Friday, February 10, 2017

RACE REPORT: DISNEY WORLD DOPEY CHALLENGE 2017



THE EXPO

Time for an adventure!  After staying in Charleston for a few days, it was time to head down to Florida.  We sprinted down, it felt like, wanting to make it down to the expo in time for the seminar that covered Dopey Challenge Tips.  We had a little bit of time to spare, so we stopped at Total Wine to get some local beers for the week.  I had stopped here last year, on the way out of Florida, and wanted to make sure that we hit it again.  


At the expo, since it was our second time there, we felt like we knew the drill.  Last year, I had some trouble navigating the different buildings to complete different steps in the packet pickup process.  I had shared that feedback in the post-race survey.  This year, it may just be confirmation bias, but I felt like there were more cast members directing traffic and pointing out the way to go, so good job, Disney.  

We started at the Dopey Seminar, since we wanted to make sure that we didn't miss it.  On the panel, they had the RunDisney race director, plus a Perfectly Dopey Runners World Ambassador, plus Dave McGilvary (the RD for Boston), and two health experts.  


My take-home tips:

  • Run the same pace on all the races, as you plan to run for the marathon, to avoid overdoing it.  I had considered racing the 5K just to be able to race at least one of the Disney races, but this had me sold.  Plus, I found out that the 5K was untimed with no awards, so a PR wouldn't have even meant anything officially.
  • Don't go to the parks: Save your legs
  • Put your feet up after the races, to help with recovery
  • During tough times during the race, think "I'm fortunate just to be here"
  • Lay out gear the night before, since you're going to be tired the morning of, and you don't want to forget anything


The following seminar was about special moments in Marathoning, led by Dave McGilvary, and I kind of wished that I could stay, but I didn't want my parents to have to wait for a long time, so we moved on o the rest of the expo.  I got my bib, took my proof-of-being-the-same-person-in-each-race picture, and got a big back of race shirts - 5K, 10K, HM, M, Goofy, and Dopey... 6 nice shirts!  Mine actually had an extra, somehow.  Birthday surprise.  After the expo, we went out to Golden Corral for dinner.  I had a meat-heavy meal.  Since I wasn't going for speed during this race series, I didn't feel the need to carbo-load or do anything special.  Just go with what my body wanted.  I love BBQ and pot roast and vegetables.


We checked in at a 3-BR condo.  Nice and comfortable! 



PLUTO 5K

I woke at 3:30am, to get ready for the 6am race.  I decided to start a tradition of taking a pre-race picture in the same spot in the condo each morning, with my race shirt and costume.  For the 5K, I was Mickey, which is what I was for both the Half and the Full last year.  


The drive from wherever I'm staying to the Epcot parking lot was confusing again, during our first ride there, just like last year.  I don't know why it ends up being so confusing.  Maybe all of the temporary lit-up signs trying to help, but really just adding to my confusion.  That's why it's good to get there early, though.  They had bag searching security in the race area, again.  I dropped off a gear bag, to hold my clothes and have a place to stash post-race food.  The temps were comfortable enough in a sports bra.  


I was placed in corral A.  This year, they decided to break up the corrals into mini-waves, to alleviate congestion.  I suppose they didn't just create a bunch of additional corrals, since it would be fireworks overkill, and each corral needs its own barricades, balloons, and staff members to maintain, so it makes sense.  I ended up being in the first mini-wave of corral A, based on where I was in the line.


The fireworks went off, and we were off.  The street was dark.  I ran with a very controlled pace, yet ther was still race-day excitement in the air.  It was an odd feeling, to not be pushing the pace and not even worry about going fast at all.  It was my first "fun run" race.  The mood therefore felt different.  I didn't care about tangents or about having to wave around people.  It didn't matter whether I stopped for pictures with characters, or stopped to take pictures of the course, or if I stopped to make phone calls to let my parents knew how far along I was.  


 

The course went through parking lots and roads for the first half, then went into Epcot for the second half.  There were photographers everywhere in Epcot, it seemed, on both sides.  I probably should've switched sides periodically (between the World Showcase lake-side and the building side), to get both kinds of backgrounds in my pictures.  At first, I would put my phone in my pouch during the run, and then I'd take it out for character stops, but I should've just left it in my hand, to not have to deal with fumbling around with zippers and potentially dropping the phone.  It's not hard to hold the phone for 3 miles, anyways.  Last year, I held my GoPro in my hand for 26.2 miles.    






I ended up being in lines for pictures for as much time as I spent running.  The lines were longer as the course went on, probably because I had started in the first wave, and other waves caught up to me as I stopped for more and more pictures.  There was a good number of characters on course, and I may have only skipped one stop.  Since this was going to be an untimed fun run, I might as well take full advantage of the opportunity.



