Dopey challenge – the aftermath

We all felt amazing after finishing – everyone was so happy and proud of what they had done.  Beth had an amazing day – she wasn’t even sure she was going to start the marathon and, in the end, she finished it and finished it strong!  And – we were smart enough to have a couple of extra days to spend at WDW after the races to enjoy.

Sunday after the marathon – we had late lunch plans at Raglan Road (2pm ressies).  Gil, Jared, and Jason joined us and we had a wonderful time.

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Then we wandered around Downtown Disney – they were having an “after-party” which consisted for us of pictures with the race banners, a free cupcake, and a few discounts.


I also started my post-marathon eating frenzy with a Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream cone – delicious.  It wasn’t quite as big as it looks in this picture

We finished up the night by going to Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Towers to have a drink and watch Wishes.

Monday started with a nice breakfast in our villa of cheesy eggs and bacon and then a day at Epcot – fastpass to Soarin’, Living with the Land (one of my favorite rides), a Mickey pretzel, pictures with characters and then some drinking around the world.

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It started pouring – so we had to huddle in the German pavilion with some caramel corn and wine – tough life!  I had to head back for a video interview, so we ran through the rain back to our car.  It had rained so hard, that we had to wade through ankle deep water at Mexico!

Dinner that night was at Jiko – one of our favorite restaurants.  It was amazing as always.

Tuesday was our last day there.  We headed to the Magic Kingdom so I could finally get the food item I had been planning on for months:  nutella and fruit waffles from Sleepy Hollow refreshments!  Yum – it lived up to my expectations.

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We did a bunch of rides in the Magic Kingdom and met up with other DVC friends (Nick, Barbie, Kandi and John).  Then it was time to head home…but I had one last treat before we headed out:

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A wonderful trip to the World again – just adding to the many happy memories we have.

Dopey challenge – part 4

Marathon day. The weather was really pretty good – upper 50s to start, overcast for the most part, a bit humid. We got to the staging area with plenty of time, Beth met up with Amanda as they were going to run together, and then we headed to the corrals.

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Derek and I started in our assigned corrals (A and C, respectively), so I had a little bit of a wait alone.  But there’s always someone friendly to talk to in a Disney corral – so I spent some time chatting with a couple standing near me.

I was a little worried how today would feel.  At the start of the half marathon the day before, my legs felt really sluggish and heavy.  I recall it feeling hard to keep up a decent pace.  But today – my legs felt great and I felt like I had tons of energy….and, I started out at a pace that I would regret later! It was really hard to know what pace was the right one, not knowing how much the accumulated miles would affect your legs.

I was just excited to start the day and the final leg.  What’s amazing about this challenge is that you aren’t even halfway finished in terms of miles until you are about 2 miles into the marathon!  That’s intimidating.  The beginning of the full course is an exact duplicate of the half course – so a little boring, but I was having fun.  And then I got to the Magic Kingdom – Main Street! The Castle! Space Mountain! And I ran a little faster…

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After you leave the Magic Kingdom, you head past a couple of resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian) and then into the Richard Petty speedway.  I don’t find this addition all that interesting and it brings with it a really steep, short downhill and uphill to get into the track (on cement) – hard on the legs.  But the sun was just rising at this point and it was beautiful – there were distinct rays of sunshine spreading through the sky.  After the race – both Derek and I mentioned that moment.

Then you leave the speedway by crossing over a grassy median and taking a backroad to Animal Kingdom. On the way there, you pass the sewage treatment plant – always a highlight!  I saw the information signs that they had, but honestly didn’t smell anything that bad. Animal Kingdom is a short visit – I’m told that there were animal keepers out with animals – but I don’t recall seeing any – I think I had started to enter my zone of pain.  I knew I was starting to slow down, but I was still running at a pace that was ahead of the minimum average pace I needed to run to qualify – so I was still ok.

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(yup – I was in Animal Kingdom even though I have almost no memory of it…and a brief cameo by Japanese Minnie’s girl friend in the background!)

Next is the Wide World of Sports and you run a ridiculous number of miles in this complex. Really, how many miles can you fit in there? You do get to run on their track (nice soft surface) and also on the infield of the baseball stadium – where they often announce your name as you go by (I got a shout out!).

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But there are a lot of sharp turns in this part – which my legs were not appreciating.  You can really start to see that I was hurting at this point.  I kept doing math in my head – at this point I think I was thinking -even if you run 9 min/miles from here on out, you’ll still qualify.  Eventually that became, even if you run 10 min/miles…but then at one point I freaked out and worried that I had calculated the time between gun-time and my start time wrong and that all my estimate were off…

You hit mile 20 after the Wide World of Sports – just a 10k from there, right? In the last 10k, you visit Hollywood Studios

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(Looking fatigued but determined…and last views of the Sorcerer’s Hat!)

and then run the Boardwalk area over to Epcot, where you run around World Showcase. Noel was cheering us on right at the exit of Hollywood Studios (he had also been at the Transportation and Ticket Center) and then Gil and Jason were on the Boardwalk – with this guy:

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It was so great to see Gil and Jason, even though I was really hurting.

