Monday, October 27, 2014

ARRRRR ye ready, kids?

Arrrrr ya ready to die?

Nah, let’s try that again…

Arrrrr ya ready to be AWESOME???!!!???

There, that’s better. I signed up for the Gasparilla Distance Classic Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus Challenge (whew, long name).

Woo hoo!
The challenge consists of running a 15k on Saturday, then returning the next day and running an 8k on Sunday. If you do both, you get a medal for each race PLUS a challenge medal PLUS a cool jacket!

This is the first time I’ve ever signed up for a challenge!   I’m super-worried that I’m not going to be able to finish….

Look at me... I'm the Pirate Now!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Celebration 10k Race Report

I gotta be honest - I was kind of not looking forward to this 10k. After I signed up for it, I found out that they changed the course from what it was last year. Last year, there was a long out and back along the edge of the golf course, and it was where I bled a lot of time last year. I was looking forward to beating my time there.Instead, the course this year would wind through mostly neighborhoods and the town center.  Meh, we’ll see. 

Garmin Map of the route
We left home around 4:15 in the morning - way too early, it turned out!  Even though we were headed in the Disney Direction, we skipped the donuts. We made really good time and got to the Celebration Firehouse by 6am.  The race didn’t start ‘til 8! As you can imagine, we got an awesome parking spot.

I hopped out and visited the potty – as you can imagine there were absolutely NO lines!  I think that I may have actually been the first runner there.  All I saw were employees and volunteers! They kind of looked at me like I had a second head…

I went ahead and did packet pickup, just to get it out of the way, and to beat the crowds (what crowds?), then headed back to the car to chill out. I plugged in my iPod to let it charge while I took 15 minutes to eat string cheese (seriously, why does food not taste good before a race?)

I had to potty again. This time there was a line. Then back to the car.

At about 7:45, I got out and began to get ready. Even though I was literally steps from the starting line, I felt like I was late!  I got in line to start and realized about 2 seconds before starting that I forgot to set the Garmin to find satellites. Oops!
It's all quiet now, when you're the first person to arrive!
Many more people now!
I promise, I was more awake than I looked
We took off, and Garmin found satellites about .11 miles in. I was passed by a lot of people, very quickly.  Sad. I was wheezing already, so I took a hit from Vlad, the Inhaler.

Off I go!
About half a mile in, I realized that there was a cop behind me. Sweet, I’m DEAD LAST. That never gets old… <sarcasm>

I noticed at what should be Mile 1 that there were no Mile signs. What the heck? Oh well. I kept running my intervals (really badly), but I kept up with the two folks I dubbed Big Old Guy and LeiLei (she was wearing a Sparkle Skirt in that print).

The first water stop wasn’t until Mile 2 or so.  I’m no longer last, but I’m sure close! I took water and Gatorade and kept on chuggin’ along.

As long as I can see someone, I don't feel lost
Up until now, the course was the same as last year, but after the water stop, the course began winding through neighborhoods with lots of twists and turns.

Being in the back of the pack on courses like this really reinforce HOW FAR BACK you really are. At some points I was completely alone – I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, and at more than one point, I was sure that I had missed a turn and I was lost.
I'm so lonely...
Hey look!  The Pink Ladies!  I'm not lost!
I think I'm lost again
Doing my best to follow the signs, completely lost in this Stepford town, I came across the COOLEST house, all decked out for Halloween!  It was a skeleton pirate ship!  I took a few photos and kept on movin’.  I didn’t want to become last again.

From this angle, you can see the siding on the house in the upper-lefthand corner of the shot
Finally, after what seemed like forever, I came in to the finish line.  My time sucked – it was 1:42:42.

Hubby and the Kiddo gave me hugs and I got my medal.

Way to cheer on the Back of the Pack folks, nonexistent crowds...
Gotta complain here – the volunteers could really use some training regarding how to hand out medals. NONE of the medals had even been unwrapped!!  There was still plastic encasing the medal itself!  It was really sad…
The medals still have the plastic baggie on them!!! 
We stayed at the finish to cheer on the rest of the Back of the Pack, including Big Old Guy, who officially was the last finisher.
Awesome Celebration Cheerleaders running in with The Big Old Guy
Breakfast was way crowded, and I wasn’t even able to sneak in for some OJ (it wasn’t out separate like it was last year).  We grabbed a little bit of swag and headed back to the car.

