Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo and 5k Race Recap - Dopey Challenge Race One

No stopping.
I woke up early on Wednesday morning, checked out of my one-night hotel and headed over to Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, slowing down (but not stopping) for the ubiquitous photo of driving under the Walt Disney World sign.

I had been to the complex before, for the Wine & Dine expo, but was told to expect a much busier race expo. Boy, were they right. Even arriving about half an hour before the expo opened, the place was hopping.

All of the Dopey Challenge runners had to pick up their bibs on Wednesday, and there were 7,000 of us. Plus all of the people (runners and non-runners) who wanted to get in line early for the first opportunity to buy the 2014 New Balance runDisney shoes were starting to line up.

I stopped on the walk from the parking lot to the Field House and bib pickup to get a picture with this banner of the Dopey Challenge medal. In just a few days, if everything went according to plan, it would be mine!

After picking up my two race bibs and five of my race shirts (all but the 5k) I took a quick peek at the expo floor from above before making my way across the field house to pick up my 5k shirt, and then get in line to buy the New Balance shoes.

When I got in line it extended out of Champions Stadium and down the sidewalk leading into the WWoS complex. The Cast Member attendant had no idea how long it might take to reach the end of the line, where we would use one of just six iPads to reserve a space in the virtual queue to actually purchase the shoes.

After about an hour and a half in line, I had reached the switchback and would spend another hour shuffling my way along the row of bleachers, into the stadium concourse and eventually reaching the virtual queue kiosk after a total of about two and a half hours.

I had a lot of time to take pictures of Champions Field.
I was assigned a number (1049) and was told I would receive a text when it was my turn. They were currently serving #400 and at a pace of about 100 per hour, I was looking at a long day of waiting around the expo.

I visited all of the booths, bought some race merchandise, ate lunch (and later dinner) at the ESPN Grill and listened to several speakers including Jeff Galloway, whose run-walk-run methodology is used by a huge percentage of runners at runDisney events.

When my number was finally called it was after 7:00pm, and they were out of one of the sizes I had wanted to purchase. They thought they might be getting more the next day, but they couldn't offer a rain check. My only option would have been to go through that entire process again. I had already given up an entire day to get the shoes, and I was not going to go through that again.

I'll offer some additional thoughts on the New Balance runDisney shoe situation in a separate post, but needless to say, the process is extremely frustrating.

Let's Go Mets!
I went from the Expo to my hotel for the rest of the trip, checked in and started to unpack. It was already after 8:00pm, which was originally when I had planned on going to bed. I had an early wake up call the next morning for the 5k, and I wanted to start off right. I laid out my race outfit (I don't really do costumes) and went to sleep.

I have a hard time sleeping on the road, and despite an alarm set for 3:15, I was up about 2:30. I decided to get showered and dressed and head over to the race early. At the Jingle Jungle 5k in November, there were already long character lines when I arrived. I figured I could be first in line for Mickey and Friends.

I woke a bit of a headache which was getting worse and worse as I moved around. I took a couple of Tylenol, stopped for coffee and a donut on the way to the Epcot staging area, and hoped for the best.

People kept calling out "Hey UP" to these two.
I wasn't the FIRST one to arrive. There were at least four other people there before me. But the fact that the man in a cherry picker was still adjusting the lighting meant I was probably way too early. Which was okay given that my headache was bad enough I was pretty sure I was going to be sick to my stomach. Temperatures were in the upper 50s and despite coming from wind chills of 40 below just two days earlier, I was starting to shiver a little. The cold actually helped take my mind off my headache as I sat at a picnic table and sipped my coffee. I knew that, worst case scenario, I could get through the 3.1 miles and go back to bed.

Luckily my headache got a little better and I was able to get up and move around a little. One of the great things about runDisney races is the incredible costumes people wear. Disney could probably sell a ticket for people watching.

I made my way from the bag check area over to Corral B, where I would be starting the race, laid out a big garbage bad I had brought, and had a seat. While waiting I noticed a friend I met at the Wine & Dine Meetup, Carrie Burrows. I went up to say, "Hi," and she introduced me to Kristin Long, a.k.a. BamagirlRuns, who I already followed on Twitter, and Mary Jo Collins, a.k.a. MoJoDisney, who is known by, and knows, just about everyone.
Nike+ Sportwatch (and Rainbow Loom) Power!

The 5k Fun Run race course (the blue line in the map below) started in the Epcot parking lot, entered World Showcase from backstage, ran around most of World Showcase, went backstage again briefly, then re-entered World Showcase, turned toward Future World, headed under Spaceship Earth, then exited to the finish line back in the parking lot.

With 10,000 runners, it's the smallest of the races during WDW Marathon Weekend but would be considered a huge race just about anywhere else. We queued up at the start and were off.
Shuffling toward the starting line.
Just me and 2,500 of my closest Corral B friends.
Flik and Princess Atta from "Bug's Life"
Some people take runDisney races (and all events) pretty seriously, hoping to finish in personal best times. I don't even think about my time - I'm there for the fun and entertainment. My corral started about 8 minutes after the official race start, but you'll notice my times on all of the mile markers will show a pitiful pace. Stopping for pictures, soaking up the atmosphere, chatting with friends, making new friends - all of these are WAY more important to me than finishing with an impressive time.

Only 47.6 more to go!
It's possible that there are Disney Cast Members who are worse at taking in-focus pictures than the ones who work at runDisney events, but I think it's unlikely.
Norwegian Daisy!
Japan - with Spaceship Earth glowing in the background.

As I came around World Showcase to France I saw Dopey! There was a line of runners waiting to get their picture with him. I didn't count, but I estimated about a 45 minute wait for the photo. I decided to pass it up and hope to catch him the next day. Late, Mike Scopa of the Mickey Miles Podcast told me he had counted 120 people in that line.

Haha - a 22 minute second mile!


After Sunday's marathon, I'll be ready to eat all the meats.

Sun starting to rise at Epcot

Almost done...

Is it still considered "bling" if the medallion is rubber?
I finished in just under an hour. My strategy for the four races was to take it easy and really enjoy the experience. It was hard not to run the race fast, given how fresh my legs felt, but I knew that it would be a mistake I would feel late in the marathon Sunday.

The process for receiving my Dopey Challenge wristband (to prove that I had completed the 5k) was a bit chaotic. There was a single file line with dozens of volunteers on either side putting the wristbands on finishers. But whenever a runner stopped to get a wristband, it held up the entire line of hundreds of people behind him or her. Once I got my wristband I continued up the line and saw at least 30 volunteers standing ready to give out wristbands, but no one could see that they were there or even get to them. I hoped runDisney might improve that experience after the 10k.

On my way to the car, I passed Agent P and Doof - the Agent P costume had a big yellow tail in the back. I love Disney races!

I thought there was a pretty good amount of entertainment in the 5k. Most of our time was spent in Epcot, and although I would have liked a shorter line for Dopey, it's understandable that with 7,000 runners doing the Dopey Challenge, that he'd be a very popular picture to get. I felt bad for the non-Dopey runners, though. It's billed as a "Family Fun Run," and yet there were only 3,000 slots available to non-Dopey runners. I really enjoy seeing families and little kids getting to run in the race, and unless runDisney expands the field this opportunity will be very limited during its flagship race weekend.

After the race, I got some breakfast back at the hotel, went up to my room to finish unpacking, take a nap and then did some grocery shopping. I wasn't planning on spending any significant time in the parks until after the marathon, and I stuck to the plan on day one.