Disney World Marathon (Part 2)

I had big plans for my birthday (January 9th) at Disney World, which just happened to be the day after the marathon. To celebrate not only turning 38, but also successfully completing my first 26.2 mile race, I had several reservations booked throughout the day at different Disney parks. First was breakfast at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. If you haven’t eaten there before it’s a beautiful place with three different dining rooms that are impeccably decorated like the Beast’s castle. I had a delicious meal of quiche and pastries in a spectacular ballroom setting. The Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park so my parents and I spent a lot of time there after breakfast. As soon as we arrived that morning I made sure to get my birthday button so just about every Cast Member we encountered all day wished me a happy birthday. I also wore my Disney World Marathon shirt to the parks that day to advertise my accomplishment, but it was cold enough to warrant wearing a jacket over it most of the day. In the afternoon we caught a bus from the Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios where I had an early dinner reservation at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. The opportunity to have a meal in a booth shaped like a car at a drive-in movie theater was too intriguing to pass up. And it was a lot of fun. The food wasn’t very impressive, but I loved watching the old sci-fi movie trailers, clips, and cartoons while eating. But by far the highlight of the evening was the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party. Rather than have a birthday dessert with dinner I made reservations for all three of us for the dessert party preceding the Star Wars fireworks, which also came with priority viewing for the show. The party was in the Star Wars Launch Bay and I ate more than my fair share of indulgent sweets to celebrate my birthday. It was great. I also got my picture taken with Chewbacca where I was able to show off my marathon medal. And then Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Fireworks were really incredible. For a nerd like me it was the best way to end a birthday.

January 10th was my last full day at Disney World, but it was a little less structured. After breakfast my parents and took the bus to Disney Springs and spent the morning doing a little shopping there. We ended up being pretty frugal, only buying some Disney t-shirts at Uniqlo. They turned out to be the perfect souvenirs from our trip, and much more affordable than anything from the parks too. Our only obligation for the day was dinner at Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood Studios. It turned out to be one of the best meals that we had the whole trip with salads, steak and duck entrees, and delicious desserts. It was a fixed-price meal that included priority seating for the Fantasmic show later in the evening. Fantasmic has been on hiatus at Disneyland for over a year now due to extensive construction so I haven’t seen it in a long time. And the viewing options are much better at Disney World anyway with stadium bleacher seating. I really enjoyed seeing the show again. As soon as we got out of Fantasmic I made a beeline for Tower of Terror in order to use the Fast Pass I’d reserved. At Disneyland Tower of Terror closed permanently on January 2nd (I wrote a whole post about the last time I went on it back in November) to be transformed into a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride so I was excited to be able to still be able to experience the Disney World version. It’s a bit more elaborate than the one in Anaheim was so it was an enjoyable surprise.

I flew home to Los Angeles on January 11th, but my flight wasn’t until the evening so had a chance to spend a few more hours at a Disney park before departing. I decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom and get on some rides that I missed on my birthday. Like Space Mountain, the Peoplemover, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, and Country Bear Jamboree. I also bought a Disney World 45th anniversary shirt and pin. I realize that the 45th anniversary was technically in the fall of 2016, but Disneyland was decorated for its 60th anniversary for over a year and a half so I figure the Disney World celebratory items were still applicable. I was really sorry to be leaving Orlando after such a great trip, including completing my first marathon and my 38th birthday, but it was time to get back to reality. I have a few souvenirs, a bunch of pictures, and even more great memories. And luckily I’ll be back at Disney World for the Wine & Dine races in November!

Disney World Marathon (Part 1)

I got to Orlando without too much trouble on January 6th. It was my first time having TSA Pre-Check clearance and I definitely enjoyed it. Not having to take off my shoes or jacket, and being able to leave my laptop in my backpack when going through security was definitely worth the minor hassle involved in getting cleared. When I arrived at the Boardwalk hotel at Disney World my parents and I had some pizza for dinner and made sure to get inside before the storms arrived that night. Even wearing earplugs the thunder and lightning woke me up overnight. It was quite the storm. Run Disney preemptively cancelled the half marathon for the next morning due to the storms so a lot of runners were not pleased. It was the best choice for everyone’s safety, but I understand their disappointment.

