Monday, January 9, 2017

I Can't Put My Arms Down! - WDW Marathon Weekend Volunteer Report

Welcome to 2017!  As always, the first weekend (give or take) is the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, and we headed down to volunteer, our third year in a row.

As always, we grabbed Polar Pops from Circle K and donuts from Daylight Donuts, but about halfway down there, we thought that it would be a good idea to eat actual food before getting to the Expo, just in case we didn't have time to eat.

My family, as usual, wanted Wendy's.  I decided it would be easier to go to the one in the new Okahumpka Turnpike Plaza, rather than going all the way to 192 in Kissimmee, then backtracking to ESPN.  Also, I just wanted to see what the new Plaza looked like, since it seemed like it was under construction forever!

So fancy! It's much nicer and brighter inside too
This dog was keeping cool in his owner's swanky car (yes, we checked to make sure it was running)
Once inside, I checked out (read: used) the ladies' room, then we all headed to Wendy's.  Sadly, they had a very limited menu, and while I was hoping for a Son of Baconator sandwich, they only had big daddy, so I went with a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Always tasty, though I miss the old school buns from 20 years ago.

MMM, Spicy Chicken Sandwich - the BEST chicken sandwich
The rest of the drive was uneventful, and we headed to the HP Field House to check in.

Welcome to the ESPN Wide World of Sports
We're here!
We checked in very early, and we scored Shirt Exchange! Awesome, we've not done this before (and it looks like a pretty easy job).

Instead of grabbing lunch and drinks, like we've been instructed to do in the past, we were given a bottle of Dasani and sent directly to where we would be volunteering. Um, okay... odd, but whatever.

Our workstation for the afternoon
So we sat here...

And sat...

And sat...

At least there was a chair to sit on...
...until about 45 minutes later, when our Team Leader Amy came out to brief everyone on how to do gEAR bags and Shirt Exchange.

Team Leader Amy!
I. LOVE. Working Shirt Exchange! It's my new favorite shift (well, maybe just at the Expo, anyway).  After a runner picks up their shirt, they can come to Shirt Exchange to get a bigger or smaller size.  I was amazed at how many people didn't choose the right size shirt to begin with ("oops, I'm a size 24, but chose XXS, tee hee" WTF?)

Rules of Shirt Exchange are simple - if we got it, we can trade.  If we don't got it, you're outta luck.  It works on a one in, one out system. We can't 'get any from the back.' We can't go get one from gEAR bags (where the other shirts are).  We can't trade one shirt from your Challenge bundle (Challenge runners get 3 shirts) - we have to trade all three shirts for three different shirts. It sucks, but doing it any other way would wreak havoc on runDisney's inventory system.

What we could do is to tell people - who were looking for a shirt we didn't have - was to keep checking back while at the Expo. Many people did that, and many times, we were lucky enough to make the trade.

I made many people happy during my shift, including one guy who I just wanted to hug - he was maybe in his early 20s and he was talked into doing a half-marathon, so it was his FIRST half-marathon.  He wanted to trade to a different size, but he was one of those sizes that go quickly (like a Men's Medium, I think he was). He actually hung around the Expo for hours because he wanted that shirt.  He didn't hang on the counter, or stalk other runners, he just chilled out across the open space and waited. I was SO glad I was finally able to get him his shirt!

I was ready to eat my foot by about 6pm, and finally, after the Kiddo returned from her "lunch" - with a box for me, I was able to go outside and eat.  She brought me an Italian sub box (sandwich, cookie and I think pasta salad this time).  It wasn't bad, but Amy had asked that I return quickly, so I really just snarfed it down and was back within 15 minutes. Hubby didn't even bother to take a "lunch" at all.

It's a beautiful evening outside at a picnic table
Do we really need a DJ?  Just play music
It got busy while I was gone!
While I was out there, I was feeling the weather change; it was getting windy, and (as a Floridian), I could feel the rain coming. It was already January, so chilly (it was probably about 60 when I was eating), but no one wants to run a half-marathon in cold AND rain!  Once back inside, I began to hear people asking about the weather, and what was going to happen if it rained? They were all told to stay on Social Media for updates.

