Dark Side Challenge – April Disney Vacation Plans

In just a few weeks, we’ll be headed to Walt Disney World for a short, action-packed adventure.  We may be there for only three days, but we’ve built quite an itinerary!  With so much to look forward to, it feels like my countdown calendar is moving backwards.  Making things worse is fickle Mother Nature and her indecision about which season to embrace.  Feels like winter one day, spring the next, back and forth until everyone’s sneezing from either a cold or pollen allergies.  All of it has me staring at my suitcase wondering if it’s too soon to pack.

Dark Side Challenge – April Disney Vacation Plans

We chose our travel dates purely for the Dark Side Challenge.  The Star Wars 10K and Half Marathon will be Joseph’s first runDisney events and I couldn’t be more excited for him.  After he spent fall and winter of 2015 running with me as I trained for the 2016 Glass Slipper Challenge, then stayed home with Junior while I went to Disney World, I promised him I’d take him with me this year.  With just a couple of long training runs remaining, we’re ready.

Dark Side Challenge - April Disney Vacation Plans

Springtime in Disney World!  It’s been years since we’ve visited during Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival and we have missed it so much.  Weighing heavily into our plans, Epcot’s going to be where we spend most of our non-running time.  Since Nick and Dave from the Disney Exchange (and their wives) will also be at Disney World, we’re doing our best to coordinate our schedules for a get-together.  The weekend looks like this:

Friday mid-day – Arrive, grab lunch at the Grand Floridian (staying in the Villas) and head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to pick up our race packets.  Based on past experience, we’ll be there a whole lot less time than it takes to get there.  The race expo is always too crowded to enjoy browsing the booths.  I gave it my best shot last year and still walked away empty-handed.  There’s a lot of cool merchandise, but my patience won’t last long enough to actually purchase anything except a beer.  Once we’ve got our packets, we’ll head right back to the bus and make our way to Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom – We’ve got late afternoon / early evening FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain.  Between FastPasses, we’ll squeeze in what we can.

Late Dinner at Narcoossee’s – The last time Raymond and I ate here was late December, 2015 and our experience could not have been better.  The food and service were both excellent.  One of the things we liked best was that our server encouraged us to step outside on the deck to watch Wishes while he held our entrees back to keep them warm.  Nice touch! I’ve scheduled our reservation for 8:30 with Wishes at 9:00 so we can do it again.  After that it’s off to sleep.

Here’s where our plans are a little squishy.  Saturday morning we’ll need to be at the 10k’s starting line well ahead of the 5:30 am start time.  Unlike the previous runDisney events I’ve done, this one starts on Floridian Way rather than at Epcot.  I’m sure we’ll have to take a bus to the starting line, but don’t have a clear idea about how long that will take.  Once the official race course and event guide have been published, hopefully we’ll know more.  The race ends at Epcot and we should be making our way back to the Grand Floridian by 7:00 am to clean up and have breakfast.Epcot View

Epcot all Day!  Sure we’ll be a little tired, but for not rushing around, sampling plenty of snacks and having our group meet-up, Epcot is perfect!  We do have a little lunch reservation we’ll duck out for at Beaches & Cream (our first time there!) and then we’ll be right back for more Flower and Garden action.  We have late afternoon FastPasses for Frozen Ever After, Spaceship Earth, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.

Il Mulino Dinner – As per our pre-Disney-half-marathon tradition, this amazing little Italian eatery at the Swan is where we’ll order giant servings of carbs and pretend we don’t have to get up super early and run 13.1 miles.  Last year while we were enjoying our Il Mulino dinner before the Princess Half, Joseph (home with Junior) texted us, of all things, a video of him playing Bella Notte (from Lady and the Tramp) on an antique accordion he had purchased earlier that day.  (Sometimes Joe’s love for both music and antiques collides.)  It was perfect and one of my happiest Disney vacation memories.  It’s a shame he can’t pack that thing and bring it along to serenade us in person this time.

Running to the Dark Side!

Sunday morning Joseph and I will put on our epic matching Star Wars shirts (nope, not kidding – had them custom printed just for us) and two great things will happen:  I will not be running 13.1 miles alone (I can’t tell you how much this means!) and Joseph will get to experience first hand how incredibly amazing runDisney half marathons are.  I’m excited to hear what he has to say about the course and all the surprises along the way.  Post-race we’ll meet up with Raymond and enjoy the after-party for a few minutes before we head back to our room to clean up.

