Posts Tagged by osceola parkway

The 2013 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Race Recap

Last year’s 10-Miler was not my favorite race and I actually wasn’t sure I was going to run it again this year.  But after seeing that the race was pushed back a week I was hoping that might make it a bit cooler, plus I always like to give things a second chance.  So I registered and crossed my fingers for cooler temperatures.  Imagine disappointment when I woke up the day of the race to this:

Heat-Advisory

Sigh…  Looked like I was in for another hot one, but what would a Disney race be without heat right?!  So I was just going to make the best of it.  And what better way to start off your day than with a giant breakfast at Kouzzina.  Allergen-free waffles, bacon, sweet potato hash & fruit…perfect fuel for race.

01 Tower-Kouzzina

After breakfast, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  I knew I would go stir crazy if I just went back to the hotel and rested all day, but I didn’t want to go crazy at the parks and tire my legs out.  A few friends were heading over to the Food & Wine Festival for the afternoon so I decided to do that.  I could slowly stroll around World Showcase and keep my legs loose…and maybe meet some fun characters.

02 Tower-Sarah-Aladdin

I headed back to WorldQuest Resort around 4pm to get some rest before the race.  I showered, took a quick nap and heated up my leftovers from breakfast that morning.  Sweet potato hash is some awesome pre-race fuel!

03 Tower-Leftovers

Amanda’s hubs was meeting some of our other non-runner friends for dinner on the Boardwalk, so we hitched a ride with them to the resort.  The runners took off down the path towards the Studios and the non-runners headed towards Kouzzina for a tasty dinner.

04 Tower-Group

Walking to the Studios was exciting.  You could hear the music in the distance and we were talking strategy for the race course.  It was the first runDisney race for my friends Rick & Leslie so we were going over all the logistics with them.  When we arrived to the Studios parking lot, it was CROWDED.  The bag check area was a big hectic, the bathroom lines were super long and there wasn’t much room to move.

05 Tower-PreRace

So we headed straight for the Runners Only area where there were NO lines for bathrooms and plenty of room to sit and chat.  We had about an hour to kill before the start of the race so we found a spot and relaxed our legs.

06 Tower-Corrals

07 Tower-Group

Like my Team Sparkle skirt?  It actually matched my KT Tape!  Finally it was time to head to the corrals and get this thing started.  I was in Corral G for this race, but I decided to drop back to Corral I and run with Rick so he wasn’t alone for his first race.  It meant so much to me to run my first race (and so many after) with Amanda, so I wanted to pay that forward.  Besides running with friends is just more fun.  So we headed into the corral and waited some more…

08 Tower-Corral-I

We watched the other corrals empty out and shortly before 10 we started to move and begin the trek to the starting line.

09 Tower-Empty-Corrals

Along the way we met some fun people, saw the starting fireworks in the distance and always my favorite, a TON of spectators cheering us on!  I got a big hug from my friend Cindy, but sadly no photo this time.

010 Tower-Siamese

011 Tower-Starting-Fireworks

013 Tower-Sarah-Rick

012 Tower-Starting-Spectators

013 Tower-Go-Sarah

Oh hey thanks for the sign random stranger!  Finally around 10:25pm it was our turn to get moving.  Carissa and Rudy counted us down and we slowly made our way into the 5th dimension.

014 Tower-Corral-I-Start

016 Tower-Carissa-Rudy

015 Tower-Starting-Line

One of my biggest issues with this race last year was the lack of entertainment on the course, but within the first mile I could see that this was already improved.

As we rounded the ramp onto Osceola Parkway there was a HUGE fireball coming out of the pond in the center.  It as seriously cool!!  I tried to get some photos, but it was only going off every so often, so it was hard to have the camera ready.

017 Tower-Fireball

018 Tower-Fireball

Then at the top of the ramp was the Evil Queen from Snow White…you very rarely see her out.

019 Tower-Evil Queen

We got on Osceola to make the looooooog trek to Animal Kingdom.  We were keeping at a steady pace, but Rick is a bit faster than me so I was struggling to keep up with him at times.  Add in the heat and by mile 2 I was already feeling myself getting very hot.

020 Tower-Animal-Kingdom

As we passed through the gates and made the turn to head back down Osceola Parkway towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (WWOS), the dread started to set in.  This is where things started to fall apart for me during the Marathon and I was feeling very hot like I did on that day.  Thankfully this GIANT spider was there to distract me a bit…how cool is this?!

