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Sunday, January 12, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend Volunteer Report

If you remember, last Saturday, we all volunteered for Packet Prep for Marathon Weekend. If you didn't get a chance to check it out, go here.

Since we were going to be here for the weekend, I booked an El Cheapo hotel off of Hotwire for 2 nights.  The Travelodge on US192, by Orange World (forever known as PORNge World, because it looked like a seedy place that may or may not have a Back Room, if ya know what I mean).

Anyway, we left home around 9ish and got to ESPN Wide World of Sports around 11 and headed back to the Volunteer Check-In area.  Not only did we have to check in for today, but also check in for the ½ and Full Marathon to get our credentials.

We walked in to the Volunteer room and were pounced on by a smaller woman in an official runDisney shirt, who asked us if we wanted to start early.  We had no problem with that. She gave us our volunteer shirts (we still had our name tags from last weekend) and said that she wanted to get us on the floor right now – we could come back later for our snack.

We went upstairs one level, and headed to the restroom to change into our super-cool (ugh) lime green volunteer shirts, then met back up and waited for further instruction.

Waiting for our assignments
Compton, one of the directors, led us over to the ½ Marathon Bib Pickup kiosks and we helped out there.  At the beginning, since we were there during another shift, we all kind of slid in with the pair that were already working that specific kiosk (I was at one, Hubby was at another one, Kiddo was at a third). I was responsible for finding the Bag Check sticker that coincided with their bib number, then hand that sticker to the person who was dealing with the runner.

At noon, the two people we were working with left (their shift was over), and I got a second team member, so she and I worked the booth.  I had a certain set of numbers (think 400 – 499) and she had another (500 – 599). 

Sometime before 1, Hubby went back to the Volunteer room to get our race credentials and he brought those back upstairs with him – we would need these for tomorrow and Sunday to be admitted to our volunteer spots.

The Kiddo and one of the runDisney coordinators at the Half-Marathon Bib Pickup Booth
After that, the Kiddo and I were ready for some lunch, so she and I went downstairs to finally pick out our “snacks” that were in the Volunteer room.  We ended up with a healthy lunch of Uncrustables, bananas, pretzels, Oreos, granola bars and muffins (obviously we didn't eat it all at once!). Oh, and water to drink.

Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, SnackWells, Rold Gold Pretzels, Nutrigrain Bar
Some sort of plain muffin, Uncrustables, Dasani (Fig Newtons in the background)
Can I just say something, here? Uncrustables don’t suck. Everyone gives them such a bad rap, but I actually enjoyed them…who knew?

In case you were wondering - here is the inside of a Grape Uncrustables
Anyway, after our lunch, we headed back upstairs for more packet picking up.  Hubby ended up working near me for a while, and we were having fun looking at runner’s IDs, seeing what state they were from. I started to make a list, but I have no idea what happened to it.

Around 3 or 4, Compton pulled Hubby over to work at the Marathon bib pickup booth, and from what he told me later, he was stuck between two old biddies who complained about everything.  So glad I didn’t have to go over there!

Hubby working the 1001 - 1500 Side of the Marathon Booth
Bib pickup was open until 7, so we stuck around til then, but it got pretty quiet by 6. A few stragglers rolled in right at 7, and it was funny to watch them freak out and run to the other building to get their gEAR bags!

Once finished, we had to count how many bibs had been picked up (there was a log book to help us out with that), and then we had to go downstairs and check out. Once checked out, we were free to leave.

I don't remember the name of my Boothmate, but she was fabulous!
We piled into the car in search of a Subway. I figured that would be the easiest dinner – it travels well and you can eat in your room.

We found one pretty close to our hotel, then we drove back to PORNge World and checked in at our Travelodge.

Travelodge on the left, PORNge World in the middle, Woofle House on the right
 Oh, lord – this is where people get shanked. 

The lobby was nice enough. It looked like a $50 a night hotel lobby, but the clerk was very nice, and the maintenance man did more talking than she did actually. He was kind of off-putting. 

We got our room – it was upgraded to a Pool View (woo hoo! Oh, not so fast on that woo hoo…). We opened the door and flicked the light and nothing came on.  No lights. I tried to find a switch on the light by the bed. No luck. Had to go all the way to the bathroom to find a light that worked.

