Yes You Can (plan a last minute Disney trip!)

If you know anything about me, you know that I am a planner. Some might say that I’m a bit obsessive or extreme but I don’t look at it that way. I know what I like, I know what works for my family, and when there’s a game plan the chances of things going wrong is dramatically reduced.

However that’s NOT how I operate in Disney World! And surprisingly, it works for my family. Want to learn more? Read on!

Walt Disney World is a place where planners and non-planners alike strive to grab the best, the latest, and the greatest. Luckily everything is the greatest when it comes to Disney!

It was our youngest son’s birthday trip and we planned it in a month’s time, which is practically no time when it comes to Disney planning. I mean, Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) open 180 days prior to a Disney trip!

But say you stumble across a last minute trip option, like my family did. Is there still hope? Yes, but you’ve got to be flexible!

The ‘Ohana breakfast in the Polynesian Resort is a favorite of ours. Originally I found a reservation on a Thursday and 11:10am, which I booked. The timing wasn’t perfect but we were willing to make it happen. While checking back, I found an open spot on Tuesday at 9:20! Score! I quickly booked that and canceled the reservation for later in the week, opening it to someone else.

Moral of the story: Check back often! If at first you don’t succeed (or you do but would another time would work better), try, try again!

Speaking of food (because when are we not?) we also got a reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse in EPCOT. It was the first time ever we were able to nab a reservation… at 3:40pm. We had what we in the Daniel family like to refer to as LINNER, which is lunch and dinner combined. And blew our whole month’s food budget in the process. #soworthit

O Canada!

Who loves steak? This guy, that’s who. (And oh, the rest of us do too!)

We didn’t get to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom. Or Frozen Ever After. There was no Pandora preview for this family. And guess what – we were all a-okay with that. (Although my eldest son was a little disappointed we didn’t get on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.)

With FastPasses long gone before our trip was even a twinkle in our eye, it was a forgone conclusion that we wouldn’t be waiting 110 minutes in the standby line. Instead, we visited with rides that were tried and true and my kids got to ride “new to them” rides like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Lucas) and Test Track (surprisingly, Lucas and Gabe!).

We had a few FassPasses ahead of time but mostly, we added FassPasses we were interested in throughout the day. Thank goodness for the My Disney Experience app and WiFi in the park! We made choices that were good for our family as a whole, maximizing the fun time we got to spend together.

The Jungle Cruise

It’s a Small World – Gabe and Grandma

People Mover – Grandpa and Lucas

Toy Story Mania – Grandparents working on their photobombing skills!

Test Track!

Finally and most importantly, when you focus on spending time with your family and being in tune with everyone’s needs, every day is a good day in Disney. Disney is absolutely incredible and has so many things to do, it’s easy to hit the sensory overload point. Crankiness at the Happiest Place on Earth isn’t very much fun so we did our absolute best to keep those cranky moments to a minimum.

We embraced water breaks, ice cream breaks, sitting in the shade breaks, watching the fountains dance breaks, etc. And let’s not forget, in EPCOT my husband and I embraced the drinking around the World Showcase philosophy.

So planners, if you find yourself in a last minute Disney trip situation, don’t stress! There is plenty of fun to be had, food to be eaten, and drinks to be… drank! 😉

Have you ever planned a last minute Disney trip? Have any tips to share? Any “must dos” or “never ever agains”?

Blogaversary Giveaway – We’re 3!

We love this time of year because we get to celebrate when it all started. And by all, I mean the silliness and fun and food and all the running. It started with the ladies below: Mer, Vic, Brooke, Cam, Jess, and Bec.

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We’ve been here for three years now, and some things have changed. For instance, we’ve run a lot of races and earned a lot of medals.

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We ran a lot of those races in costume. We really, REALLY like costumes. We might need an intervention.

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Most importantly, we’ve made some amazing friends and have been lucky enough to be a part of the best community in the world, the running community. You inspire us in so many ways, every day. You set your goal, you get out there, and you get it done. You push htrough pain, obstacles, and downward spirals in motivation, and yet you achieve and succeed. We are so proud of you because you. Are. Epic. Thank you for sharing your journeys with us.