021 Tower-Spider

022 Tower-Spider

By the time we hit the 5K mark I had to slow down.  I could feel myself overheating and I needed to stop pushing myself.  We had a long way back and I had to be smart about this.

023 Tower-Osceola

At all of the following water stops I started pouring water into my headband and the REALLY helped to cool me down.  I’m never a huge fan of pouring water over me because of the chafing issues it causes, but this was necessary and smart.  I was already starting to feel better by the time we reached to dark trail entrance to WWOS.  Last year there were a ton of complaints about how dark this area was, so I was glad to see that it was lit up very well.

024 Tower-Trail

025 Tower-Trail-Lighting

Entering WWOS meant that we were more than halfway through the race.  WWOS is definitely my least favorite part of the course and more so now after the Marathon.  For some reason there isn’t any air flow in there and it just feels hotter than it actually is.  However I was looking forward to seeing a bunch of my friends cheering at Champion Stadium…that always gives me a HUGE boost!  In the center of field there was this giant Tesla coil spitting out bolt of lightning.  Super coil to see, but the sound was pretty annoying.

026 Tower-Champion-Stadium

When we left WWOS and got back on Victory Way, the rush of cooler air was such a relief.  Both Rick and I picked up the pace a bit and headed on towards the Studios for the home stretch.

027 Tower-Studios-Sign

Notice anything on top of the sign for the Studios?  Maleficent was up there warning runners about what lie ahead…she was pretty badass!

028 Tower-Maleficent

029 Tower-Lasers

Just before mile 9 we entered the Studios through a side entrance and immediately enter into Lights, Motors, Action!  This is one of my favorite photo spots 🙂

030 Tower-Rick-Lights-Motor

031 Tower-Sarah-Lights-Motor

Even though the Studios is a small park you cover a great deal of it.  Down the Streets of America, through Pixar Place and around the Backlot…I love this park!

032 Tower-Streets-of-America

033 Tower-Pixar-Place

And after running through some backstage areas, we crossed the finish line!  Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler number 2 in the books!

034 Tower-Finish-Line

036 Tower-Medal

Now began the mile long trek from the finish line, through Fantasmic! and out to Hollywood Boulevard.  This was a much better route than filtering onto a crowded Sunset Boulevard.  Also, this allowed for a MUCH easier route to get to back check at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  We crossed Hollywood Boulevard and entered through a backstage area right onto the stage…so much better than going up and down those stairs.

036 Tower-Indy-Bag-Check

The heat was getting the best of some people.  I saw at least 4 people puking by this point and a bunch more just sitting on the ground looking exhausted.  I was hot but I was thankful that I was smart early on in the race to keep myself as cool as possible and not push myself to the point of exhaustion.

I headed to a nearby bathroom to change out of my sweaty clothes and then met up with my friends on Hollywood Boulevard.  We headed to Toy Story Midway Mania for a ride, but the wait was 40 minutes.  Blech.  I was not up for standing that long, so a few of us headed to Backlot Express for some food.  I did a repeat of last years meal…chicken nuggets, fries and a Yuengling.  All that salt is glorious!

037 Tower-Post-Race-Meal

We headed back toward Hollywood Boulevard and found a spot to sit and rest our legs.  I think this was probably my favorite part of the whole night.  I love people watching, especially when they enjoy life as much as this guy…

038 Tower-Beer

Did I love this race?  No.  I’m glad I gave it a second chance, but I still think this time of year is too hot for a race in Florida.  I’m also not a big fan of the course.  If we were able to run though Animal Kingdom instead of WWOS, I feel like that would be a huge improvement.  I was very glad to see all of the added entertainment on the course and the other improvements that runDisney made based on runner feedback.  The after party was a lot of fun and I still think this is one of the best medals you can get.

Will I run this race again?  Probably not.  Only if some significant changes are made to the course and if it’s held later in the year.  I really don’t enjoy the out and back on Osceola Parkway.  However I do think this is a great race for newer runners to wet their feet without taking on a half marathon.

Did you run the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler?  What did you think?

2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap – Part 2

Part 1 of my Walt Disney World Marathon recap left off just outside of Animal Kingdom.  I was halfway through the race and still feeling really good.  My friend Katherine (KO) found me just as we were leaving the parking lot at Mile 14.  It was really great to see her and have someone to talk to.  My iPod decided to die right when I turned it on, so I had been running with no music and no one to talk to this whole time.

