March 2015 – Month in review

March 2015 – Nike+ Summary

March 2015 – Nike+ Summary

So as you can see from the Nike+ summary I managed to get in 140 miles this month but if you look at the tail end of the month you will see that I actually had a week break. I’m nursing a sore back/pelvis as a result of all the snow shoveling over the winter. I managed to tweak my pelvis out of alignment. Ouch. Time to get my 8 and 4 year olds out to shovel the snow…or move to Florida. I think the move may be easier.

The weather did not deter my training for the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon however it did take my running indoors for some of the long runs.

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My run from Sunday March 8th.

My run from March 14th.

My run from Sunday March 14th.

The gym can be a lonely place on a Sunday morning in winter.

The gym can be a lonely place on a Sunday morning in winter.

However, shortly after my indoor 20 miler I was lucky enough (well required) to take a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona for work. I went from running in sub 20 degree weather (sub zero with wind chill) to running in the low to mid 60s for a week. It was beautiful and flat. I wore shorts again!!! Yes, my legs saw the sunshine albeit at the end of the run as these were still early morning hours. What amazed me about running in Scottsdale was how clear the air was. As I was running I could smell the flowers, bushes and other landscape smells (nice smells) as I ran. I don’t think I’ve had much of a chance for that recently. Also it was flat. That helps alot. I’d been on a treadmill for more than a month so it was great to be out there.

Beautiful place to run

Beautiful place to run

Citrus trees and the smells in the air were incredible

Citrus trees and the smells in the air were incredible

Yes....yes it was

Yes….yes it was

Desert running is pretty cool

Desert running is pretty cool

I discovered where Iron Man keeps his horses

I discovered where Iron Man keeps his horses

Lots to investigate

Lots to investigate

Mind you, I got a rude awakening when I flew back to Philly. I arrived back to 4 inches of snow…ON THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!!!! Ugh. My back still hasn’t recovered. Nothing like having to dig your way into your house around midnight. Luckily though that was the end of the snow. It warmed up a bit after that and I was able to run outdoors locally again.

Woo hoo!!!

Woo hoo!!!

During this month as I have been preparing for Pittsburgh I have been trying out some new gear. Last year at the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon Expo I was recommended to try Injinji toe socks. They look a little weird and are a little tricky to put on but I have always had an issue with my toes rubbing together and usually use some vaseline to prevent blisters. Anyway I thought I’d give these a try and see if they were as good as they were presented.

Actually, they are pretty good. I’ve since bought a couple of pairs in various thicknesses to see how they differ but so far so good. I am using them almost exclusively right now. I cannot comment on the longetivity of the product but from a comfort perspective they seem good and from a blister prevention perspective they absolutely hit the spot. I’ve been using the Run 2.0 sock.

Injinji Run 2.0

Injinji Run 2.0

Finally this month I’m happy to share that both my wife and I were successful in the lottery for the 40th Marine Corps Marathon later this year. We are so excited to be able to run this event and especially excited because of the special anniversary year. It is sure to be a great event and memorable to all who run.

We're in!!!

We’re in!!!

In the coming weeks I have the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon in Piscataway, NJ. This will be my first event since running the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races. It will be fun to get back into race mode. Also, I’ll complete the training and start my taper for the Pittburgh Marathon. We are looking forward to the marathon weekend and hope we have enough time to take some sights in with our boys.

Don’t forget that I’m doing other crazy stuff for a change. I’m running the ‘Goofy In A Day’ for Give Kids The World a couple of weeks after that. If you feel like you can make a donation that would be really appreciated.

Thank you for reading.

‘Goofy In A Day’ for ‘Give Kids The World’

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Goofy, yup, that’s me. I am asking for your help and support in raising funds for the ‘Give Kids The World Village’ in Florida.

GKTW

For the last 4 years I have taken part in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Orlando, Florida. I had only just begun my running career in late 2010 and ran my first marathon in Philadelphia in 2011. I ran my first Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2012.

Since that time I have run in the various challenges that are part of the Marathon Weekend. The challenges are multiple events over multiple days. I ran the ‘Goofy Challenge’ (39.3 miles consisting of half marathon and full marathon over 2 days) in 2013 and 2015 and the inaugural ‘Dopey Challenge’ (48.6 miles consisting of a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon over 4 days) in 2014. While running these challenges I have raised over $11,000 for charity.

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In May 2015 I am planning to undertake my most challenging fundraiser, running the ‘Goofy Challenge’ in just ONE day. Yes, that’s 39.3 miles equivalent to a half and full marathon back to back.

Why do something so completely…well, Goofy? I’ve been inspired by a number of things.

Firstly, I am part of a running team called the Mickey Milers. It is a running team that was formed by the co-hosts of the Mickey Miles podcast (a podcast dedicated to running Disney races). This team was formed in January 2014 and its goal is to raise funds for the ‘Give Kids The World’ Village in Kissimmee, Florida.

The Village is a 70-acre resort complete with over 144 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs. With the help of many generous individuals, corporations and partnering wish-granting organizations, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 134,000 families from all 50 states and over 75 countries.

Mickey Milers Running Team

Mickey Milers Running Team

I am very fortunate to be blessed by two healthy children. Both my boys are the joy of my life and I am truly thankful for their good health and we have been fortunate enough to be able to take them to Walt Disney World on a number of occasions (while their Mommy and Daddy are off running insane distances in the early hours of the morning). Some families are not as fortunate and with this great cause this will offer those families what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to take their families to a magical place and with the support of the Village perhaps have the opportunity to also see their children enjoy a very special time with their needs accomodated and escape their daily routine for a short time.

With Sorcerer Mickey

My family with Sorcerer Mickey – January 2015

Secondly, the team has come up in the past with some great fundraising ideas. This year a group is getting together on the same date in August at both Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland in California and they are undertaking the ‘Small World Challenge’ which involves riding the famous 1964 ride over and over (and over) again from park opening to park closing. That’s probably around 14 hours or so listening to that theme. As I am unable to join them in person I was inspired to come up with a challenge that dovetails in with their special day. That is how I came up with the ‘Goofy In A Day’ for ‘Give Kids The World’. So in addition to running that distance in one day I have upped the ante as part of this challenge by promising to only listen to the theme song from the ride for the whole time I am running.

SWC

What? Really?

Yes. This is going to be two endurance events in one. Both mind and body are going to be challenged as part of this attempt.

Now, this is not going to be a race against time by any means. Based upon my race times I could achieve this challenge in less than 6 hours…but, since I’ve never run more than 26.2 miles (marathon distance) before my goal is to do what is recommended for an ultra-marathon (distances greater than 26.2 miles). I’m going to start slow…then back off a little. I think I may be able to achieve the total distance in around 7 hours so this is going to be a full day event for me.

So, what are the details? When and where (and why)???

When

I’m hoping to ‘run’ this event on May 18 (rain date May 19) which is just a couple of months away. There are a couple of reasons why I chose this time. I will just be coming from completing the Pittsburgh Marathon in early May so I should be still conditioned to run the long distance. Also, I’m hoping to avoid the heat of the summer. The Small World Challenge is being held in mid-August which is a tough time to run long distance outside. I ran a marathon in mid-August last year, I finished but it wasn’t pretty.

Where

I had a few choices here but my goal was to make this as manageable as possible so I chose the location where my running actually started, my work campus (Vonage Headquarters) in Holmdel, New Jersey.

My Company has always been very supportive of my charity efforts, in fact there is a picture of me running the 2014 Dopey Challenge posted a wall in the cafeteria which highlights all the charitable causes the company supports.

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

I began running in August 2010 after a little encouragement by colleagues to join the fitness center there. I’ve already written about how I started here but I will always be grateful for the opportunities I have been given here by my company. The campus has a self-contained loop which is about 0.93 miles around (according to my GPS). It is also pretty flat (limited elevation). The campus offers me the opportunity to set up my own aid station (a table) with supplies that I can have within reach. Essentially this is a self-supported run so there are no aid tables or supplies as would be in on an organized course. The campus circuit allows me the ability to manage my water and fuel supplies as well as give me access to bathrooms as needed.

