Monday, April 24, 2017

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend - Before the Race

(Trip report starts here)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 came with a mixture of excitement and quite a few nerves - this was the day that I check in to All Star Sports which will be my home throughout race weekend. It meant that all of the preparation was just about done and for better or worse, race day was almost here. Was I fully where I wanted to be? No. Did I feel that I was prepared for finishing my first ever 5K? Yes.

Ordinarily, packing and leaving for a few days at Disney World, especially from my house in Florida, is a quick process, and if I forget something, it's no big deal, but this time I had so many things that were not on my usual list of things to bring. My printed waivers (yes, I know they can be printed there), my race clothes, my running shoes, food for breakfast the day of the race, and the list goes on and on. When it came time to leave I kept going over what I needed in my head again and again. It was almost as if I didn't really want to leave the house since that would mean it was time to do this thing.

Finally, the car gets packed and we make the hour long drive to WDW. Along the way I get a text from my daughter with our room number, so we can go directly to the room since we already have magic bands. However, not fully unexpectedly, my magic band does not open the door but my wife's does. (I say not fully unexpectedly since this is almost always the case.) Once I get the car unloaded I walk over to the front desk to get the situation fixed. 

Next we head to Disney Springs where I have made a reservation at The Boathouse for an early dinner so I can get to bed early, with the hopes that it might help me when I try to go to sleep even earlier on  the evening before having to get up at stupid o'clock on race day.

We walk around Disney Springs for a while before it is time to have dinner. I have eaten here before and this meal did not disappoint. I will admit that I splurged a bit with the lobster bisque followed by the crab stuffed lobster, but I was completely vindicated as it was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Everything was done perfectly!

Next I continued to walk around the marketplace to walk off that dinner. When we came to the shop where you can make custom tee shirts, I decided, since I always wanted to try it, to make a shirt for my granddaughter. Since we are taking a cruise on the Disney Fantasy at the end of June, I made her a shirt with her favorite Disney TV character, Doc McStuffins, that said ... Ready to sail/Brooke/Disney Fantasy/June 2017. A half hour later and it was ready. I have to say that it was really cute and will most likely be the shirt she wears on the day of the cruise for the embarkation photo.

After a bit more walking around it was time to get the bus back to the hotel. Being that we are staying at the All Star resort, even the walk to our bus location is a walk in itself. We get back to the hotel and while I am just chilling out a bit and trying to wind down ... not to mention dealing with an increasing series of nerves ... I get a phone call from Jenny. Her days are very hectic at the moment so she called now as she might not have had a chance before the race itself. We talked about if I felt I was ready (as ready as I was likely to get) and some things about race day itself. She gave me some advice about going to the health and fitness expo the next day - where I would pick up my race bib and probably spend more money than I should on "stuff" - and of course just general advice about race morning. Before we ended the call, she requested a I take a particular photo when I was at the expo the next day. (Here it is!) When we ended the phone call, most of the nerves had (at least temporarily) been replaced with a sense of calm. I would be able to do this!

I got to sleep earlier than usual, and managed to get to sleep right away. 

Thursday, April 20, 2107

Today is the day that I have to pick up my race bib ... another solid reminder that I am actually doing this. I have been to the last two health and fitness expos during the last two race weekends as a volunteer. This will be the first time I am on the other side of the counter. Having been told by Jenny not to be there at opening - a piece of advice that I found out was right on the money - I got on the bus about an hour after it was scheduled to open. The bus was filled by the time we left the All Stars and arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. I headed to the field house as I had done before, but instead of signing in as a volunteer, I went to the booth which listed the range of bib numbers that included mine. There was only one person in front of me and before I knew it I had in my hand that piece of coated paper that was my entrance into the race. While it wasn't necessary - since I knew I would be placed in Corral F ... the last corral - since I had never run a race before, I did check to see the "F" on the bib. 

My next stop would be to pick up the official shirt and gEAR bag. This was the strangest part of this morning since this was the location I had been as a volunteer. This time I was the "runner" on the other side. With bib and shirt now in the bag, I headed to the J Center (I guess Josten dropped their sponsorship and Disney simply kept the "J") to see what was going to suck in my money. I stopped and checked out a few booths, and then spotted Jeff Galloway, the Olympic marathoner who literally wrote the book on running (one of which Jenny gave me for my birthday) and is runDisney's official training guru. I stopped to have a picture taken with him and to have him sign my bib. Would it be good luck? I could use all I could get!

Continuing along, I was (mostly) pretty good in keeping my credit card in my pocket. As I passed the section for the official Disney Dark Side race items, the line was so long that I decided to pass it by. I did - but who was I kidding? I came back and stood in line. Happily the line was moving rather quickly and soon I was able to get into the area and look around. 5K shirts ... of course I had to have ... two of them as it turned out. A 5K hat ... of course! A generic runDisney shirt ... have to have one of those as well. (Though at this point I still felt like an imposter here who would soon be discovered! Buying a shirt which said "I Did It!" seemed like the ultimate sacrilege. What if I <gulp> didn't?) The final item was a pin which was a mini version of the 5K finisher medal. (Did you hear that ... FINISHER!!) Then on another long line for the privilege of paying for all of this! One of the things that Jenny did inform me of that I might have passed over on my own, was that at this location (and this location only) I would get a passholder discount as well as being able to charge it on my magic band. The discount did take a bit of the sting out of checking out but ... the discount was more than I usually spend on souvenirs in the parks! (Okay, I don't often buy souvenirs any more but I needed a good simile ... got it?)

Before I finished my stroll through the expo, I got a chance to see the finisher medal in person for the first time. Yes - it IS about the bling! 

Finally, making it through with my bank account somewhat intact, I headed back to the bus back to my room.

Since I would be waking up at 3:00 Friday morning, I had made an early dinner reservation at Trattoria al Forno at The Boardwalk. I had eaten there twice before (and it was where Jenny had given me the Jeff Galloway book) and I wanted a good meal the night before the race. They did not disappoint. I left the restaurant with a definite need to walk the lake once to help my food digest - and get the last bit of walking in before it became real!

Back at the room, I got all my stuff ready for the morning, though you should have seen how pathetic I looked pinning the bib to my shirt - trying to center it, get it straight. (I guess all that stems from my first career in the fashion industry!) I left a wake up call for 3:00 AM and set my watch for the same. My body must have thought I was crazy when it realized what time it was that I crawled into bed and tried to go to sleep!

(to be continued!)

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