Generic photo stolen from their Website
Really? Really, cheap ass hotel?  I left them at the room, and I drove up to the lobby again to tell them about the problem.  However, right when I parked, the Kiddo came RUNNING (literally) up to me to tell me that the lights were working and we didn’t have to change rooms.  We drove back to the room, and Hubby told me that someone had unplugged (!) all the lights.

We finished unpacking and dove in to our food – I was starving!  We’d brought snacks and sodas with us, so we had a hotel picnic with Subway, Cheetos and Pepsi. 

However, our 1:30 AM shift was barreling towards us, and I needed some sleep, so we ate quickly so we could go to bed quickly.

Unfortunately, the <insert racially offensive term here> Latinos who seemed to LIVE here decided that it was time to party at the pool.  They stood basically right outside our room until at least 10 at night, smoking and making too much noise.  So annoying! Yeah, I know it’s Friday in the biggest Theme Park town in the universe, but dammit – I was tired!

Three hours later, our alarm went off and it was time to get up to go to our Volunteer check-in spot for the Half Marathon. 

the Volunteer Tent set up at Blizzard Beach
The Kiddo volunteered to do Race Finish Food, and she had to be at her spot by 1:30 AM. 

Hubby volunteered to do Race Finish Water, and he had to be at her spot by 3:45 AM.

I volunteered to do Food Stop 8.5 with some Posse girls, and I had to be at my spot by 4:30 AM.

Anyone see a problem with this schedule?  If we’d known that the hours would be so different, we would've planned better.  Oh, well – lesson learned for next race, I guess. Not only did we have vastly different start times, but of course, our finish times would be different too. We gave the Kiddo one of the car keys so that she could get in the car when she got back around 7:30.  She had her laptop in the trunk so she could play or whatever teenagers do on laptops with no wireless.

So, we get to the Volunteer check-in tent and I realize that I brought the wrong credentials.  I rushed back to the car to get the correct ones, but we ended up standing around for a while anyway, since they weren't ready to check us in yet. I think we got into the tent by 1:20 or so.

Waiting to enter the Volunteer Tent
First, we scanned our credentials (which look like backstage passes) and are sent to a table that had orange windbreakers on them.  

The Volunteer Tent - Looking back towards the Entrance, Check-In and Jackets
Then we were given a Ziploc bag and pointed towards a table that had hoards of food on it – we could take ONE of each, but only five items total (in other words, I couldn't’ walk out with five bananas). I got Chex Mix, Monsters University fruit snacks, an Uncrustables, potato chips and trail mix. Oh, and everyone got water. Hubby only got two things because he didn't like the choices, so I told him to go back and get more stuff for me!

Snack Station - Water, Bananas, Uncrustables, Chips, Chex Mix, Trail Mix, Granola Bars
After going through the tent, there were volunteers there to point the volunteers to which bus they needed to get on.  We found Kiddo’s bus and sent her on her way (she felt like such a grown-up, all on her own), then Hubby and I went back to the car and chilled out for 2 hours. 

Lookin' chill, waiting for the bus
I wanted to go back to sleep, but I couldn't get there. I have no idea what we talked about, but eventually it was 3:40 or so, and time for him to take off to his bus. I walked with him to his bus and sent him on his way, and then I decided to just stay at the bus stop until it was my turn to go. I played solitaire and other stupid stuff on my iPod while I waited.

Don't forget to write, my darling! 
On my bus, I was one of the first ones on, so I got the front row with extra leg room!  I procedded to chill out and close my eyes and don’t remember the bus filling up that much.

More buses lined up out in the parking lot - there must have been 60 buses for the volunteers

Where should I sit?
As we were driving to our stop, I would hear some people behind me talking about things and people that only the Princess Posse would know.  When we got to our stop by the Hess gas station, I realized that about 6 of the people on the bus were Posse - I kind of forgot that, months ago, we all decided to sign up for the same spot. I introduced myself and we got to work. 

I'm horrible with names, so I'm not even going to attempt to name these ladies!
Our task was to set up tables and hand out Clif Gel to the runners.  We took over the Mocha section, and got set up pretty quickly – like before it was even daylight quickly.  A few of the girls headed down to the Hess to get snacks and coffee, but I stuck around – I’m an introvert and don’t make friends easily – I felt like a 3rd wheel.

Soon, though, we got to see the first wheelchair racers, and then the first runners, which was really cool to see – since I’m usually at the back of the pack!