We made our way onto Osceola Parkway and began the trek to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (WWOS).  I had run Osceola during the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon so I knew I was in for a long haul.  What I didn’t expect (since those 2 races are run at night) is how bad the sun was going to be during this stretch.  It was almost 9:00 am and the sun was at full blast over the trees and there was barely any shade.  We continued on with the 3/1 run/walk pace for a while, but I found that I needed to walk for longer periods of time.  Osceola also has a ton of overpasses which means hills…not fun!

Traffic on World Drive from Osceola Parkway

Traffic on World Drive from Osceola Parkway

B and my mom were meeting me on Osceola right before we made the turn into WWOS and I couldn’t wait to see them!  Just knowing they were there was making it easier to push through the heat.  B took some fun photos while he was waiting…those cups are quite the sight!

Mile 17 Water Stop...cups, cups and more cups!

Mile 17 Water Stop…cups, cups and more cups!

Seriously awesome costume That hat must have been hot!

Seriously awesome costume
That hat must have been hot!

Oh...here I am!

Oh…here I am!

I immediately dove into the bag I packed and grabbed more body glide to lube up under my sports bra (TMI again??).  I was trying to avoid chafing at all costs…I have no shame and did that right on Osceola Parkway in front of thousands of my friends.  I also switched out my sweaty headband, gave B my dead iPod, restocked my Gu, filled my water bottles and grabbed some crackers.

Diving into my bag of goodies

Diving into my bag of goodies

Look it's Katherine...in the cutest Aurora costume I might add!

Look it’s Katherine…in the cutest Aurora costume!

B said I was looking good at that point…totally the opposite to what I was starting to feel.  I really wanted to just jump in the car with them and go grab a beer, but no…KO and I took off into WWOS.  As we entered the complex there were sponges…ooohhh sponges!  VoluntEARS were handing out sponges soaked in water that were the most amazing things EVER!  I have to admit that when I first saw there were sponges on the course, I was a little grossed out by them but I was totally wrong…the cold water was perfect in that heat.  I just wish I would’ve kept it for later in the race.  Fail!

I won’t go into much detail about WWOS because the whole 3 miles spent in there was my demise.  I really didn’t enjoy this part of the course.  There was barely any shade, it was hot, humid and most of all it was boring.  Around mile 18, my legs started getting sore and I was mentally starting to break down.  This was the farthest I’d ever run (we won’t get into my lack of training here…that’s for another day) and the heat was beating me down.  At least this guy was here to cheer me up a bit…

32 Sign

We ran through Champion Stadium and on to the mile 20 spectacular we heard so much about.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but I felt like the spectacular wasn’t all that spectacular.  Yes, the giant sized puppets were very cool, but I was more blown away by them when they were out during Wine & Dine when they were all lit up.

Mile 20 Spectacular

Mile 20 Spectacular

34 Mile 20 Puppets

Giant Tigger!

Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see Goofy, Mickey and Donald waving and greeting all of us and the 20 mile banner was pretty cool.  I just think that between the heat and the oncoming exhausting I was looking forward to a SPECTACULAR and I just got a small party.

Look who made an appearance!

Look who made an appearance!

Mile 20

Mile 20

Ok, all that was left was a 10K…I could totally do that.  It was a mental battle from here on out.  Yes, my quads were screaming and I was starting to feel some blisters forming on my feet, but I could push through that.  My goal was to just get through the next 2.5 miles to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and I knew that I could easily get through the rest.

These 2.5 miles sucked.  You know that wall you always hear about…well I hit it here.  I had nothing left in me.  There were buses set up at mile 21 for people to get on who couldn’t go any further and I seriously considered hopping on, but I sucked it up and kept trucking.  I had people counting on me to finish…I was counting on me to finish!!  I need to thank my friend Cindy who was virtually cheering me on for the entire race…her encouragement really helped here!!  How awesome is she?!?!

Thanks Cindy xoxo

Thanks Cindy xoxo

I was glad to see my favorite green army men on the on ramp to World Drive…they always make me laugh.  Some runners were doing push ups with them which was awesome…I would’ve loved to partake and show off my hard work from CrossFit but I just didn’t have it in me.  My friends Jenn & Danielle did though…bad ass ladies, bad ass!

Yes sir!

Yes sir!