Campus loop

Campus loop just under 1 mile

Little to no elevation

Little to no elevation

My other choices were 5 times running an 8 mile loop in Philadelphia where I ran the Midnight Madness race in July 2014. While flat this offers challenges with parking and maintaining supplies of fuel and water, or running in Tyler Park nearby my house which has a 5 mile loop which I would run 8 times however this has much elevation which would make this more of an effort…I still want to be standing when I finish.

8 mile loop along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia

8 mile loop along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia

Little elevation but not great logisitically

Little elevation but not great logisitically

Tyler State Park, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Tyler State Park, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Hills!!!

Logistically workable but hilly!!!

Why

Well, I feel a certain kinship with the running group. They are such a strong team of supporting everyone in their goals whatever their ability. Really a great bunch of people. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with many of them outside of Walt Disney World at other races, for a run when I am out of town and even just socially. They all have such ideas for raising funds for this cause and the best part of this group is the collective fun we have doing it.

I’m also inspired by many of the runners in the group. Whether they know it or not, even though many people tell me how impressed they have been with my endeavors, I am more than inspired by their efforts. In fact, I’m not the first to do the ‘Goofy In A Day’ idea (see how my team mates ran a marathon in one State in the morning and a half marathon in the evening in another State) but I may be the first in the group to do it all in one go!!!

I’ve done many ‘Goofy’ things as a runner (I’ve been known to get up at 2:30 am and run 22 miles during a bachelor party weekend, or run 20 miles before work one day) but my goal has always been to maintain a new found level of fitness, to be a good example for my two boys and to make my miles count for others. I am therefore asking for your support in helping me achieve this crazy challenge.

Please visit my fundraising page here and show your support. I would be most grateful if you could share this with your friends too given the short window of fundraising for this. I have no ultimate goal for this but if we can send just one family to the Give Kids The World Village it will have been worth it. (Note – this link may update as the Team Page updates so I will make sure to keep it current as changes happen).

By the way, here is the math:

39.3 miles is just over 42 loops of my campus.

The official album for Walt Disney World lists ‘It’s A Small World’ at around 5 minutes long so it would repeat 12 times an hour. If I’m estimating this will take me 7 hours that would be 84 times listening to the same tune…THAT tune.

SW

I’m not asking anyone to join me…I don’t think anyone would volunteer(!) but hopefully I’ll complete the challenge and raise a good amount of funds in the process.

Thank you in advance.

Ian

January 11, 2013 - relaxing before the night before the Goofy Challenge

January 11, 2013 – relaxing the night before my first Goofy Challenge

February 2015 – Month in review

February 2015 – Nike+ Summary

February 2015 – Nike+ Summary

What can I say about February which doesn’t involve a treadmill? Of the 163 miles run during the month only 14 of them were outdoors and one was even during a snow storm…I was that desparate to go out. I did get to go out on my birthday though and also once in 5 degree temperatures (that was fun!!!). I had to try out the new earphones that I got for my birthday (BOSE SoundSport). Truly excellent sound and they stay firmly in place when I run.

My birthday run

My birthday run

5 degrees of pure fun (brrr)

5 degrees of pure fun (brrr)

On the bright side the days are getting a little longer and we are closer to Spring.

I also took a spin in a pair of Hoka Constant. I do this once a year and try a new shoe. As the old adage says, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yes, I’m still with my Brooks shoes as a consequence.

Well, worth a try, but not for me.

Worth a try, but not for me.

The organizers finally decided upon a race date for the postponed Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this Fall. It is usually mid-September but the Pope is visiting Philadelphia that weekend. This is a race my wife and I usually run together. The date was announced as October 31, 2015. Well, what do you know? A race on Halloween. I am sensing some costume ideas coming together. We signed up as soon as they announced that registration was open. I already have a costume in my shopping cart on Amazon.com (those birthday vouchers come in handy).

So here’s to goodbye to snowy February and anciticipation of March and the welcome return to Spring weather and the great outdoors!!!

Thanks for reading.

January 2015 – Month in review

January 2015 – Nike+ Summary

January 2015 – Nike+ Summary

A little late in posting but getting this done before the following month is over so technically I am still okay, right?

My training shows I ran just over 150 miles for January. This included running 39.3 miles as part of the 2015 Goofy Challenge. You can read my recaps for the Expo, Half and Full by clicking on the links. It was a fun weekend and one that my wife and I had been training for and that we also made time for a family trip which made the experience much more enjoyable.

The rain had stopped an park had emptied and I managet to get one last photo in before we left.

I certainly made the most of this as there were a couple of milestones for me. It was my third year running for Team Up with Autism Speaks and it brought my fund raising total over $11,000 for this cause. Also, this might be our last runDisney race for a while. Logisitics wise it is hard with both boys in school to take the time to do this. Also, I think I need to give my generous donors a small break from fundraising. Finally, I’m hoping to find a way to do one of the Disneyland races and that will take a while to build up some funds as I want to take the whole family to the West Coast.

Mind you, I say that now and you know I’ll be trying to find a way to get back there sooner. I just love the runDisney races plus it’s great to be a Mickey Miler. I’m already trying to figure out a way to participate somehow in the upcoming ‘Small World Challenge‘ to help raise funds for the ‘Give Kids The World‘ Village. I’ll keep you updated when my plans are final :-)

With the temperatures being what they are here I’ve had very little opportunity to run outside and so I’ve been taking some time to catch up on my podcast backlog while running many miles on the treadmill. Not that I mind too much as it gives me the chance to wear my INKnBURN shirts during the winter months. Hey, I like to look good when I run (it distracts from the facial expressions that I probably make). Here’s my new shirt from their new 2015 catalogue.

Men's Long Sleeve 'Run or Die' striped shirt

Men’s Long Sleeve ‘Run or Die’ striped tech shirt

So, after completing the Goofy Challenge my wife and I are straight into our Pittsburgh Marathon training. I’m also looking for some potential other long races (yes, let’s say marathon distances) in addition to waiting for the Marine Corps Marathon lottery to open in March. We shall see. It’s been a good start to the year.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 3 – Marathon – January 11, 2015

Goofy Challenge 10th Anniversary Medal

Goofy Challenge 10th Anniversary Medal

So today was the big day. The full marathon. Also Shari’s second day of the Goofy Challenge. I think she was a little nervous but she seemed to be pretty upbeat. Me? Well I was excited. This is the day I have been waiting for. The first time I ran Goofy was back in 2013 and I was a little nervous but as it was Shari’s first full marathon I was focusing on her then and less of me. I did struggle but I finished. Last year when I ran the Dopey Challenge I had a blast. I felt great and had so much fun. Today would be a little different but fun all the same. Having the kids with us was much more tiring than running Dopey!!!

Another day...another pair of compression socks (of course coordinated with the outfit)

Another day…another pair of compression socks (of course coordinated with the outfit)

The whole point of today was to celebrate our running and our fundraising. Oh, and to run a little race dressed in costume (which had been decided upon months ago).

So again with the multiple alarms I was up at 2am. No baby sitter today. We had an adjoining suite with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and we had left the doors open and the kids knew to look for them when they woke up. Shari was up around 2.30am and we were dressed and ready to leave around 3am. It was time for the big costume reveal.

Ready to head out to EPCOT for the marathon

Ready to head out to EPCOT for the marathon as Mr and Mrs Incredible

We arrived at EPCOT around 3:30am. Although it was warmer this morning than the previous few days Shari wanted to stay in the car a bit longer and this meant we sat there a while as she watched me squirm with nervous energy, itching to get out and mingle at the race meet up. Eventually I won and we headed into the staging areas.

Admittedly, the car was much warmer than standing around outside

Admittedly, the car was much warmer than standing around outside

On the way in we stopped by the Team Up Autism Speaks tent and said hello to Phillip who was waiting to meet and great the folks walking through the charity village on the way into the staging areas. As we were talking to Phillip we met Sarah (Sparkly Runner), her boyfriend Matthew and her Dad (running his first marathon). It was great to catch up with them (multiple times that weekend too) and we chatted together as we headed in. As I said in my previous post, the camaraderie and friendship at runDisney races is amazing and also helps you relax pre race.

