I flew down to Orlando last Thursday afternoon, destination Walt Disney World for the inaugural Wine and Dine half marathon. The flight down took me through Memphis International where I discovered that Elvis is alive, well, and singing karaoke at the Sun City Café. My plane was already at the gate and with a fifty minute layover I tried to find a bite to eat. The place was packed and as I stood in the first queue line of the trip the minutes began ticking by and I had to leave to line without food in order to make my flight. (*note to self, next time get a Fast Pass for Neely’s BBQ)
I arrived on time (10:05pm) at MCO and headed downstairs to catch Magical Express for Saratoga Springs. I did not have to wait for a bus to arrive and after more passengers had boarded we took off. The ride to the resort was made enjoyable by the excitement of a family who were all very excited to be nearing the “World.” One of the kids even got fired up when he recognized one of the HESS service stations near Downtown Disney. Guess it was his “We’re here” moment. My moment has always been riding the monorail at the airport and hearing Jack Wagner say “please stand clear of the doors.”
Checked into Saratoga around 11:10 and asked if anything was still open for dinner on property. I was handed a list of pizza locations that delivered and told that a few restaurants were still open at Downtown Disney West Side. After dropping my baggage off in the room I lucked out and walked right onto a bus heading that way. I decided to try Ragland Road. The entertainment inside was really good and I managed to get an order in before the kitchen closed. Due to the late hour the full menu was not available so I had to order from the pub menu. I had a Fada Burger which is your basic burger but it has a slice of ham and some type of beans on it. I ordered an Absolute Bastard Ale to accompany my sandwich and found it extremely bitter. (yes the bartender warned me but I wanted to try something new) I ordered a Warsteiner to cleanse the hops from my taste buds. The meal was good but I would like to return and order off the full menu sometime. Back at the room and in Bed by 2am.
Woke up for a 6:00am jog and found the trails around Saratoga to be well lit. As I made my way past the Congress Park area of the resort I noticed that it connected to Downtown Disney and decided to go through there. This proved to be a somewhat poor idea as the place was crawling with maintenance workers replacing plants and spraying down buildings. It was so congested that I felt a bit unsafe and headed out before reaching Paradise Island. Returning to the resort I jogged around the main lake area and finished up with three miles. After showering I had breakfast at Artist Point and then I headed over to Magic Kingdom for rope drop. I picked up my passes and Table in Wonderland card at the Will Call window and made my way over in front of the train station. This was my first trip down during this time of year and I enjoyed seeing the Halloween decorations. Prior to opening I noticed Jonathan and Amber over at the Will Call window. Keeping them in site I made my way over to say hello after the Mayor of Main Street and Mickey had welcomed everyone. I spoke with Amber while Jon was still at the window. This was the first time I saw their daughter Elizabeth and what a cutie she is. (Smiles for miles) After a brief visit they were headed over to 1900 Park Fair for breakfast.
Rae, Eric and Natalie arrived shortly afterward and we began touring the park. The crowd level on Friday was very light and we walked right on the E ticket attractions. We heard some funny new jokes during the Jungle Cruise ride. Around 11:30 we boarded a bus at the Polynesian that took us over to the Expo for packet pickup.
Upon arriving at Wide World of Sport we were greeted by Amanda and shortly after we met back up with Jonathan. Jon was enjoying himself talking with some members of the Disney Moms panel. Soon we were joined by Princess Fee and we headed into the expo. For this event everything was in the building that housed all the vendors during marathon weekend in January. Packet pickup was on two levels; half marathoners on the main floor and 5K runners on the second floor. Usually I pick up t-shirt related to the event but this time nothing really grabbed me. In fact to be honest the tech shirt we received with our packet really did nothing for me either. I mean c’mon Disney why would you give out a grey tech shirt for a night time race? Boring, unsafe, and not something I’ll wear. On the other hand the orange 5K t-shirts were awesome. Before leaving the expo Matt caught up with us and we stood around chatting for a bit. After that we all split up and took our stuff back to our rooms before meeting back up at Animal Kingdom for Extra Magic hours.
