2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Dopey Challenge - Part 2

Okay, so most of you who had just run the Disneyland Rebel Challenge this morning have taken your showers and naps and are now looking for something to keep you busy as your achy legs recover. So, you're welcome. Here's Part 1 if you need to catch up. 

When I had last left you I had just fended off potential pneumonia from a cold, wet 10k and celebrated with some amazing friends at Cigna's blogger meet up at Epcot. Let's finish this sucker off with some more racing, meet ups and Disney experiences. 

Race #3 - The Half Marathon and A Steak That Had Replaced My Leg. 

Saturday morning brought on the first of what I'd consider the more meaty part of the Dopey Challenge, the half marathon. Considering the previous day's cold soup of an experience, I really had no clue what to expect weather-wise. In addition, the half marathon portion of this challenge had always been a bit of a gray area for me historically, as I've always wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank to finish the marathon somewhat strong, so I never had any real confidence in running the half. This year's half was no exception. 

I was feeling a little homesick for my favorite city in the world (and hometown) Chicago, so I forgone the usual race singlet and opted for a Chicago Marathon T-shirt. Complementing the top, some seriously impressive New Balance 1400v3 racers. I really love the update to this line as they finally feel like a race shoe and less of a trainer. 

Sweet home, Chicago. 

Upon reaching the race area at Epcot, the weather was warm and muggy. It wasn't hot per se, rather the low cloud cover trapped what I can only refer to as "swampass" weather. Sticky, gross, heavy and not ideal for racing. Surprisingly, my legs had yet to pay penance for the lack of miles building up to the weekend and my heart was itching to make this a strong run. However, my head hopped into the fray to make sense of what still lay ahead of me, directing my body back one corral from C to D to ensure my weekend wouldn't result in me turing into a 150 pound puddle of mush to be scraped off of World Drive. While waiting to move to corrals, my wife and I caught up with Cyanne and Danielle in the Cigna tent.

Ladies! All the ladies!

Toeing the line of the start, my headphones cranking out a pumping rhythm, eyes fixed on the horizon; it was go time. Jumping out to a comfortable pace, I settled in for the long, boring run from Epcot Center Drive onto World Drive that would bring me to the Magic Kingdom and my family, waiting ever-so-patiently for that momentary glimpse as I ran by.  

As expected, the run to the Magic Kingdom was uneventful, although Disney did a solid job of trying to keep us busy with marching bands and hot-air balloons. The plentiful crowd at the Ticket & Transportation Center were jubilant replenishing my energy. Entering the Magic Kingdom, I came around the corner and saw Cinderella Castle in it's icy glow; always an amazing sight. I caught my family just at the end of Main Street USA and spent a few minutes talking with them about the race and when I expected to finish. After another few minutes in the Tomorrowland restroom, checking my hair, my half marathon Magic Kingdom experience was done. 

As I made my way out of the Frontierland gate and on the road towards The Grand Floridian, my luck had finally run out as a sharp pain in the lower section of my left quad appeared without notice. Knowing this could just be an irritation I continued on but slowed my pace until I could figure out the severity of my leg situation. By this time, the muggy weather was also starting to create a fissure in my performance. For that matter I decided to hang way back and conserve juice for the following day. The decision turned out to be a wise one as the weather never cleared and my leg continued to ache to a point it felt like my quad had been replaced with a loose steak and was left to flap unsecured under my skin. I mustered through the rest of the race in 1:57 & change, collected my medal and looked for the nearest bus to get home.  

Moving on. 

After I finished the race all I wanted to do was get back to the hotel and hop into the deepest, coldest ice bath I could manage. My leg was in rough shape and I started giving serious thought to sitting out the rest of the challenge. After relaxing and a long and uncomfortable rolling out of my quad, I wanted to move around a bit to keep loose. Plus, I had to get to the Lake Buena Vista Village Marketplace (Disney Springs) to see some good people. 

#WeRunSocial Meet Up & The Cool-Headed Monkey

If you're not familiar with #WeRunSocial, you should get familiar. We're a group of passionate runners that love to meet up and support each other. That's it. So, when the chance to get together arises, you bet we're all going to see each other and have a good time. While stronger on the west coast, the east coast contingent is no slouch.

The crew. Photo Credit: #WeRunSocial

This meet up was facilitated by the great Dani and Ivie, two amazing personalities. Ivie and I have met a few times prior, but I hadn't yet met Dani, who was equally as awesome in-person as she is on the interwebs.