Our friend Carrie caught up to us here and it was so great to see her!  She was struggling as well, so we all tried to motivate each other to get through this last stretch of HOT highway!  At the mile 22 water stop, I really slowed down to refuel.  I don’t normally drink Powerade, but I knew with this heat that I had to make it a priority.  From the beginning of the race I was taking a Powerade and a water at every stop and mixing them together.  Early on I also took a salt packet at the recommendation of my CrossFit coach (thanks Jay!) and I think the combination of all of that really kept me hydrated through the race.  I just had to force myself to keep drinking.  Carrie & KO were a ways ahead of me and I motioned for them to keep going….I didn’t want to hold them back and I really needed to get my head back in the game.

Finally, my favorite hotel was in sight, the Hollywood Tower Hotel 🙂  This meant we were entering the Studios, this meant we were in the home stretch!

The Studios!

The Studios!

Just as we entered, there was a food station with chocolate!  Normally I would’ve loved this, but I just couldn’t bare the thought of eating that in the heat.  I would’ve loved an ice pop or something!  We weren’t in the Studios for long, but it was just what I needed.  Running down Hollywood Boulevard was amazing!  The park was open to guests and they were cheering us on!  We hadn’t had a good cheering squad since Champion Stadium and the energy here was perfect.

Running down Hollywood Boulevard

Running down Hollywood Boulevard

As I was leaving the Studios, I got a text from B checking in on me.  People were coming across the finish line severely dehydrated and he wanted to make sure I kept drinking.

Awesome hubs :)

Awesome hubs 🙂

Apparently, I wanted to die because that’s the second person I told.  Ha!  Well something happened after this text…I got some sort of second wind!  I popped my last Gu and headed down the the pathway to the Boardwalk.  At the mile 24 water stop, the volunteers were giving “Dasani showers” by just pouring the bottle over our heads.  BEST!  This must have rejuvenated me because I picked up my speed and started really running again!

2.2 to go!!

2.2 to go!!

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

I was shocked to see Carrie and KO again as we passed the Beach Club…someone really lit a fire under my ass!  I think they were just as shocked to see me too.  KO decided to start running with me and Carrie just encouraged us to go on.  We passed the last water stop and finally, we were in Epcot.  This was it…I was almost there!

Entering World Showcase

Entering World Showcase

We had run into our friend Todd just before Epcot, who is part of the WDW Radio Running Team and he said the whole group was right in the UK cheering.  And man were they cheering…that was awesome!  My friends Jillian and Kelly were also there…I’m sure I looked to be in a very different state from when they saw me earlier in the Magic Kingdom.  I almost ran over and grabbed Jillian’s beer, but I had to focus on this last mile.  I was very close to the 7 hour mark and was determined to finish under that.

World Showcase was horrible.  If you’ve ever walked around there on a warm day, you know it can be like the Bataan Death March.  Now try doing that after running 25 miles…WORST!  It felt like it was going on forever and ever and ever.  But finally, we made it to Future World and I knew what was in store…my favorite gospel choir!

A beautiful sight!

A beautiful sight!

As I rounded the corner towards the Epcot parking lot for those last .2 miles, I was in shock.  The amount of people who were there cheering was insanely overwhelming.  It was nothing like I had ever seen before.  It literally stopped me in my tracks and I became overwhelmed with emotion.

Look at all those people!!

Look at all those people!!

Even MORE people!

Even MORE people!

And there she was…the finish line.  I had made it all 26.2 miles.

The Finish Line!!

The Finish Line!!

I crossed strong with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t believe I actually just did that and to be honest, I still find it hard to believe.  Running a marathon never seemed like a possibility to me.  I’m an ex-smoker, I have ulcerative colitis, I’m clearly overweight…people like me don’t run marathons.  Well guess what…I DID!!

26.2 DONE...BOOM!

26.2 DONE…BOOM!

I staggered over to the medal area to find my friend Aurora who was giving out medals.  She actually found me first and put that beauty around my neck.  She gave me a huge hug and I just started balling.  Aurora had given me my first half marathon medal at Princess less than a year before and now she was giving me my first marathon medal.  Couldn’t be anymore perfect than that.

I grabbed my food, a Powerade, 2 waters and set off to find my family.  People were dropping like flies all around me from dehydration and the heat.  They had a health official right after the water making everyone who passed her open up a bottle and take a drink or she wouldn’t let them pass.  It was a little scary so I just kept on drinking to be safe.

