Thursday, November 15, 2012

Race Report: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon
November 10, 2012
Orlando, Florida

I'll say it in the shortest way possible: Disney knows how to do a race. And make it fun. Which, really, was my Goal #1 for this race: have fun! It's Disney for crying out loud, so how can you not have any fun? Right, you can't. Gear up for a long post. Seriously. You've been warned.

I worked a half day Friday before heading down to Atlanta and the airport. Heather and I were meeting at the airport in Orlando, Amma was already in Florida at this point, and Selby was getting there earlier on Friday. We had plans to all meet up for dinner (plus some more folks) to carb-load at Olive Garden before parting ways for the night.

I would count this as my first legit run-cation (though Ragnar I suppose would fit that word, too), but it felt like the first trip solely to run. I was excited! I got to Orlando at 4:15, and hoped I'd see more runners coming through baggage claim than I did while I sat there for an hour, but I supposed the die-hards had already gotten there (mostly if they were accepted into the #WineDineHalfMeetup which I will make travel arrangements for next year).  Thankfully, that just meant the airport was super mellow for a Friday evening! Heather got in at 5:30, we got our rental car and made our way to Disney's All-Star Movie Resort to pick up Selby, Amma and Ryan for the dinner fun! Dinner was incredible -- I'll provide you the visuals, but in short: I was the common denominator, with a few exceptions, to the entire dinner table. Talk about pressure! Heather, Amma and Selby I knew prior, of course. Dillon was my former RA in Texas, and his wife Kendall was also an RA while I was there, and they live in Orlando now. Alicia has been an online friend for ten+ years (seriously!), and we got to meet in person for the first time ever - talk about awesome - because she lives in Orlando too and runs pretty much every runDisney event there is. Amma brought along her friend, Ryan; Alicia brought her roommate, Katherine (who I also know online), and a sorority colonist from UCF, Chelsea, met up with Heather and I for the shenanigans too. Can you say crazy? So much fun.
All of us at dinner! Ryan, Amma, Selby, Katherine, Alicia, Kendall, Dillon, me & Heather. Chelsea hadn't arrived for the crazy yet, unfortunately for her! 
After a gallavant through Target where more shenanigans ensued, we finally took Amma, Ryan, and Selby back to their hotel, checked into our hotel (technically on property but not a Disney hotel), and crashed for the evening. If Friday night was any sign as to how amazing this weekend was going to be... I was ready!

We eventually woke up to an 8:20 alarm on Saturday morning - late for me, but at the crack of dawn for Heather who currently functions on Pacific Time (sorry HP). Grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and were trying to scramble to make it to the expo in time to see Jeff Galloway speak at 10 am about pacing and motivation (pacing being my long-standing issue). Breakfast took a lot longer than we thought, and getting texts from Selby saying that they were already using overflow parking at the expo freaked us out. So we high-tailed it there and got to the main expo around 9:30. Selby had warned us that the seating area was surprisingly small for this size of an expo, so we were nervous, but were pleasantly surprised when only 2 of the 25-30 chairs were occupied. Success.

First, walking up to the expo - I had never been to/near/at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, but felt the energy as soon as we were there. No longer had we parked and gotten out of the car that we started talking to a guy who was on his way in and gave us tips for running W&D (he had last year). The expo was set up in two venues - one for actual packet pick-up/chip testing/photo fun and the other building was entirely the expo. I liked the system - though we had gone straight to the expo building first, so we had to get back to the packet pick-up afterward, and then back to the main expo to get our shirts (anything to get you to walk through the expo!). Packet pick up was quick and easy, so apparently Saturday morning was the time to be there!

ZOMG, Jeff Galloway!
Jeff is a great speaker - he talked a lot about his run-walk-run cycle of training/racing, and how it benefits folks. I paid particular attention because I already planned on training for the full marathon in this way and that's how I already planned to run that race. He's funny, but real, and seemingly down to earth. And best, he lives in Atlanta. Woot! I was nerdily excited to get to meet him, and happend to be wearing my runATL shirt, so we had a quick convo about Atlanta and whereabouts we live. Such a nice guy! I'm excited to check out his run-walk timer and see if I can give it a go for training.

We spent a little while longer at the expo, spent some money I shouldn't (but I did need new shoes so I can actually start cycling through some and not killing my Brooks in training), and had a load of fun, to say the least. After picking up our packets, had a mini photo shoot with the backgrounds, and headed out for lunch at Downtown Disney and a quick errand before coming back to the hotel to take a nap and watch a few crazy football games (hot dang, Alabama, what happened to you?). Alicia worked at Magic Kingdom until 5:15, and was going to bus over to Downtown Disney and then walk to our hotel. En route, her phone died, so come 6 when we still had no idea where she was, I headed out and drove into the madness to try and find her, to no avail. Thankfully, around 6:30 she was finally at our room, scrambling to eat, change, try and charge her phone, and get over to All Star, where we planned to meet with our people at 7:15. Success, on the bus and at the start line by 7:45!

Then the fun began. Because buses stopped at 8, you had to be at the start line nearly two hours before your gun time (depending on your corral). Thankfully, there was a great entertainer who was teaching us moves and getting us to stay active (and warm) for those two hours -seriously, they flew by. Bag check was to be done by 9 pm, and we were hurdled into our corrals at about 9:15 (stand in a corral for a full hour?!). Ah well.

I was originally assigned Corral C, while Amma was in B, Selby and Alicia in D, and Heather in E. Alicia, Amma, and I all went back to E to get started with Heather. We had some meet up plans with the rest of the crew (Mile 8 or Tigger, whichever came first), so we didn't sweat about the split up too much.