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Because you’re so awesome, you deserve a present! We’ve put together a special prize package this year, including a medal rack handmade by yours truly, and some other fabulous stuff from brands we love to support.

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This year’s giveaway includes a custom made medal rack with bib holder and chalkboard, a pair of size S/M PROCompression Socks, a KatieK Active headband and $25 gift certificate, a pair of YakTrax PRO size Medium, a SkirtSports Workout tank size large, a  collectible Disney Vinylmation Mickey Figurine, and a Blistex lip care pack.

To enter, click the Rafflecopter Link below. Good luck!!

Blogaversaryrafflecopter

Click here to enter!

The giveaway runs from 2/29/16 – 3/7/16 and is open to United States residents who live in the contiguous 48 states only. Winner will be notified by email on 3/7/16 and has 24 hours to claim their prize. If not claimed in 24 hours, another winner will be chosen. 

2015 Walt Disney World half marathon recap

Fun fact: I’ve never run a Disney race twice.

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I kicked it off in 2012, tackling Princess as my first half marathon and doing the 5k for funsies the day prior (and friends thought I was nuts). From there it’s been a whirlwind of the Castaway 5k, Tink, Wine and Dine, Disneyland 10k and half (again, with the nuts comments – they obviously don’t know many who have done Goofy/Dopey), and most recently the Walt Disney World half this past weekend.

Anyone who has run a Florida runDisney race knows about the dreaded early wake up time.

Anyone who has not run a Florida runDisney race but wants to… you may want to set your alarms now for 2:45am and practice that along with training. Because yes, that’s what time you get up for these races.

The struggle is real.

Extra, extra, read all about it. It's COLD outside.

Extra, extra, read all about it. It’s COLD outside.

Brooke and I decided that we would be Newsies. We also decided that we would wear cute little tanks and running skirts. And then Mother Nature decided that she was going to throw a curveball at all of northern Florida and make it fairly chilly. Warmth took precedence over cuteness.

Sleep nearly took precedence over the race, if I’m being quite honest. Have I mentioned how early it was?

We stayed at the All Star Movie Resort, which made our travel to the start very simple; buses are scheduled non-stop starting at 3am. We didn’t check bags so we gathered our SPIbelts, food (wheat flats, almond butter, and bananas), and braced ourselves for the cold weather.

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Donning our pajama pants and Brooke’s husband’s sweatshirts we found ourselves at the start village. Our dear friend, Ashley, was doing her first half marathon and our plan was to find her before the race. Attempts to track down Kristen and Suzanne were made, as I knew they were starting in our corral but to no avail.

The walk from the start village to the corrals is about a mile or so and while I found it daunting during the Princess half (remember, that was my first half ever), this wasn’t bad at all. The flow of traffic was smooth and we were able to get to the corrals with no issues. Our walk consisted of us geeking out over Universal’s Harry Potter world and books in general.

These are my people!

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Ash, Brooke, and me

Soon we had to split off and go to our separate corrals, so we gave hugs and high fives to Ash and her friends before heading to corral J.

Thanks to social media, Brooke and I knew which skirts Kristen and Suzanne were wearing so we spent a good long while walking around the corral, peering at people’s legs. Yes, indeed. Sadly, we didn’t find them (but hey, it was a way to pass the time).

The earlier corrals began to cross the start line and we both shimmied out of our pajama pants, tossing them into the collection boxes. We listened to the announcers banter and watched the fireworks at the start of each corral.

Before long, it was our turn!

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Our plan for this race was to HAVE FUN and I would say we succeeded! We thanked volunteers left and right. We ran when we felt like it. We walked when we felt like it (or when the course narrowed and there wasn’t much of an option). We cheered for other runners.

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We pulled to the side and took selfies.

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This course is the exact same as Princess so we knew what to expect. But honestly, my feelings toward this race couldn’t have been more different. My first half, it was all about getting through it. This? This was just about having fun and spending time with my friend. I didn’t hurt. I didn’t push any limits. I just had fun with Brooke.

