Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 Tower of Terror 10 Miler - Expo, Race Recap and Villains Hollywood Bash Review

I had been looking forward to the 2014 Tower of Terror Ten Miler for quite some time. It was my first runDisney race since the Dopey Challenge back in January and runDisney events are so much fun! The on-course entertainment is tough to beat, but for me, meeting up with old friends and making new ones in the most Magical Place on Earth is what brings me back.

Unlike my previous runDisney experiences, I was just driving in for the event, running the race, attending the after-party, catching a quick night of sleep before heading to the airport to fly home. I'm lucky to travel to Central Florida for work about once a month so I was able to piggy back this event to a business trip.

I arrived at the Expo, held at the Wide World of Sports Complex, about 9:30am. The main parking lot was still mostly full of 5k racers from the morning's trail run, people participating in the Kid's Races and other Expo attendees. I was among the lucky people who got to park in the grassy field they use for overflow parking.

Hello yourself.
I was surprised, given how full the parking lot was, how few people were there for packet pickup. There was no wait at all, so with bib in hand I headed to the Expo to walk the floor and pick up my shirt.

Without park tickets, I had no incentive to rush through the Expo, so I took my time to explore and found a couple of photo opportunities...

I hope those cobwebs aren't flammable.
So scary.
I thought I remembered people saying that the Tower of Terror 10 Miler expo was one of the smallest, but I found far more exhibitors than I expected. It was a little deceiving because there were several beer carts mixed in, but I was still impressed with the selection.

I went straight to get my shirt. I love the design - especially since they got rid of Stitch, who I really dislike. I will definitely be wearing this shirt in the parks a lot in the hot weather! My bib number was pretty cool too, since that's my area code (585 represent!).

This is the first runDisney event where I've seen the Status: Green. The forecast was for temps starting around 70 and dropping into the low 60s through the overnight hours with low humidity. That's a far cry from the usual hot and humid conditions.

I stopped by the runDisney booth where Jeff Galloway graciously posed for pictures with everyone who wanted one. He's such a nice guy, and his run-walk-run method is very effective.

After finishing at the expo I wanted to check out the Kids Races going on down by the track. On the way I passed by this cool Farmer Mickey Meet & Greet. This was literally the last family allowed through the line before Mickey wrapped up for the day.

I only watched a little bit of the end of the One Mile race, but it was really neat to see the kids proudly holding the medals around their neck while parents led them off the track.

On my way out I stopped by the big poster featuring the Tower of Terror 10 Miler medal I'd be receiving in just a little over 12 hours...

Going up?
I spent some time at Downtown Disney, ate some lunch, checked into the hotel and took a nap. Even though I had a rental car, I decided to use Uber to and from Hollywood Studios to simplify transportation. It was my first experience with Uber, and it worked GREAT in both directions. If you haven't used Uber, I'd encourage you to give it a try. If you sign up with this link, you'll get a $30 credit and I'll get a $10 credit. You're welcome.

Because Hollywood Studios was closed to all traffic, I had the driver drop me at the Boardwalk, and I walked along the water from there to the Studios parking lot. The cloudy skies had cleared and I was lucky to catch a beautiful sunset.

Walking through the parking lot I spotted this odd box lying on the ground near a security station...

...which begged the question...

Once again, John Doe had the upper hand.
I arrived just before 7:30, with zero wait to go through security or bag check... and then the first busload of runners arrived.

While waiting to rendezvous with the other members of my running team, the Mickey Milers, I wandered the gathering area.

Mickey Milers: meeting; greeting.
There were quite a few Mickey Milers I didn't know, but had interacted with on Facebook in our Team page, and wanted to meet in person, like Brittany Bear-Brown. Little did I know another runDisney friend, @Disney_Groom (, was photobombing us!

As I mentioned before, hanging out and running with friends is what makes these events so much fun. Before I knew it, it was time for the long walk to the starting corrals.

Honestly, I wasn't super excited about the course. There is almost zero park time, except for the very end at Hollywood Studios. You get *close* to Animal Kingdom, but turn around as soon as the park is in sight. Contrast that with the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, which I'll be running in November. Granted, it's three miles longer, but you run through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. That's a much better bang for your buck, as far as I'm concerned.

Based on an unusually fast (for me) 10K time I used for my Proof of Time, I was placed in Corral B. That meant I was way up front when the first runners started.

I try to stop for every character stop and mile marker. I enjoy live tweeting the race and interacting with virtual spectators as much as I can while trying to run (really, I do it while I'm waiting in line or on a walk break).

There wasn't much to see in the first mile. This picture shows a floating eyeball in a drainage pond.

Mile Marker 1
Shortly after the first mile marker I ran into fellow Mickey Miler Robert Schultz. We ran together for a couple of miles, with me stopping for pictures and catching up to him a couple of times. Eventually he left me in the dust...


Mile marker 2 - Yeti

Giant spider hanging on the bridge. No, thank you.
Living up to my reputation, I took an in-race blurry selfie of #TeamBlurrySelfie, featuring @carrieburrows ( and @BamaGirlRuns ( Those two are so much fun together!