I finished, and after the race, I got my water, my banana, and my food box.  I like the snacks in there well enough.  Not "healthy", but not bad, either... oreos, tortilla chips and cheese dip, dried fruit mix, mini Clif Builder's Bar, apple sauce.  This year was the first year they had metal medals.  In the past, they were rubber.  Good choice!  It would've kind of ruined the Dopey collection to have a random rubber medal.  Plus, for the money people pay for this 5K, they'd better not skimp on the medal. 
After the race, the lines for pictures with characters like Dopey were super long, so I skipped it.  I'd save it for after the Marathon, when I had completed my Dopey and had all of the bling to do the picture with.  After the race, we went to Walmart for supplies.  For a post-race meal, I wanted salt, so I had tortilla chips and cheese dip, a hummus sandwich, and pita chips.



MINNIE 10K

The next morning, a hot shower helped to restore my tired ankles.  The 5K had made my legs surprisingly tired, between the slow running and standing.  Waking up at 3am wasn't that bad.  I had probably gotten 7 hours of sleep.  I ate an orange and a carrot for breakfast.  Not a typical pre-race breakfast, but it was another run for fun, so it didn't matter.  I had bought some glowsticks to race the Half with, for my sister, her boyfriend, and my parents.  I wasn't sure if freezing temps in the car previously back at home, or transit had pre-activated them already, so I tested one out during the 10K.  I convinced my mom to stay home and sleep, since she was tired and was still getting over jetlag from a trip to Asia.  My dad came, though.  I did my pre-race pics.  For this race, I would be a Jedi.  It would be neat to do a Star Wars-themed Disney Race, since Star Wars fans really get into it with the costuming.  People don't do much Star Wars during the other races, but I wanted to run with a lightsaber while I had a chance.


 

Going back to the race start, it was good to know the lay of the land.  I was in the first corral, but in the second mini-wave this time.  The race started with 3 miles of road.  Having done lots of characters the day before, I skipped a couple of characters this time, that were either ones that I didn't care as much about, with long lines, or repeats like the Incredibles, which I had gotten last year.  It wasn't hard to run with the light-saber.  During the race, a couple of people had lights on their shoes, which looks cool, makes the race more fun, and is also nice from a safety perspective, in the early morning darkness.  My lightsaber would've been much cooler if it lit up.  
 




I felt better running today, and did inject a couple of bursts of speed, because I could.  I enjoyed the course a bit more today, since I knew more what to expect with the positioning of the photographers, and I already had pictures under my belt and therefore didn't worry as much about hunting for more photo ops.  Everything felt comfortable and familiar.  It was fun to hear cheers for the jedi, along the course.
  





Expo Round 2 & Night Before the Half

After the 10K race, I didn't crave salt as much as I had the previous day.  It was the day before the Half Marathon, so we picked up my sister and her boyfriend from the airport, then went to the expo.  We hit up some of the vendors' booths again.  Expos are always a fun time.  There's excitement in the air, and it's a pump-up celebration.





 
That night, we played Sushi Go, for a low-key night before the race.  Some time during the game, I was scrolling on facebook, and saw that the Half Marathon was cancelled.  It was crazy and seemed out of nowhere.  The forecasts had a chance of lightning, but nobody had really raised concerns about potentially impacting the race with a delay, let alone cancelling it altogether, the night before.  Facebook lit up with shock, anger, etc.  This was perhaps at around 6 or 7pm, and they indicated that more info would come at around 10pm, to give more details about reimbursements.   It was crazy.  Some people had spent a lot of money on travelling to Florida (like lots of Brazilians), or on training for this one race.  

It's a tough call.  Reasons for cancelling were that on the race course, there wouldn't be a place to pause the race and shelter everyone, if the need arose.  Volunteers would also be out there, even in the early morning hours.  It was for everyone's safety.  I would've thought that they'd wait until closer to the race time, to make the call, in case things improved, rather than jumping the gun.  But I guess it would've been messier to have to cancel the morning of, and have to deal with hoards of angry runners who have little warning.  I guess people could at least get the news the day before and have time to plan, before they went to bed only to wake up early the next morning to a big surprise like this.  The setup crews would've had to take action through the night, too, if the race were to go on. 
We were kind of in disbelief.  Since the race was cancelled, we might as well stay up and play games.  We played Cards Against Humanity, and I had a beer.  Interesting game to play with your parents.   

During the game, I continued watching all of the Facebook posts.  One person created a meme re-naming the Dopey Challenge as the Grumpy Challenge, and that won the internet.  Some people, particularly those staying at Disney resorts, made their own plans to meet up and have informal runs on their own, to fulfill either their Half Marathon, Goofy, or Dopey Challenge.  Runners are determined people.



For re-imbursements, they gave Halfers four options to choose from: 1) Choose a different Half to register for within the next two years, 2) Money back in the form of a Disney Gift Card (which wouldn't work for races, since those are paid directly to Active.com), 3) 2 one-day park hopper tickets, 4) limited spots available in Sunday's full marathon.  Dopey Challengers only had option 2.  If I were a Halfer, I would've been interested in option 4.  Some people applauded Disney for at least providing these options, since they weren't legally bound to give any reimbursements, but if they hadn't, there would have been outrage at a cancellation with no reimbursement or partial reimbursement.  The race is like $185 or something.  I was pretty determined to run on my own the next day, at some point.  It wouldn't be Dopey without it.