The park is always crowded, as you can see in this video. There are people cheering and there’s not much room to navigate if you want to go faster than the people in front of you. What’s a courteous runner to do? Just roll with it. Soak it up, enjoy the moment, and smile.

It was "snowing" as we ran into the castle.

It was “snowing” as we ran into the castle.

If you’re a middle to the back of the pack runner, realize that you probably won’t get that awesome running shot of you coming out of the castle. I know for me, it was slightly disappointing when I first ran a Disney race. However, there are photographers stationed right in front of the castle if you want to stop and grab pictures with the castle in the background.

Brooke was hoping that this train would bring us to Diagon Alley. It does not. Sadly.

Brooke was hoping that this train would bring us to Diagon Alley. It does not. Sadly.

Miles 7-11 are what I like to call “the boring miles.” You exit Magic Kingdom and it’s lackluster. I feel like Disney could do something MORE in these miles to make it less tedious. I said that 2 years ago during Princess and I’m saying it again.

That’s not to say that the boring miles only pertain to runDisney, it’s really true of any half marathon. They are just sort of ho-hum, are we done yet? miles. For the record, the answer is no. You’re not even close to being done.

Which is why when you run into Kristen and Suzanne, whom you’ve been looking for the entire time, you basically lose your ever-loving mind and make loud squealing noises!

They spotted my hair and hat and we spotted their SKIRTS. How cute are they?

They spotted my hair and hat and we spotted their SKIRTS. How cute are they?

We hung out with them for about a half mile (I’m guessing – my watch was set on kilometers so I wasn’t exactly knowledgeable of anything in the distance department) before I pulled to the side because I had something in my shoe. It was so wonderful to see them and it definitely made those “boring miles” way more exciting!

Since the race is mostly on access roads, it’s hard for spectators to get out to the more remote areas. That’s why I totally have to give kudos to this guy! This was mile 10, just before going up the access ramp.

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Brooke and I kept chugging along although we were straight up speed walking at this point with the hopes of finishing up faster. Right outside of Epcot there were people cheering and it was wonderful to hear my name being called. Only LATER did I realize it was Bonnie! OH MY GOODNESS, I love that girl!

EPCOT

When you hit Epcot, you hear the same thing over and over. “The finish is just around the corner.” But we knew the course and we knew that it was NOT. You have to wind your way through Epcot a little before that corner finally comes. However, this is how you know the corner is really the actual corner and not a fictional one.

That’s right! There’s a gospel choir! You can hear Brooke WOOing them, like a good Woo Girl should.

Then, and only then, can you expect to see the finish line around the corner.

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This is the moment that you’ve been waiting for for 13.1 miles. You take it in. The crowds cheering. The people in front of you holding hands. The far off sound of medals clanking.

The sound of Brooke as she exclaims, “WAIT! Is that Minnie Mouse?”

Well worth it!

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

The finish was wonderful. Filled with great medals and snacks because runger is a real thing. Oh, and banana phones.

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W stayed at the finish area, snacking and stretching, so we could meet up with Ashley after she finished her very first half marathon. Mark my words, next time we are running TOGETHER.

Different races have meant different things in my life. Some are for PRs, others are for fun with friends. This one, and this weekend in general, was therapeutic. It was good for the soul and exactly what I needed.

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Do different races hold different meanings in your life? When is your next race? Anyone entering the Broad Street 10 Miler Lottery? The next 5k I’m registered for is the Adrenaline Run 5k. After that it’s the Atlantic City April Fools Half. Will I see you at either of those?

Goofy Giveback: I’ll take one of those, please!

Earlier this month, runDisney announced that they were going to take a certain amount of Goofy Race and a Half Challenge registrations (that’s a half and a full marathon for those who don’t speak the runDisney lingo) and split them, giving runners the option to sign up for the previously sold out half marathon and full marathon.

