The Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler took place last Saturday on September 29th and I was so happy that I could be a part of it! Be prepared, because this race recap travels directly to…The Twilight Zone!
After a whirlwind morning of cheering on the 5K runners and a fantastic lunch at California Grill for the Mom’s Panel Fan Meet, B and I headed back to the room to rest up before the race. Jeff Galloway gave a few tips on nutrition the day before at the Health & Fitness Expo and recommended eating your final large meal around noon for a night race and then to snack throughout the evening, so we decided to forego the dinner we had planned for a nap and some snacks. We slept for about 2 hours then got ready for the race. Our friends Marc, Amanda, and her daughter Alexus met us at the Boardwalk and we all headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the shuttles.
We arrived at the Studios around 8:00 pm it was still very warm out. This did not bode well for the upcoming race. I checked our bag and we settled in for the 2 hour wait to the start. If you’ve never been to a runDisney race, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” involved, so be prepared to settle in for a while. We found some of our friends from the Be Our Guest Podcast family who were also running and that helped pass the time with a lot of laughs.
B and I were in corral C and we decided to head in around 9:00 pm to get a spot close to the front. A great addition to this race were the Porta-Johns and water stations in the corrals. This was so convenient and something many of the runners were saying great things about. I hope this continues for future races.
The race instructions stated that all runners should be in their corrals by 9:15 pm and they were serious. At that time, volunteers promptly started moving the corrals out onto the road for the walk up to the starting line at the tool booth plaza. It was quite a far walk and with all of the runners jammed into that area, it was hot.
The race started off with the wheelchair racers and then corral A was off at 10:00 pm! In typical Disney fashion, each corral was sent off with fireworks which is so fun! We were all cheered on by the enthusiastic announcers Rudy, John and fellow FitFluential Ambassador Carissa. They had great costumes and the whole announcer booth was perfectly themed liked the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
And finally it was our turn to go! Check out this video from the starting line featuring B and my friend Debbie:
This was B’s first long race and our pacing is very different. I stuck with him for about the first mile, but we both decided it was best if I go and run my race. I’m thankful he is so supportive and I was excited to see what I could do with after all this training. As soon as we got on Osceola Parkway, I kissed B goodbye and took off. Osceola Parkway is a long stretch of highway leading to Animal Kingdom and there are many hills due to the overpasses. When the race course was first released, I was not thrilled about this area of the course, especially since it was just a straight out and back to the Animal Kingdom parking lot. I was hoping that Disney would’ve provided entertainment along this stretch and was very disappointed to not find any. After experiencing all of the entertainment along World Drive and leading up to the Magic Kingdom for the Princess Half Marathon, this was a serious let down. There was only a DJ, a few puppets from Animal Kingdom and character photo ops with the Hyenas and Dr. Facilier over those long 4 miles.
Just before mile 5, we turned down a dirt path to head into the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS) complex. I loved the haunted theme of this area, but this was my least favorite part of the course. It was VERY dark and there were large stones all along the path. I walked most of this area because I was concerned about tripping or twisting my ankle. Most of the runners around me had the same idea. It’s funny that this was B’s favorite part of the course because he enjoys running on trails and grass much more than the road. I think he’d make a good trail runner…maybe we should give that a try 🙂
Once through the trail, we entered WWOS which was a lot of fun. We ran all throughout the complex, including the track and around the bases at Champion Stadium. The stadium was a great spot for spectators too! There were some really fun signs there like “Worst Parade Ever!” which made me chuckle. I also saw my friends Rora, Joell and James screaming my name in the stands…I really needed that push 🙂
Once throughWWOS, we headed down the long drive back to Oceola Parkway. Sadly, there was no entertainment here either except for one photo op with the Big Bad Wolf. This was a tough stretch for me as the heat was really starting to get to me and bordem was starting to set in. I generally don’t drink Powerade when I run because it doesn’t sit well with me, but because I was sweating so much I started diluting it with 2 cups of water at each water station. I’m glad I started doing this around mile 4 because I don’t think I would’ve made it much past this point. The main thing that was keeping me going now was knowing that I wasn’t far from entering the Studios and I couldn’t wait to run through the park. So I trekked on…
We entered the Studios just before mile 9 through a back entrance on the Lights, Motors, Action! stage. This was really cool to run across, but there was a strong smell of gasoline in the air which wasn’t too pleasant. From there, we ran down the Streets of America and once again disappointment set in. I was expecting to turn the corner and see some of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights illuminating the street as they had for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon for the past two years. Nope, the street was dark. The only bonus was to see my friend Suzie cheering at the end of the street…thanks girl!