Epcot and Animal Kingdom.  We are absolutely ending the day at Animal Kingdom, but if we have time, we’ll make a quick dash to Epcot for lunch around the World.  At Animal Kingdom we have two FastPasses scheduled before dinner – Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  We’re eating Dinner at Sanaa in the Kidani Village section of Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Joseph’s going to love the bread service!  Then it’s back to Animal Kingdom park for Rivers of Light.

That’s it.  Then we go home.  I’m hoping we’re not trying to do too much.  At the same time, I’m hoping our scheduled plans will be enough to make our three days feel much longer.

This will be the shortest Disney vacation I’ve ever taken.  How about you?  Would you (could you?) go for just three days?

 

 

 

 

 

runDisney – The Road to The Dark Side

When last I mentioned my future runDisney plans, I was whining about my treadmill and hoping to register for the 2017 Star Wars Dark Side Challenge.  Good news on both fronts!  I’ve made peace with my treadmill, have registered Joseph and I for the Challenge, and we’ve got just four months left before the big event.

runDisney – The Road to The Dark Side

Both of my children have started running and have frequently given their time generously to keep me company on my weekend long runs.  Megan’s had some knee trouble lately, but back in the early fall, she let me run with her for her very first 5K.  I was extremely proud and know that she’s got lots more races ahead of her!  She’s run 9-10+ miles with me a couple times, so I’m hoping a Disney half-marathon is in her future.  Princess 2018 maybe?  That would be perfect!

Back to the Dark Side.  When registration opened in August, I registered Joseph and I for the two races that make up the Challenge – The Star Wars 10k on April 22nd and The Star Wars Half Marathon on April 23rd.  Next we needed to find a race close to home to use for proof of time.  While proof of time is not mandatory, sending in official race results to runDisney from a 10k or half marathon helps determine a runner’s starting corral.  No proof of time = start at the very back of the pack.  I found a 10k, the Black Bear Grin and Bear It, and we ran as fast as we could on a chilly November morning.  Proof of time?  Check!

Fearing we’d lose momentum after the 10k and with the winter ahead, I found a half marathon in Lafayette, Louisiana and asked Joseph if he wanted to run it with me.  He didn’t even hesitate – we were a go!  So last weekend, during an extreme cold snap, we bundled up for the race!  Raymond and Joseph’s girlfriend, Lyndsey, found a spot along the race course where they’d see us three times without ever having to move.  Post-race, we spent the weekend enjoying Cajun Country and all the great food to be found there!  My friend, Karen, from Just Me and My Running Shoes (great blog for Disney fans & running moms!) also ran the half and I had a wonderful time catching up with her!  She’s the sweetest!

Photo courtesy of Karen Seal

Now I’m back to worrying about losing steam.  I’ve got my eye on another half marathon in February in Minden, Louisiana for St. Jude’s.  I hear it’s a hilly, but beautiful course.  I’m not concerned about how fast we’ll run during the Dark Side Challenge, I’m more about making sure we’re comfortable during the races so we can enjoy all the Disney details and soak up the atmosphere.  Keeping up a good training program will help maintain fitness and increase the chances of having smooth, easy races.  That’s my theory anyway.

How about you?  Are you eyeing a runDisney event in the future?  Got any training tips for us?

Enchanted 10k – My First runDisney Event!

Enchanted 10k – My First runDisney Event!

By Nick

My story begins several months ago when my Disney Exchange Podcast co-host Lisa started talking about the Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Somehow, I was convinced by her and my other co-host Dave that I could walk the Enchanted 10K. I’m not supposed to jog due to a spinal injury suffered as a child, but I was assured that a brisk walking pace would be adequate. I just needed to train to do a 16 minute mile. 6.2 16 minute miles to be precise.

Lisa, Dave and I started talking about the many things we would do during our brief time together. I also agreed to start training. And I did begin to train. 6 weeks before the actual event.

This was a point of concern with my co-hosts. But I had no doubt. Okay, maybe a little.