The Inaugural Grumpy Run:

The next morning, we debated what we would do.  At first, we considered having my sister and her boyfriend go to Universal.  I thought about going, but I rather get in my run, since that was my main goal.  The tickets weren't cheap, though, so we decided that we'd all go to the expo for its 11am opening, pick up the park hopper tickets, and make the most of the rest of the day in the Disney parks.  We went early, partially to get a good spot in line and maximize the rest of the day, but also, I wanted to get in a run at ESPN.  I hoped that those grounds would give me a reasonably large space to run in, while still having the feel of some place more interesting than the condos where we were staying.  


While the family waited in line at the gates (it kind of felt like there could be a riot of angry people at the gates of ESPN), I went off on my run.  While doing my initial loop around the parking lot, I ran into a couple of people from Brazil who were also getting in their Grumpy run.  They asked for a picture with me, because I was wearing my 7 Dwarves gear.  I had seen a couple of other groups running on our way to ESPN, and we can't say for sure whether they were fellow Grumpy runners, but it was nice to think that they were.  We felt a sense of camaraderie, of those who were trying to make the most of the situation.  



I made my way all over ESPN.  There were some places that made for nice cross-country trails, but who knows if those are its real purpose.  There was also a section of road behind it that had one of the main signage places for Disney, so it was cool to get a picture there, during my run.  I made it only 12 miles before realizing that my family had been going crazy trying to call and message me, but I hadn't felt my phone buzzing.  They had their tickets and were eager to get the parks.



I changed clothes on our way to Epcot, where we started our day.  I was a sweaty Dopey, but it didn't matter.  I crammed food into myself, and crammed food into my bag for the day.  We hit our favorite rides in Epcot (tried Frozen for the first time, did Soarin, Mission Space, Test Track).  Next, we went to Hollywood Studios for Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Rockin' Roller Coaster (first time on that), followed by the Fantasmic night show.  We finished at Magic Kingdom, where my dad and I did Buzz Lightyear while the others ate a real meal at Pinnochio Haus, and we did Pirates of the Caribbean.   We ended up walking 8 miles in the parks.  So, I didn't run 13.1 miles, but I consider the long 8 miles on my feet all day as a "magic mile" that more than compensated for the missing 1.1 miles of my run.  I had no idea how I'd finish the marathon the next day.  





Disney World Marathon:

The next morning, I dressed up as Dopey.  We'd see how my legs would hold up.  I had originally planned on wearing my backpack during the whole race, to be able to carry bananas and clothing.  However, I decided to go light, and just wore a Cigna waist pack that they had given out at the expo.  I'd need to make this race as easy on my feet as possible, so the less weight and more range of motion, the better.  I was going to go in my new green-colored Run Disney Tee, which was a good color for a Dopey.  It was too chilly for just a sports bra.  It was actually too chilly for just a tech tee, too, and that's coming from someone who would wear a sports bra even when there's snow on the ground.  It was really windy that day, so what would've normally been tolerable cool temps was bitingly cold.  In the corral (corral C), people were tossing away clothes, and since I was so cold, I grabbed someone's throwaways.  It was an Under Armor sweatshirt, and I ended up running with it during the whole race.  There were times when it was too warm, but there were also times when the 
wind and cold temps would pick back up, and I was glad that I still had the jacket with me.  







I went along, stopping for pics with characters, and sending "I'm still alive and kickin'" pictures to my family once every 5 or so miles.  My mom and sister had stayed home, but despite my attempts to get my dad to stay home to avoid the cold temps, he came, so I wanted to keep him up to date on my location.  I went steadily, not sure how long my legs would hold up, but they held.  The course was similar to what it was the year before.  I saw my dad at Magic Kingdom.  I took in the experience, took pictures, trucked along.  One fun thing was finding Nemo.  There were two Japanese girls dressed as Nemo and Dory, which was awesome.   








I felt reasonably strong the whole way through.  The toughest part was staying in phone communication with my dad as I approached the finish, since it was hard for him to hear anything among the crowds at the finish line.  





 
I finished and got the remainder of my medals.  6 is crazy.  5K, 10K, Half, Full, Goofy, Dopey.  The line for Dopey pics wasn't that long.  It was great to be able to take a picture with him with all the medals, finally.  We looked like twins!  

 
After the marathon and dropping off my sister's boyfriend at the airport, we headed out to Disney Springs.  I got my vegan cupcakes and cookies at Baby Cakes NYC, just like last year, to celebrate my close-to-birthday, and we hit shops that we enjoy, like Star Wars and the Boathouse.  Fun times.

Long post.. probably the longest I've ever done, but it was a marathon of a race series, too!

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