Me, dressed as Venellope von Schweetz, at the staging area of the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Orlando, Florida
Race: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: November 8, 2014
I’m starting to think I angered the running gods somewhere along the way this year.
Because before I go any further, let me start with these two words for you:
You read that right. My first night at Disney World this time around…and what do I do? I BREAK A FREAKIN’ TOE! And you know, broken toe stories never really are a good story…because they always just happen randomly and in such a stupid and simple manner. For me…climbing into the shower at my resort. No joke. Jammed it on the tub. Yeah…
So…running gods and goddesses…whatever it is…I apologize. Please, please show me some mercy from here on out…
That being said…not even a week removed from the New York City Marathon and I find myself up in Columbus, Ohio. Yes…this journey starts in Columbus, because my roomie and I were taking our good friend, Jenn, with us to Walt Disney World this time around. And, believe it or not, it was cheaper to drive up to Columbus and fly out of there on Friday morning than it was to do it from Louisville. Worked out in the end. The three of us could now travel together. YAY!! But…this also meant a very early morning after a night spent on the road to get there. We didn’t get in too late, but we didn’t want to stay up too late either, as our ride would be coming in between 4:15 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. Friday morning. Our flight out was at 6:30 a.m. Early flight…nonstop…meant…in to Disney early. WOOT! Jenn’s dad came and got us, drove us to the Columbus Airport, and dropped us off. Cathy and I checked our bags…Jenn carried hers on…and we went through security. Our first stop…Starbucks. Caffeine was needed for sure at this hour. And I had a tall soy salted caramel mocha calling my name. With coffees in hand, we settled in at our gate and just started discussing the plans for that day.
And…it ran smoothly. We boarded the plane on time and were in the air without any sort of delay. This was a new thing for me. And, believe it or not, our flight team got us in to Orlando a full 20 minutes early. HELLO! This is my happy dance. Cathy went to get the rental car while Jenn and I waited for luggage. The bags came through really quickly, actually, so Jenn and I headed out the way we were directed for rental cars and ended up at the Enterprise kiosk outside. Cathy was inside. Figures. So, she had to come to us. The representative took us out to the midsize cars and pointed out the Prius, as we are accustomed to Toyota vehicles as both Jenn and I own Toyotas. We were sold. Hello amazing as mileage!! Car acquired, we were now setting out to make our required Publix stop, to pick up some fruit, snacks, and some water. Jenn and I also replenished our protein bar stores. I am glad we did this, because I ate my way through all of mine this trip. After that, we headed to the resort and got checked in at…where else?…Port Orleans Riverside.
Yes. Again. Why change up the resort when we love this one so much. I mean…it’s one of my favorite Disney Princess’ place…Tiana, of course! And I know the layout and the rooms (or so I thought, HA!). We got our room…which was…a maze to find. Opposite end of the elevator, all the way around by the pool…second floor. We just had to do some exploring to find it. But, heh, we managed. We settled into the room for a moment…Jenn cooling off by the air conditioner, while I got out my tiara (requirement at Disney…because they call me Princess if I wear it…and I LOVE being called Princess). I had to get my waiver in order to pick up my race packet at the expo. And we grabbed a snack prior to heading out for the day.
First up…the expo. And thankfully, the resorts on Disney property run shuttles to the event. The expo was held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex. Just like it normally is. Well, it was for the Dopey Challenge anyway. Love this venue. It’s really easy to navigate now…but at first it was slightly confusing.
The most amazing thing happened with this race though. In New York City, I met running legend Kathrine Switzer. When she ran the Boston Marathon, she was the now famous Bib 261. Well, my bib number at the Disney Wine & Dine was…261. Having this race bib number has been a dream of mine…Disney Magic made it happen! I love surprises like that. As I was one of the lower numbers, I had virtually no line to stand in. This is usually the case with Disney races for me. I was going to be in Corral A, which anyone with the numbers between 21-500 will be in. They gave me my commemorative pin, which I ordered ahead of time, and then sent me across the way to the actual expo, where I would pick up my t-shirt.
I avoided the vendors upon entering and made my way over to the area in the back for my t-shirts. Not too many people were in line for a women’s small either, so I stepped up and handed my bib over to the lady at the counter. She looked at it as she tore the t-shirt tab off and said, “WOW! You’re the lowest number I’ve seen…how fast can you run a half marathon?” I told her my fastest time and she asked if I was going to try to beat it here. I told her, in my mind, I’d love to, but I had just run a marathon on Sunday, so it wasn’t likely. The body was still recovering. I said I intended to have some fun and just enjoy it. And take pictures with characters this time around. Next time… She laughed and handed me my shirt. Time to shop!
