Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Week one" of Boston Training, done and done.

Post Dopey I took basically a week off. Recovery was honestly a snap but I don't mess around after running almost 50 miles in 4 days.

Once I finished up my little break I got back into the swing of things with the intention of perhaps being prepared for Boston this year (this is a pretty amusing statement coming from the queen of the 8 week training plan!)

Per the norm, a consistent running schedule has created a disgusting overload of laundry.
Two baskets for the win.

Yeah, this is my life
Week one of "Boston Training" went off without a hitch. I think I ran 32 miles which included some fairly uninspired 800's and a decent enough 10 mile long run (done on the treadmill which is a study in managing boredom.)

I feel funny declaring a certain day as the "start" of training because I have actually been running very consistently this winter and the past few months of training will all contribute to things to come. But whatever, all the cool kids are "officially" training for the big day so I will too!

Because it has been cold, and dark, and I am very busy the bulk of my training has been on the treadmill which is fine. I am happy to run outdoors in the dark if it is warm but absolutely not when it is freezing! Also, my November face to face encounter with the huge Bobcat made me feel a little spazzy about my afterdark workout routine.

Sweaty treadmill miles
So that's about it from here. February promises to be a bit slow in the race/adventure department but should be heavy on the unattractive basement selfies. Nobody should miss that so stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge: Wait, WHAT? We have to run a marathon??

Part five of our Dopey Challenge Experience: The Final Chapter 

Yes, we are all Dopey.
Just like that it was marathon day.

I stepped outside first thing to determine how many extra layers we would need to stay warm and came back in with this: "you guys. this isn't good."
It was, by 10+ degrees the warmest morning we had encountered. And thick with humidity.

Thinking that the conditions certainly could change we bundled up as we had in the previous days and, well stocked with snacks headed to the now familiar bus. We had a much less scary driver on this particular day. Our Half Marathon bus driver was filled with rage and a desire to terrify all of us. (he was fairly successful and I guarantee that he terrified several motorists who he just about pushed off the road. Be AGGRESSIVE!)

Waiting (5 seconds) for the BUS!!
Whatever had been the issue with the previous days security line had been resolved and we flew thru bag/belt check. The whole process was so damn fast that we were in our corral very close to the front by 4:30.

There were still loads of people though. And I like snapchat.
It was, as previously noted, considerably warmer than the previous days and quickly we were down to race apparel. All of us were trying to get some hydration pre race so this led to a few bathroom breaks before the start. A good way to pass the hours....

See the lack of clothing? Warm.
(note: for the half and full bring your own drinks. there was a concession stand in the initial staging area selling bagels, coffee, and water but nothing after that. oddly, for the 5k and 10k there were a few hydration stations set up and easily accessible. none of us could find such a thing for the longer distance races within reach of the corrals.)

There was some GOOD NEWS. There was only a 3 minute hold for most of the corrals- spacing to a 4 minute hold for the final few. Such a great feeling for all of us who were dreading the 10 minute hold we had been warned about. I'm not sure if this is a case of Disney changing things or a case of "don't believe what bus strangers tell you" but either way- PHEW.

The whole gang, about to start!
And then. We were off. All of us appreciated the fact that Andy's fitbit recorded that as we moved up towards the start his heart rate increased 10 bpm per corral. He was basically tachycardic by the time we reached the start, which I appreciated since nothing is scarier that the start of a marathon.

The first 6 miles were a carbon copy of the half. A few notable exceptions were the undeniable fact that I was soaked, dripping sweat after the first mile. Also, due to the pre race hydration plan I had to stop and pee behind a tree around mile 5 (the lines for the porta potties needed a fast-pass so, no thanks...)
While people genuinely had quality race etiquette throughout the full, it was slow going.
My legs were a bit heavy from the previous days, the air was like glue and nobody was moving quickly.
Similar to the previous day, traffic slowed down one notch more around the Contemporary and throughout the Magic Kingdom. I give kudos to whoever decided to divert traffic into two lanes after running through the castle but there wasn't an option to do much more than slow run throughout the whole MK.

OMG such FOCUS. Just looking at the traffic ahead actually.
I was not entirely shocked to find that the 10k split had me running over a 10 minute mile. (WELL over. like a solid 10:21) Between the crowds, a pit stop and (already) about 5 very slight pauses to grab water/powerade this seemed reasonable. Not ideal, but reasonable.

Heading out of the MK traffic opened up a bit since the roads did. Around mile 8.5 we started on a different route, one that was not visually stimulating but did allow for a bit more progression.
(I need to be brutally honest- I was running off the road again and working hard to get around the other runners doing the same. all this effort only allowed me a barely sub 10 pace. not normal!)

