Getting ready for the runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon involved a ridiculous number of long distance runs in the brutal heat and humidity of Florida summer. Every long run I kept telling myself that this race would be a “one and done” because I just hate summer training (remember that the summer heat lasts until mid-October in Florida!).
I got a nasty head cold in October that resulted in me skipping about two weeks of runs, including my last long run and my first run back was a miserable four miles that left me incredibly sore for days afterwards. Oh yeah, I was worried.
But I knew I had lots to look forward to:
- Three nights away with just me and Erik – no kids!
- The awesome runDisney meetup event (read about it here)!
- Mostly guilt-free eating of cupcakes (didn’t happen), cheese soup (oh yeah!) and Mickey Waffles (mmmmm good).
- Seeing all the awesome costumes and running through the Osborne Lights!
- One of these babies:
|Photo credit: runDisney|
I should probably break this up into several posts like I did for my Princess Half recap, but I’m not going to so sorry in advance, this is just going to be one long, photo-heavy, rambling post! I might have a treat for you at the end though, so stick with me…
On Friday we slept in a bit because I got in so late from the runDisney meet-up the night before but made it to Epcot in more than enough time for our delicious Le Cellier lunch. We headed over to Magic Kingdom for the Christmas Party (stay tuned for a future post!) and had a great night, but were exhausted by the end of the day.
Saturday, the plan was to avoid any parks to save my legs for the race (I learned this lesson the hard way during Expedition Everest). We headed over to the Expo mid-morning and it was calm and uncrowded. The different things to do were spread out in separate buildings which helped with the crowds, but did involve me wandering around a bit.
This was the packet pickup area. The packets are sorted by bib number so you just find the sign with the range your bib number falls into and hop in line. There was only one person in front of me, so that was quick and easy. It’s funny, I kept stealing glances at people in line to the left of me (earlier bib numbers) and thinking that they looked fast!
Here was my bib “window”.
Then we headed over to a different building to get our t-shirts and shop at the Expo (yay!).
This area was a little busier but not too bad. There was no wait to get my shirt which is a unisex long sleeved black shirt with the W&D logo on it. I like it a lot but wish they had women’s sizes. How unfair is it that a unisex Medium is way bigger than a women’s XL? Hmmm, just seems wrong, especially considering that women have more to put in their shirts if you know what I mean (boobs, I’m talking about boobs).
OK, sorry for the rant and going off course, so to speak. I wandered around, accidentally bought two new SparkleTech skirts (Peacock Earth and Black Linen) and checked out the new medals in person that I hope to get this winter. Here’s my favorite. I really liked it a lot in person.
I also love the Tink 10k inaugural medal, but I think a little colored enamel would have made it just incredibly gorgeous. These fairies are just screaming for some color and glitter!
After the Expo, we went back to the hotel, had a quick lunch in the food court (hamburger and chips) and took a nice three hour nap. Usually I cannot nap at all but I was pretty exhausted after the previous day’s fun and just crashed. My friend Amy stopped by our room after our nap and we had a nice time chatting for a while. My nerves were starting to act up a little, so I went ahead and got dressed in my Muppets inspired Animal costume.
We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter which was a host hotel, so I was able to just walk to the front of the resort and get in line for the event bus. Erik and Amy and her husband said goodbye and good luck and went to get on the Epcot buses to get started on the after party. The first event bus was scheduled to leave at 7pm and I probably got to the bus stop at 6:45pm. There were about 15 runners there already and by the time the bus got there, we filled it up. I really like getting on the first bus to a runDisney event because it’s nice not to have to worry about the bus getting lost or stuck in traffic and making you late for the start. But, I’m a natural worrywart so everyone may feel differently about this.
The bus happily had an uneventful and pretty quick drive to the Wild World of Sports and we got off and filed into the staging area. The main area had four setups for photos with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Chip & Dale, all in their Food & Wine outfits. When I got there, the lines were about 20 people long for each photo op, but an hour later they stretched to what seemed like several hundred people long.
Another good reason to get to the race early is that the port-a-potties have no lines and are super clean. An hour later there were about 20 or more separate lines that stretched across the whole area. Yes, it may be strange that most of my race recaps now feature port-a-potty photos, I’m ok with that.