I really intended not to purchase anything. Just look. But…heh…that didn’t work out as planned. I didn’t get a BondiBand here either, for the record. My mojo is off. My usual customs aren’t happening. ACK! But I didn’t see a booth, honestly. Cathy found me the race specific equivalent though in the Official Merchandise area…so we went with that. It would do. One thing I did do, however, was visit the Garmin booth and ended up getting a watch I could wear so I didn’t have to wear my Garmin running watch if I needed to know what time it was. After all, I was at Disney World and I was NOT going to live on my cell phone. Nope! This was vacation! With that purchase…I said I wasn’t allowed to spend any more money…so I avoided the Newton booth and tried to ignore all the cute running clothes. I made it out of there with only that purchase and a wine glass (Disney Wine & Dine…get it!) from Official Merchandise. I did well!
We wrapped things up and took the shuttle back to our resort to drop off our bags. Then…with no pausing, we were back out and this time hopping the regular shuttle bus to take us to Animal Kingdom, our park of choice for our first day there. We had things planned…like Jenn and I were going to ride Expedition Everest, the roller coaster there in Animal Kingdom. We did. And it was epic fun. It was nice to have a ride buddy this time around, as Cathy refuses to do any of those rides…because she somehow became less fun at amusement parks between when we first went to Disney in February 2013…to today. BUT…before any attractions or rides…we needed more coffee…and a snack. So…I hit up the allergy friendly Gardens Kiosk in the park for some hummus and vegetables and Cathy and Jenn grabbed some fries at a restaurant there. We noshed and then…went to grab the infamous COFFEE!! You see, Animal Kingdom has this one place that serves up this fantastic iced coffee in either a French Vanilla or Mocha flavor. I have always done, and will always do, the French Vanilla. But it tastes like a light milkshake. Seriously. It is the best thing ever. My favorite coffee at any Disney park. And…I might be addicted to it. With coffee now acquired and caffeine hitting the system…we had the roller coaster to do and the Kilimanjaro Safari. LOVE dong the safari at Animal Kingdom because the guides are fun, the animals are RIGHT THERE…and it’s just a nice way to relax and see some wild animals. LOVED it. While there, we also did the “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” show and rode on Dinosaur. By the time we wrapped things up, we were running just a tiny bit late to the shuttle to get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge…home of our traditional first meal at Disney World feast…Sanaa.
Sanaa is African food that sort of borrows from the flavors of India. Can you see why I love eating here so much? After talking with the chef, I ended up getting the Vegetarian Sampler, which is Basmati Rice and the choice of two of five of their vegetarian entrees. I went with the Chickpea Wat and the Seasonal Greens and Tomatoes. It was…beyond fantastic as always. For the record, Cathy ordered the Lamb Shank and Jenn got the Slow Cooked Dinner Sampler, which was Basmati Rice with a choice of two of the five plate offerings. She went with Butter Chicken and Goan Seafood Curry. We ended up splitting the dessert…as usual…we ordered the Seasonal Kulfi, which was pumpkin this time. And it was delicious. The couple next to us made conversation with us the entire time, and he ended up getting the trio of desserts, which included the kulfi that we were raving about. He took a bite and his wife said, “That was your sex face.” Hilarity ensued. Anyway, with dinner wrapped up, we had a full day and we knew the race was the following night, so we headed back to the resort to take our turn through the shower and get some much needed sleep.
And this…is where it all went down. I was first up to shower, so I went into the bathroom and got the water going. And as I was climbing into the bathtub…BAM…jammed my foot on the edge of the tub. Hard. And bad. I doubled over for about a minute before toughing it up and finishing the shower. After I was dressed, I hobbled out and pointed to my foot. “I think I broke a toe!” Cathy and Jenn looked up at me with big eyes and Cathy said, “SERIOUSLY!?” It was confirmed the next morning…when I woke up to find it swollen and a pretty shade of black-ish purple.
