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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race Recap - Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon 2014

This past weekend, Rachel and I took on the first of back to back runDisney race weekends, and ran our 5th half marathon as a team. As you may have heard by now, the weather didn't quite cooperate for a perfectly magical 13.1 miles in Disney, but regardless, we set out to have ourselves a good time.

The hardest thing we had to figure out in regard to running a night race was how to spend our non-running time, so we could get ourselves on a late-night schedule, fuel properly, but still have a great time in Disney. After we both arrived at our hotel Friday afternoon, we took some time to enjoy the warm weather and heated pool. Friday night, we took the resort bus to Downtown Disney, shopping (of the souvenir and window varieties) and taking advantage of goofy photo spots. For dinner, we met up with some of Rachel's improv friends at Paradiso 37 - decent food, somewhat overpriced, yummy drink options.

Working on character poses for race night
After dinner, we walked the boardwalk a bit more before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel. The goal was to get to bed relatively early so we could be up early to hit the expo, then have the afternoon for some pre-race R&R.

The expo was once again held at ESPN's Wide World of Sports, where we found all of our favorite booths and vendors at the expo. Once we picked our race packets (and were thrilled to find a $10 Disney gift card inside, that we could use on just about anything Disney, including food and drink at the after party Sunday morning!).

I was a little disappointed that some vendors were sold out of the things on my shopping list, particularly given this was only a two-day expo, and we were there first thing on Saturday (flying in on separate flights prevented us from going on Friday as originally planned). RunDisney was out of wine glasses (VERY bummed about this - it would have been the perfect souvenir for a Wine and Dine race!), and my trusty KT Tape was out of their special, limited edition Minnie Mouse tape that I'd been eyeing.

At the expo!
I quickly got past my disappointments, and instead went in search of a visor to match my race outfit. We'd been monitoring the weather pretty closely, wavering between long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, and seen the rain coming all day. A visor was the one thing I hadn't packed just in case, that would really help with the incoming downpours. Fortunately, I found exactly what I was looking for at the Sparkle Athletic booth, and forked over an easy $25 for the accessory that would save my race.

We continued to peruse, taking advantage of a few expo discounts and specials to snatch some gear and goodies we'd been eyeing for some time. We both signed up for the RunnerBox, so keep an eye out for some upcoming box reviews!

Flat Elsa and Flat Anna, ready to run
As promised, after the expo it was back to the hotel for us, to grab a light lunch, soak up some sun, lay out our flat runners, and nap before getting ready for the race. After a few hours of not-so-satisfying sleep (do you have any idea how hard it is to fall asleep in mid-afternoon at Disney World?!), it was time to get ready to run. We geared up, packing an entire change of clothes for the after-party, since we were planning on being pretty drenched after the race itself. My boyfriend Andrew had tagged along for this race, and in addition to cheering us on, graciously agreed to carry a backpack around for us with all the post-race necessities.

"Elsa? Do you wanna run in Disney?"
Heading down to the race was uneventful. There was plenty of room on our bus, and we got straight through the short lines at bag search, bag check, and the port-o-potties. After that, we decided to hop into the line for a photo with Minnie (Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Chip & Dale were all out for photos, each with a pretty long but quick moving line).

That handsome fella on the right there? That's Andrew. He was the best support system, cheerleader, and life-saver this weekend.
Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to Andrew and head to the corral. Rachel's time had her in Corral F, but since we were in it to have a good time and stick together, she bumped back to start with me in I. Here's where our expo finds really started to come in handy. Once we got to the start line, the rain hit. Inside the box we picked up from RunnerBox, there was a handy dandy space blanket that we unfolded and huddled under waiting for our turn to cross the start. The other expo purchase that really came through was my visor - I wouldn't have been able to stand having rain pelting at my face for 13 miles, so it really helped me get through the race.

Traditional corral selfie - modelling that space blanket and Sparkle Athletic visor!
Soon enough, we were sent on our way with fireworks and loud cheers from the crowd. Andrew positioned himself just past the start line, so was able to catch a glimpse of us (the race announcers were great about telling spectators where and when to go so they could be escorted to watch the start). We gave him a wave, and started making our way to Animal Kingdom. We managed to maintain a fairly steady pace for the first two miles, not starting too fast right out of the gate.