I knew, with the humidity that I would be ill advised to pass up any water stop. I think that I walked briefly through 18 hydration stations, picking up 2 cups of powerade at most of them. I ran through another 4 or so- and I don't believe I would have finished healthy had I not done so!

Just before the Animal Kingdom we finished the boring stretch of road by running past some (what I believed to be) water treatment facilities, then along a short out and back. Water treatment facilities are not exciting.
After that we were greeted by some animals which I was very excited to see! I won't stop for characters but I will certainly stop for a majestic vulture, who was not too impressed with the situation. He was badass though and I talked about birds with his handler before hobby jogging out of there.

I LOVE HIM. The vulture, that is.
From there the course proceeded through the Animal Kingdom which was great. The park had not opened yet so my thoughts of riding Expedition Everest were short lived. I wasn't going to stand in line for 20 minutes! (I thought perhaps it would be running early but no luck.) As we ran out there was a formidable line of people waiting to enter the park and a real blast of heat as the sun came out over (yet another) glorious parking lot.
(There was also a highschool band. There were many highschool bands and they were quite good.)
Thank heavens the sun pretty much stayed away- when it peeped out the temps went from tolerable to a bit nasty.

From there we ran towards WWS (ESPN Wide World Of Sports) on a pancake flat stretch of highway. Again, unlike the rest of the world the highway was my favorite! After the half split which I came to in a downright pedestrian 2:14 I was able to pick it up a bit. I had started the day hoping that a 4:15 might still be in the cards but had begun the reconsider after the death march of the first half- especially the first 10k.

On the way to WWS there were many wonderful people who wanted to feed all of us cheez-its and pretzels. I could not thing of ANYTHING that sounded better so I shoved all of them in my face.
I am a complete germaphobe and in real life would never take food from a roadside person.
On marathon day all bets are off, give me a communal dish of salty snacks and we can be best friends!

While WWS was a bit twisty and turn-y it was also fun! There were lots of spectators, an aid station with cold sponges and an aid station with bananas. I hate bananas but at the time they sounded delicious so I ate one and it was like a little slice of heaven in my mouth.
(now, thinking about eating a banana grosses me out. who knows.)

Wide World Of Sports- I liked it here.
So, from mile 17 to 20ish the course is like a lollipop and I was REALLY hoping to see Eric and Andy. After emerging from the WWS I jumped up onto the median into the grass in order to give myself a better view. I looked, and looked, and looked (and bizzarely ran my only sub 8 mile, go figure) but I never saw them. Strava showed us crossing paths but the crowds were so thick that I can understand why we missed each other.

Heading up to mile 21 were the green soldiers!!! I love them and they were straight up giving people shit which was hysterical! "GET OFF YOUR PHONE" they would yell at people "IT IS NOT TIME TO CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK, YOU NEED TO RUN!!!" "Do PUSHUPS!!!"
I like their style.

Then there was some highway with people passed out on because of the humidity, I imagine.
Luckily there were people tending to them because I am not a Doctor.
I was glad not to be passed out, because on occasion I have been known to run faster than the weather warrants. Thankfully, I continued to feel quite well. I was still sweating like a fool and I could do basic math so my brain was still functioning on an acceptable level.

Quickly, Hollywood studios came along and it was cool. There was new shit to see! A disco dance party tunnel! A chocolate aid station! Lots of spectators! Hollywood studios was super fun, plus I was running right along and passing people which I enjoy.

Basically right after HS we got to run towards the Swan and Dolphin and the Boardwalk. I think I might have decided where I want to stay for our next trip because it's gorgeous over there. The running got a bit crowded again but I was still making better time and it was really pretty.
PLUS. I had managed to make it to mile 25 without any crying or complete emotional breakdowns. 10:00 pace for the win....

Back into Epcot. Around the world. Under the ball.

Yep. Under the ball.

 In 4:11:35.

Victory, bitches.
I didn't cry but I got a teeeeeny but choked up because 17 minute negative split and all. Takes it outta ya.

Done!!! 48.6 miles of running complete!
I drank a full powerade. And some water. I collected all my medals and got a few pics taken.
I looked all around the finish area and found our favorite race MC's back at it *sigh*
I considered a beer but I was too cheap to cough up the $12.

While I was at the finish it was very uncrowded, I don't know if I just lucked out if the glorious parking lot was just huge enough to accommodate thousands.