Being proactive, we decided to use the athletic tape that we brought with us (because my feet are delicate things and I apparently need to wrap the hell out of them these days) and Cathy taped my broken toe (the 4th one)…to the middle toe. And that was how I managed to get through a full day at Hollywood Studios. For real. Being that the race started at 10 p.m., today was going to be a bit strange for me…because…I had to eat backwards. I also was not going to be having gluten-free pizza prior to this race. Night races…they screw everything up. So, we were having a character breakfast at Cape May (Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald, FTW!). And this was going to be our biggest meal of the day. Honestly. The chef came out to talk to me and she ended up making me GLUTEN FREE MICKEY WAFFLES!! These are a requirement when I go to Disney World and Disneyland. I have to have them at least once. I paired that up with scrambled eggs for protein and a big heaping bowl of fruit. Because…it was there and really delicious! And that was breakfast. Off to Hollywood Studios. Cathy had somehow managed to get the times wrong for the fast passes we had for both the Aerosmith Rock ‘N Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. But, we begged and pleaded and after being treated like children, Jenn and I were allowed on our thrill rides that Cathy refuses to even try. We also did Star Tours (always fun!) and Muppet Vision 3-D. LOVE THE MUPPETS. We had some time, so we headed over to The Magic of Disney Animation and sat in on one of the drawing classes, where we were taught how to draw Donald Duck this time. This made me happy…I hadn’t done a Donald Duck before. My lunch was my protein bar and a clementine, which I ate on the go. And after we wrapped up everything…we went back to the hotel, because I had a race to get dressed for…and to get to…broken toe or not.
I actually took the tape off my toes for the race, fearing blisters. We also had weather moving in (even though I was told on numerous occasions that Orlando didn’t have rain for months!). So…yeah…there was that. I was dressing up as Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph this time around. Why? Because Vanellope is awesome. HA! A co-worker of mine even sewed the top for me and it looked fantastic. I was pretty excited about the costume. Not so happy with my toe. And definitely not happy about the impending rain. But, you just suck it up cupcake and get it done. Right? Right! So, I got dressed, and went ahead and ate my cereal (treating my dinner as how I would eat on a race morning…because I was eating backwards all day!). Cathy put all the little candy bits in my hair and I packed a set of dry clothes (but not shoes) for after the race…just in case. The best part about Wine & Dine is the after party in Epcot. You get to try foods and drinks from different countries. And included in the race bag is a $10 gift card to put towards those purchases and samples. So, dinner for Cathy and Jenn was going to be tasting around the world. For me…probably a protein bar because there isn’t too much there for a gluten-free vegetarian. But…I figured I would take in the experience.
So, I grabbed the banana we purchased at the grocery store when we got there on Friday and we headed out to the shuttle to take us to the start of the race, which would be near the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The staging area was mostly in the grass, and it started to sprinkle a bit. The first thing we did was head to information to figure out the best way for Cathy and Jenn to get from the start to the finish. They were told, especially since I was a Corral A runner, that they needed to leave and get a shuttle before I started the race. So…after dancing around and helping me put a garbage bag over my head to keep my body warm as the wind picked up and the weather started to roll in…they gave me hugs…I was told that the “power of Dean compels me” and not to “pants my poop.” TRADITION! And they were gone. So…I just sort of plopped myself down somewhere and tried to stay warm. I ate my banana. I watched people expend a lot of energy by jumping and dancing…and it was fun!! But soon…it was time to get in those corrals. And I made the short hike from the staging area to the corrals, moving all the way up to Corral A.
One thing I loved was seeing so many people in this corral in costume. Disney race or not, a lot of times the higher up corrals don’t get into the Disney spirit. I have always and will always costume for Disney races. They are Disney races. If you run Disney for time, you’re missing the point! I stayed in the black garbage bag until after the wheelchair racers were sent off. The elite runners and Corral A were then moved up to the start line. I shed it then…and that’s when it started to rain. Lightly at first. So, when they sent us off with the fireworks and all…it was like a spring shower. But soon after that first mile, where I met a fellow runner who had just done New York City in that horrible, awful, crazy wind…the rain started to pick up. And then…it was just…a downpour.
The first three miles of this race are done on the highway…and this race also embraces the most hills of any Disney race I have run yet at Disney World. But…after New York City…these didn’t seem too bad. Not really. After the 5K mark, we come into Animal Kingdom. Running through the parks is the best part because you get to have the park employees cheer you on. That and this is normally a key place to snap pictures with characters. The problem was…with the downpour…many of the characters weren’t out. BUMMER! But, you go on. We run around the Tree of Life just after Mile 4 and then duck outside of the park before hitting 5 Miles.
The rain was relentless and my shoes were full of water. The good thing was, my feet were so cold and numb that I couldn’t tell if my toe was hurting or not at this point. But, I knew it was hindering me. There just comes a point where you just can’t do anything about it…so you just stop worrying about it. The next few miles were back on the roads, part of the path we ran for the Disney World Marathon. I recognized it. I was about halfway through and running down the street parallel to those just getting started. On the opposite side of the highway…the later corrals were just getting underway. And we got a lot of cheers from them as we went on.