Once the super-fast folks came by, it was non-stop runners for hours. Yes, hours plural. As the runners became slower, more requested Gels (the fast folks ran right past us). Soon our words didn’t even sound like words, we just kept repeating “MOCHA! Mocha with caffeine!” over and over again. We started getting punch-drunk and saying stupid stuff like “Like coffee, but now with added chocolate!” and “Better than chocolate, it’s MO-cha!” 

The crowd of people never seemed to stop
I never want to hear the word “mocha” again…

As the runners became walkers, vanilla ran out, then Cran-Razz, until all that was left was MO-cha and Citrus. No one wanted citrus, so we got busier. 

The “Balloon Ladies” ran by, so we knew we were almost to the end of the massive hoard of bodies coming our way.

 Balloon Ladies spotted in the wild
Once every runner had passed through our station, it was time to pack it up and clean up. Our Volunteer coordinator said that if we wanted any, we could keep however much Clif that we wanted. I actually LIKED citrus, so I kept a box that was already open.  One of the other Posse heard that the people down at the Vanilla table actually HID an unopened case (CASE!) of Clif because he knew that he would be allowed to keep it afterward. Okay, fine, I get that, but if you are at a table that runs out of product and runners are complaining that you ran out, pull that box out! You are here for the RUNNERS people, not for yourself. That really ticked me off (plus, made me mad because I like vanilla too!)

Back on the bus, I finished eating the Chex Mix that I’d opened at 5am that morning, and when I got back to Blizzard Beach (where the Volunteer headquarters were), headed to the car.

When we left that a.m., I had kept all the tickets that said “turn in to get your park ticket” thinking that we could all do that together, but apparently not.  The Kiddo said that her Volunteer Coordinator said that she HAD to check out then, and give up her Volunteer credential tag to get her ticket.

The Kiddo was able to keep a runDisney snack box, so I checked out the contents of the box this year. Not too bad. (The corn chips with the white cheddar spread was to die for!)

Corn chips, Almond Pop, Craisins, Clif Builder's Bar, Skittles, Hickory Farms White Cheddar Spread, WetNap
We sat in the car until about 1ish, when the Hubby called to ask for his park ticket voucher. Kiddo and I walked up to the tent and then Hubby and I checked out and got our park tickets, too.  Bonus – they don’t expire until March of 2015! That gives us plenty of time to figure out when to use them!

Back in the car, we all talked a bit about what we did, but mostly about what we wanted for lunch!  We ended up at a Wendy’s I think, before going to a park. I can’t remember which one, but most likely Magic Kingdom. 

We only stayed a few hours, though, because we had another shift tomorrow morning, so we headed back to PORNge World and conked out again.

Not as bright-and-early as yesterday morning, we were up and dressed and ready for race #2 – the Full Marathon.  Today, the Kiddo and I were at the halfway mark with PowerAde and water (respectively) while Hubby was at mile 21 with water.

We followed the same process as we did yesterday: Check-In, jacket (green this time), snacks, buses.    We were pros at this by now!

We went our separate ways to our buses, even though the Kiddo and I were going to technically the same stop. Our water stop was right behind Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom on a small 2-lane road that cast members use to get in and out of backstage.  Because the road was so small and no shoulder on the other side of the road, the water tables were only set up on the right. 

A beautiful day for a marathon!
First task was to set up the tables, then to clean them.  I helped shuffle 12-packs of 1-liter Dasani water bottles to each table so that everyone had enough water to fill their cups.

Cups were stacked three high, with wood (MDF?) in between, and filled half full. I never did count how many we fit on one level, but I would assume it was about 20 x 10, so 200 cups per level, 600 on each table.  That’s a lot of cups to fill!

Seriously, there were a LOT of cups to fill!
All of us Princess Posse took over an area and worked together. Most of us wore our PP Sparkle Skirts, but I decided to skip it – Hubby doesn't approve of the Posse (long story…) and I just didn't want to get into any sort of argument.

Princess Posse Water Stop Volunteers!
Once we had all the water set up, our Volunteer coordinator asked us to go help out the PowerAde tables.  Their coordinator had no idea how to set up their station in an efficient manner, OMG! 

For the PowerAde station, you had to mix the PA before it was ready.  So what they were doing was having a few people make the PA, then each person would come with a pitcher to fill it up, then go to a table to fill up the cups.  What the hell?

How about this? Once we all came over, we had the process change:
5 People MAKE the PowerAde (there were 5 containers)
5 People FILL the pitchers
Everyone else come GET a pitcher to fill up the cups.
Return the empty pitcher, exchange for a full one.
Repeat!