You head towards the International Gateway entrance to Epcot but take a slight backstage detour to really enter near England.  There are a few “hills” that seem like nothing normally, but feel like mountains at this point in the race.  And then you run around World Showcase for the third time this weekend.  I’ll tell you – that felt like the longest trip ever around World Showcase.

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(Doesn’t quite look like the same happy runner from Main Street…)

After you leave Epcot, there’s a gospel choir and then the finish line – I felt so relieved to be able to stop running!

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Because Derek started in A, and he wasn’t trained, he figured I would pass him at some point. He did so well – that I didn’t pass him until mile 22! Crazy. He ran / walked his way to a sub-4 hr marathon on very little training. I met my goal of BQing for 2016, slower than I wanted, but sufficient! We celebrated with a little champagne and beer as we waited for Beth and Amanda.  I had runner tracking set up for them and could see that they were doing great.

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It was an amazing day.  I do wish I could have run it a bit better, but I’m really proud that I finished the entire Dopey distance and qualified for Boston.

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The volunteers encouraged me to strap on some ice bags – so it looks bad, but my body ended up feeling fine for the most part

2 runs through the castle, 3 trips around World Showcase, 4 races, 6 medals and shirts, 48.6 miles – and we’re Dopey!

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Dopey challenge – part 3

Half marathon day – and we have costumes! We went as Anna (Beth), Elsa (me), Olaf (Derek), and Kristoff (Noel) from the movie Frozen.  The temps were still in the 40s – so still a touch chilly, especially for the waiting part before the race starts.  Derek felt a need to try to imitate my stuffed Olaf with a gaping mouth in several pictures…

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For the half and the full, Disney has a lot more corrals (A-P) – partly because there are more people in these races.  In the last year or so, they’ve changed the structure of the corrals – they used to be all pretty even in size, but now they vary in size – they’ve made the front corrals pretty small which has been great. It used to be that corral A would hold runners ranging from 5 min/mile to 9 min/mile and people were not always great about standing where they “should” in the corral based on their expected pace – so it could take awhile to thin out and weave around. But now – the front corrals are much smaller which spreads people out better by pace.  The downside for me is that I was in C – my first non-A Disney corral (insert sad face here).  But the great thing is that the corrals take off – you can pretty much run your pace from the start line – awesome.  So I really like the new corral system.

Derek still decided to run with me (he was assigned to A) – so Olaf and Elsa ran the half together. Olaf got a lot of love during the race with tons of spectators calling his name (one even chanted his name over and over). Elsa was not recognized nearly as often (hmmm… could be the Asian thing? or probably that my costume was a bit unremarkable). This of course explained to me why Elsa froze everything – she was pissed that Olaf got all the love!

We ran the half at an easy, comfortable pace and had a really nice time.  It’s always nice running through the castle.

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This was my first time running this half marathon course and I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite.  I think they feel the need to have runners go through the Magic Kingdom (which is awesome with Main Street and the castle) – but as a result, there’s a lot of boring running on roads between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.  And the end has some odd hairpin turns – once outside of Epcot on the roads, then one at the entrance to World Showcase.

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Beth and Noel ran together too – so we hung out in the family meet & greet area to wait for them to finish.  It was still a little cold – so I pulled on my pajama pants (I had not packed a lot of pants) and a jacket.  I managed to meet up with Rima – my little sister from my sorority days in college!


This day was really a lot of lounging around – we needed to stay off of our feet in preparation for the big day.


Dopey challenge – part 2

Morning 2 – 10k!

The tough thing about Disney races is the early wake-up call. Start times are always early (5:30am for the 10k, half, and full and 6:15am for the 5k) – and with the crowds, transport to the staging area, corralling, etc. – you’re typically setting that alarm for 2:30 – 3 am. Four mornings in a row! I’m a relatively good early morning person, so for me it just meant trying to get to sleep earlier. For Derek it meant black circles under his eyes in most pictures 🙂 .

For the 10k, the weather warmed somewhat, 40s. We had intended to wear costumes (Mulan and Mushu) but never got our act together – so we ended up wearing outfits “inspired” by Mulan and Mushu.  The staging area looked completely different than the day before – people were actually distributed all throughout (not huddled in tight masses).

We met up with another friend Amanda and the four of us (Beth, Derek, Amanda, and me) would run the 10k together.

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The 10k was another trip around Epcot (yes, we get to run through this park 3 times during the weekend). We were getting quite the tour of the corrals, as we started in B this time!