I found my Mom first and she gave me a huge hug.  I can’t say enough how important it was to me that she was there supporting me…it really made what I just did worth while to see the smile on her face.  And then there is B…sigh.  I can’t write this without tearing up because he has been the most amazingly supportive husband through this whole journey.  He listens to all my craziness about running and travels with me to these races.  He listens to me complain when my legs are sore and pours ice in my recovery bath even when I protest.  He’s my #1 cheerleader.  Oh and the best part, he had a beer waiting for me after the marathon 🙂

Post race beer...hellz yeah!

Post race beer…hellz yeah!

Thoroughly enjoying my beer...I look exhausted!

Thoroughly enjoying my beer…I look exhausted!

The family reunion area was hectic, but I did manage to run into Andy from Attractions Magazine.  We had been talking a lot before the race since it was a first marathon for both of us, so it was great to see him!

50 Post Race_2

Hey Andy!

We got on the bus back to the hotel and all I wanted to do was get in an ice bath and a shower!  My official time was 6:55:13, almost an hour longer than I had hoped.  But with all the challenges I faced (being sick, heat, humidity, etc…) I am just happy that I finished!  I’m not sure I will ever do this again.  The distance was just too long for me, but we’ll see.  All I know is,  I can officially say that I’m a marathoner and that’s pretty awesome 🙂

MARATHONER!

MARATHONER!

 

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media.  My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney.  As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon: Race Recap

I hope you like photos because you’re going to see A LOT here!  What can I say, I get photo happy on Disney races 🙂

This race is by far my favorite runDisney race to date.  The atmosphere, the entertainment, the course and the after party were just great!  But let me not get ahead of myself.  Here’s how the day went…

Fueling for night races has always been something I’ve struggled with as far as timing and what to eat, etc…  We got some great tips from Jeff Galloway and Tara Gidus at the runDisney Meet Up the day before, so I was feeling a little more comfortable going into this one.  I decided to start the day off with a late breakfast at Kouzzina, one of my favs!  I got the spinach, tomato & feta scramble, bacon and substituted the potatoes with their yummy sweet potato hash and the toast with blueberries and bananas.  Great pre-race fuel!

Favorite Kouzzina Breakfast!

After breakfast, Amanda and I were headed over the the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Golf Tournament being held at Shades of Green to cover the event.  This was a lot of fun and a great way to spend an easy afternoon.  I’ll have more to come on the event soon.  Oh and look who I ran into there, I haven’t seen Donald since the Princess Half Marathon! 😉

After walking around for a while, we decided to head back to our room at the Boardwalk to rest our legs for the race.  But we made two quick pitstops.  First was a quick drive through the Walt Disney World Speedway to see where we will be running for the 20th Anniversary Marathon in January, followed by a smoothie stop at Landscape of Flavors at the Art of Animation Resort.  We stopped there for a small lunch and I was pleasantly surprised that they had a fresh fruit smoothie bar there.  Just was I was craving!

Blueberry, Banana & Mango Smoothie

Figuring we had a long night ahead of us, we took a nap to rest up before grabbing dinner.  There are many dinner choices at the Boardwalk, but I was looking for something that would fill me up, be gluten free, yet still not be too heavy.  After looking at menus, we settled on the ESPN Club for what we thought would be a quick bite.  I went with the Champion Chicken Sandwich with no bread and all the sauces on the side.  While the food was good, the service and the atmosphere were not so great.  It took forever to get our food and the crowd was a bit loud watching college football.  It probably would’ve been better to order dinner and take it back to the room to eat in peace.

Pre-Race Dinner

We started getting ready around 6:30 pm so we could get on the bus over the the start line at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (WWOS) in time since the last bus was at 8.  We headed down around 7:30 pm and were greeted with a HUGE line that wound almost back to the hotel.  This was very different from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler when we walked right on the bus around the same time pre-race.  There wasn’t any explanation for the delay, they just must have been short on buses, but we ended up waiting in line for about 40 minutes before we finally got on a bus.  Not the ideal situation for runners to be standing around this long before a half marathon.

Loooooong Bus Line

Amanda & I made it on the bus

We arrived at WWOS around 8:20 pm and the holding area was packed!  I headed straight to bag check and it was pretty chaotic.  The lines were long and the volunteers were yelling at us to hurry up and tie our bags properly, but wouldn’t tell us what that meant.  They all seemed very frazzled and didn’t instill a lot of confidence that my bag would arrive safely over to Epcot.  Once my bag was checked, we headed into the crowd to find our friends who were in the insanely long line for pictures with Chef Mickey.