Since participating in the Dumbo Double Dare I’ve been sort of bummed that I didn’t have another Disney race on my dance card. The Goofy Race and a Half Challenge still had room; however, I already decided that I’m not quite ready for a full marathon… let alone a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.

BUT THEN, the Goofy Giveback came along and the wheels in my head started turning! I’m sure this surprises exactly no one.

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What’s a girl to do? I wanted to sign up. But should I? How would we swing it? Could we make it happen?

From what I hear, winter is going to be capital W-I-N-T-E-R this year in my area. It was pretty rough last year and I slowly but surely lost my mind. I know that I’ll need something to keep the blues away in January. Plus there’s running in costume! And race selfies! And my favorite characters!

Well, needless to say, Christmas came a little bit early for me this year and I’m now registered for the half marathon. Isn’t that the MOST? To say the least!

What’s more is that I’ll be running with Brooke, which is always beyond words in terms of fun. She is the best cheerleader and since she’s coming off of her injury and I’m fairly consistent with my training at this point, we might even be able to pull a PR for me.

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To say that I’m super excited for January would be an understatement! I’m actually looking forward to winter, which is a rarity for me.

Have you taken advantage of the Goofy Giveback? The half has sold out (as of earlier today). The full is at 91% so if you’re interested, act now. Or, if you want to do the Goofy race and a half challenge, don’t delay because it’s 98% full!

Or, were you a planner and signed up when registration opened? In other words, who should I look for in January?

Princess Half Marathon weekend: Picture Pages

While the scoot chicks love to chat, we also love to share our favorite pics with our friends.

So instead of a traditional race recap, I will instead share my favorite photos from last weekend. If you wish to read my Princess Half Marathon weekend recap on my work blog, CLICK HERE.

20140227-125750.jpgWe arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge on Thursday and each “Princess” was presented with a rose. Well played, Disney. I loved this special treatment!

cgrillWe celebrated our first night with a dinner at the California Grill atop the Contemporary. Here we watched fireworks over the Magic Kingdom and enjoyed an incredible meal! We were also a obsessed with the wine coolers.

rapunzelsLOTS of Rapunzels! From left, me, Brooke, Sara and Heather. And yes, we did plan to all dress as the same character for the Enchanted 10K. Heather made the two matching tops, and they were so comfortable to run in! Thank you Heather! All four of us participated in the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge, which is a 10K on Saturday and a half-marathon one day later.

20140227-130814.jpgPost-10K with friends Tara and Kelly.

20140227-125811.jpgOn Saturday, I worked at the expo with the Sparkle Athletic ladies. Here I am with  Kelly as we take a 3-second break from all the sales at their popular booth!

mermaidsHeather made our fantastic costumes. We’re Ariel’s sisters Aquata and Attina!

20140227-125835.jpgSoon enough, it was time to run the half-marathon. We snapped a few shots before the race at the starting line before the fireworks started us off on our 13.1-mile journey.

sparkle2With Elise (in pink), Kelly (in blue) and Carrie (in green) aka Sleeping Beauty’s fairies at the start. And yes, they wore those hats the entire race.

20140227-131904.jpgThose sparkle fairies sure are fast! I hung with them for the first mile, then decided to run a much slower race. This was my parting shot of them. Great job ladies!

20140227-131920.jpgThis foggy moment near mile 3 was one of my favorite images from the course.

20140227-131843.jpgSelfie by Cinderella’s Castle. I’m still laughing at this one. The crowd behind me was so motivating and encouraging. Hundreds cheered and whooped as I jumped into the air and ran off. It was among of my favorite moments from the race.

tianaHanging with Princess Tiana mid-race

20140227-131757.jpgWatching Mickey cheer several Princesses at the finish was pretty cool.

20140227-131725.jpgSelfie with my girl Kristin!

20140227-131808.jpgHad an incredible time eating my way around EPCOT with the wonderful Jillian! Starbucks and cronuts, then German Pretzels and Pilsner? Yes please!

germanySpeaking of beer in Germany….

fantasmicWe ended my final night watching Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios. All I can say is WOW!