Within a couple of weeks, however, I was averaging a 14 minute mile, and the week before the actual 10K I walked out the entire 6.2 miles on a treadmill in under an hour and 30 minutes, which really boosted my confidence. Really, I’d actually been losing sleep with thoughts I may not be able to do it!

I arrived at Walt Disney World Thursday, February 18th, a day earlier than Lisa and Dave. I’d mentioned to them my plans to walk 4 miles Thursday and 5 Friday as a warm up to Saturday, and I’m really glad I did because they told me that wasn’t a good idea, and that all the walking around the parks Thursday and Friday would be plenty enough of a warm up! And they were absolutely correct!

After a full day of walking around Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I was alarmed when I woke up Friday and had pain in the big toe on my left foot!

At this time I’ll bore you to tears I will very briefly tell you about that spinal injury I mentioned above.

Back in 2006 I started jogging with the intention of doing a Disney marathon. I developed such severe pain in my back and hips my chiropractor sent me for an X-ray. She took one look at it and told me I needed to go to a back specialist immediately. It was a white mass on my spine.
I said “Is that cancer?”
She said “I don’t know.”
Went to the back doctor.
He looked at it and said “I’m sending you for an MRI tomorrow. And when you come in for the results, bring your wife.” 
Me “Is that cancer?” 
Him “I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like it.” 
Get the MRI. 
Doctor “When did you crack your L5 vertebrae.” 
Me ” When did I do what, now?” 
The only thing I could think of was I had a bicycle accident at 7 when a friend was riding the handlebars and I hit a fence and flipped over and landed hard on my butt. He said that my white blood cells went to town and healed it in a way he’d never seen! It encased it in calcium. 
And it’s inoperable because the scar tissue would potentially be more of an issue. 
It also happens to pinch a major nerve cluster which causes all sorts of fun and exciting random pain in my legs and feet.
Hence the pain in my big toe.

I’ve been dealing with this fairly new addition to my almost lifelong list of random pain on and off for a few months, and knew that stretching would help alleviate the discomfort to some extent. Still, it was more than a little disconcerting to be dealing with this considering the 10K was just a day away!

I soldiered on, and met up with Lisa and Dave at the Health and Fitness Expo at The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It was the first time I’d ever seen this area of WDW!


I’d gotten there via bus from the resort. One of my concerns had been about getting around from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the expo and the race, and I was told there would be signs posted telling me exactly where and when to get a bus. And there absolutely was! Disney makes this very convenient, with the information in the lobby.


Back to the Expo. I met up with Dave and his wife Anne, and they showed me where to go to get my race packet.

We then made our way to the Expo building where we met up with Lisa and her husband Raymond.

This was the first time Lisa, Dave and I had all met!

Raymond, me, Lisa, Dave, and Anne

I picked up my t-shirt, and we spent some time walking around the Expo, before saying good afternoon. 

I then met up with my wife’s cousin Jill and her husband Zach, and friends Ryan and Amber, and spent more time walking around the Expo. This was followed by The Wahlburger Incident, and a full accounting of that can be found here.

I woke up Saturday morning at 2:30am, having gotten about 4 1/2 hours sleep, and since I’d had my alarm set for 3 and was way to anxious to try and sleep any longer, just got up, dressed, and headed to the lobby at about 3:15, where I met with other similarly amped up race participants.

My toe was sore, but not debilitating.

The first bus heading to the starting area arrived promptly at 3:30, and we got to Epcot’s parking lot by 4am.


It was already fairly crowded. I followed the crowd to the corral area, texting Lisa and Dave along the way to try and get their whereabouts, and met up with Dave and Anne while I waited in line for a photo with Belle. Anne was kind enough to join me for a photo.


Lisa came a short time later, and we all headed towards our respective corrals. 


Dave and Lisa were in A, Anne in B, and since this was my first race, and I had no time submitted, I was in E. Dave had volunteered to walk the race out with me, and I told him that was not necessary, I had this, but he was coming down with what would turn out to be a fairly nasty flu, so said walking with me was the preferable option.

At 5:30, corral A started. And we waited. And waited. And… it was 10 minutes between each corral! We didn’t even get to the starting line until 6:13!