Due to the rain we did almost nothing the morning of January 7th. The only thing I absolutely had to do that day was go to the expo and get my race bib for the marathon the next morning, but we waited until the rain was just about over before attempting that trek. The expo was a madhouse with not only the marathoners picking up their things, but also the half marathoners returning to get their medals for the race that didn’t take place. Some of them were really dedicated and ran 13.1 miles in the rain earlier that day so that they felt like they truly earned the half marathon medal. I applaud them for the extra effort, but I’m not sure I would have done it! Most of Saturday afternoon was unproductive due to the time required to get to and from the expo with the added ridiculous number of cars and buses that were trying to get to ESPN Wide World of Sports in the bad weather. It was nuts. Fortunately I picked up my bib and shirt, and purchased a skirt for the next morning, without too much trouble. That night I had a delicious pasta dinner at Trattoria al Forno (conveniently located at the Boardwalk hotel where we were staying) in preparation for the marathon the next morning. I went to bed as early as I could manage, but I was really nervous about the upcoming race.

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM on Sunday January 8th. I got dressed and ready for the marathon as quickly as I could because I wanted to be on the bus to the start line at 3 AM. After the storms went through the previous day it was extremely cold on Sunday morning. I had arm warmers, gloves, a fleece jacket (courtesy of my mom), and a mylar blanket, but it still felt frigid outside. I had the foresight to sign up for Race Retreat which gave me access to a tent and breakfast before the race, but it was only marginally warmer inside. I could still see my breath as I was eating my banana with peanut butter! I was a bundle of nerves waiting for the race to start. I’d never run 26.2 miles before and I had no idea how it was going to go. I met my old high school friend Missy at 4:45 AM and we started the long walk to Corral L. While we were moving it didn’t feel that cold, but standing still was awful, especially when the wind was blowing. We were huddling close to strangers and stomping our feet to stay warm, but neither was really working. We finally crossed the start line around 6:20 AM (being in the 12th corral didn’t do us any favors that morning). I was so glad for all of the layers I had on even after we started running. I only took off my fleece jacket around mile 5, right before we reached the Magic Kingdom, and I kept the gloves on even longer because my hands felt so toasty warm. The arm warmers stayed on a bit longer, but had come off by the half marathon mark. The sun was plenty warm by that point, but anytime we ran through the shade we got a reminder of how cold the air still was. I was feeling pretty good for a majority of the race, but between mile 17 and 18 it started to go downhill. My stomach was upset and I was tired, and I basically felt like garbage. I expected to get a second wind eventually, but it never happened. Luckily I had Missy with me for moral support and we crossed the finish line in 5:28:41 which is a lot faster than I expected for my first marathon! I wasn’t in great shape after the race, though. My knee hurt, my foot hurt, and my body started going into shock when I got back on the bus to my hotel. Luckily a hot shower, a piece of pizza and a Coke, and some rest helped. Many hours of rest and relaxation later my parents and I walked over to Epcot. My foot was still really hurting, but I figured it would pass. I purchased the Disney World New Year’s pin that I wanted and we had a fabulous dinner at Spice Road Table that night. It was the perfect end to my marathon day!

#tbt – My old passport

Today I started the process of changing my name on my passport so that I will be prepared for my cruise to the Bahamas in February. (I probably should have sent it in before now, but as usual hindsight is 20/20.) So I pulled my old passport out of a box this evening and flipped through it. I’ve had three passports in my life (check out some of the stamps from my old passports here), and I got the latest one back in 2008 before I went to New Zealand with my ex-husband for Christmas. I’d renewed my passport for our honeymoon in 2007 when my last name was still Gleason, but a year later I needed a new one with my married name on it. It’s a shame this passport was only used to leave the country once. (I’ve used it for several trips within the United States when I accidentally booked plane tickets under my married name…after I reverted back to my maiden name last year. Oops.) Not that New Zealand is anything other than a sensational destination, but I’d like to see more of the world! The good news is that the new passport that I’m applying for now will be used to visit the Bahamas in just over two months. I can’t wait!

