Disney Dark Side Challenge weekend – Part 2

Of course, I couldn’t go to Disney and just run one race!
I had to run all 3!

Day 2

(warning – this post is going to get a bit long, but I didn’t want to forget any of the fun!)
Alarm set for 3:30am and after a quick shower to help me wake up, it was time to head to the bus… at 4:15am!
I was excited to see a bus pull in a few minutes after I was at the bus stop.  After just a few minutes, we had a full bus and were headed to the start line.  I would find out later, that some people, at other resorts did not have the same luck with early morning buses that I did. From the point in the Epcot parking lot where the buses drop you off, you have a short walk to get to the stage area, where again, there are characters out for photo ops, plenty of placed for you to meet up with friends before the race and grab some last minute breakfast or coffee (if you are one of those people that can actually eat before you run!).  Unfortunately, the start line for the 10k is NOT in the same place as the 5k!  This time, they herded us through the area behind the stage (ample port-a-pot’s here in case you need a pitstop!) and along the road that was actually the beginning part ok yesterday’s 5k.  By the time I arrived in my start corral (Corral B today!) I had walked almost 3 miles since I rolled out of bed!
I quickly was able to find Mary in the Corral – it was nice to have a friend to start the race with, in these huge crowds!  Remember, I live in Green Bay, I don’t normally run in races that have 10,400 participants! (numbers courtesy of Disney Sport News)  Our local Cellcom Green Bay Marathon weekend usually sees a total of just over 8,000 runners between the Half Marathon, Marathon and Marathon Relay combined!  This was just the 10k and it was over 10,000 runners!
Disney starts off each corral with fireworks, not just the 1st corral of runners!  It’s kinda nice to see everyone given the same start line fanfare, no matter what corral you are starting in!  At shortly after 5:30am we were off an running.  I lost Mary in the crowd after a few minutes but every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of her/Rey running ahead of me.  I ended up catching up with her just after she stopped to get in line for pictures with R2-D2 (right before the 1st mile marker).  I jumped in line with her, and we had a few laughs while we waited and chatted with the group behind us.  The lines for theses photo ops do seem to move fairly quickly, but for this weekend, I was not concerned about time – it was all about the fun, getting some great pictures and just enjoying running around the Happiest Place on Earth.

After R2 pics, we were off again.  Once again, Mary got off ahead of me, but I caught up to her for Chewbacca pictures.  We followed this same pattern for most of the 10k.  We would lose each other in the crowds and catch up at photo ops!  Running the streets of Epcot, in the dark was just as much fun today as it was yesterday, especially because we took a slightly different route through the park.

This would however, bring us to the one part of the course that I really did not like!  My biggest complaint about the 10k course was the section between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  We were on a sidewalk, along the river, in front of one of the resorts.  When you have 10,000+ runners trying to get through a narrow place, while trying to keep moving – some running and some walking, caused some major bottle necks.  There were many times during this stretch that we were all forced to walk.  Some ran on the grass just to keep moving, but it was by far one of the slowest sections of the course.  Yes, this is just a short section, but when you are trying to keep a decent pace between photo stop, so as to not completely kill your overall finish time, it is very frustration.  Once you finally pass this section and you arrive at Hollywood Studios, everything opens back up and you can move about freely, at your own desired pace.

About halfway through HS, I ended up losing Mary.  No worries, I was over halfway done.  I enjoyed my run through the park and got myself ready for the last stretch, along the roads to get myself to ESPN and the finish line!  At one point, just after mile 4,  I ended up falling into pace with another gal that was moving about my pace and we kept each other going for those last 2 miles.   Just before we hit mile 5, the course took a turn and we were on a dirt trail, through the woods!  During this stretch of the race, there were more photo ops, great star wars themed music playing and just a ton of fun to be had.  Although it all looked fun, we actually didn’t stop for any pics.  We were just ready to be done – it was starting to get warm and again, this WI girl is not used to the humidity in FL!

It was really awesome to see the crowd support during the final stretch of the race!  As soon as we came off the trail and onto the property at ESPN, the sidewalks were lined to people cheering, waving signs, giving high 5’s and more!  Then just when you think it’s over and the finish is just ahead, you turn the last corner to find a army of storm troopers and more, available for photos!
As I approached the last turn, up do the finish line, my legs were on fire.  I was ready to be done.  I knew that I only had a short distance to be done and about that same time, I caught up to a gal dressed at BB-8.  I told her, “Come on BB – lets go!  We’ve got this!”  Her legs were ready to be done to, but we pushed that last tenth of a mile together with miles on our faces!  

Done.  As you can see from the above picture, it was a warm one.  In the grand scheme of things, it was actually a pleasant morning, in Florida standards, but coming from WI, I am definitely not accustomed to the humidity and unfortunately I was not able to find my inhaler in my luggage after the 5k yesterday.  Thankfully since I made a few photo stops and got slowed down in the bottlenecks, I didn’t actually NEED that inhaler today, but this is something that might come in handy tomorrow!  Time to dig through the suitcase and backpack again!
Today’s medal did NOT disappoint!  What Star Wars Fan wouldn’t like a giant Tie Fighter medal!?!?  Yes, yesterdays Storm Trooper finisher “medal” was cool, but it was rubber!  Granted it still has a cool look to it, but Disney is the only place I know that you get a finisher medal made of rubber!  This one today makes up for it tho!  Big, heavy and flashy!  Just how I like my race bling!!