20140227-125901.jpgAnd of course, here’s the parting shot of all my girly medals, including my pink Coast to Coast medal, which is awarded upon completion of the Tinker Bell and Princess half marathons.

I hope you all had an equally magical weekend!

Tell me about your race adventures! What was your favorite moment from the course(s)? Which was your favorite Princess race?

Don’t be dopey about Dopey

I’ll admit it. I’m intrigued.

Much of me wants to run the inaugural runDisney Dopey Challenge in 2014, which was announced last week. That’s four races totaling 48.6 miles over four days of the annual Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January.

The challenge includes a 5k race on Thursday, a new 10K race on Friday, a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.

I’d like to run it. But should I?

My concern – training.

Yes, some runners will simply register for Dopey because they adore runDisney events and its accompanying medals. Dopey will reward finishers with six medals. Six. That’s a lot of bling for a long weekend.

But runners will also need to log a lot of miles to gain that prize.

But all runners – novice through experienced distance runners – must do one thing to prepare for such a mission. They must respect the distance. They must prepare properly for the race.

Earlier this year, I ran the Goofy Challenge – a marathon and a half over two days. The experience was just that – a challenge. But I trained for months. I ran slowly. And I walked far more of the course than ever before.

And it was fabulous. 39.3 miles followed by another half-marathon one week later. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.

I don’t know if I should say the same about 48.6. I’d like to. But should I?

Former Olympian and distance runner Jeff Galloway, who is also a marathon and endurance training consultant for runDisney, said he is creating a training plan for runners wishing to attempt the new series of races.

“While almost anyone can adapt to this series of runs, it helps to have been running regularly, starting April 1,” he said.

Galloway said his Dopey training plan will alternate between minimal running one week and four running days in a row the subsequent week.

Minimal: This week will include 30 minutes of running on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 30 to 45 minutes on one weekend day.

Four-day prep week: Mileage will start with minimal amounts and build every two or three weeks, to race distances in December.  The first three days of these weeks will be mostly walking.

“The Dopey has created an amazing response,” Galloway said. “I’m already looking forward to the weekend.”

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Jeff Galloway in January, as he runs the WDW Marathon using his run-walk-run method. I ran into him on the course.

Runners considering Dopey should also consider whether they can finish each race within the challenge within the allotted time frame. Disney races give runners a more generous cushion than most distance events of up to 16-minute miles.

Galloway offered a training tool, his magic mile formula, to help a runner  to determine his or her predicted race times, based on a one-mile run. While obviously the tool does not factor in stops to pose with dozens of Disney characters along the course, it gives runners a basic idea of her or her finish time – and a glimpse at whether or not the runner should attempt the challenge.

Upon running the Goofy Challenge in January, Galloway offered some advice: Walk as much as possible, drink lots of water, and slow down.

It’s not about speed, he said. It’s about completing all 39.3 miles.

The same is true for Dopey.

Registration opens April 9 and Dopey’s registration fees starts at $495.

Will you be participating in the new Dopey Challenge? Why or why not?

Part 2 of the Goofy Challenge – the marathon

This is it, Marathon Day. Also, it’s the final part of RunDisney’s Goofy Challenge – 39.3 miles over two days.

Yup. You read correctly A marathon and a half – 24 hours apart. Goofy it is.

We started off with the same routine as for Saturday’s half. We woke at 2 am and were again on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort. Once at EPCOT, we walked to the holding pen and camped out on the exact same bench we used the previous morning. We like routine.

We were nervous about running a marathon one day after completing a half. But we were ready. After all, we were Goofy.

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A little pre-race silliness with my Jennifer

Soon enough, we checked our bags, hit the bathrooms and walked to the corrals. We had a fourth crew member in tow until we reach Corral A. Our friend Ray was gearing up to run his fourth Disney marathon, with a goal of 3:40. More on Ray’s journey later. He went to the front of the corral with the speedy speedsters.

