This was my second running of runDisney’s Expedition Everest Challenge. Last year (see recap here) I ran on a team with my teenage son. We had a great time, but he decided to
retire from take a break from running. This year, I ran it on a team with my husband, Erik. It was his first race which was pretty exciting!
Because we’re being “fiscally responsible” we let our Disney annual passes expire and our race trips are now just one nighters without the family. We drove down to Orlando Saturday morning through the steady rain. We got to Disney without mishap and headed straight to Wide World of Sports (which I cannot help but call Wild World of Sports for some reason). It was smooth sailing until we got close and then suddenly traffic came to a standstill. Apparently there was some insanely huge cheerleading national competition also happening at WWoS. We saw cheerleaders jumping out of cars and running along the side of the road.
I know that having the expo for Princess at Coronado Springs in 2013 was a dismal disaster, but having the Expo for the Everest Challenge at WWoS at the same time as thousands of cheerleaders and and thousands of their family members did not make for a smooth Expo experience. When we did packet pickup last year, we just pulled in, parked a few steps away and got out stuff, no trouble. This time we spent 45 minutes in awful stop and go traffic and parked out in the overflow lot. If we’d known this was going on, we would have scheduled our expo visit at a different time.
Once we got parked, it was still crowded with cheerleaders, but picking up our bibs and shirts was really smooth. No lines, no crowds and I was able to exchange my race shirt for a different size without any problem.
After getting our bibs and shirts, I hustled over to the NewBalance booth to see if I could get my hands on a pair of the Cindy shoes. No line and no wait, but also no shoes in my size. Oh well, at least I saved some money. Most of the other vendors were outside in tents. Sparkleskirts was there and I stopped by to see if I could check out some of the new prints and said hi to Leah and a couple of Facebook friends as well (keep an eye out for a special guest post from one of them this week!).
We then headed to the Swan (enjoying the complete lack of traffic!) and checked in. We got a great upgrade to a lovely upper-level room with a gorgeous view (we can even see Space Mountain and the Contemporary from our room). Being nice to the front desk clerks can pay off sometimes!
We had a great lunch at Big River Grille & Brewing Works. No wait and the food was really delicious, generous portions and not too pricy. We both had the cheese/beer soup, I had the hazelnut crusted chicken and Erik got the turkey & swiss sandwich. We’d never tried this restaurant before, but were really happy with the food and service. We then got some baked treats at the Boardwalk Bakery to take back to the room for a snack later.
We spent the rest of the afternoon resting up, watching TV and getting our stuff ready for the race. Because we weren’t staying at a host hotel, we had to drive to Animal Kingdom for the race. Because we followed my rule of “be the first one to the staging area” (we left around 7:30pm), we had no trouble with traffic or parking. And there was no one at the parking payment booths, so we got to just drive right through (note: slow down a LOT before going over those speed bumps!).
But as soon as we pulled into the Animal Kingdom parking lot, despite the weather channel’s promises of clearing skies, the rain started. So we sat in our car for almost an hour as the temperatures dropped into the sixties and the rain alternated between heavy and drizzle. Finally, the need to hit the port-a-potties outweighed the desire to stay dry and we wrapped the runDisney space blankets I got at Tink around us and ventured out into the drizzle. There were tons of people there already and long lines for the photo-ops. The DJ had everyone dancing to fun songs despite the weather.
There were some great costumes, but a lot more people wearing the race shirt than I’ve seen before. I wonder if a lot of people scrapped their costume plans because of the weather or if there were just a lot of newer runners…
I wore my Animal costume (from Wine & Dine last year) and it was super comfortable again and I think it looked a little better even though I’m the same weight, so maybe the weights are helping reshape my body composition a bit.
Before long, we headed to the corrals where it started raining again! Oh well, we gave up fighting the weather and just went with it. The DJ had us doing lots of fun dances and then he broke out the big guns with the Frozen soundtrack. I joined in the majority of the runners in singing out the lyrics to Let It Go completely off key but with enthusiasm. See all the orange shirts? Those are the race shirts.
And we were off. We were in Corral C (there were ten corrals). The first corral started at 10pm and we started at 10:12. The race course took us one mile through the parking lot and then we got to our first obstacle, the hay bales. I forgot to take a photo, but it consisted of about 10 rows of hay bales about 2 feet tall that you could hurdle or climb over. You could choose to bypass them and just run next to them, but what’s the fun in that? As a short person (I’m 5’3″) I had to jump on top of some of them and almost busted trying to hurdle them. As a tall person (6′), Erik had no trouble with this one.
We then entered Animal Kingdom. The ground was very wet with lots of puddles, but it had stopped raining and the ground really wasn’t slippery at all. About this time, we saw the front runners that had finished their 5k and were on the scavenger hunt! There were lots of great photo ops and we stopped for my favorites:
I love running through Animal Kingdom at night, the light features are so beautiful and you don’t often get to enjoy them at night because the park usually closes so early. We had to take a brief bathroom break.
The pathways were a little narrow in places, but at the time we ran through them, it wasn’t too crowded.
Right after this was the water stop. And shortly after the water stop, we took another break to get a photo with Mickey. I really enjoyed that the lines for the characters were so short. Chip & Dale was maybe 30 seconds wait and Mickey was a minute or two at the most.
We then ran back behind Expedition Everest on a service road. This is my least favorite stretch of the race, the road is just so boring and you’re being passed on the other side of the road by everyone who is ahead of you. After the end you turn around and do the tire obstacle.
Last year, we started in a much later corral and ran the 5k slower, so by the time we got to this obstacle we were all just walking through the tires. This year it was uncrowded enough that we could actually run through the tires which was fun.
On the way back towards the finish, we were now passing the people behind us (who were heading towards the obstacle) and I noticed some neat metal things on the side of the course. I’m wondering if they are part of the new night-time show that’s been announced for Animal Kingdom. Here’s one of them.
And this is what the back side of Everest looks like:
Then it was a run through more backstage areas until you get to the final obstacle, the rope net. It has astroturf underneath, but there’s still some dirt to contend with. And the net was low enough that my pigtails kept getting caught on it so I had to keep my head super low.
After this obstacle, it was just a short distance to the finish line where we got water and our first clue for the scavenger hunt. Continue on to part 2 of my recap here for the scavenger hunt and after-party fun!