From there you know the drill. On the bus, back to POFQ, showered, dressed and back at the bus stop to greet Eric and Andy and congratulate them on their GREAT SUCCESS!!!! I was very excited that they had completed a successful marathon and had stuck together the whole time, having some kind of twin fun. They both looked good and healthy and were upright and walking!

I went to the food court and collected the most sensible post race meal of all time, grilled cheese, fries, chicken nuggets (which I had been dreaming about since mile 8) chocolate milk (gross) and ice cold Coke. We all got back into our beds and had a most delicious feast!
We enjoyed some time rehashing the race, looking at strava, accidentally falling asleep and then getting ready to depart. Post race time is the most fun until you actually have to mobilize..

We mobilized for a photo op!
We had a celebratory not $12 beer at the pool bar (and made more new friends) before departing for the airport.
As it turned out all of our flights got cancelled which, despite the cost of staying in the airport Hyatt for the night was a blessing in disguise. We had fun. We ate a big meal of healthy food AND were asleep by 9:00, which is about the time we were supposed to depart.
So yeah, basically winning.

We were all feeling reasonably comfortable the next day and uneventfully reentered the real world where customer service isn't that great, the weather is cold BUT the food is better!!

Closing thoughts. I never thought I would want to do the Dopey Challenge again.
But I do.
While the view from the last corral made for some amazing memories I think it would be a completely different experience from (closer) to the front of the pack. I would not be at all surprised if we revisit this adventure at some point!
There are serious improvements that runDisney could make to their website, registration and communication but once we were there we had no complaints. Things ran like clockwork and they managed to make some of the more unpleasant aspects of racing easy (bus lines, etc.)

My legs appreciated a pancake flat course, between that and my reasonable pace recovery was a snap.
Also.... We got a SHIT TON of medals. And shirts. So much stuff.

I really had a blast experiencing this with Eric and Andy, it was a great way to celebrate their new age group and to have some family time. We are all super busy so it's hard to imagine another situation where we would all hang for close to a week! We certainly have a nice collection of bizarre inside jokes after the time we spent together.

So maybe, in a couple years we will get together and do it again... :-)

And one more time:
Sara: 4:11:35
Eric: 5:07:52
Andy: 5:07:56
(we are all amazing)


Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge: Half Marathon trail adventure

Part four of our Dopey Experience: The one with the off road running. And the fog. 

By Saturday morning we were beginning to settle into a routine. The 3AM wake up call didn't feel too bad, Andy was enjoying it so much that he had decided to one up all of us and wake up at 1:30. (he continued to do this, much to his dismay for the rest of our trip. UGH!)

Things were funny on Saturday. Apparently the strange hours were getting to us even though we felt acclimated. Eric began laughing uncontrollably for no apparent reason within moments of turning the lights on. Andy cheerfully serenaded us with Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. (this would be an ongoing theme for the next 48 hours.)

Typical routine, we walked outside (and it was not raining!) jumped onto a bus, made new friends and took a different and slightly longer route to get to the start.

We certainly noticed a change in the crowd level once we arrived. There were lots of runners.
The relative calm of the first two days wasn't present on this morning and before we could even see the security and bag check area we had ground to a screeching halt.
We aren't sure what was up- nobody could really tell what was going on (other than we were not moving) but it certainly took a long, long time to get through security.
None of us were bothered, we were in Corral P so there was no need to rush. Even better, we decided to make getting thru bag check an additional part of the dopey challenge- we all picked different lines and GO! I lost, miserably.

From there it was, as we had been told, a solid 15 minute walk to the starting corrals which were set up on a 3 lane highway. Nice change from the glorious parking lot of the previous two days.

Unflattering three lane highway selfie
By the time we made it to P it was so late that we were about 5 minutes from the start (of corral A, that is.) Getting into our corral there were a few runners from B who didn't make it to the gate in time!  However, at 5:30 corral P was nowhere near full (maybe 1/3) and certainly not ready to go so we set up to relax against the wobbly fence.

We got pretty comfy since we were staging area pros at this point. It was a nice surprise when we timed a 3 minute hold in between corrals. We had not been sure what to expect and this was ideal!

Around 6:25 we started the walk to the start and, once again were serenaded with the endless puns of Disney's favorite race MC's. (at this point we were over them. at this point THEY were over them!)

Anyway, right on schedule there were bigger fireworks than the days before and off we went. We were all planning to do our own thing and meet up back at the hotel. (in retrospect this is good. making a pace line for a 5k is fun. for a 13.1 it would have been exhausting!)