These are the crazy lines. Luckily they went pretty quickly because my strategy of hydrating a lot during the day had fairly foreseeable results. I was also starting to get a little nervous and nauseous. I had no interest in eating dinner before a night race, but I brought two Luna protein bars with me to try to eat while waiting. I ate one and then wandered over to the main stage area where they had a guy doing an MC/DJ/Entertainer kind of thing. I didn’t see anyone I knew, so I decided to burn off some nervousness by dancing to silly songs. The DJ was leading us in different dances and it really was a lot of fun. I think I was on the big screen a couple of times. Here is the crazy “What Does the Fox Say” dance:
I’m not usually a “joiner” because I’m fairly self conscious, but I got over myself and joined in and had a great time. After about half an hour, I was feeling a lot better, so I ate my second Luna bar while I walked around looking for someone I know. I found a friend, Sandy, who was getting ready for her first half marathon. It was great to hang out with her until it was time to head to the corrals.
One last port-a-potty stop and I headed off to my corral. I got there early enough to sit down and stretch. I made sure to turn my Garmin on early so I wouldn’t have to see the “searching for signal” message at the last minute. There were some great costumes to look at and although I was still nervous it wasn’t nearly as bad as the PHM corral nerves. The corrals filled up and before I knew it, the clock struck 10pm and the first runners were sent off with beautiful fireworks.
There has been a recent change to the corrals at runDisney. For Princess, the corrals went A-H and had just under 3,000 runners in each corral. For Wine & Dine (and presumably future races), the corrals went A-L (four more corrals even though there were about 8,000 fewer runners) and corrals A-E only had 500 runners each, corral F (where I was) had 1,000, corrals G-J had 1,500 each and K & L had 2,000 in each. So, the earlier corrals were much smaller and the time gaps between each corral’s start were very short, just a couple of minutes. Each corral got fireworks for their start which was awesome!
As with most races, the first mile or so was pretty crowded. I had to make one more potty stop (darn pre-race hydrating!) just after mile one but the lines weren’t too bad. There were lots of characters on the course for photo ops, but I only stopped for a couple. The first part of the race was a highway run all the way to Animal Kingdom. It seems like it was about three miles on the highway. As we got close to Animal Kingdom, everyone started cheering for the front runners who were passing us in the opposite direction, heading towards Hollywood Studios. And lots more cheering when the first women passed as well. Whew, those people are speedy!
It seems like there were lots of on ramps and slight inclines near and inside Animal Kingdom and then on the way to Hollywood Studios. I have a theory that race directors have a secret goal to find the only hills in a flat state to incorporate into their race courses. I love running through Animal Kingdom at night. I got to enjoy it during the Expedition Everest 5k and Scavenger Hunt last spring and it was just as beautiful during this race.
I was taking it pretty easy, about 1-2 minutes slower than my goal half marathon pace because I was worried about missing my last long run, how my body would react to a late-night run, how tired my legs were from Friday’s fun times in the parks and because I really really really wanted to enjoy the after party! So, I was feeling pretty good so far. I stopped for a photo with my favorites Lilo & Stitch (OK, I’m now thinking this may have happened later than this, but I was in the zone for this race so some of the details are a little foggy).
I kept running back towards Hollywood Studios. This time we were the “faster” runners heading back on the opposite side of the road heading away from Animal Kingdom while the runners towards the back of the pack were heading towards Animal Kingdom. I saw lots of activity and lights a ways down the road and looked over at the opposite side of the road and saw the famous/infamous (really I’ve heard they are just wonderful women!) balloon ladies with really nice lit up Mickey balloons. If you’re curious about the balloon ladies the short story is that they are two volunteers who cross the start line last and keep a 16 minute mile pace to serve as pacers to help people avoid being swept. The long story is here on Patty’s blog where she actually interviewed them!
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by very supportive other runners because when we saw the balloon ladies and the runners behind them, everyone started cheering even louder than we did for the front runners and shouting words of encouragement across the median. It made me just love runDisney runners even more than I already did!
Not too far behind the balloon ladies, there was this huge and kind of scary fleet of support vehicles including like a million street sweepers. OK, maybe not a million but at least twenty. They were loud and had super bright lights and it was kind of strange to run past them. There were at least two back to back overpasses somehow on the way into Hollywood Studios, but I just took them easy and kept on running. The only walking I did was through the water stops because I just am too clumsy to drink and run.