We took it at a nice easy pace and had such a fun time.

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We even crossed the finish line together with our arms raised (note – this was the only point we ran four across!  Didn’t want to get in trouble for bad runner etiquette!).

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It still felt pretty chilly after the race, especially with slightly wet clothing – so again, we didn’t dawdle in the meet & greet area, but headed right back to get showered and changed.

The rest of the day involved the Magic Kingdom – Space Mountain and lunch at Be Our Guest were highlights.  Then we just kicked back at the resort, had arts & crafts day working on our costumes for the half, and Noel made a great dinner for us.


Dopey challenge – part 1

22 years ago, Disney introduced a marathon. When we did the 5th anniversary WDW marathon, they had a half and a full marathon.  They were held on the same day – the half marathoners simply ran the first half and then peeled off and finished.  At some point – the races got so popular, that they spread them over two days – the half marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday.  With this – of course crazy people started doing both and unofficially calling it the Goofy.  Disney picked up on this and the Goofy Challenge was born.  2015 is the 10 year anniversary of the official Goofy challenge.

Now marathon weekend is a huge event with four races (and kids races) – a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. The races are held on consecutive days which means that people can do more than one – in fact, they can do all of them. Never shy to pick up on a revenue opportunity – Disney introduced the Dopey Challenge: a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon on four consecutive days.

A couple of years ago, a bunch of our friends (Disney running friends) were talking and everyone started talking about doing the Goofy challenge for the 10th anniversary.  Now, I’ve never really had a desire to do Goofy, but I’m also one to join in a crowd.  Then when Dopey was announced – it seemed like a whole group of us were going to do Dopey together and get the 10th anniversary Goofy medal.

In the end, only three of us signed up – Derek, our friend Beth and me.  The fall ramp up was challenging for all three of us.  I started out injured and then had to nurse it through training.  Beth had a tough illness and really never was able to train fully.  Derek had a great early fall season, but then got injured and couldn’t train.

Because I’d really like to focus fall 2015 on building speed especially for a half marathon, yet I still wanted to qualify for Boston 2016, I had an extra challenge to tackle.  I only have the WDW marathon and Boston itself this year to try and qualify for Boston 2016.  Neither race is well set up for me to go after a marathon PR – I’d be entering the WDW marathon with tired legs because of Dopey and I’d have a shortened training cycle (even assuming no injury) for Boston, and Boston is a tougher course than my PR course.  Luckily for me, I’ve aged up into the 45-49 age group and my needed qualifying time is 3:55, so I could run a good bit below my PR and still qualify comfortably.  As a result, I decided to go after a BQ in the WDW marathon.

The morning of the 5k was cold: 27 degrees after windchill. Everyone was standing in large clumps in the staging area, huddling for warmth. Because of the size of the races, they assign corrals based on expected finish times – for the 5k and 10k, they had 6 corrals (A-F). We’re fortunate enough to be assigned corral A, but we had decided to run the 5k with our friend Gil in corral F. This was a good learning experience. For one thing – runners were finished before we even started! And standing around those extra minutes on a freezing day really tested our friendship 🙂  Second, there are a lot of walkers in the last corral, which made any semblance of running difficult. But we had a great time hanging out in the cold and running around Epcot with Gil, his bff Jason, and Beth.

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Mid-way through the run


At the finish.

We didn’t hang out long after – it was too cold!  We dashed back to the hotel to warm up.


Our mascots for the weekend.

We were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani) on DVC points.  The rest of the day was filled with grocery shopping, a little bit of Hollywood Studios (Toy Story Midway Mania where I beat Derek for the first time maybe ever), dinner at Sanaa (always a favorite), and getting Noel (Beth’s husband) from the airport.

Epcot Food & Wine 2013: French Regional Lunch

My dear friend Beth told us that one of the best special events held at the Epcot Food & Wine festival is the French Regional Lunch.  These are extended lunches with wine pairings hosted at the France pavilion (in Monsieur Paul’s) twice a week or so – each day being a different region of France with a different winery doing the pairing.  Since Beth and I have many shared tastes – her recommendation put this event at the top of our list. Continue reading

Epcot Food & Wine 2013

For the third year in a row, Derek and I headed to WDW and Epcot for the Food & Wine Festival.  This is absolutely one of our favorite times of the year to go to WDW and one of our favorite events.  This year, we were living in different locations as Derek had already moved out to Albuquerque, so we arrived at different times on Saturday.  Lucky me, I arrived early enough that day to partake in “Taste, Shake, and Indulge like the French” – a Grand Marnier tasting at the France pavilion.  I had convinced Beth, Noel, Carlos, and Eileen to join me for this (yeah, ok, it wasn’t hard to convince them) – although I would have gone alone. Continue reading