I wish I had checked Social Media for updates...

The Expo officially closed at 7pm, but our side (at the Jostens Center) stayed open a bit longer for the last-minute people running from the HP Field House. Once the Jostens Center closed, we checked out and headed to WaWa for a healthy dinner of milkshakes and potato chips.

Small Vanilla Milkshake
This time around, we were staying at Champions World Resort on 192. I was able to get a King + Sofabed for $140 total. Not the best price, but I'd lollygagged and not booked a hotel until after Christmas! Oops!

I wasn't impressed.  The room had tile floor, which I understand is great for cleaning and maintenance purposes, but it was cold on the feet.  The bed was okay, and since it was a King, Hubby got a nightstand (I hog it when we get a Queen room).

Oh, and see that little slim HVAC above the doorway? Yeah... It didn't work when we got there. We played around with it for a while, but eventually had to call maintenance. He came and played around with it for a while, then went up on the roof and played with something up there, before the AC/Heat finally worked. Good thing too, because it was cold this weekend!

King + SofaBed.  We moved the coffee table to between the bed and sofa
After our "dinner," we settled in and fell asleep. We didn't have a super-early shift tomorrow, but I still wanted to be up by 5am to get to the Volunteer Tent.

Saturday dawned wet and cold. Like, I can feel it in my bones cold (Weather Underground - who I HATE, but has the data - showed that the low was 43º).  We bundled up and started driving onto property.

We got to the exit for ESPN and saw a sign that said:


(Taken later in the morning)

I felt the disappointment in my gut and I wasn't even running the damn thing! I felt so bad for the Shirt Exchange Guy! It was his first race, and he was so psyched yesterday... I still wonder what he did on Saturday...

We all kind of were stunned, we weren't sure what to do. So, we ended up heading over to the Volunteer Area anyway, because we didn't know if there was anything we needed to do.

It was a ghost town. There was no one in the parking lot, there was no one at the check-in area, and of course, there were no legions of busses.

So, we headed back to the car and decided to go back to the hotel, change our clothes and rope-drop Epcot.

At the hotel, I pulled up my internet and checked my emails. Sure enough, emails had been sent out the night before, around 7:30pm (probably just minutes after leaving the expo), that the race had been cancelled, and volunteers were also told to stay home.

We found out later that a LOT of runners decided to make Space Mountains out of molehills (see what I did there...) and ran anyway!  Many ran the course as much as they could. Many ran around the resort they stayed at. Many of the locals just ran wherever they normally ran.  This post from I Run for Wine is a great story about the runners at Art of Animation.  I think it really sums up both the Runner Spirit and the Disney Spirit.

After changing into our clothes for Disney, we made a pitstop at McDonald's for breakfast, then headed to Epcot.

Mmm, sausage biscuit and OJ - breakfast of champions!
It was sad to see all the tents, just sitting there, all alone. I really felt so bad for all of the runners who'd spent time, energy and money to run this race, and weren't able to.

Sad, empty tents
They'll come tomorrow... hopefully!
I'm not really sure why I took a photo with the tram, but it illustrates how many layers I'm already wearing!  I believe I've got on base pants/tights and regular pants; then a tank top, base CuddleDud and Xersion quarter-zip running shirt.

It's not super-cold yet... but it's coming!
The wind was really kicking up, and I had a feeling it was going to rain more, so I asked our speediest walker, Hubby, to go back to the car and get our ponchos.  Unfortunately for him, it began raining again when he got to the car. 

Welcome to Epcot
And began raining harder after he left the car.  So sorry, sweetie!

Rain + Cold = Unhappy Tourists
Lots of people were huddling under any shelter we could find, and soon, they just went ahead and let us all in, almost an hour early!