I started off at about a 14 minute mile. My legs moving at a pretty quick pace. Dave, being 6 foot something, seemed to take 1 step for every 4 of mine. Within a few minutes we were passing people and Dave said “You know, you don’t really need to even be moving as fast as you are, look around, you are not going to have a problem finishing, and you are going to be at the parks 4 more days, so there is no point in overdoing it.” or something to that effect. 


And he was right! I slowed down. Often, due to bottle necks, we had no choice. It seemed a majority of people were walking. 

The first leg of the 10K is on roads and fairly boring, but then, as daylight was breaking, we entered the backstage area of Epcot

At one point during the walk, I straightened my back, heard a crack, and my toe stopped bothering me all together! Like I said, random weird pain. 

Then we were walking around World Showcase as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful morning. I actually started getting a bit emotional. I was doing it! My first runDisney event!


We walked around the Boardwalk area, and I got even more emotional, wishing for all the world my wife was there with me, as the BW is her favorite resort. 

  Then we were past the Yacht and Beach Club and into more backstage area of Epcot where I will never forget, as we neared mile 6, Katy Perry’s Firework was just starting.

Before long back into Epcot by Imagination, and then, there it was! The finish line!


I’d done it! Dave was a great walking buddy! Thanks again Dave.

I proudly wore my shirt around the parks all day!

A note: some friends have said they would like to do a runDisney event, but they would also be walking it. They have heard that runners look down on walkers. I say “Pft” to these negative naysayers. Any exercise is better than none. And walking 3, 6.2, 13.1 or 26.2 is an accomplishment! I used to let these doubts about walking versus running get to me. Never again!


I am now hooked. I am signed up for runDisney updates. I may not make it back this year for an event, but will most certainly be doing more 10Ks, 5Ks, and, maybe, just maybe a half down the line!

 

You can follow Nick, his wife Barbie, and friends on all their Disney adventures:  Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, On Instagram, On Pinterest.  You can listen to Nick, our friend Dave and me on The Disney Exchange Podcast where we talk about all things Disney.

runDisney Dreaming & Treadmill Woes

I have developed the most dysfunctional relationship with my treadmill!  Part of the problem is that I’m running on “the replacement” treadmill.  My beloved (yes, you’re allowed to love and become ridiculously attached to exercise machinery) original treadmill survived many years of reliable service.  It helped me train for dozens of races including marathon and half-marathon distances, then it died.

runDisney Dreaming & Treadmill Woes

Sadly, the frame split.  Raymond welded it back together (yes, my sweet husband has mad repair skills), and it finally split again – prompting Raymond to ask me, “Don’t you think it’s done enough and can be put out of its misery?” – and he was right.  That bad boy was awesome, but the time had come to let it go and buy a new one.  I’ve had the replacement since last December, but it’s still not as comfortable to me as the old one.  I’m much slower on this one.  It doesn’t have the same electronic display.  Yes, I’m whiney, but I’m old and we “mature” people tend to be set in our ways.runDisney training selfie

So here’s where I’m at and where I need your help.  I’m trying to lay down a base mileage of 25 miles per week so I can be ready for fall racing.  I can run 1-2 days on the road, but the rest of my running has to be indoors.  I’m looking for all your motivational tips, tricks and playlist suggestions – stuff I can implement to keep me on that stupid treadmill for 4-5 miles per day.  I’m desperate because….RM-Sunrise-runDisney-Princess-Half

Next year’s runDisney races are calling my name!  Princess Half Marathon registration was this week and I saw my friend and fellow blogger, Karen (check her blog out here), post on social media that she was in!  This got me even more excited about my own plans for next year.  Having run the Princess/Glass Slipper Challenge both this year and last, I’ve been wanting to try something new runDisney-wise.  You may recall that my son, Joseph, helped me train for this year’s Glass Slipper Challenge and then stayed home to take care of Junior while I raced. Lisa and Joe training run

 

I owe him a runDisney experience after all of that love and support and I aim to make good in 2017 by registering us both for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge!

So, with registration looming (I believe in early August) and proof-of-time races in the not too distant future, I’m psyched, yet challenged by my treadmill woes.  Help!  Any and all suggestions to get me through my indoor training are welcome.

Are you doing a runDisney event in 2017?  Which one?  How are you planning to do your training?