Caught a ride with Amanda to AK and we began looking for a place to grab a late lunch. The Jammin Jungle Parade was about to begin and we fought our way around trying to decide what sounded good. Finally decided upon Flame Tree BBQ. After dinner we made it over to Expedition Everest for a couple rides and then made it over to Dinosaur. Rae’s family met back up with us and we rode Everest until I just couldn’t bring myself to ride anymore.
After the park closed I went over to do some shopping at Downtown Disney West Side. Trace collects the vinylmations and had asked if I could be on the lookout for the DVC member exclusive piece. I found it at DStreet and even received a discount for being an annual pass holder. On the way back to the resort buses I couldn’t resist stopping at the Earl of Sandwich for a late bite. I had the Italian sandwich and it was wonderful. Earl’s has been a regular stop over the past few visits. The day ended with one more surprise waiting for me. When I returned to my room I found a gift basket from Trace and Lisa wishing me good luck on Saturdays run. What can I say about these two other than what we have all come to feel about each other, Disney friends are simply the best.
Saturday morning I headed over to Hollywood Studios for early morning magic hours while the rest of the gang was running Mickey’s Halloween 5k. I grabbed a Fass Pass for Toy Story Mania and then was able to walk straight onto both Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror for a couple rides. The second ride on tower felt strange as I was the only one in my row. Exiting the ride I glanced at the ride photo and realized that although hitting the parks alone can be fun I would have really liked Emily to be there with me.
To kill a little extra time in the park while waiting for Rae’s family I decided to take the back lot tour. I knew that the run later that night would include some of this area so I figured it might be worth checking out. The back lot tour itself is no big deal and I would like to see Disney tear the whole thing out and put something else in there. At the very least they could reimagineer the whole thing. I’d like to see them showcase some of the classic Disney special effects and transform the water tank area into a set from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Think about it, all Disney has to do is change a few props. Heck they could even bring in the squid. Catastrophe Canyon could be reworked into an exploding Volcania. At the very least the Nautilus could return to a Disney park.
Next it was time to use my fast pass from earlier and I can confirm that Disney has updated the first two game areas of Mania.
For lunch I met up with Rae’s Family over at 50’s Prime Time for a 12:10 ADR. There was a misunderstanding when I checked in as the cast member thought we still had a couple people coming and they had not checked us in. After clearing that up we were seated around 1. I opted for the roast beef. We finished around 2 and I was back in my room by 3 trying to catch some rest before the evening’s race. I only managed a 30 minute nap from 3:30 to 4 but rather than getting up and doing something I just lay in bed and watched TV, taking it easy and giving my feet as much rest as possible.
This being a night race the logistics of the event have to be a nightmare for Disney and one of those logistics that effected participants, was how early everyone had to be in the staging area. Unlike Marathon weekend in January where the races begin and end at the same location, this event started at Wide World of Sports and finished behind the United Kingdom of Epcot’s World Showcase. Transportation was limited to/from select resorts (Saratoga not being one of those resorts) and shuttles were available from the Epcot parking lot. The only thing about the Epcot shuttle was you had to park your car no later than 7:30. I met Amanda at 6:30 and we made our way down to Epcot to catch a bus. Transportation was well organized and we quickly made our way through the line and onto a bus. Arriving at the Sports complex we found Eric right away and he directed us toward Rae. Soon after we had our whole group together and the long wait began. During this time I ate a small bag of dried fruit and nuts. Other than that all I’d had after lunch was a Power bar before leaving the resort.
As in January there was a DJ on stage providing entertainment and getting people fired up. Around 9:40 we headed toward our corrals. I was in corral D with Jonathan and Rae and once the gun went off it was twelve minutes before we crossed the start.