Aaron, Jen and I sat and stretched near the back of Corral A. We were there about an hour before the 5:30 a.m. start. Better early than late – I learned that in 2012 when we barely made it to our corral before the start of the Princess half marathon.  Holy moly! Not the way to start a distance run, for sure.

After a quick pit stop in the woods (classy girl I am) I returned to the corral with time to spare and an extra surprise – bramblies on my lulu running skirt and inside my underwear. Sigh. Fortunately I had enough time to remove the burrs, but what a cluster! That could’ve been a fatal error.

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Soon enough, fireworks sounded and the race was underway!

The day’s forecast called for extremely hot and humid weather, so we decided to slow our pace and to hydrate as much as possible.

We ran and ran and ran. This year’s marathon course was different. Like previous years it passed through all four Walt Disney World theme parks, but for the first time runners also zipped along the speedway and spent several miles on the heavenly fields at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Aaron ran the marathon (his first) last year so he outlined some of the differences as we ran.

I won’t rehash our journey mile by mile, especially since much of our first hour was a repeat of Saturday’s run. But I’ll say there’s no race like a Disney race, which includes characters, floats and thousands of cheering spectators as you ran past some of the places where you made some amazing childhood memories.

But here are a few of my fave pics:

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Jen, Aaron and me in front of the castle

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Running THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle

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stunning fog and sunrise on the golf course – again

As we approached the speedway, a flashing sign warned “STEEP HILL AHEAD.” Not something a marathoner ever wants to see. We laughed off the warning, since we couldn’t imagine anything to warrant such a dramatic sign. We were WRONG. Ouch.

Soon we were rewarded with the sunrise over the speedway, which was lined with all sorts of vintage cars, sports cars and characters from the movie Cars. Awesome!

After leaving the raceway, we passed the waste water treatment plant (shudder) and came across a gaggle of villains. Jen and I jumped in line to pose:

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Jen and I pose with the villains!

Miles 12 and 13 sent us through Animal Kingdom. It was my first time inside the park and it did not disappoint. I met some goats as we entered the park:

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(Me and a goat)

And we ran into RunDisney’s marathon training expert Jeff Galloway who graciously smiled as I snapped his photo:

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Yep, that’s Jeff Galloway!

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Everest! My first glimpse inside Animal Kingdom

At our halfway point, we returned to our run-walk-run plan for the remainder of the marathon. We paused around mile 15 to visit some gravediggers. HAHA!

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It was wonderful to get off our feet, even for a few seconds

We made our way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, where we received a lovely drenched sponge at an aid station that put some pep in my step. We ran through soccer fields, baseball fields, the track and ultimately rounded the basement in Champion Stadium. That pleasure was wasted on me because I kept obsessing over the possibility of getting rocks in my shoes here. Ah well.

Soon enough, we approached the 20-mile spectacular, in which several oversized puppet-type characters lined the street and classic Mickey, Minnie and Pluto were on hand for runners to meet. Just before we rounded the corner, Jen suggested the event should include money or free park tickets to indeed qualify as spectacular. HA! Nothing compared to that suggestion, but we danced our way past the celebration.

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dancing our way through Mile 20

Miles 21 and 22 took us past the little Green Army Men to Hollywood Studios, where we received chocolate at an aid station, zipped through the backlot and the tour tunnel and wound our way through the park and out the gates.

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In the backlot tunnel at Hollywood Studios

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Running down the streets of America at Hollywood Studios

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Still running through Hollywood Studios

I high-fived a slew of spectators outside the park. Boy did that feel fantastic!

We ran and we walked. We zigged. We zagged. Now repeat.  We passed the Boardwalk and entered EPCOT.

One mile to go! We zipped past the world showcase, passing France, Morocco, Germany and loads of other runners and we headed toward Spaceship Earth, the gospel choir and the FINISH LINE!

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Nearly at the finish with Jen

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We crossed together — and I high-fived Goofy!

I still cannot believe we ran a marathon and a half over the course of a weekend. But we did and I had the time of my life.