Good size water bottle, mints, and some chocolate
Unisex-cut race tee. Meh - it's good for mowing the lawn

Once in the car, I attempted to describe the cool pirate house to the family. They (of course!) wanted to see it, so we ambled around the town until we found it. They were as blown away by it as I was. While we were there, at least 2 other cars stopped to check it out too!
Blue Nissan for Scale
The details are amazing!

Do you see the skeleton on the rope?

Another angle

Steering the Ship
Lunch was a pitstop at Arby’s, then we headed to Disney (duh!).
I do love Arby's... when it's fresh.
We parked at the Boardwalk, rather than at a park. We do this for two reasons:  1) We’re frugal and don’t see any value in spending $17 to park for 2 hours at a theme park, and 2) We were planning on going to the Boardwalk Bakery on the way back to get some tasty pastries, so we were still utilizing a parking space to visit the Boardwalk. Some folks on Disney Boards think this is cheap, cheating, stealing or otherwise uncool behavior. Whatever – I see no problem.  (If we were going to go to a theme park for an entire day, of course I would pay to park…)

We waited for a Friendship Boat to take us to DHS. While waiting, I (again, of course) took some artsy flower shots.

Ooooh, artsy
Friendship Boat Pileup!
That's what you get for bringing bags, suckers!
Our first stop was The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. This is an attraction that never really garnered any attention, and was being shut down.  Since we’d never been to it, we decided to hit it up, just to say we’d seen it.

The artwork on the side of the building is really cool though

Judging by the ‘crowds,’ a lot of people decided to do it before it was gone. We were given Return Passes for 1:45, but were told that we could wait in the waiting area (we were there around 1:15), which had shade and benches. So we did. I still had my beverage from Arby’s to finish anyway, so we just chilled out until it was our turn to go in.

"Fastpasses" for Cap'n Jack

I can now see why this was never a popular attraction.  I zoned out through most of it, but let’s see if I can explain it. You are led in to a ‘cave’ and then you are in a room with a boat on one side and more rocks on the other, and on those rocks are lots of treasure, like gems, jewelry, treasure chests, etc.   There are multiple screens in the room, including one on the ship. Jack Sparrow comes up and tells you a story, and then stuff happens, and then the story’s over. That’s pretty much the gist of the attraction. Then you are led out of the room and you’re back outside in the Florida heat. 

The screen on the ship is below the sail; The row of skeletons is on another screen

Luckily, DHS had given us something to combat that heat – Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Frozen Funalnd!  We headed over to Soundstage One and was greeted with, what else, a gift shop. There were lots of cute things in there, but turns out we had to go around the building to get to the Frozen Funland part.  They only let in a few people at a time, and once we were inside, we could see why!  It looked like a rave at a skating rink during the 80s! Children running all over the place, tired moms and dads holding shoes or bags.  We decided to get in line to play in the snow.

Seriously, this really is a lawsuit waiting to happen
But don't worry - Super Cast Member is always on duty!
"Refreshing" the Ice

Between ‘sets,’ the snow was cleaned and freshened and then the next batch of people (we were first!) were let in. After grabbing some beach toys, we headed to the back corner where hopefully, we wouldn’t be crushed!  The Kiddo, who has never even seen snow before, was enthralled and quickly began digging in (the ice/snow was definitely not fluffy snow, but more like what you’d get out of that old Snoopy ice maker toy).  
The view from our peaceful corner
Attempting to scoop the snow into a box

After a few minutes, my inner child decided it was time to build a snowman!  It didn’t have to be a snowman… aw who’m I kidding? Of course it had to be a snowman!  It was tiny, but it counted!

I'm not exactly sure what she built...

I think we were in the snow for maybe 5 minutes before it was time to get out, which was fine with me. My knees were wet and I was getting cold.  We passed the area they had for snacks (cupcakes, frozen drinks, etc), then exited through the gift shop, and back out.

At this point, we made our way out, taking lots of shots of the Sorcerer’s Hat. It is going to be removed soon (thank God!), but of course I had to have some “this is the last time I saw the hat” photos. Here’s some that I really liked.