A quick stop at the Team Up tent on the way into the staging area

A quick stop at the Team Up tent on the way into the staging area

Although we were not there in time for the group photograph this morning we were still able to meet up with and hang out with the Mickey Milers again. It was warmer this morning but we still needed something to cover us up until the start. Shari was proudly showing off her trash bag look again and I wore my throw away jacket that this morning decided to not zip up. Good choice for a throw away item. After wishing our friends good luck we headed off to bag check (we remembered who was checking the bag today!) and the long walk to the corrals.

Rocking the trash bag look

Rocking the trash bag look

Today’s walk to the corrals seemed a little less crowded. Again, I believe it may be because the full marathon field is just that bit smaller that it doesn’t seem so cramped. Although it is still cramped. It is dark as you walk along despite the overhead spotlights. As we are all bunched together that throws a lot of shadow on the ground. We saw a few people slip and fall on the side of the walking path. One of the worst was when we saw a man fall and because he was wearing a trash bag he couldn’t put his arms out to stop himself. Thankfully we saw him get up and he seemed okay but he had fallen on his side and burst all his energy gels and was a mess. That is not the way you want to feel at 5:00am in the morning and just about to start a marathon. I hope he did okay.

Waiting to go

Waiting to go

We got to the corrals just as the interviews with the runners were ending and just before the singing of the National Anthem. We were then ready to go. We were in Corral F again so we watched the big screen as the wheelchair racers went off and then the elites. We slowly moved forward until it was our turn to go. Today we were not in our Team Up charity gear but Mr and Mrs Incredible were sure excited to go.

At the Start line

At the Start line

And before you know it we were off!

The marathon takes the same route as the half marathon until just after mile 7 and the character stops are pretty much the same both days. We decided that today would be the day to stop at the characters we missed the day before. Our first stop was just before mile 2 as we reached the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ set with Captain’s Jack Sparrow and Barbosa. As it was warmer, Shari had ditched her trash bag and I’d said goodbye to my old jacket.

Aaaargh!!!!

Aaaargh!!!!

We made our way from there through the turnstiles and on towards the Magic Kingdom.

Step in time

Step in time

I love the fact that the music that is playing is ‘Step In Time’ as they warn you about the speed bumps at the turnstiles. I always find Mary Poppins to be a very motivating factor in my running :-)

As we approached the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) today it was better lit and we were able to get our picture of Wreck-it Ralph and Venelope Von Schweetz that didn’t quite come out yesterday. Probably because the Walt Disney World Speedway was being used today and is beside the parking lot that provided better lighting. It was there that we bumped into another Goofy runner who we seemed to meet at every photo stop for the rest of the day (and were on a table near him the next day at breakfast!) One of my favorite things about running these events is seeing faces throughout the parks all weekend long who you have run alongside during the races. Always good to say hello and congratulations after the races.

Wreck-it Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz

Wreck-it Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz

As we reached the TTC we took the opportunity for another bathroom stop. While waiting outside the bathroom for Shari I saw and cheered a few Mickey Milers and also saw another couple dressed as Mr and Mrs Incredible (oh yeah…the challenge was on now whether they realized it or not). From there we headed towards the Contemporary Resort and through the tunnel under Bay Lake. As we were running we bumped into our friends and fellow Mickey Milers Eddie, Phill and Joe. Eddie was running with his Go Pro so we made it onto his video. From there we ran around the back of Space Mountain (mile 5) and looped into the back stage area before making it out onto Main Street USA (my favorite part of the race).

All smiles on Main Street USA

All smiles on Main Street USA

As we reached the hub on Main Street and were about to turn right into Tomorrowland we saw Sarah again who was there to cheer on her Dad and Matthew. As we circled into Tomorrowland it was the first time that I noticed that the neon lights were the same colors that appear on Buzz Lightyear. Strange what goes through your mind and I’d never noticed that before. I guess the lighting was just right. Anyway, today we stopped for Buzz as the line wasn’t too long today.

Too Infinity and Beyond with Buzz

Too Infinity and Beyond with Buzz

From Tomorrowland we ran past the Tomorrowland Speedway and into Fantasyland where today we stopped to have our picture taken with the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

Are we late?

Are we late?

As we continued through Fantasyland there was the same character from Tangled that we had seen the previous day. Again…we didn’t stop but continued through to the castle past Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. As we approached the carousel there were cast members handing out tissues to runners. It was a nice little touch…plenty of waste baskets too.

Running past the carousel

Running past the carousel

As was the case during the half marathon yesterday, because of the repairs to Cinderella’s Royal Table there was no appearance by Mickey and Minnie in front of the castle which was a shame. That is a great photo to have. I’m so thankful that I took the time to wait in line last year for that photo. We got some great professional photos as we ran through and in front of the castle.

Running through the castle is so amazing

Running through the castle is so amazing

With my very incredible Mrs Incredible

With my very incredible Mrs Incredible

So on towards Frontierland and out towards the backstage areas and out of the park. We got an awesome photo with Woody (first time I think I’ve had a race photo with him) and also stopped for a quick photo with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (although we had to wait for a group of runners who wanted at least 5 different pose variations each with their own cell phone cameras…ugh).

Reach for the sky!!!

Reach for the sky!!!

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With Rapunzel and Flynn

….and out of the park into ‘Cone Alley’. As we made our way along this narrow stretch I heard the funniest line from the DJ. He said ‘You’re all at about 2 hours into the race. No-one has crossed the finish line yet so you are all still in with a chance!” Funny. Runners humor I guess. 2 hours, wow, we really had spent a lot of time taking photos. I think at one point our lap times showed that we ran an 18 minute mile through the Magic Kingdom thanks to all the photo opportunities. Oh well, there would be plenty of open road on the second half of the course to make up any time. Believe me…plenty of open road!!!

A quick stop with Donald alongside the golf course

A quick stop with Donald alongside the golf course

We skipped a stop with the Genie from Aladdin today as we had stopped yesterday and this is the point where the half and the full marathons change course. In the half marathon you start to make your way from here back towards EPCOT. For the marathon you make a turn onto the Walt Disney World Speedway. As you approach the track you run alongside some exotic cars as you head into the tunnel. The tunnel has the steepest downhill and uphill of the course before making it out onto the track for a lap (which is about a mile). The track is flat on the inside lower level and is banked up on the outside. Classic cars and other car clubs had set up their cars on the bank of the track and we stopped to take a quick picture with Herbie.

Coming out of the tunnel onto the track

Coming out of the tunnel onto the track

Making a quick stop with our little Love Bug

Making a quick stop with our little Love Bug

Once you exit the Speedway you make a small trek across a grassy strip and head out towards the Animal Kingdom. I took a quick stop at the med tent for a little vaseline as the shirt I was wearing was irritating me just a little (never wore this before race day…). Thankfully I wasn’t bothered by the shirt for the rest of the race. We were only at mile 8 at this point. As you approach the Animal Kingdom you run past the water treatment plant. Luckily it was not such a warm day although you could still pick up that ‘delightful’ smell as you ran past. They do good job at trying to entertain you as you run along this part of the race. They have signs along the left side of the road with interesting facts about Donald Duck. Also they had a great photo opportunity along the right side of the road which involved our longest wait in line of the race. As you can see below it was well worth the wait.

Such a villanous bunch...well worth the wait

Such a villanous bunch…well worth the wait

As we moved away from the villains (having chatted in line with our runner friend from earlier in the day) we literally bumped into another Mickey Miler (Tammy) who was running her very first marathon. Earlier this year Tammy had volunteered at the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ marathon which I had run and it was great to see her again and cheer her on for her first marathon. We ran alongside her for a little while as we approached the Animal Kingdom until Shari and I split off to take a photo with Jiminy Cricket.

Always let your conscience be your guide

Always let your conscience be your guide

As we got closer to the Animal Kingdom we saw but did not stop at some of the less seen characters. They had Robin Hood, Little John and Friar Tuck out for a photo opportunity. The line was really long as these are not seen very often these days so we decided to move along. As we were running we started to see some of the Animal Kingdom parade decorations which started a small group of runners singing ‘Circle of Life’ in which we all joined in. Hey, this is a Disney Marathon and we get entertained any way we can. As we entered into the Animal Kingdom we ran alongside the cast members who were outside with various animals. We decided not to stop for photos as we probably smelled worse than the animals.