It was incredibly hot, so we took it easy, finishing in 5:31. Well over our expected time, but we didn’t care in the slightest. We finished and we stuck together and that was our true goal. I’d love to do it again and let her rip… 2014 perhaps?

(NOTE: I promised a recap on Ray’s race: He finished in under 4 hours, but walked a bit, something he doesn’t like to do when racing. But the heat was a factor and he listened to his body.)

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From left, Aaron, Ray, Vic and Jen

Part 1 of the Goofy Challenge – the half marathon

We were ready to run.

After a fabulous carb-loading dinner (gnocchi for me!) at Downtown Disney Friday evening, we slept for several hours before our 2 a.m. alarm sounded.

Now let me say, my running pals are Type A  early birds who would much rather arrive at the race site early rather than rush to our corrals just before start time.  I agree wholeheartedly.

I should introduce you to my race partners for the Goofy Challenge Jen and Aaron. Jen is one of my closest friends and was my first “real” friend in college. I met Aaron a few years back here in Rochester and we run together regularly.

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(left to right, Jen, me, Aaron at our pasta dinner!)

So to sum up the next few less-than-exciting hours, we prepped, headed out the door for a shuttle pickup and were on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort, arriving at EPCOT shortly after 3 am. We sat on a bench for a while, then checked our bags, made our way to Corral A, where we waited some more.

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Finally, the fireworks went off and we started running. Within a mile, my glasses fogged up from the humidity. Awwwesome.

We zipped into the first toilets we saw – no lines! Huzzah!! But otherwise, we ran and ran and ran some more. Around mile 3, came up to the toll gates for Magic Kingdom and started chanting; “Caution runners, road narrows, speed bumps ahead.”

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We got a few other runners in on the action – Hey, we had to entertain ourselves SOMEHOW.

We ran through the parking lots, past cheering crowds at the kingdom’s transportation center, toward the contemporary resort.  And there it was, our first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle on the predawn horizon.

It always takes my breath away, just for a second. We’ll be there soon!

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We passed by Space Mountain – and a rather dark stretch just outside the park – and then we passed through some back gates and entered Magic Kingdom! After a loop behind the scenes at the park, we entered Main Street USA. This is always my favorite stretch of any Disney race: it’s a bit like stepping onto a stage.

Crowds of cheering loved ones and many Disney cast members lined the street. We, of course, stopped for several photos on Main Street and in front of the castle, which was covered with stunning wintry lights.

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Jen and me running along Main Street USA! (jazz hands!)

We hung a right and headed into Tomorrowland – and straight to a lovely restroom with flushing toilets. One member of our crew needed a rather lengthy pit stop here. (We didn’t time it, but it was well over 10 minutes.)

Soon enough, we were again on our way. We ran toward Fantasyland, stopping by the teacups, a favorite ride of mine and Jen’s dating back 15+ years.

We passed a few more characters before it was time to run through Cinderella’s Castle! Such a magical feeling to cross through to the other side!

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Cinderella’s Castle still in its winter splendor.

We ran down the ramp and veered into Frontierland. We waved to Princess Tiana, saluted Woody and Jessie, cursed Splash Mountain (for being closed for repairs) and were spooked by the idling train on the tracks as we left the park just past mile 6.

The sun peeked over the horizon as we passed parade float storage, which now also housed all of Splash Mountain’s unused log boats.

Queue the Disney-induced mist and fog over the Magnolia golf course – breathtaking! (More on that in the full marathon post.) We ran past several more resorts and headed back to the highway.

Starting mile 7, we launched our run-walk-run  plan to conserve energy, our legs and our sanity for Sunday’s marathon. We walked 1/4 mile and ran 3/4 mile for each remaining mile through the end of the race.

The miles clicked off and soon enough, we entered EPCOT. The last mile loops through future world, past Spaceship Earth to the finish line in the parking lot. Just before mile 13, we passed a gospel choir jiving and singing Hallelujah!

Jen and I joined hands in the last stretch as Aaron whipped out his camera. Together we crossed the finish, hands in air.

Nov12 to Jan13 1142

Medal number one!