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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

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!! love the pic with Jeff Galloway. Kinda jealous ... hope to be there for the Goofy in 2014.