Bag Check Area

Photo Line for Chef Mickey…he’s down by those lights!

Sarah-Irene, Carrie, Kevin, Amanda & I waiting for Chef Mickey

Since I had already had my photo taken with Chef Mickey at the meet up the day before, I was more interested in getting in the LONG line for the bathrooms and getting into our corral for a good starting spot.  I’m glad I decided to do this because we ended up waiting in line for another 30 minutes to use the bathroom.  This was turning into the pre-race of lines, lines and more lines.

Crazy Bathroom Line!

Sarah-Irene (Sid), Amanda and I moved into Corral C at about 9:20 pm and slowly made our way to the front.  Our friend Jim caught up with us and we all decided to stick together for the race and have a good time.  The four of us started this running journey together back in 2010 with the inaugural Mickey’s Halloween Fun Run 5K  and thought it would be fun to do this race together.

Moving Into Corral C

Before we knew it they were singing the National Anthem and Corral A was off with the usual runDisney fanfare of fireworks.  I popped a Gu and we started making our way up to the starting line….this is when the nerves start kicking in!  Or was it just excitement??  It’s really hard to tell the difference!

Starting Fireworks

Waiting at the Starting Line!

Then 10 minutes later we were off!  Here’s a quick video of our start 🙂

Right off the bat, I knew this race was going to be better than the ToT 10-Miler the month before.  The first character stop came less than a mile into the course right on Oceola Parkway with Chip & Dale all decked out in tuxedos in front of a sparkling piano.  Not far after that was a live band that had such great energy…I couldn’t help to stop and dance 🙂

Chip & Dale

Awesome Band!

Somewhere between mile 2 & 3 I saw a bunch of motorcycles and official runDisney vehicles coming down the other side of Oceola and I knew the leaders were coming down the road.  Now they were already between miles 6 & 7 at that point so they were MOVING!  I was hoping I was going to see the winner of the Wine & Dine Half from the past 2 years Anton Van Zyl, who I had the privilege of meeting the day before at the meet up.  We actually ran into him on the bus on the way to WWOS and I wished him luck.  He wasn’t the leader at the time, but Anton was hot on his tails in 2nd place.  I ran across the median to snap a pic and gave Anton a big shout out!

Wine & Dine Leader at Mile 6

We were making pretty good time at the 5K mark with a time of 43:10.  This is slower than I had hoped, but with all the excitement and photo breaks I was happy with that.  The mile 3 marker was by far my favorite with a bunch of fun people cheering and waiving Austrailian and New Zealand flags.  Each marker was themes after the countries represented at the Food & Wine Festival this year…clever.

Mile 3 Festivities

It was around this time that we headed into Animal Kingdom.  We were greeted in the parking lot by the fun spinning floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade and the sounds of Baroque Hoedown.  The floats were spinning around like crazy…I want to drive one of those some day!

Main Street Electrical Parade Floats

As we entered the park, there were giant tusks lit up along the path to guide us through the dark.  This was so cool!  I had heard about it from prior years, but seeing it in person was a whole other thing.  Rafiki was there for photos and a few of the puppeteers from Mickey’s Jamin’ Jungle Parade were on hand as well.  It made for a great entrance up to the Tree of Life.  This was my first time being in Animal Kingdom at it was breathtaking (and not just because I was running).

Giant Tusks!

Tree of Life

Amanda had separated from the group before we got to Animal Kingdom and we finally met up again in Asia.  The four of us went along like this for the rest of the race….one or two would either fall behind or move ahead, but we would all meet up again at some point.  This was my first time running with a group and I have to say it was A LOT of fun!  It was great to have someone to talk to when the going got rough or simply share a laugh with.

Leaving Animal Kingdom we were at mile 5 and headed back down Osceola Parkway towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The next 3 miles flew by for some reason, which was a ok for me!  And of course I had to stop for a little more dancing along the way 🙂

There’s always time for dancing!

My favorite hotel!
Entering the Studios…

I love the Hollywood Studios and I especially love it at night.  I hadn’t been to WDW around the holidays in over 10 years,  so I knew I was in for a real treat with the Osborne lights coming up.  We entered the park next to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and headed up Sunset Boulevard.  All of the holiday decor was up and it looked beautiful!

On Sunset Boulevard with Sid & Jim!