I had two goals for this race:
  • Have fun, as mentioned above. It's a race with friends, it's by Disney, it's AT Disney... how seriously can you take this?
  • Get Heather across the finish line. This was my dear friend's first half marathon and I was determined to make sure she did it. She was at the finish line for my first one back in January, and I needed to make sure the same happened. If worst came to worst, she told me I could drag her across the line (spoiler: that didn't happen).
Hey guys! You're doing a half marathon!
At the start, Amma and I took off, bobbing and weaving (oh lord the bobbing and weaving!), and I told HP and Alicia I'd meet them at Mile 5. Mile 1 had nearly a 12:30 time because of all the bobbing we had to do. I had to remind myself that I was in the second to last corral and a lot of the folks were using a run-walk method (while walking in the middle of the road). We hit Mile 5 seemingly quickly, and Amma wanted to keep going - I told her I had promised to meet the other two at the 5er so I stopped, took some fun photos, talked to the security guys and the Disney employee/volunteer who was single-handedly probably the most excited volunteer I'd seen - all by himself! I hung out at Mile 5 for about 18 minutes until I finally saw Heather chugging along and looking great! We weren't even 100 yards past the 5 when Alicia caught up to us too. From there on out, we maintained a 1-1 run-walk cycle. I liked it - it went along with my "have fun" mantra, but also allowed me some leeway; for example, had I been running/racing and chugging along, I wouldn't have crossed over the 10K mat singing "Livin' on a Prayer" (ooooooh we're halfway theeerrreeeee -- get it?) with five or six other women, or stopped for photos with some chararcters (only a few). And I got to keep pushing along with two really important people in my life (mush, I know).

From there, I didn't pay attention to splits (really, I only did at Mile 1). Alicia and I would run ahead a little while, then walk for a bit and wait for Heather. Or we'd stop in line for character photos, Heather would run ahead and then we'd catch up again. Just before Mile 8, were Goofy and Chip 'n Dale, three characters I was really excited about - and, by this point, I hadn't taken any character photos! Heather charged on ahead, and just told us to catch up with her. The major point of planned meeting-up (Mile 8) came and went - we knew Heather was ahead of us, we just hoped the rest of the bunch had started running with her too and didn't wait for us. Heather texted me just as we entered Hollywood Studios, saying she had just entered and she needed us to catch up - I knew this meant business, so we nearly sprinted through the Rockin' Rollercoaster section and found her along Main Street. She was doing so great (she had maxed out her training plan at 9 miles and we were nearly at 10) but had started to hit the wall. Back to the run-walk cycle, the three of us.

Hollywood Studios is a park that I feel is under-appreciated. Admittedly, it's not my fave, mostly because the rides are fewer, but they are awesome ones! After the back-lot tour tunnel, we come around the corner by Star Wars (we didn't stop for Darth Vader, he freaks me out), and turned the corner into Osborne's Festival of Lights, so nearly the huge main square at DHS is lit up. Stunning. My favorite was the Peace on Earth with dozens of angels looming around. Beautiful.

Just around Mile 11, you come in the front of DHS and  are greeted by their Christmas tree. Alicia and I had gone on a little bit further than Heather at this point, but stopped for a photo shoot with the tree and waited for her to catch up - we were only 2 miles from the finish and I made a mental vow to make sure I got her over that line - dragging or no dragging. The last bit of the race is tough -- the boardwalk is dimly lit up, but not super exciting, though there were two boats docked with bands playing for us! A nice surprise in a fairly dark area of the race, compared to the excitement of DHS we had just come through.

I'm going to out Heather a little bit here (sorry boo, love you!) - she's not the emotional type. That's also coming from me, Queen of Execessive, Unnecessary Tears. About the 12.5 mark or so, she started tearing up, just knowing she'd finish, that she'd make it, and she could officially call herself a half-marathoner (!). At Mile 13, she lost it, through the smoke (poor decision Disney) and lasers, as I did with her, and over the line we went. And then it was cryfest (mostly on her part). She did it! I'm so proud of this girl - she's been running not even a year, ran her first 5K last January and has been kickin' tail since. So proud of what she's done in not even a year! And already signed up for her second half before this one even happened (she'll be joining me in Surf City while I run the full).
This sufficiently depicts it for you - tears, excitement, pride, accomplishment.
We got our medals, made our way to the bag exchange since we were close to the closing time call for bags (2:15 am), grabbed all the food we can in our arms (lots of great snackage!), and promptly sat down. Poor decision, we know. We finally made our way to finding the rest of our group, continued the photo shoot, and then went to go play at Epcot! The park was open until 4 am for runners and after-party guests, so we got to cruise through Soarin' (favorite ride ever, hooray California!) and a few other fun things before we headed out for the night. Amazing, amazing evening. Disney does some great stuff.

All finishers!

I'll have another post later about our parks adventure and things I recommend for enjoying your runDisney experience, and both the positives and (very few) negatives about the weekend and my experience!


  1. You did a great job helping me to relive the experience.
    So happy to have finally run with you :) It took way too long!

    1. Sigh, so much fun. Can we go back? Right now? Or at least November '13? And yes, so glad we finally got to run together! We'll also have to find a race we can do super serious together, would love that!

  2. Congrats! My brother-in-law ran it last weekend, too. I want to do a Disney race some day.

    1. SUCH a great experience. It's hard not to like it, because it's Disney, but as long as you allow yourself to have fun with it, it's worth the pretty penny. Loved my experience. Hope you get to do one someday!

  3. Great recap and congrats to your friend on her first half. The Disney races get addictive too! We ran this one too and especially enjoyed the lights at HS.

    1. They are so addictive, and I can see why! Such a great weekend, great experience overall. I'll be back for more, that's for sure!

    2. And thanks for stopping by my blog - I LOVE yours! So much fun that y'all run so much Disney together! :)