The morning of January 10th we were once again waiting in line for a bus at about 3 AM. It was 45 deg that morning too, but we had a harder time finding place to stay warm before the half marathon started at 5:30 AM. It was pretty miserable. My mom had loaned me an old jacket and I brought a pair of gloves, but they weren’t enough to keep me from shivering for hours before the race started. Unfortunately my knee was hurting before the race started too. It hadn’t bothered me at all during the 10K the day but I think the combination of the cold and standing for hours prior to the race really screwed something up. (A few months and quite a lot of frustration later, and after a doctor’s appointment and several visits to a sports chiropractor, I discovered that the problem was not actually my knee at all. It was my IT band. That knowledge helped me get back into running and manage the symptoms better. But that’s a story for another time!) The half marathon was rough. Not only was I freezing most of the time (I could not wait for the sun to come up) and I was in a lot of pain. But I still enjoyed running through the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, and my time wasn’t that bad either. I can only imagine how much faster I would have been if I hadn’t walked so much due to my knee. After the race was over my parents and I dragged ourselves back to the Coronado Springs Resort to shower, change, and grab a very late breakfast. We barely made it to the food court before they shut down to prepare for lunch. That egg sandwich tasted amazing after my half marathon! The three of us didn’t do much else that day because we were completely exhausted from two way too early mornings, but we did have a delicious dinner at Maya Grill that night to celebrate my birthday.
The 11th was my last full day in Orlando so we decided to spend it at Universal Studios. Back in 2011 we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time and absolutely loved it. Since then Universal has added a whole new themed section in their Islands of Adventure park so my parents and I absolutely had to go see it. It was raining that morning as we got to the parks so we bought some ponchos and made the best of it. (One of my friends was running the Disney World marathon that morning so it was a lot tougher for her!) The parks weren’t crowded so we really got to see everything in both of the Harry Potter areas, including the Hogwarts Express train which transports guests between them. It was so much fun. I particularly enjoyed the giant dragon on top of Gringotts Bank that breathes fire every 10 minutes. Everything about it was so well done that you feel like you’re in the movies. Pretty amazing. Besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, not much else at Universal Studios is worth seeing these days. A lot of the rides are really dated, the tickets are outrageously expensive, and the merchandise leaves something to be desired. I think I’ve been spoiled by years of Disneyland on my annual pass! On January 12th I had to fly back to Los Angeles, but I took two new medals and a sense of accomplishment home with me. Despite my injured knee I had successfully completed two races at Disney World. It was the perfect birthday vacation.