It’s amazing to me how much mileage runDisney manages to get into the Studios since it is such a small park.  They wind you around each nook & cranny and through a ton of backstage areas.  I was familiar with some of this since it was part of the course for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler, but it still seemed to go on forever.  We even ran into Wreck-It-Ralph back there!

We’re Going to Wreck-It!

Oh the lights…the Streets of America were all aglow with the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (sans dancing).  I’m really going to date myself here, but the last time I saw the lights was when they were on Residential Street in the Backlot and I don’t recall they danced at that time.  These are so cool…definitely one of the highlights of the whole race for me.  Sid and I even took a second to stop and appreciate the spectacle 🙂

We were now on the home stretch.  Heading out of the Studios we were at mile 11 and about to head down the canal to the Epcot Resort Area.  On the way, there was this really fun live band parked on a few pontoon boats.  It probably was about 1:00 am at this point, but they were still in full swing as well as waiving and cheering for us…I LOVED this!

The walkway past the Boardwalk was a little tight, so we walked most of it.  This is a great area for spectators if you are staying around there and it seemed like a meet up point for many runners.  However, it did add to the congestion a bit, so if you’re a spectator the Yacht & Beach Club area might be a little better.  Since I was staying at the Boardwalk Inn, it was a little difficult to not make a detour for my nice comfy bed.  But that new runDisney bling was almost in my grasps and I kept on truckin’.

The Gorgeous Boardwalk Resort

The course bypassed the Boardwalk and went past the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.  I was amazed by how many people were still out cheering.  It was so encouraging…thank you to all of you strangers out there!  Someone did call it a night, but thankfully left my favorite sign of the race.

At this point the Fantastic Foursome were all together and we decided to stay that way for the last mile.  We were getting tired, but still having fun.

One Mile to Go!

The Fantastic Foursome!
Best running mates ever!

On to Epcot!  You know that overpass from the Beach Club to International Gateway??  Yeah, that thing sucked…  But we were rewarded with these AMAZING puppets.  There was Lumiere and Genie…super cool.

We went into a backstage area, past a ton of trash (phew!) and entered Epcot between the Land and Imagination Pavillions.  I was so excited we were able to run through Future World this year.  The past two years ended right outside the park, so this was definitely an added bonus.  Then to see all of the people cheering…whoa!  It was like running down Main Street USA for the Princess Half Marathon, but WAY more festive.  They only bad part was that no one handed me a beer…what up with that?!

That last mile seemed to go on forever.  I guess it was making up for how fast 5 – 8 went by.  I just felt like we were never going to get to that finish line.  Just before mile marker 13, we saw Sid’s husband John cheering us on, which was a much needed push to get us through.  Thanks John!  There was a really cool laser effect at Mile 13, which kept the actual finish line hidden from sight and felt like we were running into some foggy tunnel.  Definitely a fun perk of running a night race!

We rounded the corner and there she was…the finish line!  And who else was there to greet us but Chef Mickey!  I guess he finished all the prep for the After Party by that point 😉  The four of us grabbed hands and crossed that finish line together.  The perfect ending to a great race.

Chef Mickey!

Another Half Under Our Belts!

Oh and then I got this bad boy…

My official chip time was 3:25:07.  That’s a good 25 minutes slower than my last half in June and I know I could’ve subbed 3 hours for this race, but time didn’t matter.  As you can see, I had a blast with my friends and enjoyed all of the Disney atmosphere.  I’ve come to realize that for me Disney races aren’t about time, they are about the experience.  There are plenty of other half marathons that I can run for much cheaper and that are closer to home where I can set a PR and I really hope to do that in the future.  But when I runDisney, I want to enjoy myself and not pay attention to the clock.  Does anyone else feel this way?

After the race, I made a stop at the medical tent for some ice for my shins just to be safe.  They actually held up really well with the KT Tape (my favorite invention ever!) but I thought ice would be smart.  I picked up my bag which thankfully arrived safely and headed over to the After Party.  I’ll save that story for another post 🙂

Overall, I LOVED this race.  After my less than stellar experience at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler a few weeks prior, I was a bit skeptical going into this and was more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  There were a few hiccups with the transportation and bag check in the beginning, but those were minor issues considering how well the race was done.  runDisney has improved on this event every year and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for 2013.  I will definitely be back to do this again.

Did you run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon?  What was your experience?  Please share in the comments below…I’d love to hear from you!

 

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media.  My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney.  As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.