To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon

If there's one thing I love, it's a night race. It felt fitting then that the last race on my "must-do" list for runDisney was the 5th anniversary of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, which starts at 10pm and was my 30th half marathon so far! The day began early with Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K, and I did allow myself a relaxing day and a brief nap before getting ready to swim 13.1 miles through Osceola Parkway, and 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. Since Disney is my chance to create costumes to run in, I couldn't miss up what be my last costumed race for a while. Seeing as it is Wine & Dine and we ended at Epcot, I wanted something fitting, but not in your face obvious. Seeing as I'm the German girl and World Showcase is my favorite part of Epcot, I settled on running as Pinocchio, with Man Friend as Gepetto. Cute and easy! (Maybe not as easy for Man Friend since he actually made our vests and my hat.)

These costumes were admittedly a bit more difficult to put on - due to the fact that I was a running safety pin by the end of it. But I loved it anyway! We got to the bus early and made it to the race start early enough to wait in one character photo line and hang out with Abby and friends. Disney races feel wrong without Abby there! As race time drew near, so did the change in the air.... hello precipitation, looks like you're here to stay! The entirety of the race we were noticing the non-stop sound of swishing from ponchos and garbage bags. We sucked it up and got wet, maybe that's the Oregonian in us.... rain and warm weather isn't really all that bad after all - kept me the perfect body temperature!

Our race began at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, which I enjoyed as a change of scenery. Waiting to start we were actually recognized by a fellow runner as Jack and Sally from the morning 5K! Already completely wet, I was happy when it was finally our turn to start. *Man Friend at this point hadn't run in months due to an unexpected surgery and doctor's orders of NO running!! At the start line did I back off and ask Man Friend if he was ready to run? No - I took off and he kept up with me the entire time! The running was actually awesome. I was in my element - night, rain, slightly cool yet slightly warm weather! We noticed right off the bat that characters would be minimal due to the rain, which told me this would be a "fast" Disney race.

Coming up to Animal Kingdom I was excited when I heard a song I listened to every day of my senior year of high school ... the Main Street Electrical Parade. My eyes were so excited to see this cheery float greeting us! The path as we approached DAK started to narrow, which I fully expected after having walked it every day for 3 years. But not gonna lie, I freaking loved it!! DAK at night is completely unique. Once we entered the actual park we had the coolest mood lighting ever. Check it out!

Inside the park we were able to actually get some photos (and I fully admit I JUST purchased all of my pictures since mother nature helped my camera not turn out as well as normal). Characters were under covers and I was so excited when I was able to get into Timon's line right before he was closed. Phew! I love that little guy!  The time in Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK for those of you that got confused earlier) went by way too fast. I doddled as best as I could, but I was also in the zone and feeling too great to kill too much time.

As we hit backstage the puddles started. Volunteers were nice and shining flashlights on them - which turned into piles of runners diving to the side to try to maintain any bit of dryness in our shoes. Ha, good luck with that! The puddles would continue for the remainder of the race. And with each big puddle I could feel my toes noticing it more and more. By the end I was sure I was one big raisin and covered in blisters (didn't end up as bad as I thought, yay)!
Osceola Parkway is dreaded by many people; I personally don't mind it. It didn't feel like it took all that long before we were turning off and onto the path to take us toward Disney's Hollywood Studios. Around this point the road was uneven and MF, who had been doing great, jacked up his knee on a bad section of road. The last 3 miles became more difficult, trying to keep him moving and in as little pain as possible. Entering the Studios made it more bearable! Characters were out, we were in all new backstage areas that the WDW Marathon course didn't hit, and we got to enjoy the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. What an eerie calm that was. Everyone stopped running. Christmas music was playing, people were marveling at the lights and taking photos. It was really nice and probably the best moment on the entire course!

After winding our way through our second park it was a path I love. It goes along the water, behind the Boardwalk, through the Yacht and Beach Club and into the back part of World Showcase at Epcot. I always love doing this section, be it in a race or just during my tourist moments. We had to adjust for two things .... once along the narrow path by the water I had my mid-race Meniere's attack, which fortunately only lasted a short while. And then the Boardwalk - those boards were slick! Since MF had tweaked his knee and I was just starting to not be dizzy anymore, we did opt to just walk and not risk either of us falling down like Bambi did on the frozen pond!

Coming into Epcot was awesome. I loved seeing new backstage areas, and knowing that the end was near. Again we found very slippery terrain near Innoventions, so we chose to walk and save embarrassment (later we did learn of a guy that completely killed his leg and had to spend the rest of his vacation in a wheelchair because of the slippery conditions!). The end was suddenly before us, and that finish line was such a welcome sight! 13.1 miles in non-stop rain is quite a journey, let me tell ya!