Things ran much smoother after that and they got done. Granted I think they were only done minutes before the first runner came through, but they were done! Hopefully the Volunteer coordinator took notes and will do it that way from now on… Geez!

Just like yesterday, things picked up pretty quickly, and then it was just a sea of bodies. 

There wasn't a lot of room between the tables. I rubbed against my partner way too much.... 
I didn’t like working at this water stop for one reason – the road had a huge dip in it, causing pooling of water, which, when run in, causes splashing. I was wet from the knees down for 4 hours. I don’t know if I would do a water stop again. I liked the food stop better.

But I saw lots of fun people, like the guy with the bubble gun, Dr. Dribble and Tuba Man. As usual, the clothing/costumes got better as people got slower.

Freakin' BUBBLES!
Doesn't he chafe?!? 
Above her shoulder - it's Tigger!
Behind Barenaked Man - it's Tuba Dude! From the back, it looks like Big Bird
TinkerBelle Bob cheating and walking behind the tables.... 
Um... Just no.... No one needed to run behind that.
I even had one runner ask to use one of the Dasani bottles as a roller to work on her muscles. Uh, okay…

That's how she rolls! 
I don’t recall seeing the balloon ladies come through  this time, but after a bit, the end of the line came through and it was time to start cleaning up. Literally minutes after the last runner came through, street sweepers came through as well as the men who pick up the orange cones. Our job was to dump out all the water.

And how did we do that?  We dumped ALL the water, cup by cup, into the road! We started having fun throwing the water at the trucks, but then one of the trucks that got hosed had their windows down, so we had to stop doing that. 

After grabbing our bags/belongings, we piled back on our buses and headed back to Blizzard Beach.  Hubby texted me that he would be there in about an hour, so we chilled in the car again, waiting for him.

Once he got back, we could all go to the Volunteer tent to check in and get our tickets, but when we got there, he introduced me to Beth, who was his Volunteer coordinator. She said that she would like us to be part of her “team” and took our emails. Supposedly, she would email us when the next volunteer opportunity for runDisney came up so that we could all be on the same team (rather than spaced out so weirdly).  To be honest, except for the time issues, I kind of liked being in different places. It’s good to be away from each other sometimes, right?

Our next stop was checking out of our hotel, which I was SOO sad to do (snark), then lunch. Arby’s this time, then on to a park – most like was Epcot. 

We didn't stay too long, though, we had to head home and go back to real life on Monday.

When we got home, we sorted out all of our ‘swag’ from the weekend:

Water and one PowerAde (my Kiddo loves me)
Bananas - thrown into the freezer for future smoothies
Uncrustables - thrown into the freezer for future lunchbox emergencies
Chips - Chex Mix - Fruit Snacks - Trail Mix - Granola Bars (took those to work)
Rold Gold Pretzels
Fig Newtons - Vanilla SnackWells - Nutrigrain Bars - Oreos - Chips Ahoy
Volunteer Shirt (worn Friday)
1/2 Marathon Windbreaker
1/2 Marathon Volunteer Credentials
Marathon Windbreaker
Marathon Credentials
Safety and Security Tag (What to do in an Emergency)
Clif Shot gel from 1/2 Marathon Food Stop
Besides all the good stuff above, we also scored a total of SIX park tickets (two for each of us), THREE Water Park tickets (to be mailed to us, for volunteering at Expo + Race) and hopefully, since we started early on Friday, three additional park tickets!  For 3 days’ work, $1000 worth of tickets ain’t too bad a paycheck!

I can’t wait to do this for more races! If I can’t run ‘em, I’m gonna work ‘em!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Packet Prep for WDW Marathon Weekend

Today, we got to do something at Disney that wasn't going to the parks and wasn't running – we volunteered to do some prep work for the upcoming WDW Marathon weekend.

If you volunteer at any ESPN Sports / runDisney event, you get a “point” for each hour that you work (excluding AT the races).  Once you get 16 points, you get a park ticket, good at ONE park for ONE day.  Cool!  I recently discovered how much I like to volunteer at races, so thought that this would be fun.  Originally only I signed up for this day, but Hubby and The Kiddo wanted to come along too, so I asked if they could join in and the Volunteer Coordinator was fine with that.