We had discussed the possibility of riding Expedition Everest if it was open and looking at our watches we knew we would probably be hitting the park just as it was opening. I wasn’t really looking forward to doing this as I’m not a coaster rider BUT I had promised Shari I would try. As we entered the park we saw a long line of folks at the entrance to the ride. As we approached the cast member said that the ride wasn’t yet open and there was a 30 minute wait from the point we were arriving at. Disappointing and I didn’t really feel like standing around for 30 minutes on these legs when we still hadn’t reached the half way point of the race. There was a little disappointment in Shari’s face (although I think she resented the fact that I looked relieved). So we headed on and ran through the park stopping along the way for a quick photo opportunity with Minnie and Daisy. Everyone we spoke with after agreed that if there wasn’t a line then it would have been a definite stop for Everest but 30 minutes…not happening.

Hanging out with the ladies

Hanging out with the ladies

The exit to the park is just about half way. There is a water stop here before we head out towards the parking lot and then out onto the main out and back part of the course which also includes a loop around the ESPN Wide World of Sports. As we were leaving the Animal Kingdom we met another cheering section of Mickey Milers. Despite me not wearing my team shirt today they still recognized me and we stopped so they could take a quick photo of us.

Heading out of the Animal Kingdom (just past the half way point)

Heading out of the Animal Kingdom (just past the half way point)

The point past the Animal Kingdom to the next stop is a long stretch. It’s from mile 13 to mile 17 where we reach the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Luckily the weather was cool as we were able to pick up time and run a little faster. There is not much to look at between these two stops but runDisney did a good job of trying to keep us entertained with a few character stops and show performers. This is always one of the toughest parts of the race and probably the point where my wife was most likely to get irked by my incessant chatting (judging by how she tried to off me with the Haunted Mansion grave diggers).

Yes...I think she really meant it.

Yes…I think she really meant it.

I’m pretty proud of my jump shot here. I totally outdid myself and definitely out jumped the little lady this time. Then again, it may just be the difference in height and the angle of the camera…but I’ll take it!!!

Yeah...that's pretty good

Yeah…that’s pretty good

I'll see your jump shot and raise you a bigger jump shot!!!

I’ll see your jump shot and raise you a bigger jump shot!!!

The stretch from mile 17 to 19 (and a bit) is the out and back and run through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. We get to see lots of folks running on our way in and way out of this section of the race. Once you turn into the complex you wind your way around the various pieces of the complex. You run a lap around the track, you run a loop around the football fields and you ultimately get to run through Champions Stadium (spring training home for the Atlanta Braves). It’s pretty cool to see yourself up on the big screen in the stadium as the announcer calls out your name. You run the outside circuit of the track (which was followed by a quick stop to empty the gravel from my shoes). As we were starting our run through the ESPN complex it started to rain lightly and that increased gradually as we ran through the complex. It did however stop as we made our way out. Again we got a chance to see Sarah again. She was all over this course doing a great job cheering her runners. Well planned spectating!!!

There was a giant inflatable Baymax set up as we entered the ESPN complex. My boys would have loved seeing this.

There was a giant inflatable Baymax set up as we entered the ESPN complex. My boys would have loved seeing this.

We ran past the medal backgrounds which had been set up for the expo on our way out so we stopped to get a quick medal selfie.

This was our goal

This would be ours in just a few miles

As we were leaving the complex we were able to see runners entering. It was great to cheer fellow Team Up runners and Mickey Milers as we passed by them. Also, it gave us a chance to see some great looking costumes.

Once you exit the ESPN complex there is a left turn and then you are on your way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That is mile 20 through mile 22ish. As we were approaching the overpass towards Hollywood Studios we approached another Mickey Miler who was not running the races but came out to cheer on all her teammates. She made sure she was very easy to spot and had a big sign and goodies for all her teammates. Nice job Laura.

This is how you get runners to find you during a race. Awesome spectating Laura.

This is how you get runners to find you during a race. Awesome spectating Laura.

After a quick hello and goodbye to Laura we ran on towards Hollywood Studios. As we were working our way up the hill under encouragement from the Green Army Sergeant we stopped and I was forced (again this year) to do push ups. At this point I noticed that this was the second time in the last few miles that I was the only one of the two of us who seemed to have to get down and dirty (following my escape earlier from the graveyard). Something was wrong with this. Never mind…I’m sure my wife loves me.

As we entered Hollywood Studios it starting raining lightly again. BUT THEY HAD CHOCOLATE!!! Yes, as you enter the park backstage they were handing out Hershey miniatures. Shari took ‘a few’ as we passed. I’m saying no more. Anyway, we were on a mission. We had to find Mr and Mrs Incredible. This was the one character stop we knew we were going to stop for regardless of time. We passed the point of the park where we remembered them being in years past and were a little disappointed until we turned a corner and there they were….both of them. We had only seen either one or the other in prior years. There it is…the money shot!

Mr and Mrs and Mr and Mrs...

Mr and Mrs and Mr and Mrs…

AWESOME!!! Totally energized us for the last 3 miles.

We had a quick stop with Mike and Sully from Monster’s Inc. and then took what would be our last run past the Sorcerer’s Hat (which by the time you read this will probably be gone).

One of us can only see out of one eye. The other is Mike Wazowski.

One of us can only see out of one eye. The other is Mike Wazowski.

The park was open for guests as we ran through and it was amazing the cheers and support from the guests who were watching us pass by. We got a few shout outs for our costumes. I will admit we may have hammed it up for them. Just a teensy bit.

Having some fun despite the rain

Having some fun despite the rain

Upon exciting the park I felt someone tap on my shoulder and I quickly apologized to that person thinking I had either cut them off or knocked them in some way with realizing (the one eye thing is my excuse here). We saw an appropriate spectator’s sign and I was able to get a quick photo of Shari with the sign.

They must have known we were coming

They must have known we were coming

Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder again. What? Why? I turned around and there was a runner standing there trying to get something out of his pocket. He wasn’t talking and then suddenly he pulled out a plastic bag with a bingo card inside. He said he was playing ‘Marathon Bingo’ and he had a square which told him he needed to get a selfie with people dressed as Mr and Mrs Incredible. Wow!! We made it to the bingo card. We cracked up but let him have his photo. Hey, we may have run almost 39.3 miles but that doesn’t compare with being a winning square on the marathon bingo card (LOL). That (together with the amount of sugar Shari had ingested) made us laugh as we headed out towards the Boardwalk. As we ran along the path to the Boardwalk we were giving high fives to the little kids who had come out to spectate and everyone was cheering on the ‘Incredibles’. It was lots of fun.

Pretty cool mile marker we thought

Pretty cool mile marker we thought

Upon reaching the Boardwalk, Shari knew that her friend from college might be out supporting runners and started to keep a look out (this was between taking Twizzlers and Oreo cookies from generous spectators). Eventually as we approached the Yacht Club Shari saw her friend Cori and stopped for a quick sweaty hug and a photo.

Shari and her friend Cori

Shari and her friend Cori

As we moved around the Boardwalk to the path alongside the water way behind EPCOT we bumped into Mickey Milers Team Captain Mike Scopa (check out the Mickey Miles Podcast and WDW Today to find out who Mike is) and we stopped for a quick hello. He was out to cheer on fellow Team Captain Michelle and all the rest of the Mickey Milers still out on the course. It’s such a great team.

Oh Captain, my Captain

Oh Captain, my Captain

We were almost at EPCOT, the home stretch. We enter EPCOT through the International Gateway which is located between the Canada Pavilion and the United Kingdom Pavilion. Just before the entrance we got to have a little moment with the Fairy Godmother. I think her magic was working as Shari and I were feeling good…although Shari had so much sugar in her system from all the snacks she was like a little Energizer Bunny (more so than usual) even at mile 25!!