My plan going in was to repeat what I had done at home just a few weeks earlier. Fast walk the first six miles and then jog out the rest. Goal was three hours. Right off out of the gate we were walking around a 14:40 pace which was just where I wanted to be. The crowd had gotten between Rae, Jonathan and myself and after some side shuffling I caught up. Rae pulled out ahead of Jonathan and I kept pace with her wishing Jonathan a good run as I went by. I quickened my pace enough to catch up with Rae and we stayed together over the first couple miles. By now Rae was power walking a brisk pace that had to be under 13:00 and I had to go into a light jog to keep my chins from aching. My jogging took me out ahead of Rae for a little while. The course proved to have far more hills than I had imagined and the ramp that led into Animal Kingdom burned my hips just like that mile 10 clover leaf in January. As I approached the three mile mark I was looking forward to the water station. But found it was not there. Not sure why but it was a half mile further than expected. This was a bit of a drag because I had just eaten three cliff blocks and I needed that water. Outside of the park I had slowed back into a walk and Rae caught me up. It was really great being able to go through Animal Kingdom with Rae. We kept our conversation light and focused on the event. On the back half of the park the road was coned off into two lanes. One for half marathoners and the other for relay runners. This caused a lot of congestion but once we reached the parking lot our lane opened back up as the relay runners split off to tag those running the second leg.
With nearly half the course behind us I picked up my pace and began jogging as I turned back onto Osceola Parkway. Again more hills but I tried to focus some of my attention onto the live entertainment that was out there. Aside from volunteers the Entertainers were the only ones out along the course. Due to traffic limitations spectators were not allowed along the course. Although I’d like to know how Team In Training always seemed to have somebody yelling for them. My best guess for that is that some runners had been in the front corrals and they stopped in specified locations to cheer others on before jumping back in to finish their runs. Around seven miles into the run a Hollywood Studios entrance sign could be seen lit up just below the overpass and this gave the illusion that you were much closer that you actually were. Looking ahead you could see runners coming straight back toward you and this indicated a hair pin turn was ahead. As I approached the turn at mile 8 I spotted Amanda who had been in corral C and I picked up my speed just enough to catch up with her. Shortly after making the turn I saw Rae approaching and we gave each other a high five. Reaching Amanda I dropped back into a walk. My legs were getting sore and I was tired. As we turned onto Buena Vista we were greeted by NO streetlights. None nothing it was pitch black except for some patrol car lights blinking half a mile away marking the turn into the studios. Pitch darkness cut by red and blue strobe light really sucked. I can not imagine risking a full on run through there. I could hardly see anyone in front of me.
Upon enter the studios I wanted to be able to jog through the whole thing. The course snaked nearly a full three miles in this park and I found I could not keep a consistent jog. Somewhere around this time I noticed some tightness in my calves and by alternating walking and jogging I managed to not cramp up. It felt like we would never leave this park. The final section of the park course took you behind Indiana Jones and the 50’s Primetime. The smell of garbage was very unDinsey like and nearly nauseating. Less than 2 miles to go from this point. The rest of the course went by fairly quickly if only because I had to really focus on my surrounding as the pathway narrowed once more and runners felt the need to run three abreast. It amazes me that people who participate in these events can be so freaking inconsiderate.
I finished at 3:15 missing my goal. I think the difference between here and my run back at home mostly came down to temperature. During my home run it had been mid sixties with zero humidity. The evening temperature was not bad during this race but the humidity kicked my butt.
After receiving my medal I walked back down to see Amanda come in and after she received her medal we walked down and saw Rae and Richard come in.