There were a fuck ton of people.
Right off I was running in the grass. Yeah, I know I know. You don't go to Disney to "race". But I wanted to run, and to run the best I could.
An off road trail adventure was the only solution.

I tried to figure out what the weather was up to for the first few miles. It almost felt like mist, and in lit areas it looked like drizzle. Once the sun came out it became apparent that it was FOG. Heavy, heavy fog. At about 59 degrees it was a perfectly nice morning for a run. (really, I liked it.)

Take note of the thick fog
The first 4 or so miles of the course were a combination of highway and parking lot. While they weren't the most exciting to look at they gave me a better chance to find room to run, get into a rhythm and assess how the crowd was moving better than I could in the parks. Right before mile 5 the road narrowed significantly as we approached the Magic Kingdom. At this point I was having to completely focus on staying safe, there was some phenomenally erratic running going on to the point that I was involved in a legit 4 runner pile up.
The moral of the story is, if you slam on the brakes to take a selfie you are going to get hit. The man in front of me had no choice but to hit selfie runner (and then get hit by me, as I was absolutely flattened by the woman behind me.) He then used some choice, non-Disney approved words to express his feelings which I found quite amusing.
As much as I had been attentive to traffic to this point, I was on high alert from then on out.

We ran through the Magic Kingdom. Everyone's favorite. Not mine because I am the worst.
I couldn't get out of there fast enough! Running through the castle.... Complete bottleneck. I was like "easy Bradlowski.... easy. this is fun. people are having fun. they are being very unsafe but THIS IS FUN DAMNIT EVERY MILE IS FUCKING MAGIC!!!!!" Ugh Magic Kingdom.

Fucking. Magic.
Anyway. We finally made it out of there.

From there the course ran behind the Grand Floridian and there were a ton of spectators through that area. Right around there (maybe mile 8?) The course opened up beautifully and I ran right along!
There was still a considerable amount of off road running but I was just so pleased to have some space. From what I understand mile 8-12 are the most hated parts of the Half.
I'm such a rebel, they were my favorite!
In other good news even though it was still quite foggy the sun had (sorta) come up and I could see where I was going. I could see well enough to notice that I was passing people who had started in corral D.
Some people have fun taking pics with the castle, some people have fun running with friends. I have fun catching people and blowing by them.
This makes me a jerkface and I own it. This is how I have fun.

I look mad, but I'm passing people so I AM HAPPY!!!
At mile 11 I decided to hustle and I ran the last 2 miles at an 8:00 pace. This was especially adventurous as we spent the last mile or so doing the weaving/looping thing through Epcot again. It was kind of like, here we go UNDER spaceship earth. Now let's turn around! Time to go BACK under spaceship earth!! What are we doing hahah?!

Running away from Spacship Earth and passing people like a BOSS.
I ran to a glorious parking lot finish (today with much more hooplah, bleachers and all kinds of staging and excitement!) in 1:56:37.
I felt like my 4WD choices made the race feel a bit harder than it should have but that's what you get for being impatient. Also, I wasn't convinced that my collision with the other runners in the beginning had not grievously injured me. I got my medal and met some of the most delightful volunteers ever, imagine if all of your grandparents were race volunteers and how nice they would be! That was happening.

Thanks to my race Grandpa for taking my pic!
I did have one funny moment though. I got my medal and my volunteer looked at my bib. "Is that your bib?" she said. I was like "yeah" because it was. She proceeded (in a very nice way) to ask if I had actually started in my corral. Which I had. She went on to say that she only had to ask because it was so early for a corral P finisher to be running in, hahaha. For about 5 seconds I felt like a fast celebrity. Maybe I always want to start in the back so that I can impress people with my amazing running prowess.

As was per the norm I was thru the med line (ice for broken femur) back on the bus, showered, mostly organized and holding chocolate croissants for everyone when the twins came back. (thanks to the buses, not really to my *formidable* speed.)

They had enjoyed the race, even the ghastly Magic Kingdom part! They had also chosen to run on the road the whole entire time which, while smart, really doesn't hold the promise of death and/or broken limbs. Wimps! My mud run had secured my spot at the top of the leaderboard of excellence!

For the remainder of the day we took ice baths (awful.) Sat in the hot tub (glorious) Ate the aforementioned chocolate croissants (the best thing in Disney!!)