Crazy holiday weekend at WDW

Sometime in the fall – a crazy plan was hatched through facebook.  A bunch of our friends from our ABD trip to Peru all started talking about WDW over the holidays.  Two groups of them already had overlapping trips planned, and somehow the talk of the Jingle Jungle Cruise created a domino effect, such that a big group of us were all going to come out the same weekend!  Crazy. Continue reading

Dumbo Double Dare – Friday


Friday dawned and after an easy run – the four of us headed to the expo.  We figured we’d get there at the opening (as Derek and I needed our park tickets) – no big deal.  Whoa – we were there well in advance of the 10am opening and the line was enormous.  So enormous, that the first place we went to stand in line was actually the middle of the line and we got shooed to the end.  After standing around for 15 or so minutes, we discovered that we were in the expo line and that there was a separate packet pickup line.  My preference was to be in the packet pickup line – as there wasn’t anything I wanted at the expo that I thought would sell out – but, we were already in line, Beth was hoping to check out the Dooneys (which can sell out), so we stayed.  That was big mistake.

Once the expo opened – the line moved quickly and we actually got into the runDisney store right away.  But then it was a madhouse – like total feeding frenzy.  We all tried to stay really calm and stay as much out of the fray as possible.  When I asked one woman where the Dumbo merchandise was – she said (in a highly panicked voice) “they’re all out, it’s all gone.”  Which I felt was patently ridiculous – we were the first ones in the store, the store had only been open like maybe 5 minutes – it was completely unfathomable that Disney would have only provided enough to last 5 minutes.  And, I was rewarded – they were bringing out new racks of the merchandise and I was able to get the shirt I wanted (and try on two different sizes).  We all picked out the items we wanted and then went to go stand in line.


This is where things turned from bad to worse.  The line was so long that Beth and I decided to go pick up our fairy wings and skirts at another booth while the guys waited in line to pay.  We did that, and returned, and waited some more.  Then we came up with the idea that two of us should go and get our packets and then come back and the other two would go.  So Beth and Noel went to get their packets.  Unfortunately, once they left the expo area, they found out that they wouldn’t be let back in (without standing in some crazy line again).  Derek and I waited, and waited, and waited – finally getting up to pay.  Beth and Noel had a long line for packet pickup – which luckily moved a bit faster once Derek and I got there.  By the end of this whole fiasco, I was beat and barely holding it together.  All in all – it took us 4 hours to get out of there.  Unbelievable!  It was like runDisney had never organized a race before.

Thankfully – we had a lovely, relaxing lunch at La Brea Bakery which restocked our energy and good mood.

After lunch – we headed right to our tour – we had booked the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour.

But first – a little interlude and dance by everyone’s favorite chipmunks:



Our tour guide was awesome and the tour was very interesting – we heard about Walt’s influence on attractions and the design of Disneyland.  We were also able to ride Peter Pan (without waiting!), ducked into the Tiki Room, check out club 33 (ok, we only got to be downstairs and see the elevator), and…




…the highlight of the tour – we got to see Walt’s family apartment over the firehouse!  It is a small place – just mainly one room and a bathroom – but what an amazing place that would be to sit and relax while watching people milling through Town Square?


Dumbo Double Dare – Thursday

So – back in January (or maybe even earlier), runDisney announced a new race for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend – they were adding a 10k on Saturday (themed to Alice in Wonderland) and a special challenge called the Dumbo Double Dare which would include both the 10k and the half marathon on Sunday.  I can’t say I’ve been a lifelong Dumbo fan – but for some reason, this combination of races and the name really called to me.  We signed up and our friends Beth and Noel signed up and another fantastic weekend was planned!

We all arrived Thursday – Beth and Noel had a better flight plan and arrived mid-day.  We had a very long layover, so we didn’t arrive until Thursday around 6pm.  But with the super-efficiency of flying into John Wayne Airport – we were at the resort by like 6:25 and at Downtown Disney around 6:45pm.  We were bushed, but we couldn’t just arrive and go to sleep!  We all agreed to have a drink at the UVA bar.

The expo didn’t open until Friday morning and we were eager to get there – Derek and I had our park tickets waiting for us there, Beth was interested in seeing what Dooney bags they might have, and we just generally wanted our race stuff.  So, while we were sitting and having a drink – Beth all of a sudden says – “Is the expo already open?  How did that guy get his stuff already?”  It turns out – “that guy” was Sean Astin – which Noel refused to believe.  But it was indeed Sean Astin and Derek and I got a fun photo with him.


We had also been talking about Joey Fatone – because the ‘N Sync revival at the VMA Awards was playing on the TV loop in the cab that Derek and I took.  And lo and behold – Joey Fatone arrives to hang out with Sean!  Now – I am not normally a big celebrity stalker – but I certainly acted like one this night!


It was a great start to a great weekend.