Day 3

Half Marathon day!
Today, the alarm went off at 2:20am.  Yes that is 2:20 IN THE MORNING!  In my younger days, there were times that I was coming IN from a night out… not getting out of bed to go RUN!   It still amazes me that I actually have learned to love mornings like this!  The excitement of a race, especially in a new place, with new people and new experiences!  And this is Disney!  Why would I NOT be excited!?!  Especially since I decided to go with the Chewbacca costume for today!
On a bus by 3:10am and at Epcot by 3:30!  It was time again for that long walk from the buses, through the stage festivities, and along dark road towards the start line.  Yesterday’s crowd of 10,000 for the 10k was increased to over 12,000 for the half marathon!  It was very slow moving from the stage area to the actual start corrals that I was wondering if I was going to make it in time! 
I knew ahead of time that this half marathon was not going to be my usual half.  I was out to enjoy the day, have fun, get lots of pictures and just enjoy the morning.  However when I was walking to the start line, I started to get a weird, almost vertigo type feeling.  Not sure if it was the humidity and heat starting to get to me, combined with the excitement of the weekend.  Or who knows what else!  Thankfully I had some extra Stinger waffles with me (since I wasn’t sure how the heat and humidity was going to affect me on this longer run).  While I was walking to the corral’s I ate that waffle, drank some more water and hoped for the best.  This was just going to help me make sure that I didn’t push it too hard, making me enjoy the atmosphere around me.

Once again, it didn’t take long to find Mary in the Corrals – so excited that we were in the same start corral again today!  Yesterday it was so much being able to spend the morning running with her that I was really looking forward to doing it again!
Any runner always jokes around about being in the port-a-john during the national anthem.  No, that didn’t happen this morning, but it was close – I was in line for one!  The funky feelings that I had earlier seemed to have lead way to my stomach not being happy with me.  Fingers crossed that this was going to be the last of my stomach and weird feelings.  Somehow, after my trip to the bathroom, I managed to find Mary again in the corral, in time to shill for a few minutes before our corral moved up to start.

Once again, more fireworks at the start of each corral.  Although the fireworks are a nice touch, the rest of the “entertainment” while we were in the start corral’s was fairly uneventful.  At the start of a race, I always enjoy music, entertainment or anything else to get me pumped up and excited to run.  The pre-race entertainment was clips from the movie.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge Star Wars geek and love seeing the video clips, but I would have hoped for a little more hype!

Before long, we were off and running.  Just to save myself a few minutes on my time, I oped to skip stopping for pics with R2 today, knowing that stopping for Chewy was going to be a MUST today!  I also knew that there was a few more photo stops that I was most likely going to want to stop at.  So I kept running!  Just as I was getting to to my target stop with Chewy, and I was making another pitstop at the bathroom (those actual bathrooms in the parks are like a little oasis!).  I was concerned about my pending visit with Chewy, as I saw him walking into the building near the bathroom!  Hopefully he was not going to be gone long!
After my pitstop, I headed to the Chewy photo op, I found Mary waiting in line so I joined her.  Chewy came back shortly and a few minutes later, I had some of my favorite pictures from the weekend! 

 After a few more miles through Epcot and Hollywood studios (where I met up with a few other Skirt Sports Ambassadors along the way!) and making my way through the crowds, it was off to the next (pretty boring) part of the course… the highway to Animal Kingdom.  Those miles down the highway were long and pretty uneventful!  
But then we finally arrived at Animal Kingdom.  I was actually pretty disappointed that we really were just mostly running around the parking lot… the time that we spent in the actual park was really fairly short!  Yes there were some cool photo ops in the park and in was fun seeing the monkey’s playing and yelling as we ran through while they ate the breakfast, this was fairly disappointing.  Not to mention the last stretch as we worked out way back out of the park was very narrow and another bottle neck.  They had an area with more characters to take photo’s with, but the people waiting in lines ended up actually blocking the path of the runners just trying to get through.  
As I was heading out of the boring lornar AK, back to the highway, I saw those infamous balloon ladies. Those are the ladies you don’t want to see behind you. If they pass you, you will be picked up by the sweeper bus and driven to the finish line… And recieve no medal!  Since they were in their way IN to the parking lot, I knew that I was a few miles ahead of them… They were not going to catch me!

Finally after another long stretch of boring highway miles, in the bright, warm FL sun, we made our way through the trail to ESPN, through the same spectator lines sidewalks to the finish line.  This part of the course was pretty much the same thing as yesterday, so I felt no need to stop for any pictures etc.  I was ready to be done!  Show me the bling! 
I earned it!
This was one of the toughest races I’ve run, even though I know I didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I usually do for a half marathon.  Today was all about the fun, the experience and the memories.  once I got through the finish line corrals, I had 4 medals clanking around my neck as I walked around the finish line area!  It was one of the toughest challenges I have done, to date, and I am so glad that I did it!
Afterwards, I somehow found Mary again!  I had not seen her since Hollywood Studios!  Somehow, at some point, I ended up in front of her and actually finished about 10 minutes before her!  Apparently, she actually stopped for a few more of the photo ops than I did, and I didn’t see her in line as I ran past.  Yes, part of me wishes that I had made those few extra stops, but I was warm, tired and hungry!

Thanks again Mary for helping make my Disney race weekend so much fun!  I can’t wait until our paths cross again!  Maybe one of these days I will actually make it down to Baton Rouge for a race!  If you even want to come to Green Bay, I have a spare bedroom waiting for you!

1 weekend
3 races
6 Medals:
Storm Trooper 5k
Tie Fighter 10K
Dark Side Half Marathon
Plus bonus medals:
Dark Side Challenge (completing 10k and Half this weekend)
Kessel Run Challenge (completing half marathon in California in January and here this weekend)
Disney Coast to Cost Medal (completing half marathon on both coasts in the same calendar year)
All in all it was a good weekend!
Next and final post of the weekend to come…
The good, the bad and the ugly of Disney Races! 

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