So, we drove down to the ESPN Wide World of Sports early Saturday a.m. to do “Packet Prep.” We had no idea what the job entailed, so we put on our name tags and walked in with open minds.

Fancy name tag
Our first task was to stuff gEAR bags with the Dopey Challenge shirts – this included a 5k shirt, 10k shirt, ½ Marathon shirt, Marathon shirt and special Dopey Challenge shirt.  While we started doing this, someone brought in Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, Munchkins and HOT CHOCOLATE! Oh, thank you stranger for caring for us non-coffee-drinkers! Yummy!

We were at a table with a few other volunteers, who were veterans at this. We chatted amicably about kids, school and all the other chit-chat that strangers do to pass the time.

Time passed quickly because it didn't seem like we were there for long before it was already lunch time! I had worried about this originally, because of our tight budget, but it turned out that they were going to feed us, too! They brought in Disney-made pizzas and water bottles. Alan (I think that was his name) from our table said that in years past, there had been boxed sandwich lunches, but people complained about that (why?) so they did pizza this year. Honestly, I think I would've preferred a sandwich – it has much more protein than pizza. Oh, well. It is FREE, which saved us $30 for dinner later.

Pizza time!
After lunch, we moved on to the next task – putting together envelopes of the commemorative pins, necklaces, and various Retreat bracelets that people had purchased in advance, for the Goofy and the Dopey challenges.  There was a set of long tables, with one person at each “station” (1/2 Marathon Pin station, 5k station, etc.).  One person at the beginning of the table would pass a 9x12 envelope that had a list stapled to it to the first person. If the first person had an item that should be in the envelope, they would put it in (i.e. “this person ordered a 5k pin”) – if not, they would pass it to the next person, creating an assembly line.

Left side was doing Goofy; Right side was doing Dopey
When the envelope got to the end of the assembly line, a few people were to verify that what was in the envelope matched what was on the list, then pass it back to the alphabetizers behind them, who would place the envelopes in order, from A to Z.

This all sounds pretty simple, right?  
    
This is the line that we were in - the Kiddo is halfway down the table
It was – at first.

The Kiddo was at a station (I think she had pins), while Hubby and I somehow ended up as Verifiers.  I was fine with that, since both of us seem to have a pretty good attention to detail.

So many pins....
After about 20 envelopes however, the assembly line started breaking down – they were stuffing faster than we could verify, and we were verifying quicker than they could alphabetize!  It quickly turned into this horrendous clusterfuck of a system that got out of control. The envelopes were somehow getting to us out of order, causing more work for the alphabetizers, so eventually, we all had to stop and get more people to put stuff in order… Oh, my OCD-ness was going insane….

Once all of our envelopes were stuffed, we got lots of people to come help out with the verifying, which caused an even bigger backup for the alphabetizers….  It was such a mess.

Finally, though, by 2 or 3, everything was stuffed, verified and alphabetized.  We were done, right?

Nope – we had to go back and double-check that we had an envelope for every person that purchased an item.   Doesn't sound too hard, right?  Well, it was.  See, some people (and some computer programs, more likely) don’t understand how to alphabetize.  For some people, “McDonald” comes before “Man”, but for other people it comes after.  Going through a list of names to compare to envelopes went something like this:

Person 1 – “Lutz, Jack”
Me – “Got it”
Person 1 – “Luzzer, Sam”
Me – “Got it”
(Me now looking at all the “Mc” names)
Person 1 – “May, John”
Me – “Nope – where is McAaron?”
(Person 1 shuffling through the list) – “They are 30 entries down”

So, I had to deal with all of that, which was frustrating. By 4 though, we were all mostly done, when we were called into a group and told that the director wanted to narrow down the process and just have a few people stay to help out (she felt like there were too many hands in the pot, so to speak).  I happened to be over by the wall, getting a drink of water while Hubby was still out in the middle of the room. The director asked for volunteers, and I saw him look over at me and I slowly shook my head no, so he didn't raise his hand. 

We were all thanked for our help and told that we would still get our 8 hours for volunteering, even though we only worked 7, and that we were free to go.  We all got together for a quick group photo first, and then the family and I packed up and headed out.

Horrible group photo taken with my iPod - we are in the 2nd row, above the chick in pink
BONUS PHOTO!

This was a huge poster in the Ladies' Room of ESPN Wide World of Sports. Yes, this poster. In a bathroom. HAD to take a photo of it....

If I go any harder, I might get hemorrhoids!