Bibbidi bobbidi boo

Bibbidi bobbidi boo

The end was now in reach. We just had to do a short run around the world!!! Well, just World Showcase. It was still raining slightly but wasn’t really bothersome. As was the case with Hollywood Studios the park was open and it was great to have park guests cheering us along (although looking at us rather strangely in our outfits). I was high fiving and fist pumping every time someone yelled out ‘Hey, it’s the Incredibles’. It was a lot of fun. I was aching a little in my right knee but it was pretty much an adrenaline fueled last mile. Shari was feeling particularly good. She had struggled over the last few miles of the Baltimore Marathon back in October and that had not followed a half marathon the day before. She kept telling me she felt great. I think there may be another Goofy in our future :-)

Back in World Showcase at the United Kingdom Pavilion

Back in World Showcase at the United Kingdom Pavilion

We made sure to get some character stops in as we were doing fine for time with only a mile to go. This wasn’t going to be our fastest marathon by any means but it was definitely one of the most enjoyable ones.

A quick stop in the Morocco Pavilion

A quick stop in the Morocco Pavilion

Running through World Showcase

Running through World Showcase

Soon we were exciting World Showcase and heading towards the finish line. The rain was steadily increasing but then again so was the crowd support. It was awesome.

We are back in Future World

We are back in Future World

Once you are by Spaceship Earth you know the end is close. We rounded the corner of the Future World attractions and headed out towards the parking lot, past the choir and down the home straight with the finish line in sight.

We could see the finish line just ahead. We look a little happy.

We could see the finish line just ahead. We look a little happy.

We were greated by Mickey and the gang at the finish line.

We were greeted by Mickey and the gang at the finish line.

We did it!

We did it!

We did it. We had run 39.3 miles and raised over $4,300 for Autism Speaks. We were both Goofy!

We both felt great and headed over to get the marathon medals. From there we went over to the medical treatment area to get some ice packs to help with the post race recovery. The rain started to come down harder (probably the worst rain of the day at this point) and we sat shivering as ice was being applied to our knees, ankles, quads, etc. What was missing? Mylar blankets. What??? All weekend had been on the cool side and I did not see any mylar wraps being provided to runners. If that was my biggest complaint over the last two days it was not a big deal but really, come on runDisney, you could have provided wraps for the runners. Especially as the weather had been so cool for the first few days of the event you would have thought they would have been prepared for the marathon.

We were shivering by this stage so rather than sit for 10-15 minutes as would be the norm for us we just decided to get up, grab our drinks and food and go through to get our Goofy medals. Brrr. Ironically, they were handing out cooling towels as we left the medical area!!!

I pull of the ice walk pretty good.

I pull off the ice walk pretty good.

Interestingly as we headed through the Goofy chute they had volunteers with laptops open and they were checking our bib numbers and looking us up to match our sweaty tired faces to the fresh happy faces that they took a picture of a couple of days earlier at the expo. From there we went through the tent and into the photo areas for the official race photos. As we were still wrapped up with ice (well mainly me) because we had left the medical area so quickly I said to Shari that it would probably not make such a great picture. She told me no-one would notice. Oh really???

A little ice with your picture Sir?

A little ice with your picture Sir?

When you have a short wife it is very difficult to crop the picture and not show the amount of ice attached to your legs. My excuse is that I was channeling both Mr Incredible and Frozone in the same costume (yeah…right).

Here we are with both the Marathon and Goofy Challenge medals.

Here we are with both the Marathon and Goofy Challenge medals.

With the rain still coming down we headed back to the car. I took off the ice as it was bound so tight I couldn’t bend my legs. We managed to get our bags straight away today. Inside we had packed ourselves towels from the hotel (a great packing tip by the way) so we could dry off and wrap them around our bodies to stay warm. We scooted out of the bag check area and made our way to the parking lot. As we were walking some guy with a marathon medal ran past us. Show off!! He must have ‘just’ run the marathon ;-)

We headed home for hot showers and quickly got ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom. We had Fast Passes for Peter Pan and I needed my Mickey Bar ASAP!

All refreshed and ready to head to the parks.

All refreshed and ready to head to the parks.

Ready to show off our bling.

Ready to show off our bling.

We returned to the Ticket and Transportation Center (we didn’t run there this time). As we got on the tram from the parking lot to the TTC I was sitting up front with the stroller and people started noticing my medals and asking what they were. I told them that my wife and I had just run the marathon and that were other races over the last few days too. They were intrigued. One fellow asked how I did in the marathon. My response? “I medaled in the race”. That got a laugh from people who got the joke. I’m not sure he did though LOL.

As we walked up to the monorail I saw Jennifer (The FInal Forty) and her boyfriend Todd also getting on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. They were still in costume as Ariel and Prince Eric and must have come straight from the finish line. Ha ha.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the park to keep our legs moving and wishing everyone wearing a medal congratulations. We hit up our Fast Passes (which included the ‘Enchanted Tales with Belle’ and the ‘Seven Dwarfs Mine Train’ which was excellent) and generally relaxed. Despite running all that distance we didn’t really do a big meal. I got myself a cup of Lefoux’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern and then after the character photos at Pete’s Silly Sideshow we all sat on a wall and ate Mickey pretzels and Mickey ice cream bars. Perfect.

Relaxing with the boys in the Magic Kingdom

Relaxing with the boys in the Magic Kingdom

Some light refreshment post race

Some light refreshment post race

With my brother in law Mike and Belle

With my brother-in-law Mike and Belle

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fun

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fun

Sharing our Goofy with Goofy

Sharing our Goofy with Goofy

We ended the day with me hiding my 4-year-old from the fireworks while everyone else saw them. Oh well. There was always Plan B tomorrow when I would get to see the fireworks. At least I got a nice shot of the Castle as we were leaving.

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On Monday we were up bright an early. Some idiot (ahem) booked an early morning character dine at the Crystal Palace inside the Magic Kingdom which meant we had to get up and out really early. I will admit that getting up at 6am is much easier than getting up at 2am. Not everyone else was that enthusiastic though. Today would be very much a celebration of our weekend for both my wife and I and also for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We had been rushing around so much since before we headed down to Orlando and we hadn’t really had a full day at any of the parks yet.

We entered the Magic Kingdom before rope drop and took advantage of the absence of people along Main Street USA to take some professional photos before our breakfast reservation.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7155066534

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7155065836

At breakfast we bumped into our runner friend from the marathon and had a chat about how much fun the day before had been for us all. It was great as we got a chance to relax and refuel. I also had pre-ordered a gift bag with treats as a special reward for my wife. She had done similar for me when I arrived at the Magic Kingdom last year.

Refueling at its finest

Refueling at its finest

The boys took 'selfies' with the characters

The boys took ‘selfies’ with the characters

Shari seemed pleased with her bag of treats

Shari seemed pleased with her bag of treats

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Compression sock Monday

Compression sock Monday!

Compression sock Monday! Notice how well I coordinated my outfit

One of the best things about this week was meeting and catching up with friends old and new. Today was no different. While walking through Adventureland I again bumped into Sarah, Matthew and her Dad. I was congratulating them on a job well done when my Mickey Miler teammate Jennifer saw me and came over. She had been looking to meet up with me to give me a little gift that she had brought with her all the way from California. I also bumped into Chris (@DopeyRunr) and Laura from the Mickey Milers while in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I was loving meeting up with everyone. It was such a great experience.

Catching up with Jennifer

Catching up with Jennifer

Jennifer's awesome gift. Customized Mickey Miler Cookies and a special Cookie Monster for you know who

Jennifer’s awesome gift. Customized Mickey Milers Cookies and a special Cookie Monster for you know who

While we were on the Jungle Cruise that afternoon we got on board with another couple of Mickey Milers, David and Darren. Both had run their first marathon the day before so it was great to congratulate them in person. David took this photo of my family while we enjoyed the cruise.

Taking my family on a 'Cruise'

Taking my family on a ‘Cruise’

Pretty much after we finished the Jungle Cruise the heavens opened and it poured for most of the rest of the day. We were prepared with our ponchos but either way were we a little damp but this did not dampen our experience. The park actually cleared out which surprised me. I thought that any indoor rides would be crowded but people seemed to have just left and we found ourselves able to ride and re-ride certain attractions with little to no wait. That was great.