It’s around Mile 10 that we get filtered into Hollywood Studios. Great park to run through. It was decorated for Christmas and everything was lit up. This has great scenes to run past and the support there is nothing but phenomenal from the cast members. Honestly. Despite running in the shadow of the Tower of Terror and through the various lots that they feature, my absolute favorite part of Hollywood Studios involved disco balls and the Costuming Tunnel in the Backlot. Honestly…I loved looking through the windows, while disco balls are sending lights everywhere in this small tunnel, and seeing people pressing and prepping the costumes for the following day. It was spectacular. I wanted to stop and linger…because…well…it was dry in there…and…IT WAS FLIPPIN’ COOL! But, I was nearing the end of the race and the after party and two very soggy spectators awaited my arrival at that finish line.
Out of Hollywood Studios and onto the slick and slippery boardwalk, which runs past the Disney Yacht Club and Disney Beach Club Resorts. Even with the hard rain and cool air, people staying there still came out to cheer. I love the vibe I get at every Disney race. But the electricity through these last two miles was fantastic. Honestly.
From the Boardwalk we took a turn through Epcot, past the giant ball, and out into the parking lot. I know this finish area well, trust me. Around the corner and BAM…there was the finish line. I pressed hard to that finish line, ignoring my foot and toe, just wanting to get over that mat. And I cleared it, soaking wet and dripping with rain and pure determination and stubbornness. Broken toe…check. Half marathon…check. BEAST MODE, BABY!
As I recieved my medal and my mylar blanket, I saw Cathy and Jenn waving to me from the bleachers. They were as wet as I was. They started down while I got the finisher’s photo, some water, and, of course, the goodie box that RunDisney hands you at the end of every race, filled with goodies like Skittles, Clif Bars, Craisins, Fruit Snacks, and Tortilla Chips with a Cheese spread. I wasn’t ready for food. What I was ready for was getting out of the chute and meeting up with my friends. I sipped on some water and went to where I was directed to exit.
There they were. Cathy came up to me and gave me a hug. Jenn came over to do the same and said, “You can tell I love you…” LOL!! I really do have amazing friends. And I give a lot of props and love to the spectators and volunteers who stood or sat out in that downpour for as long as they did.
But now…it was time to check out the after party, which meant an uncrowded spin around the World Showcase with some tasting portions of food at the different country booths and kiosks. But first…I was freezing…and I wanted hot tea. We got that immediately and set out to see what each country had to offer. If something sounded good…devour. If not…move on. I probably should have changed clothes, but at that point, it was still raining, so I didn’t see the point.
Cathy tried foods from 7 countries: Mexico, Singapore, China, Brazil, Belgium, France, Canada. Jenn tried food from China, Brazil, and France. Me…I had tea. And after stopping at France, I decided I REALLY needed to be in dry clothes. I was shaking more than walking. And since it was just an intermittent drizzle, I figured it was the best time to get out of my cold, wet costume and into my long pants and running jacket.
Me, in dry clothes, after walking the World Showcase and enjoying the after party at Epcot after the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
BEST FEELING EVER!
I was dry and now…warm. I also ate one of my protein bars to help with recovery. And we finished up the World Showcase that night and called it a morning. Because by the time we got on the shuttle and returned to the hotel, it was 2:35 a.m. And we all still had to shower. I went first, making it quick. Then Jenn. Then Cathy. We didn’t have any reason to be up early the following morning, so we slept in until 9:30-ish. It was Magic Kingdom day that day…which meant Dole Whip for dessert that night. We ended up having Dole Whip for breakfast the following morning before hitting up Epcot on our last day there.
I even randomly was found by my friend Michele, who also did the half marathon. She found me in Morocco of all places. HA! And we ended up talking about a lot of things for awhile, before she and her group moved on to try more foods from the showcase, and we went to continue on around the other way, killing time before dinner that night.
So, my official results for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon are that I finished with an official time of 1:50:09. ON A BROKEN TOE! IN THE POURING RAIN! I was 418/11,941 overall. I was the 97/7928 woman to cross the finish line. And I was 15/1442 in my division to finish. Disney Magic. Had to be. Not my best half marathon by a long shot, but given the circumstances…just…amazing to me.
Now, really, I need to show some mercy on my poor foot and toe. Time to heal.
Once again, Disney…you were expensive…but totally worth every bit of money I poured into you for those 4 days I was there. Despite not having the characters out on the course for much of the race, I have every desire to come back and do this one again. This time…without the downpour and preferably without the broken toe.
Disney…as always…you are my happy place. Thanks for another great race (and another great reason to dress up in costume to run!).