We took the fabulous boat to Disney Springs to enjoy some live entertainment and dinner at the downright geriatric hour of 3:30. Yes, you read that correctly.
We totally wore our medals to geriatric dinner time
When we got back Andy needed to do laundry, Eric needed to put his feet up and I needed to eat another round of chocolate so we did those things with tentative plans to watch the kids movie on the grassy knoll for a while. (this happens at Disney resorts and is lovely.)
But it POURED!!! What the hell Florida?
So we sat at the pool bar, not drinking BECAUSE MARATHON and we made more friends who were great fun! I must admit, I had a ton of fun having a non-park Disney experience. Maybe it is because I have been several times as an adult but I did not feel any urges to spend more time in the parks than we did. Our resort was great and we took advantage of everything it had to offer. Plus, if we had spent any more time on our feet we would have straight up died.

We were all in bed early, with visions of a three medal day dancing in our heads.
What would the next day bring? Who would win the security line race? Would Andy be able to get a whole corral to sing Zip-a-dee-do-dah???
All these answers, and more in the next episode....

The stats:
Sara: 1:56:37 
Eric: 2:12:36
Andy: 2:12:37


Friday, January 15, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge: 10k time

Part three of our Dopey Challenge Experience: The one with the rain..

Friday morning.
Almost a carbon copy of the day before.
Out of bed at 3:00, bad coffee, PB sandwiches, dressed and ready to go walked outdoors AND.

........It was raining........ Like a lot. Real rain, big fat angry drops.

This was not exactly what the forecast had called for but we were more prepared than the day before. We were armed with multiple throw away layers, mylar blankets, gloves, the works. We quickly caught a bus and were on site ready to enter the lovely corral F by 4:00.
Expect the corral did not open until 4:15.

We tried to hide in a tent for a bit. We knew that we wouldn't be allowed to linger but for 5 minutes we stayed nice and dry. I was able to check the radar while lurking behind the rain fly and it did not look good.

Short lived tent hiding.
Once settled into our corral I made my emergency blanket into a make shift tent of sorts and hunkered down, eating all my snacks for a good half hour or so. By the time I emerged the corral was full and Eric and Andy had once again made friends (shout out to our fun Texas triathlete friends!)

My cozy tent
Right at 5:30 things got underway and right off we knew something was up. There was a 10 minute hold between corrals. UGH.
One part of my brain was pleased and hoped that this would take care of the unbelievable gridlock that we experienced in the 5K. The other half of my brain just wanted to get going already! In the end it was no big deal. Other than getting very hungry we suffered no ill effects and actually had good time with our new found race friends.

The start of the race was a carbon copy of the day before, we headed to the start, race announcers told the same lame jokes, tiny fireworks and BOOM off we went.
Except it was pouring. I was glad that I was wearing my less favored pair of shoes!

See the rain? Yeah.

We proceeded to have a perfectly pleasant run. I can't speak for Eric and Andy but I enjoyed myself much more than the previous day. We had a small stretch of highway which really freed up the bottleneck and allowed for some actual running. Right around that time we lost Andy to a bathroom break (we had decided before the race, that if anyone needed to stop they would be left! Bwahahah.)
Eric and I continued on. There was a lot of dodging puddles as well as other runners. This was a big day for five-across-walkers so that made for a unique challenge.

Rain rain rain, running in the rain! There we go!
We kind of looped back to Epcot and at the International gateway turned towards the Boardwalk. This was a really cool stretch of the race from a visual aspect but very challenging because the crowds were thick and the ground slick. We then went back into Epcot and did a bunch of funky windey turns that eventually took us "out back" (that's the best description that I can muster) and to a glorious parking lot finish (same as the day before.)

Glorious parking lot finish!
We finished in 54:45 which both Eric and I felt good about, with the miles to come, and the crowds and congestion we were both staying remarkably close to goal pace.
Well. I was. Prior to learning of our #lastcorral placements I was shooting for a 26:00 5K, a 52:00 10K, a 2:00 Half and a 4:14 Full. So honestly, this is so much better than I expected!
Plus, I really enjoyed the 10K race and while it was still an adventure of strategy and skill it involved a bit more actual running!

VERY pretty medals!!!
Eric and I headed back to the hotel and due to the amazingly efficient (and warm) bus system we were home and showered before Andy got back. And he was only about 10 minutes behind us!

We originally had considered heading to Universal for the day but the lousy weather promoted us to (happily) change plans. Whether it is Disney or Universal, if you are going to drop $100 on a park ticket then you better plan to make use of it!

We spent the day doing delightful things.
First we all sat in bed drinking hot chocolate and watching terrible TV.

We also had a lot of shoes to dry
Then (at about 9:45) we were (wait for it) ready for lunch so we took a lame bus in the rain to Downtown Disney for some lunch.
When we got there the skies OPENED UP. It was raining so hard that the rain was bouncing off the ground, total, full on pouring!