After the Streets of America, we ran past the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, up to the hub and around the Sorcerer’s Hat. There was a huge crowd cheering here as well which really picked up my pace. I hope everyone who spends the time to be out there cheering on the runners knows how much it means to us. You all are amazing!
The course then went into the Animation Courtyard and through Pixar Place. I think this was the first time I haven’t seen a wait at Toy Story Midway Mania! We then entered a backstage area and I knew we were on the home stretch because we were heading back towards the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Soon enough, the Hollywood Tower Hotel and the finish line were in sight…I picked up the pace and finished strong!!
It was so great to see my friends all waiting for me at the finish line, including Marci who has been such a huge supporter and inspiration this year. Congrats Marci on finishing your first 5K! I also got a big, sweaty hug from my friend Melissa who completed her first long race with a big smile on her face. Best hug ever…I’m so proud of you!
So here is where the madness began. After getting our meal boxes, bananas and water (I took 2 because I felt severely dehydrated from the heat!), we began to wind our way through backstage and into Fantasmic!. There was a “lovely” giant hill we had to walk up and then the path narrowed into the photo stop area…not ideal for hot, tired runners. If you’ve ever seen Fantasmic! you know how long of a walk it is to get to the stadium, well we had to walk out that path onto an insanely crowded Sunset Boulevard. I’m not sure what a better route would be, but this definitely was frustrating. Many runners were overheated and needed a place to sit and rehydrate, but the volunteers where very adamant about keeping us moving. I didn’t witness any of this, but I heard numerous stories of people passing out and vomiting after the finish line. A rest area was definitely needed.
I knew B was a ways behind me, so I decided to head over to to bag pick-up so he would be able to change when he finished. Changing was also a huge priority for me as my clothes were literally dripping in sweat. I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life…that humidity was no joke! Bag pickup was located at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which is all the way over by Echo Lake. When I got there, I was greeted by a long line and a giant set of stairs leading down to the stage where the bags were. Sigh… It was very cool to walk on stage and the bag pick-up itself went smoothly, but it was just a frustrating experience after a long hot race.
Changing tents were set up along echo lake, but they were more like saunas than changing tents. It would’ve been nice to have some fans set up inside the tents to get air circulating. I was already over heated from the race and couldn’t bare the thought of changing in there, so I set off to find a nearby restroom. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this idea because the lines at all the restrooms were incredibly long. So I suffered with my wet clothes, at least I could change into my flip flops…best feeling ever!
It was around this time that I got the text that B had finished the race! I was getting worried about him because he wasn’t answering any of my text messages and feared he got swept. I literally jumped for joy and headed back to Sunset Boulevard to meet him. We immediately headed to Fairfax Faire for some ice water and I grabbed a Yuengling for a nice carb boost 🙂 We were also famished and craving salt so I grabbed some chicken nuggets and french fries from Rosie’s. These were the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever had in my life!!
It was around 2:00 am at this point and we were both exhausted and needed showers, so we decided to forego the Villians Hollywood Bash and head back to the room. I finished the race in 2:20 and my Garmin recorded 10.16 miles, an average 13:48 minute pace. This was a slow pace for me, but I was happy considering the heat. B finished in an impressive 2:53 for his first distance over 3 miles! I am beyond proud of him for taking on this challenge! I’m not sure he’ll ever do another race, but doing this one is more than most people can say they’ve done. The medals definitely lived up to the expectation and they are by far the best part of running this race!
While I had fun, this was definitely not my favorite race. The heat definitely had something to do with it, which was also an issue the first year of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon held the same weekend in 2010. Maybe this is still too close to summer to have a race in Florida because the weather can be unpredictable. The lack of entertainment on the course was also a big negative for me and I heard a lot of similar feedback from other runners about this. There is a lot of room for improvement with this race and I hope runDisney will take all of our feedback to make for a better experience next year.
So now I want to hear from you! Did you run the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler? What did you think? What was your favorite part? What improvements can be made? Leave your comments below and I’ll compile all of the feedback for a future post. Collectively we can help make this better!
Congratulations to everyone who completed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. You are all rockstarts for braving that heat!