Hello, Beautiful
We went directly to Soarin' to experience the change from Soarin' over California to Soarin' Around the World.

We ran into one guy who was supposed to be running this morning who was taking advantage of the nonexistent lines, too.  He was bummed, but he understood why Disney had cancelled. It's all about the safety of the people, not the dollar in the pocket.

No lines!
No wait!
I enjoyed the new Soarin' because of the new locations, but I sure do miss all the different beautiful California locations and the SMELLS of the old Soarin' . Also, just gonna leave this here... who okay'ed the final verison of the Eiffel Tower?  Jeesh!

Feels Crowded™
After Soarin', we made a beeline for Norway - this would probably be the best time to experience the new Frozen ride without much of a line.

There was a line, and it was longer than expected - even in this crappy weather! It took about an hour to get to our boat.

It really does feel like you're outside
It gave us plenty of time to enjoy the queue and all the details.

Yum, fish in a jar
Yoo hoo!
Oaken's in the sauna!
Oaken's drawing in the steam
Good job, Oaken!
This is why we can't have nice things...
Getting closer to the loading area
We're #3!
The ride itself is still 90% Maelstrom, but it's cute. Would I wait again in an hour-long line? Nah, probably not. I'm glad we experienced it, though.

After that, we headed right over to meet Anna and Elsa, again, because when else would there short lines? (Yes, at Disney, for anything "Frozen", 1 hour is a 'short' line).

The details of the SummerHaus are stunning, and I was enjoying looking at all the details. I took way too many photos (as I always do), but will share just a few.

It's so cute!
I wanna go upstairs
I love that there's so many books
More books, and violins on the ceiling
As with any of these "two-fer" meet and greets, they don't actually meet together.  I know it's supposed to make crowds go faster I guess, but it seems silly. Some characters are just a pair and should meet together.  Anna and Elsa. Mickey and Minnie. Daisy and Donald. Just meet together! Or have separate rooms... many, many kids are bummed that they can't have photos together with the sisters (and a few adults, too, like me!)

See! She's bored! Just come over here and meet with your sister!
Elsa apologized for the weather (which I bet she did a LOT OF over the weekend!)
After our Frozen adventure, we took a break and I ate my Nutty Bar.  Hubby and the Kiddo, of course, futzed around with Pokemon Go and bitched about the crappy wireless service.

What the hell? I just realized it says Nutty BUDDY! Why you do this, Little Debbie?  Nutty Buddies are Ice Cream Cones!!
I headed over to the restrooms at one point and caught this cast member addressing Princess Anna, the cutest little girl.  I love great cast members like this!

Bow to me, I am your Princess!
Once I got back to where we were sitting, in that little walkway behind the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (which is a horrible walkway!), I decided it was time to bundle up. The temperature was dropping, and I was getting very uncomfortable.  I added a Columbia fleece jacket and some el cheapo stretchy gloves. 

One bonus of hanging out back here was that we got to experience the Norway Vikings, which I didn't even know was a thing!

I got my photo taken, then proceeded to play with the one Viking's beard, because he'd been admiring Hubby's beard.  Cute experience.
I love the 2nd Viking in the back!
Sorry, sweetie, he wins... his beard is much better
"That's right, good sir, your lady just stroked my face"
After the Vikings left, I basically pulled rank and said, that's it, it's fucking cold, we need to go. *I* need to go. I don't do well in cold! That's why I live in Florida, duh!

We popped into Chick-fil-A on the way back to the hotel and had a bed picnic. Then basically, we just hibernated until dinner.

The. Best. Nuggets. On. The. Planet!
Dinner was, again, WaWa (yes, we have a problem...)  I was happy to see that the soup of the day was New England Clam Chowder, so I got a bowl of that, and a cheese quesadilla.

Sadly, the chowder was only so-so, and the cheese quesadilla was boring. I think I'll stick to BBQ chicken quesadillas from now on, and skip the chowder.