We hunkered down in Wolfgang Puck's and had a combination of some breakfast and then, when lunch was available some lunch. Eric and I have been here before and we think it is one of the better food choices available. I was so hungry that I basically inhaled my food, and any scraps that the boys would give me so it has my seal of approval.

After eating and a little shopping a miracle happened.

We then got to take the awesome boat back to POFQ. Because I always enjoy a little walk I rode down to Riverside and walked back. It was gorgeous and I thought happy thoughts about how lucky I am to be able to travel to beautiful places to enjoy my hobby.

Yeah, it wasn't ugly
When I got back I found the twins at the pool bar because we had finally decided to let housekeeping in to clean up. Despite our best efforts there was a pile of towels the size of Mt Everest and about 3 full trashcans. Housekeeping might actually have hated us had we not left them fat stacks of cash.

After some relaxing hot tub time it was time to depart for our one fancy dinner at California Grill.
We wanted to take a ride on the monorail beforehand so, with over an hour in hand off we went to catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom.
We waited. We waited more. And some more.
And for a while longer.
And then we got old and died.

We gave up our plans of pre dinner monorail-monorail and started to hope that we would make it there 15 minutes before our reservation to check in, as they expect you to do.

The bus did finally arrive and we proceeded to hit every red light. Then we disembarked as far away from the foot path to the Contemporary as humanly possible. 

We had given up all hope of arriving with 15 minutes to spare and were just hoping to make it in time. We started hoofing it over from the bus ports to the Contemporary with 7 minutes in hand.
We totally would have made it if we had been able to cross the road but no, there was a shit ton of traffic. Andy was somewhat behind us literally cackling in glee as his fitbit was recording a record setting day of steps. This made the power walk of doom more fun! More steps! Winning!

In the end, we made it to the check in booth at exactly 5:15 and found a big ass line.
As previously discussed Disney is good at lines and since we were late we were seated immediately instead of being made to wait. So, we basically won. And dinner was kick ass good so there's that!

You really can't beat the view!
After dinner we did take a loop on the monorail and made more friends (shout out to the family of 21, yes 21 who we had a very amusing conversation with!)

Then we were back on the bus and in bed. Not on the bus.
We knew that the next day would be a little different with a longer walk to the start, twice the number of runners and (obviously) twice the distance for us to cover. We felt that our 8:00 bedtime was a touch on the rebellious side!

And for those of you keeping track:
Today's 10k results:
Sara: 54:46
Eric: 54:47
Andy: 1:07:26


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge: 5K Day

Part two of our Dopey Challenge Experience. The one with an actual 5K race.

I lied in my last post, we did not have to wake up at 3AM on Thursday for the 5K, we had to wake up at 3:30 since the race didn't start until the leisurely hour of 6:00. This meant we had to be on a bus by 4:00 (for last call) instead of 3:45. PHEW!!
It might have made a big difference but we were all awake anyway so up we got.

This was when the suitcase of food began to come in handy. We all made PB&J, grabbed a granola bar or two, choked down some crappy Disney coffee (brewed in the room) and headed out.
Into the freezing cold, wind and drizzle.

Checking out the bus schedule
We were not sure what the bus schedule would be like and had been told that we could expect as much as 20 minutes between buses. This wasn't the case, a bus was there and we hopped right on for a short ride to the start line. There was a bus behind that bus so, no 20 minute wait.

In a very, very cold bus!
Eric and I had flip belts so we went thru the bag check line. Despite the fact that we got on a bus almost as late as we could, the line was very short. Maybe 3 people ahead of us. From here we took a quick look around (pretty typical parking lot staging area, an area with a small-ish crowd and a DJ, a few water stations and then corrals A-F.)

We were in corral F and since we were the last to start not too many people had gathered by the time we wandered in. It was quite chilly, and staying warm was a real challenge! (it was in the low 50's with a brisk wind and light mist that stopped around 5:30 or so.) We met some other runners who, like us had forgotten to submit their times and we exchanged some slightly grouchy stories of dealing with runDisney to that point. (no runDisney, you are not perfect! get a new website to start!!)

For the 5K there was a 5 minute hold in between corrals which honestly felt like forever! The corral were huge with about 2,000 starters in each, so the 5 minutes did make perfect sense in the traffic control department. By the time we made our way to the start we the winners were back at their resorts and showered but we were glad to finally get moving! By the time corral A had taken off our corral was fully packed, standing room only. While it was crowded we finally began to get warm since we were snuggling with 2K other people. #cozy

A terrible pic of the start! OMG. But that is it.
After the initial crush of the start the 3 of us found ourselves together again and we began to make some good headway UNTIL, we hit the back end of the corral in front of us. Using some teamwork we made our way through some congestion but never had any open area to run in.