Dani's the coolest!

Also at the meet up we dozens of great folks who were loyal ARF readers and followers of my exploits with my #makinglemonadeoutta medal. I'm going to miss some folks here, so I apologize in advance, but in attendance were: Gelcys (who is a frigging inspiration), Alan, Rachel, Mike, Karen, Ken, Kristin, Shannon, Kara, Scott, Christina and Marc. It as great to meet you all and thank you for the kind words. To quote Carlee, "You guys rock my socks!" 

This here's trouble. 

The Scoliosis Runner (Gelcys) is a badass!

#makinglemonadeoutta meets #kenthumbsup

After some killer conversation and pictures that drove the internet wild (lemonade gets a thumbs up), we headed over to Jockey Lindsey's Bar & Grill, another brand new addition to WDW that I had been itching to try. Jock's, themed from the first Indiana Jones vehicle, is the perfect place to grab a small bite and more importantly, a stiff drink. We noshed on tapas-style plates of baked pretzels and bratwursts, perfect for my body yearning for any carbs it could get its hands on. We called it an early night after that with more rolling out my quad from my own personal Nurse Ratched. 

Cool Headed Monkey Face!

26.2 and Then I'm Through.

The weather felt warm as I stood out on the balcony of my room early Sunday morning. Not terrible, but just a tad on the humid side. It felt like the rain would hold out and the sun wouldn't be as intense as year's past. However, it also felt like any PR's on runners' schedules most likely would stay put, as today would not be a 'runner's weather" kind of day. 

As with every race that means the most to me, I always don my Team PAWS singlet. As you may know, I'm a huge supporter of PAWS Chicago, the city's largest no kill shelter. In fact, any commission I get from Zazzle on my #makinglemonade T-shirt sales go directly to PAWS. Every year I run the Chicago Marathon on their behalf and have recently taken a position there helping new runners with raising money. This singlet is to me is what Tiger Woods' signature red and black Sunday canon is to him.

This is my Sunday attire. 

I don't mess around when in this outfit.

There's something about riding the bus to the course that I just love. Even though visibly, the bus tends to be deathly still, the invisible is electric. Everyone has the same thing on their minds, the race. The 26.2 miles that stand between them and their personal definition of glory. Listening to a mix of chillout and downtempo music I stared longingly out the window, hoping for a few more miles on the road. Not because I didn't want to run, rather the serenity offered by the bus lulled me into an easy calmness. 

I disembarked the bus to a sight I've must have seen a thousand times before. Runners of every shape and size, costumed and non, experienced and rookie making their way to the lights and sounds of the DJ. As with every big race, I tried to find a secluded area to sit and focus. If you ever look for me at a Disney race, just look as far away from the hullabaloo as possible; that's where you'll find me. Truth of the matter is, I don't like to be around people before a race. It may seem like I'm stand off-ish, but really it's me and not you. I just want to spend some time centering myself and visualizing the course. I'm all for beers after the race, but before best to leave me be. 

As with the previous day's decision, I made my way back one corral from C to D. Surprisingly, my quad felt warm and devoid of any pain, although from the tightness I knew it was only a matter of time before it would rear its ugly head. Again, the fireworks shot off and the final leg of this year's Dopey Challenge was underway. I made it clear to myself that the only goal on the agenda was to finish, whether upright or not was no matter; just finish. 

The miles seemed to pass quickly, although my pace was probably slower than it had ever been for a marathon. No time to stop for pictures, my eyes remained fixed on what lay in front of me, while my brain constantly questioning when that pesky quad gremlin would show it's greedy, race-killing face. 

I had made it to my family, once again near Cinderella Castle. To date, the run had been a welcome uneventfulness, all systems were still "go." This continued until about half way towards Animal Kingdom, in the dreaded Water Treatment/Compost Corridor of the race, when my Quad steak had reappeared and started to mess with my pace. It was also at this time I ran into my friend Seth, who had started a corral back, but was in much better shape. I let him know to push on and I'd catch up to him once I could sort out the ole leg issue. 

Heading into Animal Kingdom offered another inspirational moment for us, runners. We had just endured the first of the barren sections of the course, and now were back in the public eye cheering us on. I, especially love this part since I know my friend Jenn is always there, and like clockwork, there she was. Thank you, Jenn. The sun was making its presence known as I turned onto Osceola Parkway, headed for the dreaded Wide World of Sports. 