Typical Head-On Shot
From Further Down (I want that SparkleSkirt!!!)
Artsy Close-Up
Ooooh, so artsy!
Next stop was Magic Kingdom (I think we bussed over), to get some fun Fall Season shots. We actually didn’t ride anything, eat anything or go any further than the flag pole!  We headed up to the Train Station while I did some photos, then came back down, headed to the Bus Circle and rode over to the Boardwalk.

With a quick stop at the Boardwalk Bakery (see, told ya) for cheesecake brownies, peanut butter cakes and Oreo cupcakes, we hopped in the car and make our way home. I was exhausted!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Volunteering is a TERROR!

After packing the car, gassing up and grabbing some Krispy Kreme, we were on the road around 9:30 this morning, off to Disney and the Tower of Terror expo.

Up the hill to the Expo
Our first stop was to head to the Expo, to pick up our credentials for tonight. After getting those, we walked around and checked out the expo a bit. I had to ogle the Sparkle Skirts – of course! – and I also wanted to check out ArmPockets. I recently got an iPod 5th generation, and my current no-name armband was too small.

I decided to get one of these, but in purple
Can I have one of each? 
After the Expo, we told the Garmin to take us to the hotel and it took us down this super-sweet backstage road called Sherberth Road.  It is right outside of Animal Kingdom Lodge, and takes us directly to Baymont/US-192!  I’m definitely gonna have to remember this trick!

Before checking in, we decided to just grab some lunch at the McDonald’s next door. It was very yummy (which usually happens when I’ve not had McDonald’s for a while!)

We checked in to Baymont and were given a room on the 5th floor at the back of the property. You can see Everest from up here! 

Out of the picture, to the left, is Tower of Terror, the Earful Tower, Summit Plummet and Swan & Dolphin!
We unpacked and attempted, unsuccessfully, to take a nap.  Mostly we just chilled, and then we were back up at 5:30 to get ready to go to the Magic Kingdom.

We don't need no stinkin' comforters!
We picked up some Gas Station Nachos™ and Slurpees at 7-Eleven, but the shortcut to the Magic Kingom (via Sherberth) was so quick, we didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy said nachos!

We parked at the big, white tents in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and checked in with the volunteers.  We were given a bright yellow tee shirt, a lanyard, a flashy/blinky button thing and a glow bracelet.

We were given a Ziploc bag for our 5 snacks and were allowed to duplicate this time! (Usually at bigger races, you can’t). I got 4 bags of Chex Mix and a package of Oreos, as well as a bottle of water.

Exiting out the back of the tent, we put on our shirts, lanyards and flashy things then grabbed our bus out to DHS. 

Hubby said I looked too boring in the first pic he took, so he took this one
Our Team Leader was Fred, and frankly, he looked a lot like Jeff Galloway. Fred asked who among us had done medals before, and I shot my hand up  (hey, I did medals for the Tom Walker here in Gainesville – he never asked WHERE we’d done medals!)  So, we got to be in the Medals/Chill Towels group.  We headed off to the finish line area.  (The people who stayed behind set up water, Power-Ade and bananas).

A sea of Power-Ade
Among the 30 of us in this group, 12 of us were assigned to hand out Chill Towels, and the rest of us (the three of us included) got to do medals! Yippee!!!

Before getting started, the Kiddo and I took a potty break at a Cast Member Trailer backstage.  Yeah, I took photos (but out of respect to the CMs, I will only post one)!

Off to the left (behind the trash can there), is a sitting room with a TV where about 4 CMs were watching basketball
A member of the group, Christine, was dubbed the unofficial Group Leader to guide us in how to put up the medals.

Step 1 was to take out the medals from the box (there were 3 groups of medals in each box), remove the plastic baggie hanging over the medal and hang them from a peg on the medal rack.

Step 2 was to unclip the cable ties holding the bunches of ribbons together.

Step 3 was to make them Show Ready – straighten out the ribbons, make sure the medals were hanging face-out, etc.

No one did a very good job listening to these directions….

Medals were hung terribly!  A lot of them were hung BY the cable ties, which tightened them and made them almost impossible to remove with the scissors they gave us. Other groups were hung by one or two ribbons, so when the cable ties were removed, all the medals fell on to the ground (and got scratched/dirty). And even worse, the bunches themselves were janky right out of the box; the ribbons where all twisted and tangled together!  Ugh, this is a lot of work! And no one did a very good job of getting the little plastic baggies IN to the trash!  Luckily, we had a CM helping pick up trash with her little grabber stick. She was great. 