Making the best of the rainy day

Making the best of the rainy day

Although we missed the Festival of Fantasy Parade because of the weather (it was cancelled) we stuck it out long enough to see the evening Castle show and fireworks. Tonight we decided to let Asher wear a pair of headphones and play on the iPod and he completely was unphased by the fireworks. Genius!!! It only took 3 visits to Walt Disney World to figure that one out.

We stayed until they pretty much kicked us out the Magic Kingdom. What an awesome day it was. We enjoyed every second and made the most of our day in the park. We actually only just made the last monorail out of the park.

The rain had stopped an park had emptied and I managet to get one last photo in before we left.

The rain had stopped and the park had emptied and I managed to get one last photo in before we left.

On Tuesday we did our usual last day breakfast with Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort before making our way back home.

Breakfast with Chef Mickey

Breakfast with Chef Mickey

Breakfast with Chef Mickey and Goofy

Breakfast with Chef Mickey and Goofy

Waffle buddies

Waffle buddies

On the way out of breakfast I bumped into Jennifer and Todd once again. It was such a fun weekend that I knew I was going to miss seeing everyone once we left. I have so many good memories with family and friends from the weekend. It was great to feel such camaraderie and be part of a team like the Mickey Milers. We were truly all looking out for each other. Amazing.

All that was left was the saddest monorail trip…the one at the airport and then the flight home.

Riding the airport monorail is not as much fun

Riding the airport monorail is not as much fun

Leaving with such great memories

Leaving with such great memories

I know this was a very long post (it stretched over an extra couple of days) but I wanted to express how much fun the marathon (Goofy Challenge) was for Shari and I. How much fun we had meeting friends along the way and making new ones, raising beyond our goal for the charity and ultimately enjoying the parks with our family. I appreciate all the kind words of support and donations you have provided on this journey and look forward to many more events such as this in the years to come. Hopefully I’ll see some of you along the way.

Thanks for sticking with this one…I do talk…a lot :-)

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 2 – Half Marathon – January 10, 2015

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Having set no less than 3 separate alarms for 2:00am it was time to get up. With all four of us running the half marathon (me, my wife, my sister-in-law Rina and her husband Mike) we had made arrangements for a babysitting service (“Kids Night Out“) to be at our hotel room by 3:00am to look after the boys while we were gone. I was up and dressed and sat down to wait for everyone. It was hard not to doze off but I managed to keep it together. I didn’t have such a good nights sleep for some reason. Not nerves but just my head was pretty active with stuff.

These feet were waiting patiently for everyone else to be up and ready

These feet were waiting patiently for everyone else to be up and ready

Just before 3:00am there was a knock at the door and it was the babysitter. Shari and I chatted with her for a few minutes and we peeked in at the boys who at this stage were lying either on top or across each other without noticing. We left our details with her and set off to wait for the rest of our party. The temperatures were calling for mid 40s rising up to the 50s but we knew getting there early (as required by the race instructions) we would be standing around for quite a while. We were all pretty much bundled up as we headed to the race start at EPCOT.

Waiting for our running party to join us in the hotel

Waiting for our running party to join us in the hotel

As we arrived at EPCOT (remembering to take a photo of the car lane number in which we parked) we headed through the security checkpoint and into the pre-race area. Shari and I briefly stopped by the Team Up – Autism Speaks booth to say a quick hello to Phillip and then headed in to the meet up area for the Mickey Milers.

On our way into the meet up area

On our way into the meet up area

The meet up was scheduled for 4:00am with a group photo at 4:15am. We were catching up and meeting some fellow Mickey Milers for the first time and it was a good way to relax. It was chilly and almost everyone was wrapped up against the cold. Shari was already in her plastic trash bag with a bath towel wrapped around her to keep her warm. I was wearing my throw away jacket and gloves. It was great to chat with everyone. If you’ve never been a part of a team or running community (either locally or online) it is such a great experience. It was great to meet everyone. Most were wearing their easily recognizable team shirts (underneath all the warm gear) and it was easy to spot fellow runners over the next two days either on the course or cheering from the sidelines.

Mickey Milers meet up before the half marathon

Mickey Milers meet up before the half marathon

Shari, Rina and Mike were also chatting with people and trying their best to stay warm. One of the best things about these races is that even through we get there so early and stand around until they call us to the corrals people are friendly and approachable and you can always strike up a nice conversation.

Doing our best to stay warm

Doing our best to stay warm

So after wishing everyone good luck we headed to bag check and through to the corrals. Shari and I went through ‘S’ back check, Rina through ‘G’ as she registered way back before the wedding and Mike in ‘E’. Eventually meeting up on the other side we made the long walk to the corrals. Shari and I were starting together in Corral F and Rina and Mike were starting together a few corrals back. We said our goodbyes and good lucks as the corrals split in different directions and headed to the start. We got there just in time for the National Anthem so we knew we had about 5 minutes to the race start and probably another 10-15 before our corral was to get the countdown to go.

Heading to the corrals

Heading to the corrals

I’d made the decision (which turned out very wise) to check my throw away jacket so I had something warm to wear after the race and just grabbed my runDisney space blanket from a prior year. I’ll talk about that later.

Donald Duck came up on the stage and gave the countdown to start the race and off went the fireworks. I love that. Gets me every time. We waited as our corral got closer and closer to the start and then I ditched my space blanket, kissed Shari good luck and with race announcer Rudy Novotny calling us “Corral F – the fun corral” and calling us at with our Team Up gear we crossed the start line and we were on our way, only 39.3 miles to go. First we had to get through today’s 13.1 miles.

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Approaching the start line

There go the fireworks

There go the fireworks

As this was our first Goofy together we decided to be a little strategic with our photo stops knowing that we would see some of the same characters the next day. Depending upon the lines as we approached (and also whether we recognized some characters on sight) we felt okay skipping some today to catch them tomorrow. As we approached the first stop, Captain Jack Sparrow, we decided to skip. Shari at this point had been wearing her trash bag and was just beginning to warm up. She was running along like an inflated balloon with the bag willowing behind her and decided she was warm enough to ditch it before the first photo stop. She promptly discarded her bag…right in front of me (thanks Babe) and having seen the line for the Pirates we moved past and headed towards the Magic Kingdom knowing we would probably spend most of our pictures stops there.

This is one of my favorite photos each year along with the castle shot

This is one of my favorite photos each year along with the castle shot later on the course

As we made it through the turnstiles to the Magic Kingdom (free this time…although it has risen to $17 this year for cars!!!) we headed towards the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center). As we passed by the back of the Speedway there was a new character stop this year. ‘Wreck it Ralph’ and ‘Penelope Von Schweetz’ were together. We stopped for a quick photo which didn’t come out in the light. We made a note to make sure we got back there tomorrow. We then headed further up and saw Jack Skellington and Sally. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is one of our boys favorite movies and we pretty much know this story by heart after watching it and listening to the soundtrack so many times so that was a must do today.

What's this?

What’s this?

At the TTC we saw the first of the big cheering sections. Plenty of folks out there cheering everyone on. This is also a great place for a bathroom break as there are real bathrooms, not port-a-potties, and they are heated, which was great for this morning. It was still a little chilly out. From there we run under Bay Lake and past the Contemporary Resort and get our first long distance view of Cinderella’s Castle. We run around the back of Space Mountain and take a path backstage before arriving on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. As you may know from my previous write ups for the 2013 and 2014 Marathon Weekends I absolutely love running up Main Street. It is for me the most special part of the race. The street is all lit up and there are cheer sections all along the route. You run with a direct view of the Castle all aglow with thousands of little lights. Breathtaking. It was starting to get a little light at this time (we had spent some time lining up for pictures already) but we still got the full effect.

Just breathtaking

Just breathtaking

Me and the little lady in our happy place

Me and the little lady in our happy place

The route of the half marathon (similar to tomorrow’s marathon) takes us up Main Street USA to the hub where we then turn right into Tomorrowland (another good place for a bathroom break if needed!!) and then into Fantasyland. We made the decision to spend most of our photo stops in the parks. Neither of us had any concerns about timing at this point as we knew we could pick up the pace on the second half of the course and our corral was far ahead of the balloon ladies. Let’s just say that we had a couple of 18-20 minute miles in the first half of the race.