Andy is there too, I promise! And it's dark, really dark!
We turned the race into more of an adventure run, dodging people who stopped short to take selfies, winding carefully around the droves of runners and walkers and kids; jumping, weaving through and going over cones, barriers and occasionally other runners. It was fun running together and we picked up a few friends along the way which made for quite the entertaining pace line.

Finishing in a blaze of glory!!
 It was dark for most of this race which made it feel all the more like an adventure obstacle run. We finished in about 28:00 which is a solid PW for all of us but, to be honest, better than we had hoped with a corral F start.

Victorious! And finally warm...
From there we walked directly onto a bus back to POFQ. This is what has sold me on Disney races, you finish, you walk to a bus, and you go home!
During this bus ride we met a Dopey challenge veteran who, in ominous tones, told us about how the corral hold for the marathon was a full 10 minutes. We were a bit shocked, being in Corral P and all but decided that being warned was the best thing that could happen to us and that we would be prepared. (stay tuned to see how this turned out.)

After we had showered, organized our nasty laundry and rehashed the experience we all felt like lunch.
Unfortunately, it was only 8:30.

Eric and Andy decided to try to get an hour of sleep and after a little bit I went back to the expo to try to pick up the things that the crowds prevented me from getting on the first attempt.
I had great luck! The crowd level was maybe 25% what it was the day before and I was able to find what I wanted and score a few good deals.
I timed the whole trip perfectly because as I left there were busloads of people arriving for one of the kids races. Smart.

From there we headed to Epcot for the afternoon.

YAY! Post race beer!
We enjoyed a beer in Canada as we always do and took advantage of the very light crowd level. We wandered around the World Showcase for a couple of hours before hitting some slower rides (like Nemo) to nap on as we had all hit the wall.

When I made our dining reservations I thought that a 4:30 dinner time would be really hard to deal with, and too early to be any good.
I could not have been more wrong...

We dined, 3/4 asleep at Via Napoli. This was ok because despite the rave reviews it gets, it, (like most Disney dining) is "Meh" at best. Being half passed out made paying $24 for a mediocre personal pizza seem less offensive. We are always prepared for "blah" food going into any culinary adventures at Disney so we aren't disappointed, just underwhelmed. (and I know that any die hard Disney fans are going to scream and yell about me slamming the beloved Via Napoli but whatever, I can get better pizza in my podunk hometown.) For me, the surprise at Disney is really GOOD food so when it is mediocre it's just part of the day.

Closing the park! Or, leaving at 6:00....
We hightailed it out of the park at 6:00 and Eric and Andy were passed out cold at 6:45. SMART.
We actually DID have a 3AM wake up call the next day so hitting the sack early was unavoidable. I proceeded to deal with a splitting headache and NO SLEEP again (which was getting old) but luckily, this was the last night of unsuccessfully counting sheep.

And since this IS an actual competition (between us anyway)
Today's results:
Andy: 28:29
Eric: 28:35
Sara: 28:35


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge, Part 1 of many!

Part one of our 2016 Dopey Challenge experience: The one with no actual race reports.

It's hard to believe that we left for Florida and the Dopey Challenge a week ago- the time absolutely flew by! If I was a better blogger I probably would have blogged, or live tweeted the entire event but I did not.

I am going to try to recap the 5 days we were there and the 4 races, and 48.6 miles as well as I can, and hopefully as helpfully too. While planning for this event I found that not only does the runDisney website blow goats but there just aren't many/any informative blogs on the subject. Hopefully, if you are considering the Dopey/Goofy/WDW Marathon this might help.

We started planing early for this as sign up was in April. As discussed we missed the deadline to declare our race times for corral placement (read on to see how this played out.) We booked flights on JetBlue the day they became available. After MUCH thought and considerations we booked 5 nights at Port Orleans French Quarter, a "moderate" resort on WDW property. The tl/dr version is that there was a lot of research done and not only did we think we had made a good choice beforehand but now that it is over we would not have changed a thing! Yes, you can find more spacious accommodations off property but the bus service to and from the races was worth it, it was reliable, predictable, comfortable, fast and on time, it was worth it's weight in fucking gold and you would be really dumb to do anything else unless someone was literally paying you to do it. We also made full use of the buses and boats to the parks and to Disney Springs. The nice thing about POFQ is that it is comfortable, has fewer kids, isn't screaming "DISNEY" with characters and is really quite lovely. It also has a kick-ass hot tub which we basically got our money's worth out of.