The After(math) Party
None of us had checked bags so we headed straight out into World Showcase. What a nightmare, wall to wall people and you couldn’t move without shoving into someone. Standing in a crowd was not where I wanted to be plus I needed a bathroom. The bathrooms at United Kingdom were backed up so we opted to head toward Morocco only to find that for some undisclosed reason the men’s room was closed. So off we headed toward the American Pavilion. There was a short line inside the men’s room and it was not moving at all. Up until this point I had been feeling perfectly fine but as I stood there waiting I began to feel lightheaded to the point where I knew I had to get out into open air. I stumbled out of the restroom only to hear my team mates ask if I was ok as I sank down to a sitting position on the ground. Whatever was happening to me came on very quickly and although I was aware of my surroundings I felt like I was in a dream like state. Eric was next to me on the left and another runner crouched to my right asking if I had eaten anything post race. I mumbled something about the uneaten granola bar in my bag and he placed and banana in my hand and told me to get drinking some water. Shortly after nibbling on the banana I began to come around to a Disney Cast Member asking me how I was. They brought out a wheel chair and took me out into the fresh breeze. By now I was fully coherent and complaining (while I took a bite) about how I detested bananas. When I was wheeled out I was surprised to learn that another team mate had also collapsed. Like me he came around very quickly and soon we heard that a third person inside the pavilion had collapsed too. A Disney employee handed me another water and Rae and Eric had ice packs in their back packs and that help us cool down. After about 20-30 of rest we felt good enough to walk out of the park as if nothing had happened. It felt very strange to collapse like that and I don’t really have any idea of the cause. Part of me thinks it is because I never really had dinner but it could be as simple as hydration. During the course I had plenty of electrolytes because I ate three cliff blocks every thirty minutes. Although I took water at every stop most of the cups were only half full so it’s possible I didn’t stay hydrated enough for the humidity. There is a part of me that wonders if I had kept moving and not stood still for so long would this have still happened? It’s a big unknown. After we left Amanda dropped me off at my building and after a shower I was in bed around 4am.
Five hours of sleep and I was up, feeling good and ready to go. After breakfast I briefly visited Downtown Disney before heading over to Magic Kingdom. Once in the Kingdom I made straight to Aloha Isle for a Dole Whip. Afterward I walked through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and rode Pirates. At 1:30 I met Rae’s family, Matt, De Dee, and Amanda at the boat dock for the ferry to Wilderness Lodge and our lunch ADR at Whispering Canyon. Richard met us there. Lunch was a blast and we all had a great time with our server and also while watching the antics of the other servers around us. Richard was the first to finish his iced tea and of course his refill came in the tall mason jar to which he began to dump every packet of splenda at our table into. Seeing this, our waitress brought out a box of Splenda packets and told Richard he had to refill the container. Then she started bringing sugar containers over from all the nearby tables for him to fill. It was very funny to watch Richard as he first continued to pour more Splenda into his tea. (I think the final count was eighteen packets) Evidently we were a hit with our server Pippi because she sat down with us after the meal and just kept chatting away.
After lunch Rae’s Family, Amanda and I went over to Epcot for a ride on Soarin’, The Land and then we caught Captain EO before Rae’s family took off to dress for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Amanda and I took the Monorail back over to Magic Kingdom. Before long Rae, Eric and Natalie arrived and we watched the Headless Horseman come out for the first of two parades. (Very Cool) We opted to watch the second parade and headed over to Tomorrowland. By now Richard had caught up with us and while Rae’s crew went off to trick or treat, Amanda, Richard and I rode Space Mountain. Exiting the ride we met back up and found a spot in front of the castle to view HalloWishes. This was a great fireworks show and the castle looked great bathed in green, blue and purple lights. At one point the castle went completely black with a shower of white fireworks behind it. It was almost creepy. The gathered crowed applauded the show and then we split ways again to catch some more rides while Rae when trick or treating again.
(Dressed for Trick or Treat Success)
After a ride or two we made it back to our earlier parade viewing area and waited for the Horseman to once again appear. He came out and then it seems like we waited forever for the parade to catch up. The parade was enjoyable the Hitch Hiking Ghost were neat to see but the flash picture I took ruined the effect. After the parade we made our way over to the Haunted Mansion where sitting on the Mansions front lawn we met Renatta who claimed to be Master Gracy’s niece who had died at the age of seventeen. Renatta was a riot who improved some great lines. She looked very ghostly in blue and purple lighting. After that it was a Peter Pan before closing the night out with Mickey’s Philharmagic.
Not much to report here. Early travel day, took Magic Express at 8:00am and then a long flight to Minneapolis before connecting to my Des Moines flight. All went fine without any delays.