Andrew stuck with the "Frozen" theme when he made his sign.
Not too soon after we made the turn out of WWoS, we came across the first set of characters along the highway - the Country Bears from the Jamboree. A friend of ours is always joking that the only valid reason to run would be if chased by bears, and since it was her birthday, we felt obligated to stop for a quick photo. This was the only character stop we made during the race, just in an effort to keep moving and make it to the after party (and our dry clothes) as quickly as possible.

Although we didn't stop, there were a surprising number of characters out and about along the course. I had figured (given the rain and cold) many characters would be pulled, and while there were a handful of dark spots where there clearly should have been photo ops, the Disney team got really creative with where characters were positioned (under turnstile overhangs, tucked underneath the roofs of buildings, etc) so they could stay dry and still be there for runners. As a result, the lines for photos actually seems really short in comparison to other Disney races we've run.

Team CinderWars out front of Mickey's hat!
After a mile or so in Animal Kingdom, it was back to the highway to make the trek to Hollywood Studios. I was surprised at how many miles we covered within the parks themselves on this race - 1+ in AK, close to 3 in DHS, a mile around the resort and boardwalk area, and just shy of 1 to finish through Epcot. That's where the real magic comes into these races - running past the beautiful decor of the Disney parks, down the Streets of America through the Osborne Dancing Lights, past the resorts and shops of the boardwalk, and finally through Epcot where all of the faster runners were already enjoying the celebrations - the views just can't be beat.

The rain never bothered us anyway...
At long last, drenched from the relentless rain, we crossed the finish line and made our way through the finisher's shoot. This process was my biggest gripe of the race - everything seemed so disorganized and chaotic. I was glad to see space blankets at the end, but there weren't enough people around to hand them out. I almost completely missed the water/powerade tables at the end (Rachel did miss them entirely), because there was no one putting bottles into runners hands like there usually is at Disney (heck, Rachel is usually super impressed because there are volunteers there to OPEN your water for you, since you've exerted so much energy into running). The final straw was the bag check. Where usually there are tents to walk into and collect your bag, we were kept behind crowd control gates while volunteers went in search of our things. At the very end of the finisher's shoot, we could redeem a tab on our bib for a free adult beverage. Neither of us had our ID on us, so couldn't get the can of Bud Light they were handing out. Yep, you read that right - BudLight. Gross. Not too disappointed to miss out on that one.

Done and ready to celebrate!
After a BIG hug from Andrew, we set out for the after party in Epcot. Another chaotic jumble of runners trying to get through another bag search before entering the park, and we were through. Rather than standing in the loooong bathroom line to change into our dry clothes, we used the space blanket as a "changing station" in the locker room. I was so grateful to have my flip flops, a dry bra/shirt, and a rain jacket in my dry bag - those saved the night for me.

Once we were changed, the three of us headed for the World Showcase, sampling as we went. At Andrew's suggestion, the first place we stopped was at the Scotland kiosk for a taste of Glenfiddich 12 - I'm not usually a scotch drinker, but sipping on that sure did warm me up! As we made our way around the world, stopping for a bite or a sip here and there, we were pleased to find character photo opportunities here as well!

It's a jolly holiday with you, Burt - gentlemen like you are few!
Another one of the things I found so impressive about this race were the volunteers and cast members - all of whom were dealing with the same lousy weather and late/early hours - who kept a smile and amazing attitude throughout the evening. We had a charming conversation with Burt, exchanged lots of sillies with Remy and Emile, and Pinnochio and Geppetto admired our medals. Every single cast member we encountered seemed to be having just as much of a good time as we were. High praise for 4:00 in the morning, when it had been raining since 10.

All in all, I loved this race experience. Yes, it was wet. Yes, it was chilly (for Florida). Yes, I was injured and didn't train as well as I wanted to. But I had SO. MUCH. FUN. The course was my favorite of the Disney HMs we've done, there were lots of characters out and about along the course and afterward, and the whole concept of celebrating with your fellow runners at a giant after-party in Epcot was amazing. I loved every minute. The only thing we'd change for next year? Sign up for the Jungle Jingle 5k that morning, too!

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