Since this trip was during a non school vacation period I began the planning process to keep my business running smoothly as soon as we signed up. The details are boring but it is challenging for me to be gone for a week when my normal back-up staff are all at school teaching! Luckily, I have some other trustworthy people that I can recruit and with only a few minor bumps in the road the schedule was 90% locked down back in July.  (for anyone who thinks running an equestrian business is a simple process, this should make you think twice!)

Once I got through the professional end of things it was like getting ready for any other long trip that includes a lot of running in unpredictable conditions. Packing took a while. All of us packed for everything which was lucky! A few things that were lifesavers were packing throwaway shirts and pants, emergency Mylar blankets (dirt cheap on amazon), tons of plastic bags and a tremendous amount of food. When the alarm goes off at 3AM there isn't anyone to make you breakfast so having our own things was key. We basically brought staples like bread, pb, jelly, granola bars, crackers, gatorade powder (disney only has powerade so if you are picky this is smart) ramen, and wine in a box. I am not lying. We packed everything that you don't want to spend $10,000,000 on in Disney, Advil, a variety of stomach meds, bandaids, sunscreen (didn't need it) stuff for blisters, umbrellas, ponchos (needed them.) We saved a ton of money by bringing all of those things because we are smart people.

This isn't even all of it.
We traveled uneventfully on Tuesday, departing Portland around 3:00 and getting into Orlando around 10:30. Finally! It was time to GO!!!

Time to GO!!!!
We did all the smart airport things like eating pizza and having shots. It should be duly notes that this was probably the *craziest* vacation day!

We hopped directly on the Magical Express bus upon arrival. It was basically sitting there waiting for us. #score

We were at the resort, dealing with the only crappy customer service I have ever had at Disney around 11:30pm. Apparently, the night staff gives zero fucks. Luckily, for the rest of our stay the staff exceeded my expectations. (Disney and I got off to a rough start. Not only was the front desk employee a complete douche but then their soda machine ran out of water and regurgitated $4 of dimes back at me. And what do their soda machines not accept? DIMES.)
Anyway. After that it was smooth sailing after a very late night.
We all went to bed around 12:30 and I proceeded to sleep not at all which is normal.

We all awoke on Wednesday around 7:00 (or, if you were me this is when you gave up on trying to sleep and got up.)
It was raining.
We didn't care and we headed out to the Magic Kingdom to find NOBODY!!

We spent an hour doing everything that we could (quite a bit.) Nobody in the park is the correct number.

I always ride Thunder Mt Railroad first!
After that we walked to the Contemporary and took a bus to the Expo.
Everyone who had NOT been in the park WAS at the expo.
Despite the big crowd we breezed through packet and shirt pick up fast, REALLY fast like less than 10 minutes. (spoiler: this is the luck we would have with lines all week. For all things running anyway! If Disney is good at one thing, it is moving people around! And they did an AMAZING job!)
At that point we headed over to the trade show part of the expo and it was the biggest clusterfudge ever. Elbow to elbow people and basically zero fun (so we peaced out).

We ate some PB&J back at the resort and then one by one headed back to the Magic Kingdom to make the most of our park tickets. I decided that the best use of my time was to ride the people mover, on which I got stuck for an hour and subsequently evacuated off of. This was delightful as I have never been able to walk off a ride and it was really great fun, although a bit time consuming. 

Eric captured this special moment of me being trapped!
From there the 3 of us rode the Mine Train (why people stand in line for 120 minutes to ride that 3 minute ride I will never understand....) The Haunted Mansion (my favorite) Splash Mountain (even thought it was cold) and we had dinner at Tony's which was just as mediocre as expected.

Knowing that we had a 3AM wake up call we made our way back to the resort early (early on this day was around 8:00) and we had a beer at the bar while playing the most hysterical game of Disney trivia that you can imagine.
We learned that the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse has 600 branches not 4, or 8 as guessed by Eric and Me.
We also learned, through gales of laughter that Pocahontas' fathers name was Powhatan, and not Mr. Hontas as I guessed.
*You had to be there.*
In other news, the bartenders at POFQ are some of my favorite cast members in Disney- despite our not so crazy week we were basically on a first name basis by Sunday. 

We were in bed, not sleeping (AGAIN) around 9:00 and we were all excited to see how we would feel about waking up ridiculously early the next day....