Sorry to say it was bland, even after adding salt and pepper
Needs chicken
Pre-dawn Sunday was cold. Just cold. Damn cold. Cold as fuck. Cold as "why the fuck is Florida this cold?" cold. I don't like cold. (Can you tell?)

Wind Chill is what now?
Today also started off on the wrong foot.

When we originally registered, our shift was "Full - Course Monitor - Hollywood Studios" from 5:15am to 2pm.  Every time we volunteer - after I get confirmations at sign-up, I put the shift information into my iPod notes so I can quickly refer back to it.

So when we got our official letter in the mail, a few weeks before the trip, I only double-checked the Assignments, but not the start times - this was my mistake.

Official Volunteering Schedule

So, what happened? Well, we checked out of our hotel around 4am and moseyed our way to the volunteer check-in area, got our t-shirt and snacks, then headed out for our bus, which, as you can imagine, had already left!

I, of course, was pissed off. We weren't that late (I think we got to the Volunteer area by 5:00), and I was assuming that we were mostly on time, and it was the BUS that left early!

The two transportation volunteers checked to see what other busses were still around and the three of us were able to get onto a Runner Direction - Epcot bus.

Once on the bus, I was able to pick up some wi-fi, and lo and behold, I see that our shift had been changed from 5:15am to 4:30am.  So, the being late and missing the bus thing? Yeah, all on us... Sorry for cussing you out in my mind, Disney!

Luckily, the Team Leader was desperate for bodies, as many people wussied out because of the weather and didn't come to their shift.

On the bus, we could finally chill a bit, and we were all given noisemakers to use on the course, to cheer on runners.  I, of course, took the WaWa hand-clapper!

These things are obnoxious, but so fun!
Wrapped up and toasty - drinking Mountain Dew
Our Team Leader had the responsibility for assigning us to all of the World Showcase portions of the race.  She made assignments on the bus on the way there, and we were assigned International Gateway, which I thought was cool (though, I would have preferred to be IN the park).

The course would come from the Boardwalk area, run just shy of entering through the International Gateway, but instead go behind the scenes for a small bit, then come back out and enter Epcot.

Once we were set up in our area, our Team Leader left us to basically fend for ourselves until the race began to come through (she had a large amount of ground to cover, as her volunteers were spread from Crescent Lake to Mexico, I think). One of the first things we did was go check out the photo op near the entrance to backstage. I'm not really sure why it was there - it wasn't a character stop, but just a backdrop with Dalmatian statues. It was still cute, and lit well so you could see how overdressed I was!

I'm like a Frosted Mini-Wheat - Eight Layers of warm goodness!
I think this time it was tights, CuddleDuds pants and cargo pants, plus knee socks, on the bottom. Then tank top, CuddleDuds top, quarter-zip running shirt, quarter-zip fleece shirt, Columbia fleece jacket, double-layer winter jacket (the kind that you can unzip the inner layer and wear as a shell) plus my volunteer jacket. Oh, and a buff from my last Celebration run, el-cheapo ski mask style hat and a fleece ear warmer (under the hat) and hand warmers inside my gloves. 

Yes, I wore ALL of this
I think the Kiddo had on 5 or 6 (she doesn't get as cold as I do)
While freezing, the view was spectacular!

Looking towards France from outside the International Gateway
Looking toward Crescent Lake (I think the hotel in the distance is Yacht Club)
When the sun started to come up, it was even more beautiful.

Sunrise over the Gateway™
Soon, the first runners came through and I was amazed at how little clothing they were wearing!

He has no shirt on!
She only has on booty shorts and a sports bra!
As opposed to us, who were so over-dressed we couldn't put our arms down!

"I can't put my arms down!"
Manly Belle
International Gateway is a great location for spectators who can't (or don't want to) spectate from inside the park.  As it got later in the morning, we were joined by more cheerers.