Running across the bridge into Tomorrowland

Running across the bridge into Tomorrowland

In Tomorrowland the line for Buzz Lightyear was too long for us to stop so we headed over into Fantasyland where we saw the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. If you haven’t noticed by now, when I run with Shari we tend to have a very good time.

Off with his head!!!

Off with his head!!!

As we rounded Fantasyland we came across one of the characters we didn’t recognized by name. I knew him as the mime from ‘Tangled’ but as we didn’t know his name as we approached we didn’t stop. His name is ‘Ulf’ by the way. Usually during the half Donald and Daisy are situated by the castle but as there are improvements being made to Cinderella’s Royal Table there was no where for them to be. They did have Elsa, Anna and Kristoff on the balcony above the tunnel through the castle. I’m sure that if they had been available for a photo opportunity the lines would have been insane. We did a little goofing around (no surprises there) while in Fantasyland. Neither of us was able to pull the sword from the stone.

I'm sure she would have been worthy

I’m sure she would have been worthy

My excuse? Well, puny arms I guess ;-)

My excuse? Well, puny arms I guess ;-)

With the Frozen characters on the balcony behind

With the Frozen characters on the balcony of the castle behind us

From Fantasyland we get to experience running through the castle. Always a great spectacle (if not a little crowded). We stopped for our picture in front of the castle before heading down towards Frontierland.

Running through the castle

Running through the castle

This is what makes all those miles of training worth it

This is what makes all those miles of training worth it

As we ran through Frontierland we passed by Louis the Alligator from ‘Princess and the Frog’ and one of the characters from ‘Country Bear Jamboree’ who was in the place where I’ve seen Woody, Jessie and Bullseye in the past. We decided not to stop for these characters as we knew there would be a long line ahead of us for one of the princess backstage. We did stop however for a little photo opportunity with the steam train from the Walt Disney World Railroad.

Stopping the train to save my damsel in distress

Stopping the train to save my damsel in distress

We left Frontierland before the entrance to Adventureland and ventured backstage to where there was a long line for a photo stop with one of the Princesses. We decided to stop here despite the amount of time we had already spent in the park as the Princesses change out regularly and we figured we would get another opportunity tomorrow and if it happened to be the same photo tomorrow we could just skip and go on our merry way.

With Cinderella and Prince Charming (note that Cinderella was bundled up with a warm coat)

With Cinderella and Prince Charming (note that Cinderella was bundled up with a warm coat)

There was a water station just past this point which was the first one since the TTC area. This is the longest section of the course without a water station due to the logistics of navigating the areas of the park. We took the route out of the side of the park and onto Floridian Way which is the narrowest section of the course as you have everyone huddled onto one side of the road (the other side is open to emergency vehicles). This is also the section  that people refer to as ‘Cone Alley’. There are cones as far as you can see. In this stretch you run past the Grand Floridian Resort on your left, one of the Walt Disney Resort golf courses on your right and the Polynesian Village Resort on the left. Although space is tight here, as soon as you approach the resorts there are cheering sections which were very crowded and much appreciated. The Team Up – Autism Speaks cheering section was situated along this section of the course near the Polynesian. It really is a long stretch along the course here until approaching the overpass which takes you back to EPCOT. There are a few character stops on the course.

With Mary, Bert and the penguins

With Mary, Bert and the penguins

With Genie (who had just come out of the cast member trailer and was nice and toasty)

With Genie (who had just come out of the cast member trailer and was nice and toasty)

A quick selfie with the Baymax/Big Hero 6 mile marker (we knew our boys would appreciate this)

A quick selfie with the Baymax/Big Hero 6 mile marker (we knew our boys would appreciate this)

The road finally opened up from the cones and Shari and I were able to recapture some of the time we had lost during the early photo stops and the time in the park. It is pretty near impossible to make up time in Cone Alley due to the congestion. Unless you are in Corral A or decide not to stop for any photos this is not the race to try for a PR. I think the half marathon is usually more crowded than the marathon due to the numbers involved.

Finally an open space for us to run in

Finally an open space for us to run in

As we made our way along the course back towards EPCOT around mile 11 we encounter the only real hill on the course, the overpass, which takes us from World Drive up to EPCOT Center Drive. The cool part of this is when you are on the overpass looking back down below and seeing the endless stream of runners. It’s pretty cool to see everyone out there.

Heading into EPCOT we knew we were in the final mile of the half marathon. There is the short little out and back as we enter the park which takes us to the lagoon in front of World Showcase and then we head back towards Spaceship Earth and out towards the finish line. I felt a slight ache in my right knee around mile 12 so we took the last mile a little easy as we still had the marathon to run the next day. No sprinting to the finish line today.

Back in EPCOT with the finish line in reach

Back in EPCOT with the finish line in reach

Approaching the final turn

Approaching the final turn

One last stop for Minnie

One last stop for Minnie

Our half marathon was in the books

Our half marathon was in the books

We crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. It was still quite cool but we got our medals and headed to the medical areas to ice down. We had to wait for Rina and Mike so we took advantage of the time to ice down with the help of the volunteers who packed our legs in ice. Shari was nursing her right ankle and I was nursing my right knee. We saw Mike pass us while we were there but it was so busy he didn’t hear us call out to him so we sent him a text message and told him we’d meet him outside.

Sharing a romantic moment with my wife after the race

Sharing a romantic moment with my wife after the race

We make ice look good

We make ice look good

We did it

We did it

One thing that was missing from the finish line area were mylar wraps. Yup, no space blankets. It wasn’t as if it was a warm weekend or anything and I was sure that after the previous two days when the temperatures were in the high 30s/low 40s they would have been prepared, but no. No blankets. That’s when I was pleased I’d packed my throw away jacket in our checked bag.

We made it through the finish line area and grabbed our food. We took our picture and walked through to the Goofy lanes. No one was checking our bibs or looking us up based upon the pictures we took at the expo. Strange. Last year when I ran the Dopey Challenge they made us all pick up a wristband. With the new method I figured we would have to report into someone. By the way, there was nothing too amazing to report about the runDisney food boxes. Pretty much the same as last year. Would it break the bank to have bagels or a soft pretzel available?

So on to bag check. We entered the ‘S’ tent and Shari told me to pick up the bag but they couldn’t find it. They kept asking my number and I was showing them my bib but no use. They made us head out to a central table and report the bag and had a volunteer run back and forth into each tent for any loose bags. At this point it was getting cold without any jacket or space blanket. Shari was turning blue. Kind of matched her outfit but not appropriate to tell her that at the time. Ultimately they asked us how many bags we checked and we said one and then they asked if it was under Shari’s number. We hadn’t thought about that. Duh!!! Once we established it was her number they found the bag right away. Like runDisney would really lose our bag!!! Felt kind of stupid but thanked them all. At least we had something warm to wear now.

Based upon the race text alerts we saw that Rina was near the finish so we met up with Mike and waited outside for her. Once she came through the bag check we didn’t hang around (we had the babysitter charging mucho dollars!!!) as we had a lunch reservation at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Hollywood Studios and we all needed to get back for a shower in time to get there.

We spent the afternoon at Hollywood Studios where we did some character meet and greets and had a really nice lunch. We managed to secure our Fast Passes to Toy Story Mania but this wasn’t the best park for the kids and we were all a little tired. We did head over to the Frozen Sing-A-Long which we had Fast Passes for. This allowed Shari and I a few minutes off our feet. We grabbed a light supper of pizza from one of the quick service options along Hollywood Boulevard but made sure we headed to ‘Sweet Spells’ to get some special treats carbs before we left for the night. We chose Hollywood Studios as our park as they had the earliest closing time for us (we skipped Animal Kingdom this trip) so we could say we stayed until the park close and still get home for a relatively early night.

Celebrating our half marathon in Hollywood Studios

Celebrating our half marathon in Hollywood Studios

A fun time at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater for lunch

A fun time at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater for lunch

With Sorcerer Mickey

With Sorcerer Mickey

With Baymax and Hiro

With Baymax and Hiro

We got home, got the boys to bed, laid out our clothes for tomorrow’s marathon and attempted to get some sleep before our early morning alarm in a few hours…

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 1 – Expo January 9, 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2015

So the weekend finally arrived. All the training was done, all the fundraising was done, all the packing was done. We had our advance dining reservations (actually done way back within the 180 day window in July!!) and all our Fast Pass+ reservations were booked. We were all set.