Less than a week

Less than a week is all that it took for me to be a NaBloPoMo failure this year. Oh well. I was on vacation so I knew it would be a challenge. November seems to be a generally crazy month every year. On Friday I simply posted a picture (although my mom and I look amazing in it!), and on Saturday and Sunday I was far to busy and far too tired to devote precious time to writing anything. I will endeavor to do better for the rest of the month! Right now I’m sitting in the Austin airport waiting for my flight to Long Beach. Although I had a wonderful time at Disney World I am looking forward to getting home this evening. Orlando was unseasonably hot this week, and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was delayed and then shortened due to inclement weather. It was a bit of a mess! More on that in another post. But we still had fun. Even so, I can’t wait to get back to the fall weather that has finally started in Southern California. I might actually need to use my space heater tonight. After our scorching summer that will be a welcome change. I have so much going on this week. Besides trying to make up a few extra hours at work, I’m meeting friends at Disneyland for dinner tomorrow night, and then the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland will be here a few days afterwards. It might have been a blessing in disguise that the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was shortened because I’ll be running both a 10K and half marathon this weekend at Disneyland. Yikes! Even with all of these activities on my calendar, I still want to write as much as possible so I can document this Disney World vacation before it gets lost in my memories. (This will be New Year’s Resolution #4 in action!) I will probably get started on that during my flight to Long Beach. Free inflight wifi is great!

Goodbye Schlotzsky’s

I am at Disney World for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon on Saturday, so I might have difficulty updating my webpage everyday while I’m on vacation. But I’m going to do my best for the sake of NaBloPoMo! I started this post on my flight from Austin to Orlando yesterday, but I didn’t finish it before we landed. You’ll see that I was unhappy with the meal I got in the Austin airport!

Schlotzsky’s Deli used to be my favorite place to eat when I was in college. I’d go there every Friday night for a turkey sandwich or a pepperoni pizza and a Cherry Coke to celebrate the impending weekend. It was delicious. So when I went Los Angeles for my first Boeing internship I was happy to discover a Schlotzsky’s not to far from work in Huntington Beach. I didn’t go there nearly as often as when I lived in Gainesville (there were other restaurants to sample instead), but I still liked being able to get a familiar meal from time to time. But then one day I drove over there, anticipating a tasty sandwich for lunch, only to discover that Schlotzsky’s was out of business. How upsetting! So when I arrived at the Austin airport last January on my way to Orlando for the Disney World 10K and half marathon I was so excited to see that there was a Schlotzsky’s in the airport! I was really looking forward to having one of their sandwiches for old time’s sake. The menu was understandably small (no pizzas!) and I can’t remember what I ordered, but it was awful. It was incredibly bland! Not at all what I remember from my college days. What a disappointment. Since then I’ve tried the Austin airport Schlotzsky’s two more times (including yesterday when I was on my way to Orlando) and the quality of the fare hasn’t improved at all. My sandwiches were dry and had very little flavor. How does that even happen? Three strikes and you’re out, Schlotzsky’s. On my way back to Los Angeles next week I will patronize another airport food spot during my stopover. We had a good run, but I’m afraid our love affair is over. Goodbye, Schlotzsky’s!

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 2

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.

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 1

In an effort to catch up with all of the major things that have happened in 2015 (and to try and satisfy my New Year’s resolution #4), I’m going all the way back to the beginning of the year to write about my trip to Orlando in January. I figured I really needed to finally document that trip before I head back there for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World next month!

