Grand Fiesta, then to Norway for Maelstrom. We could get another FP by this time so we got them for TT (5:30).

At this point we split up because Kirk wanted to stay in Futureworld (FW) and I wanted to go to World Showcase (WS). We agreed to meet up at Soarin' for out FP time. So I did a 90 minute tour of WS. I went to the right and worked counter-clockwise. I visited one of my favorite "hidden gems" in Canada - the waterfall on the way to the entrance of "O! Canada!". After that I saw that Off Kilter was playing so I listened to them for a while. In England I had a Guinness and watched the street performers. I walked by France and America and watched more street performers in Italy (doing a show I could not make heads or tails of - it appeared to be some sort of mock wedding). I went to the new Karamelle-Kuche where I bought two milk chocolate covered caramels with sea salt - one for now and one for later. Yeah, right, like that was going to work - I ate them both. Delicious! Finally I visited the tomb warriors display in China. As we had already visited Norway and Mexico I skipped those.

The waterfall in Canada
It was time for our Soarin' FPs so I headed back to FW to meet up with Kirk. We agreed to wait a little extra so we could get row 1. TIP: if you don't mind waiting an extra 10 minutes or so, row 1 is the way to go for Soarin'. OK, so Soarin' needs a new film. First, it should be switched over to digital projection. Second, it would be so cool if they had more than one file, For those of you who have experienced Soarin', picture this: The openeing is the same, with the clouds, and the same music. Then you break through the clouds and, for the first time, you know which one of the random films you are going to see. Wouldn't that be cool? 

So, after that we decided to have dinner so we went to what is, in my opinion, the best counter service at WDW (with the exception of Be Our Guest now) - Sunshine Seasons. Kirk had a potato soup which he said was quite good. He tried a taste of the spicy cashew chicken but didn't like it. I had tuna with noodles (I think I've gotten this every time I've been to Sunshine Seasons). As always it was very good, but in this case I got one bad piece of tuna. By bad I don't mean spoiled - it was gristly and pretty much inedible. Other than that a good meal.

We then headed over to TT to use our FPs. TT has gone through a complete remodel although the track layout has not changed. The new design is sleeker and more modern. The idea is that you are doing a "virtual" test of your car. In the pre-show area you "design" your car and then your design is pitted against other designs for performance - although this has no impact whatever on your ride experience. For the ride itself the new design is, again, sleeker and more modern. Less industrial feeling. I have to say I preferred the old design. I felt the old ride was more visceral and exciting. This new design feels sterile to me.

We then headed back to MK for the fireworks. We rode the monorail but in doing so noticed that - even when the monorail is right there ready to board (as this was) - the ferry is as fast if not faster. Once we arrive, as we wanted to have a good spot for viewing Celebrate the Magic!, we went up to the Main Street Railroad Station terrace and hung out there. There were no chairs left outside but plenty of space. We went inside the station to sit, then went back out as it got closer to showtime. Celebrate the Magic! is a show that utilizes lights strung up on the castle that allows images to be "projected" on the castle. It is amazing! The effects I enjoyed the most were those that best utilized the shape of the castle itself - like one where an artists paintbrush touched each tower turning it a different color. Our position for seeing the show was perfect - although I would have preferred being a bit closer.

After the show there is a bit of a break before the fireworks show so we made out way toward Liberty Square. We watched the fireworks - WISHES - from a pathway between Main Street and Liberty Square. Nobody does fireworks like Disney. They were amazing. After that we rode Haunted Mansion. I will say one thing about the recent changes to HM - other than that they are great. To me, the most effective change is also one of the simplest and is low-tech. Right after the M C Escher staircase room you enter a hallway with wallpaper that has "evil eyes" in the design. As you are entering the room the evil eyes appear looking at you in the darkness, then they ultimately blend into the wallpaper. I absolutely love this effect.

After HM we visited the new, slightly truncated, Country Bears Jamboree. I must say that cutting the show did not really hurt it, and I was glad to see that it did not seem to be about making it more "politically correct" - mama is still being urged to shoot Little Beuford. When we left the bears we noticed there was a second showing of Celebrate the Magic! and we agreed that, had we known, we would have watched it again. At this point - after 13 hours in the parks - I was feeling a bit the worse for wear. We had intended to stay until park closing (it was an Extra Hours night) but my old body was not up for it. Kirk wanted to stay so we parted ways. One thing I missed and wanted to see was the New Fantasyland at night. That would have to wait. On the way out I took a short cut through the restrooms that connect Adventureland to Frontierland, and there it was! The Dole Whip stand! I had not had a chance to get a Dole Whip and this was my last opportunity. Needless to say I gave in and had one - still one of my favorite Disney treats. 

Here is a tip if you're running the marathons. Wear your medal! I wore mine the rest of the day after the marathon and got lots of "congratulations". More important, it lead to conversations with other runners. On this day I thought it might be a bit much to wear it again - although I did wear the t-shirt I bought. Mistake! A lot of folks still asked me if I ran, but when you wear the medal they know you ran. If I ever do this again I will wear my medal until I leave. I even saw folks wearing them in the airport!

The OKW hot tub was calling my name again, land again I heeded the call. After a bus ride back to the resort I headed straight for that Jacuzzi. It was great. After that it was straight to bed. The next day was our last day at WDW - and as my flight was at 2:50 it would be a short one.

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