Hyenas and Scar from Lion King. Really. Take my word for it.

Mile Marker 3

I made it out of there with my head intact.

Mile Marker 4 - Dr. Facilier a.k.a. Sausage Fingers

Dr. Facilier won the Sausage Fingers contest. It wasn't close.
The problem with the character meets during the night races (or pre-dawn races) is that they're usually very poorly lit and ALSO backlit, making for challenging photo conditions at best. When using a camera phone you have to hope the Cast Member taking the picture gets a good one, and often they simply cannot.

Captain Hook
There's a short trail portion of the 10 miler. It's mostly a dirt path with some large (golf-ball sized and smaller) stones mostly embedded in the dirt. I didn't find the trail to be very difficult to manage, and I hate trail running. It was very well lit, however, it is very narrow, so your pace will suffer here as a lot of people are walkers and there's really only room for about three people abreast for most of the path.

Entrance to the trail. Looks inviting.

Hey look! Free apples! I knew this was a great path to take!

Mile Marker 5

Jack and Sally - still on the dirt trail.
You emerge from the dirt trail into the Wide World of Sports complex. I found the gravediggers waiting for me...

I'm not dead yet!

Mile Marker 6 - Ugh, Stitch.
I stopped for every character in this race except for Stitch. I really don't care for him. He was stationed in the Wide World of Sports complex.

Last year there was a Tesla coil set up on the baseball field which appeared to be zapping the players, leaving only their uniforms behind on the field. This year they had a laser thing up in the press box but it wasn't zapping the players and because of the low vantage point, if I hadn't known to look for the uniforms I wouldn't even have seen them. Maybe it looked cooler from higher up in the stands, but at field level it was hard to appreciate.

Incidentally, there were a TON of spectators in the stands, full of energy and cheering with signs and noisemakers. Thanks everybody!

The Barves play Spring Training games here.
The Barves are the worst.

These guys were super cool/creepy!

I'm not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf!

Mile Marker 7 - the Big Bad Wolf.


Mile Marker 8 - classic Malificent

Eyeball status: still floating.
They posted Hades atop the overpass heading into Hollywood Studios. He was miked up and interacting with the runners, taunting them mostly. It was pretty funny.

I don't know if it was just foggy - the temperatures had fallen quite a bit - or a smoke machine, but these lasers were neat to run under.

There was a video camera filming the runners on the Lights, Motor Action set and projecting the images on the big screen.

Mile 9 - Chernabog

NY Street
I almost missed Lotso - he was positioned across from Toy Story Mania. He is a villain, after all. I wanted to punch him, but I didn't.

Lotso did NOT smell like Strawberries.
Just like at Wine & Dine, the tunnel past costuming that is part of the (now-defunct) Backlot Tour is converted to a Disco Tunnel. Unlike Wine & Dine, they didn't have the smoke machines blasting smoke in there.

I somehow failed to get any other pictures before (or of) the finish line, but I did get this one in the finishing chute, once clear of the other runners.

There is a long walk from the finish line to the bag pickup, which is staged at the Indiana Jones set. I picked up my bag, changed into clean dry everything, and went out in search of my teammates.

Some people look forward to the post-race party more than the race itself. Hollywood Studios has several rides open late, including Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours and MuppetVision 3D.

After connecting with a bunch of Mickey Milers and eating a Brownie Sundae for dinner, we decided to ride the race's namesake. The wait time was posted as 45 minutes but a Cast Member said it was actually 25 minutes. In fact it was less than 15 minutes. We had to hold onto our medals when we dropped because they floated up in the air.

We decided to hit Toy Story next, but were disappointed to find this sign waiting for us (at 3:12am).

We looped around to ride Star Tours, and we had an entire car to ourselves. Emerson Pratt was the rebel spy. He *is* from New Zealand, so it is, perhaps, fitting.

When we came out around 3:30am all of the rides and character meets had all closed. It seems to me, if you're going to advertise that the park is open until 4am, that should mean the rides and entertainment are available until 4am too. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our respective hotels to crash.

More bling for the medal hanger.
Going in, I wasn't excited about the route because there was almost no park time, but I thought there was ample entertainment on the course, and as always, plenty of water and Powerade. The medal is fantastic - it glows in the dark and the elevator moves up and down. I was disappointed in the post-race party in that so many rides closed early. I didn't look for characters but I heard from others that many of them stopped meeting well before the party ended. That's disappointing.

runDisney just posted its 2015 race calendar and the Tower of Terror 10 Miler isn't on it. There's some speculation that it will be back in 2016 or 2017 when construction in the park is finished. We'll have to see whether it's truly on hiatus or gets replaced altogether.

Next up for me is Marine Corps Marathon on October 26th with a whole bunch of Mickey Milers and then Jingle Jungle 5k with my wife and daughter - their first runDisney races - (last year's recap) and Wine & Dine Half Marathon (last year's recap) with a whole bunch MORE Mickey Milers.