My parents joined me in Orlando for the 2015 Disney World Marathon Weekend (1/7-1/11) when I was running the 10K and half marathon. We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort which turned out to be pretty nice. The room was basic enough, but all of the buildings are situated around a lake. We had a little bit of a walk to get breakfast at the food court every morning, but at least the lake made for a lovely route. And it was a bit chilly in Orlando that week which was both good and bad. The day before the 10K we went to the race expo at the Wide World of Sports complex and picked up my shirts and bibs for the two events. I was distressed to discover that the race pins I thought I’d ordered (and even had email receipts for) had gone awry during the registration process. Luckily I was able to buy them at the expo, but only after looking in three different places. We spent the afternoon wandering around Downtown Disney (which has been renamed to Disney Springs since then) and had dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand CafĂ©. A nice pasta dinner before my first race.

The next day was my 36th birthday and we started the celebration by getting up at 2:30 AM to catch the bus to the 10K start line. Doesn’t that sound fun? Believe it or not, I was thrilled to be running a race on my birthday. And despite the fact that it was 45 deg that morning (we hunkered down in one of the event tents to stay warm before the race started), the experience was fantastic. Running through EPCOT was so much fun. My time was nothing to brag about, but I felt great. It was one of those runs that was almost effortless. That doesn’t happen to me very often so I was grateful for such a memorable run on my birthday. After I crossed the finish line my parents and I took the bus back to our hotel, showered and changed, and grabbed a late breakfast. To finish my birthday celebration we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park since I’d never been there before. It was cold and there was a lot of construction going on at the park, but we still had a good time. The Expedition Everest ride is so awesome! I’d go back just for that. And we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Yak & Yeti restaurant. That night we were all tired from getting up way before the crack of dawn so we went to bed early – especially since we had to repeat the same process again the next morning for my second race.

To be continued!

PJJ Maui (Part 3)

The last few days I spent in Hawaii were a bit less structured than the beginning of the trip. The morning of June 26th we all woke up to the news that the US Supreme Court had struck down all bans on same-sex marriage. We were all thrilled! It was really funny sitting around the breakfast table with everyone on their phones, reading about the historic decision, adding the rainbow overlay to our Facebook profile photos, and blocking or unfriending anyone who posted anything disparaging about it. It was so nice to be in a group of like-minded people that morning. We spent most of the day relaxing in our amazing beachside mansion. Some of the ladies unfortunately had to fly home that night so we seized the opportunity to take a bunch of group photos before anyone left. As you can see in the above photo, we even had matching PJJ Maui t-shirts! (I guess I should take a moment to explain that “PJJ” stands for “Pajama Jammy Jam.” We just moved our pajama party to Hawaii and extended it into a week!)

On my last full day on Maui a few of us decided to try to catch the sunrise at Haleakala again, hopefully without the truck convoy (or the associated observatory construction protest) getting in our way this time. (See PJJ Maui (Part 2) for more details.) So we got up at 2 AM to drive to the summit for the festivities. Fortunately the trip was uneventful that morning and our quest was successful! It felt a little strange wearing pants and jackets and packing a bunch of blankets for anything in Hawaii, but it was worth it in the 40 deg weather at the top of Haleakala. And the sunrise was indeed beautiful. I didn’t get any good photos myself, but I loved seeing it in person. On our way back to the house we stopped at a French bakery that’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere and had an absolutely delicious breakfast of quiche and pastries. It was amazing. After that we spent the majority of our day swimming in the ocean and the mansion’s swimming pool. Ladies of leisure! Our numbers dwindled even more that afternoon/evening as more folks hopped flights back to their hometowns. In conjunction with a few airport drop-offs that day we indulged in some Hawaiian shave ice, visited a sugar museum, and stopped briefly at McDonald’s to take pictures of their “Aloha” and “Mahalo” signs. We are classy broads.

I reluctantly flew back to Los Angeles on the morning of the 28th, but I had a three-hour layover in Honolulu first. That gave me a chance to wander through all of the airport shops (and eat a terrible Burger King breakfast) and savor Hawaii for just a little bit longer. I was sad to get home that night. PJJ Maui had turned out so much better than I ever imagined. I loved spending time in a tropical paradise with such an amazing group of women. This was the sorority experience I should have had in college. Several of us made similar comments during the week. It’s rare that you find people that you connect with like that and by some miracle we had all met each other through a Craigslist wedding forum almost a decade ago. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I’ll always be grateful.