We got our medals, space blankets, food, drinks and post-race photos with no trouble at all. After getting our gear bag back we had planned on hitting the after party. At security we saw swarms of people like us - soaked, big bags to search through, space blankets, tired.... I was going to Epcot the next day anyway - After Party officially Skipped, No regrets!!  Back at the hotel it was a fight for the shower to get scalding hot water and warm up! By 3:30 (almost 24 hours after I woke up that morning) I was finally getting into bed!  Such a day - and one that I would repeat again in a heart beat. This was quite possibly my favorite runDisney race course so far - rain and all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K

Laugh attack!!
Wow, what an event! This report might be more about the before and after than Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K itself! So let's start with what caused such a scene -- the costumes. I wanted something fun, themed, but not a total cliche. It struck me that the Nightmare Before Christmas was perfect! Halloween had just come and gone, Christmas is around the corner ... brilliant! So Man Friend was Jack Skellington while I was in his shadow as Sally. I thought it seemed like something easy to pack and do a 5K in, but I had NO idea the response it would get!

At 3:40 am my alarm went off. We were out of bed, easily putting on our costumes and then staring in the mirrors trying to figure out our make-up. Who does a race in full make-up?? We do! Our race attire was anything but conventional, heck I was in tights and Converse, but that didn't stop us! Just before 5am we were walking out to our bus... cue my laugh attack. No other runners were in costumes as far as we could see. I was laughing so hard tears were starting to form - which would ruin the make up!!!

Our bus was the very first to arrive at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We hurried over to get a photo in front of a backdrop and then waited to see Mickey and Minnie. Other runners seemed to love our costumes and we posed for countless photos. But the biggest shock was when the runDisney media guy pulled aside TWICE for mini-photo shoots. He had us get into character and everything, saying they might use them for upcoming promos. Crazy!! As it turns out, we were the very first post runDisney made on Twitter that day!! 

After all the photos we were just hanging out watching the "snow" and, quite honestly, getting close to other runners so I could try to get any body heat I could! We found ourselves with a lovely family from Alaska. The little girl was enamored with Man Friend. She couldn't stop looking at him, but wasn't too sure what to think. Of course MF just HAD to talk with her. Conversation was going great until the Cupid Shuffle came on. MF looked at his new friend and asked if she wanted to dance. She hardly said yes before the two took off together to the DJ's dance area. I quickly followed, joking I would be the babysitter and not to worry about their daughter. Look at us!! Would you let your kid just take off with us???

MF and his new dance partner
Here come the cameras!
They had hardly started moving to the left and the right when I noticed something. The runDisney cameras (video and still) and a man with a mic were swarming. I moved to stay out of the shot - pulling a paparazzi move on the runDisney paparazzi! Next thing I know, MF is being interviewed and filmed dancing! I really shouldn't have been surprised. 

The fun had to come to an end, and we made our way to the corrals. We watched the sun rise and soon were on our 3.1 mile adventure through Disney's Animal Kingdom and it's massive parking lot. I loved having new territory to "race" through, and it was great seeing some of my old backstage haunts I used to frequent back in my Kali days. The only challenged we faced during this race was NOT touching our faces, regardless of any sweat that was forming or hair trying to stick to my face. I was committed to the costume after all!

Oh, one thing of note, race wise -- this was the first time I've ever heard Barbra Streisand blasting over the loud speakers during a race! Yay Babs! In typical Disney fashion, there were character stops - but in my typical 5K fashion I skipped them. Everything was festival and Christmasy, which I loved. Certainly a cute race and fun course and one I'd happily do again -- not that I am completely 100% biased toward anything relating to Disney's Animal Kingdom!

The end was near. As per usual, we ran ourselves through the finish line. This time, however, we didn't exactly blend in. The announcers made a big deal out of our arrival, so of course we played it up,as we are prone to do. I thought it would end at the finish line. I was wrong.  I barely stopped my Garmin and was still in the way of photographers when that same media crew came and pulled us aside. And again MF was interviewed! WHAT?!? **I shouldn't be allowed to speak. Ugh.

Snipped from the runDisney video

This really was so much fun! The energy of all the participants was relaxed, happy, merry, jolly - all those festive words you can think of. We had so many conversations with strangers and really there wasn't a moment we weren't smiling! I loved it!!

So now I will leave you with the runDisney recap video -- you'll see Man Friend dancing near the beginning, and then at the end MF has a voice over while we are running through the finish line. Ignore my speaking part. Like I said, I shouldn't be allowed to speak!!