CMs fighting to the death with Grabby Sticks
Very quickly, Christine and her hubby Greg realized how awesome we all were (we as in the family)! Christine gave me a pair of scissors and I became a “clipper” – I would go through and cut all the cable ties so that others could begin to straighten the ribbons.

The medals needed to be Show Ready by 10:30.  There were a LOT of medals to straighten out, but we were all doing okay.  Some people gave up at this point, and decided that napping was a better idea… 

Beautiful, show-ready medals
Napping Volunteers and CASES of medals
Once we finished getting them ready, I snacked on a Nutty Bar and walked up towards the Finish Line for a few photos. I passed Christine, who said that she would be calling the group together ‘in a minute’ (in my world, “in a minute” means 5 minutes or so…)  I took some fun photos and made my way back to the medal area where she really did call the group together in a minute!

Yeah, I'm totally running!
The Original Line Up for Medal Disbursement was to have volunteers stand on a line (drawn in masking tape on the ground) in a V with the smaller part of the V in front, and the wider part of the V in the back (like this  <  ).  Christine thought that was a stupid idea – and I totally agreed with her), so we pulled up the tape and put the V the other way (like this  >  ). 

As a reward for being awesome, me, Hubby and the Kiddo were part of the first group to hand out medals.

Christine is the one in the shorts. Notice the awesome open V formation
The original plan was to have each volunteer take a peg of medals (about 25 medals) and hand them out. When they ran out of their second round of medals, they would switch out with another volunteer. When a person left the line to switch or get another round of medals, the remaining volunteers were supposed to step forward and fill in the gap. This would ensure that everyone got a chance to participate and to be in the front of the line.

Christine also asked who had a big mouth (i.e. be loud) and I totally raised my hand for that too! I have a God-given gift in projecting, what can I say? She said that she would need someone to help direct both volunteers and runners at some point later in the evening.

The first runner came in around 56:53. I like to guess their time, and I had made my prediction of 57:04, so I was pretty close (I think he upped his pace near the end).  My first medal was given to Rick, who came in 6th place.

Once I made it through my first batch of medals, I went back for 2nd and told that volunteer that I would switch out with him. He shrugged and didn’t really want to switch. Okay, then…

Very quickly it got busy, and I can’t remember a lot of what happened, but I can tell you that something really awesome happened – I got to fist bump Jeff Galloway as he came through!!! He finished around 1:45.  Highlight of my night, right there!  Do I classify as a stalker now?

Anyway, back to volunteering.  Now is when my big mouth came in handy – Christine and I had to repeatedly ‘yell’ at the other volunteers to stay in line, don’t crowd the runners, etc.  Eventually Christine told me to STAY in my line and be in charge of that side, and she would handle the other side.

On Hubby’s side (closer to the medal racks), the volunteers were not switching at all. They would step toward the fence, grab more and get back in line.

I did switch out at one point, but it wasn’t for very long because for some reason my side ended up with only 4 people (instead of 6), so I went back out and stayed to the end.

Action Shot!!!  (What terrible posture!)
The plan eventually went to crap. People didn’t want to be in the handout line; people couldn’t stay in one spot (they crowded the runners); people weren’t moving up; people weren’t switching out.

People were not celebrating the athlete either, which pissed me off. I would put the medal ON the runner, if they wanted me to, but if not, I would at least congratulate them and call them by name (you can see their name on their bibs)!

It was crazy how fast I went through medals, but Greg took care of me. He’d see me coming and have a bundle for me and another when I asked. (I took two at a time once it got busy).  One of the volunteers really made me mad – he wasn’t holding his group of medals up (it was practically clenched in his fist like a bundle of grocery bags), and when he did hold up a medal, he would let it dangle sadly (*drooping), and say “here ya go” when a runner came up, like it was no big deal. ARG!

After a while, the crappy volunteers left (they decided to snack and chill out), so us GOOD people were left at the finish line, making it much more fun.