This year my wife and I were running the Goofy Challenge (39.3 miles over two days) for Autism Speaks. Last year I ran the Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over fours) but wised up and ‘only’ signed up for the Goofy. Actually the big difference was that we were able to travel down as a family this year. The first couple of days of the week I was following my friends who were running the Dopey Challenge and were already down in Orlando. I was getting antsy.

Thursday evening finally rolled around and we set off from the Philadelphia airport on time. I think I was more excited than my boys about going to Walt Disney World (as always). We were traveling down with my sister-in-law and her husband who were running the half marathon this year.

On board our flight and ready to go.

On board our flight and ready to go.

Okay, so maybe my youngest looks a little more excited.

After settling into our hotel and getting a few hours sleep (more than we would be for the next two days) we got up early and headed over to the race expo. I was planning to wear the charity gear for the half marathon and our ‘costumes’ for the full marathon so I wore my ‘Mickey Milers‘ shirt to attend the expo. I also had my Mickey Milers button on my jacket so I could meet or catch up with fellow team mates.

The expo was held as in prior years at the ESPN Wild World of Sports. The bib pick up was in the HP Field House. The Goofy and Dopey bib pick up was upstairs while the half marathon and full marathon were downstairs.

Arriving at the Expo

Arriving at the Expo

Not too busy at pick up

Not too busy at pick up

Here we are

Here we are

Very excited to have this in my hands again

Very excited to have this in my hands again

While picking up the bibs we were handed our race shirts. I actually selected a smaller size this year at registration and that worked out well. The race shirts were really nice. The Goofy shirt would be useful in case of being stranded on an island…it was BRIGHT orange. I like the changes that they made to the race shirts last year and they kept them for this year too. Very nice and soft to the touch.

Trying on the Goofy shirt for size

Trying on the Goofy shirt for size

While we were there we bumped in my friend and fellow INKnBURN Ambassador Jill who started talking to my wife about the special runDisney shoes. Hmmm…

There was a little merchandise in the Field House but I don’t recall that it was open at the time we arrived so we rejoined my sister-in-law and her husband and headed over to the Jostens Center for the main expo. There were also some stand alone booths outside near the stadium but it was cool outside (it had been raining) and we knew most of the stuff we wanted would be inside.

One thing that was different this year was the new rule that anyone running one of the runDisney challenges during the weekend (Goofy and Dopey) had to have their picture taken with their bib. This was to replace the wristband system that was in place last year to prove that you have completed each race.

They're watching your every move!!!

They’re watching your every move!!!

As we entered we put into effect our plan to keep the boys occupied so we could all browse the expo. My wife and I use our old iPhones as iPods for our boys and so they have some games/apps/movies to keep them occupied. We chose a corner of the expo where they could see us and where we could see them. Everyone was happy.

The expo was set up like previous years and we hit the official runDisney merchandise section. It was set out in aisles by races with each race having some unique merchandise vs other races (e.g. jackets vs fleeces). After grabbing our car magnets we looked around for a while. We didn’t do too much damage this year. How much can you really buy these days having done these races for the last few years. Not much other than the year and color changes on some products. Still, some nice stuff. The character hats were unique though but not really runDisney as we did say some for sale in the parks later. I did notice that the ‘I Did It’ shirts were cotton this year and not the tech like last year. I had planned on purchasing one of those but skipped as a result.

Expo was spaciously laid out and not too crowded

Expo was spaciously laid out and not too crowded

Did most of our shopping down this aisle

Did most of our shopping down this aisle

Checked out some of the merchandise for the marathon down this aisle

Checked out some of the merchandise for the marathon down this aisle

The Mickey hats were fun. They also had Donald and Goofy variants.

The Mickey hats were fun. They also had Donald and Goofy variants.

The 'I Did It' shirts area

The ‘I Did It’ shirts area

Check out was quick and easy. We didn’t spend too much time there as we wanted to have a quick walk through the expo and we had Fast Passes waiting for us at EPCOT.

We did stop by to say hello and meet up with Jeff Galloway. Without Jeff’s training methods both Shari and I wouldn’t be multiple marathoners. We got a chance to have a quick chat with him. He is so approachable and encouraging.

Meeting Olympian and runDisney training consultant Jeff Galloway

Meeting Olympian and runDisney training consultant Jeff Galloway

A quick family stop at the expo for some Goofy fun

A quick family stop at the expo for some Goofy fun

Walking around the expo we saw the regular attendees. We didn’t go there needing anything so planned to walk around and see if there would be something unique. There were a few nice runDisney specific shirts at the Champion booth but there weren’t any left in my size by the time we got there. My wife however picked up a few ‘Sweaty Bands‘ including her runDisney branded band and I picked up a pair of arm sleeves by 2XU. My wife was intrigued by the runDisney shoes following our conversation with Jill earlier. While the New Balance runDisney process for getting these shoes includes pre-registering for an appointment (which we didn’t do) my wife is, how do I say it, umm…on the smaller size. Jill and Shari were of a similar height and Jill told her that she might be able to fit into the youth sizes for which there was no pre-sign up required. We headed over and before you knew it I was shelling out for some of the pink polka dot Minnie Mouse shoes (from the 2014 range).

runDisney Minnie Mouse shoes

runDisney Minnie Mouse shoes

Very happy with our purchase

Very happy with our purchase

Wearing the shoes later...with added charms

Wearing the shoes later…with added charms

They also had on display the new ‘retro’ “Steamboat Willie” 2015 runDisney shoes. They didn’t really do much for me and for the price of $185 they were a bit of a surprise compared to the 2014 colorful ones.

The 2015 runDisney New Balance shoes

The 2015 runDisney New Balance shoes

They were still selling the 2014 New Balance runDisney editions

They were still selling the 2014 New Balance runDisney editions

As I was waiting for everyone to wrap up their time at the expo I bumped into and said a quick hello to Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso.

A quick hello with Bart Yasso

A quick hello with Bart Yasso

So having left the expo we headed over to EPCOT. We planned to spend the day there as the team dinner for Team Up – Autism Speaks was planned for that evening at the Living Seas Pavillion. It had been raining when we arrived at the expo but had dried up but it was far from warm. My wife was already wearing her Goofy race jersey (I gave her the stink eye because I’m in the ‘don’t wear your race shirt before or during the race’ camp). As you can see, it was a little cold (ok…we may be exaggerating a little!)

As you can see we were a little bit cold....brrrrr...

As you can see we were a little bit cold….brrrrr…

After some time in the front of the park (yeah for Soarin’) and a quick trip around World Showcase with the boys we were all set to meet up with everyone for the dinner at the Team Up dinner. I did make a small purchase in the American Pavilion. My wife is a big fan of the Alex and Ani bracelets and they have a Disney line (of which I’ve already invested quite a bit). In the store they had a ‘Goofy’ charm which I bought as another keepsake to celebrate her ‘first’ Goofy Challenge.

Not to be worn until Sunday after finishing the marathon

Not to be worn until Sunday after finishing the marathon

We met up with everyone outside the Living Seas Pavilion at the front of the park before heading into the ‘Living Seas Salon’ banquet suite on the other side of aquarium. I had changed into my One More Mile custom Goofy shirt that I had made up for my first Goofy when I ran for Team Up back in 2013.

My special Goofy shirt

My special Goofy shirt

Custom T - back

Custom T – back

Dinner was hosted by Phillip, the National Director for Team Up and was a nice pasta buffet and dessert dinner. I think there were about 80 runners for this years team and at the date of the dinner we had raised over $163,000 for this event. While at the dinner there were a number of speakers sharing the stories of why they run for Autism Speaks. Some of the stories were amazing. Very inspiring evening. While the speakers were talking our boys were off in a corner making signs for us for the next day and generally enjoying the views of the aquarium.

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

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2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

After dinner it was a quick ride on Spaceship Earth, Illuminations fireworks and then heading back to our hotel for the first early wake up call (2:00am) for the half marathon.