I hope Kevin and Michelle had awesome runs!
At 7:40am (during a bathroom break that took about 15 minutes, due to all the undressing and redressing!), I pulled out my iPod to check the weather... this sucks!  With the Wind Chill, it felt like 28º!  I'm a Florida Girl... 28º should not even be in my vocabulary.

No. Just No.
At one point, I realized that WDWRadio had joined the spectating group, which was cool because I know they have a running team.  They were all really supportive of all the runners, so I felt I should throw them some love (even though I'm not a fan of them).

Hello WDWRadio!
Dapper Dan runners (In Yellow, Red and Purple Shorts - Teal Shorts is hard to see)
Running as Bob's Barricades staff members
You can see in the photo below that our little empty oasis got very crowded the later it got.

It's gotten much more crowded at our part of the course!
Hard to see, two guys running as Genie and Jafar Genie (in body paint!)
Lou startin' to get all up in the course
Okay, I'm all for being supportive of runners, and I think it's cool that you bring snacks (they were handing out Twizzlers and Hershey Kisses), but Lou (from WDWRadio) needs to learn HOW to hand stuff out. He repeatedly moved into the actual race course, and more than once would try to CHASE a runner to allow them to get some candy.  After seeing this and trying to get them to move, I had to report him to a Cast Member, so that they could have him move. I don't think Lou was happy to have gotten in trouble, but sorry, dude - safeD first!

Back. Up.
He did come by and give me some Twizzlers though... all is forgiven? Nope (I don't really like Twizzlers).

Meh. Twizzlers.
Balloon ladies came through and we knew it was almost time for the race to be over. I never got warm enough to remove any layers besides my hat and buff.  I really don't know how these runners handled the weather. But I was glad to be heading back to a warm bus.

Almost done, but on property so you're safe!
After checking in at the Volunteer Tent, we stripped off a lot of our layers and headed to Outback Steakhouse for lunch. Not my first choice, but for Admin Professional's Day last year, my boss gave me a $25 gift certificate that covered 4 different restaurants, and Outback was the only place my family would probably eat. And I'm all for saving money when I can, especially when at Disney.

Remember when this place was a good place to go?
All I can say is I'm glad half my meal was free.  I've not been to an Outback since the Kiddo was The Baby.

When in the hell did Outback start charging so much for a piece of steak? I looked at the menu and almost choked...  The CHEAPEST steak they offered was almost $17! Maybe I'm just old and misremembering the cost of menu items last time we went, or maybe I'm just old and cheap, but that was a bit of a sticker shock!  I got a cheeseburger, Hubby got chicken fingers and the kiddo got fried shrimp with cheese on her fries.

I was talked into 'loading' my fries so they were like Aussie Fries, and I regretted that.  The cheese was already congealed by the time I got my plate, so I had to eat my fries with a fork. The burger was okay, but the entire meal and dining experience reminded us why we never go to Outback. I was underwhelmed and didn't plan on going back. Our meal, after our $25 gift card was still $35.  That seemed like too much for what we got.

Basic cheeseburger and "loaded" Aussie Fries
After lunch, as usual, we were exhausted from working all weekend, so we hit up the WaWa for travel snacks and headed north.

And, since it was just past Christmas, we of course had to stop at the Russel Stover Outlet near Wildwood.  After Christmas and after Easter are the best times to go, because they have the best selection of candy that we like (Valentine's is good too, if you like those boxes of assorted chocolates).

This time we spent $22 and - between the three of us - ended up with:
(41) Peppermint Cream Santa (50% off) $.29 each ($11.89 total)
(4) Maple Cream Santa (50% off) $.29 each ($1.16 total)
(3) Peppermint Bark Bars (50% off) $.74 each ($2.22 total)
(2) Cookies n Cream Bar (50% off) $.74 each
(1) Double Scoop Mint Chip Ice Cream $3.99
FREE Standard Box Assorted Chocolates – reached 100 rewards points

Not a bad haul! I'll stick most of these in Lock & Locks, which are the BEST storage containers EVER, and munch on them over the next few months.  I like sweets but I can't binge!