My leg was still smarting as I turned onto Victory Way, the first of the gauntlet of twists and turns that is ESPN Wide World of Sports - seriously, I wish they would do away with this part of the course - my own personal hell. In my immediate view in front of me was none other than Seth; I had caught up. We ran together for most of this section of the course, only to separate once again as I made my way up the Matterhorn-esque Green Army Man onramp towards the Studios. 

Just before hitting the Studios, I slathered some BioFreeze on my Quad and pushed on, only happy to find out the Studios course was shortened this year. Instead of out and backs, the course took us in behind the Tower of Terror, through the mind-altering and sweltering "Disco Tunnel," through NY St. (Streets of America), past the Great Movie Ride (love ya, baby) and then out the front entrance. 

I caught a second wind near the Boardwalk which lasted to about Germany, when all the under-training finally shut my legs down. Adding insult to injury, Seth blew right by me like I was standing still. I tried to fire up the legs, but even the fumes had vacated the engine. Finally, at Norway I summoned the great Grete Waitz and fired the legs back up, which was a good thing since Cyanne was just around the corner to cheer me on, giving me the energy to finish strong. With a clenched fist and even tighter jaw I putted through the finish, another Dopey Challenge in the books. 

Okay, what's next?

I celebrated the only way I know how, with a deep sleep, followed by a celebratory meal at our favorite restaurant, Artist Point. It surpasses every other Disney restaurant by far, in setting, menu, wines and hospitality. Like year's past, we feasted on select treats from the Pacific Northwest, while the Pinot flowed like, well, wine. I wondered out loud that since we are headed to the actual Pacific Northwest, would this restaurant continue to hold that special place in my heart and stomach?

Finishing a scrumptious meal of bison and Filet Mignon, we headed back to Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar and Grill to meet up with Cyanne, once again to celebrate our accomplishments achieved over the weekend. The following day, we headed back to the Skipper Canteen for another delightful experience. I'm sensing you can tell the theme of things I like. Exotic. 1930's/1940's. Yes, please.  

The following morning we met with one of our dearest friends, Katie for a lively breakfast at the Contemporary. It was great to see her, as she's such a character. I was less excited for the other characters in attendance (you'll see what I'm talking about below). 

Katie was the only character I wanted to see.

Additional Thoughts and Perspectives.

I continue to love the WDW Marathon Weekend, which you could probably tell from this post. There are notes that didn't quite fit in the post that I felt were still relevant to share, noted below:

- I felt runner's etiquette this year had vastly improved on previous Disney races. For the most part, slower runners/walkers stayed to the right and raised their hands when they wanted to stop. 

- Water stops continue to be a concern. Guys, it's okay to walk, but do so after you get your water. Plus, keep your wits about you at the first person at each stop. Disney is great for lengthy water stops, so no need to be "Thirsty Firstie."

- Corral jumping. No matter how you rationalize it, if you do it you're an asshole. It is my #1 pet peeve. Sorry, not sorry. 

- Our international running friends need to learn some manners. I saw numerous runners elbow, push and kick (yes, really) to the front of the corrals. Be like everyone else and get there in enough time to get to the front safely. I'm sure not everyone from that region does this, but it was noticeable. 

- Disney really needs to do something about the metal detectors. I understand the need for safety and champion their want to do something, but seriously what's happening now is awful. It really was a major factor in us not visiting the parks more. Not to mention, every single time we went to the entrance, we were "randomly" selected to go through extra screening. Every. Time. Bullshit, guys. 

- As much of a purist and a "Disney was better in the past" kind of guy, I really like how Disney Springs is being developed. Jock Lindsey's is awesome!

- The refresh of Pirates of the Caribbean is really good. I like the updated sound and visual effects. But, the old smell is missing. Bad form, Disney.

- Skipper Canteen. Please support this restaurant. Yes, it's not churros or turkey legs, but you'll like it. 

- Wilderness Lodge, you have my heart. 

- Be sociable. A number of you who follow me on social media introduced yourselves to me over the course of the weekend. It was great to meet you and talk a little. I love meeting people (except before races : P ), come on up and say hi!

- Lastly, one of the most frequent questions I get from readers is why I never stop for pictures. After all, these races are more fun than serious. Let me just say I'm more a Parks guy than a character guy. As you can see below, they're really not our thing. 

Ugh. Can we just get this over with?

I hope to see you at the Princess Half Marathon. This will be my first time running the Princess and I'm excited to get back out there. So, until next time; Run fast. Run smart. 

Until next time, gang.