Wow, what an action packed, content rich post I have for you guys. Racing, cruising, park visiting, drunk people watching, trying to breathe underwater. This post has it all! Seriously, this sucker is packed, and I'll probably break it into two posts. Settle in beautiful babies, it's recap time!
As some of you know the Wine & Dine Half Marathon is my favorite of all half marathons in the world. What I love so much is that it's held at night, is chock full of theme park running time and there's a slick party held afterwards in Epcot. What's not to love? I had a keen eye on this year's race as a redemption race given last year's deluge of rain which wreaked havoc on all runners. However, the running gods were going to test me at every step of the way First, let's take a few steps back to when corral assignments were issued.
For nearly every Wine & Dine race I had always been put in A or B corrals. However, when I received my bib number, it had me (and my wife) in Corral K. I knew there had to be a glitch in proof of time submissions, so I brought up my concern up to runDisney. After about four weeks of back and forth, runDisney relented and put us in the appropriate corrals. I'm glad it was rectified, but there was a lot of unneeded stress over the course of a few weeks. I know there have been a lot of issues with runners' proof of time submissions, but now that they are using a new system, I'm hoping the issues will settle down.
The second issue, was weather. It was hot, like fry your heiny on the sidewalk, hot. With temperatures in the 80's and humidity hovering at a muggy, soupy 100%, things were going from optimum to complete garbage by the minute. I knew with the weather situation things were looking grim for a solid finish. We'll get back to weather in a minute.
Another point of order, which deserves mention as it has been so fun to work on over the past year. With the bad usually comes good, and last year's Wine & Dine's crappy weather awarded me a broken finisher's medal. Well, I used this broken medal to make the best of a bad situation (see recap here), employing the hashtag #makinglemonadeoutta. To date, my pics and posts have received a lot of mention from runners on how my journeys with that sad little medal have inspired them to see bad races differently. For the one year anniversary of the event I had some t-shirts made to sell, with proceeds going to my Chicago Marathon charity Team PAWS. It's been a lot of fun to do and I can't wait to see where the medal will show up next.
Saturday morning we ran the Jingle Jungle 5k at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The weather was horrid, with temps in the low 80's and humidity around 95%, making it feel like it was about 95 degrees out. As this race is never timed my intention was to leisurely jog about Animal Kingdom. However, knowing this weather was not going to change for that evening's half marathon, I decided to dig in a bit and see what Florida running would do to me. Well, it killed me. One mile in and I was huffing and puffing like an old man with a thickly wrapped embrace of humidity all around me. It was awful, my dream of a solid finish in the evening's half was all but over. I sped through the course in about 7:50 per mile, but it felt more like 11:00 per mile.
Following the race we checked into our room at the Boardwalk and made our way to meet friends for lunch at Via Napoli in Epcot. Unfortunately, due to our room not being ready, I was unable to visit with this session of the Cupcake Meetup team, who had donated to TeamPAWS on my behalf. I feel terrible about it, but am proud you all decided to help Chicago's stray pet population. Thank you.
Lunch at Via Napoli was excellent as always, but it was bittersweet. First, due to circumstances beyond their control, my dear loves Dee Dee and Jillian couldn't make lunch. I missed seeing their faces at the dinner table. Secondly, the Wine & Dine event at Epcot has gotten severely out of control. The crowds were unbearable, with some areas completely impassable. Additionally, apparently the day event has become overrun with frat bro's and sorority ho's who get as drunk as possible and cause mayhem. One asshole even climbed up the Mexico Pavilion wall in a drunken stuper. He probably thinks it was funny. I, on the other hand, find it sad and disgusting. Disney needs to fix that kind of stuff now.
After a quick cat nap we boarded the bus to Disney's Wide World of Sports to get situated for the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Half marathon or half half marathon? I'm not sure what to call it. Whatever it was, it was certainly something, as was the build up to it. Getting off the bus and heading to the outdoor holding area I checked the weather and it was a balmy 82 degrees with 98% humidity, making it feel about 96 degrees out. Worse yet, it looked like a weather system was moving in making a repeat of the 2014 race very likely. Honestly, I welcomed the rain given the stifling and oppressive humidity.
We met up with the usual suspects: Jen, Kim, Boris, Ken and Lena (who was a last minute addition all the way from Seattle). With an hour to go word came over the public address system, "Due to inclement weather, the race is on hold." Ugh, friggin' great. Here we go again. However, unlike last year, runDisney had all 12,000 runners leave the open field and congregate in the covered HP Field House. Being an ex-cast member I knew that when you had to move guests out from open areas shit was serious. All 12,000 of us runners trudged back into the Sports Complex's field house to wait out the storm. It was nice to get in the air conditioning and people seemed to be in good spirits, except for me due to popping two GU packets in my back pocket when sitting on the floor. For the rest of the night my hands were sticky and GU oozed out of my back pocket making a mess of everything.
After about 45 minutes of waiting the officials cleared the weather hazard and the race was back on. However, because of the late send off, runDisney had decided to "modify" the racecourse. None of us knew what that meant and no one was telling us what the new course distance would be, making it hard to develop a strategy for running (a huge blemish for runDisney on an otherwise well-executed weather contingency plan). I hopped into a bloated A corral and took of with the fireworks.
Usually, the race will take you out of WWoS onto Osceola Parkway for a three mile stretch to Animal Kingdom and back, heading onto World Drive towards MGM (none of that Hollywood shit) Studios. But, for tonight, as soon as we emerged onto Osceola Parkway the course turned straight towards World Drive and the Studios, cutting about six miles out of the course. From there, the course was the same it was every year prior.
We headed into the Studios via Tower of Terror, back past Toy Story Mania, into the backstage area where the famous "Disco Tunnel" is (and it was as hot and disorientating as ever). Heading back "on stage" we passed the spectacular Osborne Lights in their swan song (this was the last year for them), which is an unbelievably stupid move on Disney's part (I'd rather much take them than some goofy Star Wars Land which is what will be replacing that area).
Cutting through the walkway between the Studios and Boardwalk, we then headed back into Epcot via the International Gateway. One more backstage area to traverse which spit us out at the Journey Into Imagination gate, through Innoventions and past Spaceship Earth. As it always is, the Finish Line is in the Epcot parking lot and I crossed in 54:47, netting me 378th place. Given the heat and humidity, I just wanted to be done.
Similar to year's past, I waited for my wife to finish by continuously riding Spaceship Earth, the coldest attraction in the park. It was nice to escape the oppressive heat, albeit for a short while (okay, I rode 4 times in a row). However, this year was a little tougher to enjoy than previous years, since the GU mess in my back pocket made a mess of everything.
After meeting my wife and catching up with the rest of the running crew, we navigated the overcrowded event and noshed on culinary delights such as, Spanakopita in Greece, Cheddar Cheese Soup in Canada, and Kielbasa in Germany. Once 4a rolled around, we all trudged back to our respective resorts with tired legs and full bellies.
I know people were bummed about the outcome of the course, especially because it never rained. But, the race had a lot of people who were stuck out in a vulnerable position and Disney had to do what was best for the mass. Yeah, it's a drag, but I think they did a pretty good job. I woke up early Sunday morning and reflected on it.
The following day was dedicated to visiting local friends and family, which is always great treat in addition to visiting the parks. We closed the day gorging on the buffet at Cape May at the Beach Club and then packed for the second half of our trip which would include another race. However, this race would be held in the middle of the ocean.
End of Part 1.
P.S. A special shout out goes to Sharp Endurance for providing some solid perspective while developing this recap. Thanks Linz!