At this point, too, is when the crux of the people came in. I’m in the front and bearing the brunt of the crowd. I would run out of medals quickly. But this time, Christine would stand in the middle of the V and yell that all volunteers with yellow shirts have medals. I began hollering this too, but if someone came to get one from me, I would add “But mine is fabulous!” or “But this one is just for YOU (and say their name)”. Made the runner feel good.

It was still so busy that all I recall was more yelling, more medals and more happy back-of-the-pack runners.  I do remember seeing the Balloon Ladies coming through. I’ve only seen them once, so it was good to see them outside of a race I was participating in.

From here on out, I was cheering extra-loud for everyone that came through. Sure, any good runner can do a 10k in 90 minutes, but those of us in the back, struggling to come in at ALL are the ones who need the extra love!

Christine began gathering up extra people and medals – left 6 of us out there to finish up (Hubby and Kiddo, I think was out there) – the rest were told to count and box up unused medals. Hah!

I asked the other Volunteers if I could give the FINAL runner her medal. No one objected.

Soon the remaining group came in and the last runner came up to J’s side, blubbering like a fool. She had cancer three times, and the docs told her she should be dead. Unfortunately, another volunteer gave her a medal before I could.

Christine took my remaining medals to pack up and I could finally stretch.

We were hoping to be let in to the after party. No such luck.

Go to chat with Christine and Greg before Team Leader Fred came by.

There was water, PowerAde, runDisney boxes and bananas left – we could each take one of each. I got blue, red and yellow PowerAde, a water and 4 runDisney boxes (there were LOTS of boxes left – everyone took a lot).

We officially finished at about 1:30am, and we headed back to an area to wait for the buses.

Where’s the bus?

The 1st bus showed up at 1:45, but it filled up before we could get on.  The 2nd bus showed up at 2am, but still no room for us. Finally, at 2:15 or so, we got a bus – a Disney Cruise Line bus, too!  I was so glad to see that bus by then, because it was getting really chilly outside, and I don’t handle cold very well.

We took the bus back to the Magic Kingdom, checked in and got our complimentary ticket for working the race, then drove back to the hotel. At this time of night, there was nowhere close to park, so we had to park in the overflow parking lot, and just took the stairs to our room.

I honestly don’t remember even getting ready for bed, I conked out hard!

I woke up around 8:30ish and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I noshed on a donut and played with my iPod for a while. Everyone else got up around 10 and ate breakfast while I packed up.

We checked out and decided to the Boardwalk. Nope, that lot is full (well, Valet was available).  Beach Club also had a very long line at the Guard Station, so we continued over to Yacht Club. We got lucky there and were able to park in Visitor parking.  As we walked towards the resort, we saw that there was a large convention happening – that explains the crowds (in addition to race weekend folks!)

Lighthouse Porn
Looking across Crescent Lake to the Boardwalk
Race Weekend + Food & Wine Festival + Weekend = FEELS CROWDED™
We took a Friendship Boat to Epcot. Our first stop was Soarin’, which we had a FastPass for.  I think it took 7 minutes to get to the ride from when we started.

After Soarin’, we took a little boat ride on Livin’ with the Land.

Next stop was a sad one – we had to say goodbye to Maelstrom.  It was going to be closed to make room for a “Frozen” themed ride.  I always liked this ride, though it’s short and cheesy.

That's the highest Stand By Time I've ever seen for Maelstrom
Yes, we took a family shot outside (inside?) Maelstrom!
After paying our respects, we took the Monorail over to Magic Kingdom just in time for the new Festival of Fantasy parade.

Magic Kingdom all dressed up for the Fall Season
How YOU Doin'?
This heartburn is killin' me!
We tried to get more FastPasses, but there was nothing good left, so we headed to lunch at Columbia Harbour House.

Save where you can - "entree only" saves you $2 if you don't want french fries! (I can steal from the family!)
We scored a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, then we caught the beginning of the Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Parade before heading to the bus stop.

Greetings from the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Hey, lady - that's peeping!

Micky says hi
I'll just leave this creepy photo for you to remember this post by
We bussed to the Boardwalk and got some tasty munchies from the Bakery, then walked back to the Yacht Club, picked up the car and headed home.

We got in around 9ish, and too sleepy for a shower, face-planted into bed and didn’t wake up until my alarm went off!