Once we got into Hollywood Studios, it seemed like we ran through the whole park including the backstage areas (one was a little stinky, but that happened at Everest too) before I saw a glimpse of the Osborne Lights. Just when I thought we were going to run through them, we veered off to the right and WOW there was a Disco Tunnel! If you’re familiar with the park, it’s in the backlot tour area where the jeep drives through the costume making rooms. RunDisney put up disco balls and they were playing peppy disco music. It was a really fun surprise.
After dancing through the disco tunnel, we FINALLY got to the Osborne Lights. I’d never been to HS when they were on before, so this was an extra special treat for me. It was breathtaking. The course was not crowded at all for me at that point so it was easy to slow down and take in the awesomeness.
OK, I’ll stop now. But it was just amazing. Well worth the entire run. There are rumors that Disney will be taking the lights down entirely or moving them somewhere else due to a planned expansion at HS but I really hope that whatever happens they find a way to let us run through them for this race because it was so truly magical.
OK, now I was focused on finishing. No more pictures. No more port-a-potty stops. I started skipping the water stops (there were a LOT of them!). And then I saw the must have photo op:
Ah, my night was complete. Boba Fett. Erik’s favorite. I think Vader’s a little jealous! From here it was just a nice run on sidewalks to the Boardwalk where lots of spectators were lined up cheering and holding signs (the funniest one was held by a guy and said something like “You Run, You’ve Got Stamina – Call Me!”) and then into Epcot with more cheering and signs and support. One little loop around the big ball and I was done! I only took about 6 minutes off my Princess Half time, but I felt like I had plenty of gas in the tank for the after party and felt like I finished strong. I got my medal, snacks, water and my finisher’s photo and decided to skip the free drink because the lines were kind of long.
Erik met me at the front entrance of Epcot and we headed back to the after-party. He had carried my bag all night (thanks honey!) so I didn’t have to deal with bag check. There was a huge backup near the big fountain because the course wound through there and cast memebers would occasionally reroute the runners to somehow move groups of spectators through. It was CRAZY! Amy and her husband texted to see where we were and they were on the other side of the jam trying to cross in the opposite direction, so we completely missed them.
Once we got across, Erik led me to a kind of off the beaten path restroom (Epcot is his favorite so he knows where everything is) and I was able to wash up and change into dry non-stinky clothes (you’re getting a preview of my Space Coast Half costume in these pictures). Very nice. It was probably shortly after 1am by then so we headed to the countries to enjoy some Food & Wine booths. My first stop was Canada where I got a really big piece of Le Cellier steak. Very good and it hit the spot! There were great character photo opportunities everywhere I turned. Tiana liked my pigtails!
And Mulan congratulated me on my medal of honor.
I also got a Belgian Waffle with chocolate and then went to Germany for some potato/pasta treat and a glass of Riesling. Yummy! We were getting exhausted by then, but I can’t leave Epcot without riding Soarin’, so we hiked over to the Land and thankfully the escalators were both working! It was 3:20 am by then and I think we were the only sober ones on the ride (maybe in the park!) by then. It was pretty funny.
After Soarin’ we headed back to the event buses and one was waiting on us (I think, things were getting pretty fuzzy by then) and we had a fairly quick trip back to Port Orleans FQ. I had two flights of stairs to climb to get to our room, but that was manageable. 4am. I think that’s the latest I’ve gone to sleep (unrelated to a sick child) in four years!
The weather for this race was pretty comfortable compared to what I trained in. It was a little humid and I dumped the arm sleeves in the corral, but there were some cool breezes and running at night was really pleasant compared to having the sun beat down on you. And my costume was perfect for running, no problems at all and I got a lot of positive comments from the spectators (although one guy thought it was a Fraggle Rock guy!)
So, I went from a “one and done” for Wine & Dine to deciding that I’ll absolutely be signing up next year for the 5th Anniversary (as long as they don’t get rid of the Osborne Lights!). I loved the course, even if it was hillier than I expected (remember, I live and train in Florida so I’m a wuss about hills). The fact that once you get to Hollywood Studios, you don’t go back onto the highway again was perfect! And the after-party was so much fun. The medal’s pretty nice too!
If I haven’t worn everyone out with my exuberant rambling, I highly recommend you check out the other recaps of the race to see more photos and get other impressions. They are all great recaps!
If you’d like me to add your W&D recap, just leave the link in a comment or e-mail me! It was such a fun race, I love reading all the recaps even though I was there!