Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Experience Volunteering for Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World

This year, my Princess experience was a bit different for me.  I've run in several Run Disney events, including the Inaugural Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles) last month.  But this time, I was a volunteer during the Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon.  
People may call me crazy for that 2am wake-up call and I didn't even get a

medal, but what I got was truly magical.  Feeling the excitement as I drove  up to EPCOT at 2:45am Saturday morning, I saw all the buses lined up to head out and start picking up runners.  As I watched the buses head out, I felt the pre-race jitters.  Plus, I got to hear the microphone  checks from that famed overpass near EPCOT and the DJ's warming up near the start.  I began by helping the "Banana Group" set up for at the Finish area.  My bananas were all lined up facing the same direction and stacked nicely.  On Saturday, we were 100 Volunteers shy of what they wanted even though they accepted extra people knowing there will always be some no-shows.  We all worked extra-hard to make sure that everything was taken care of to the best of our ability.
After setting up bananas, my true task for the day was to put wristbands on the Glass Slipper Challenge participants.  They would need to wear these wristbands through the next day in order to show that they completed the 10K and get the extra medal after completing Sunday's race.  I met so many wonderful volunteers and new friends.  I truly want to volunteer more often when I am not running.  As Disney fans, we make the most magical experience out of what we have, so I was excited to see the fireworks start for every corral and celebrate every victory when runners finish.  I got to see the race winners, wheelchair athletes...and was so thrilled to have been a part of this.  Sunday, we were to park at Blizzard Beach to
check in and take a bus to EPCOT.  Depending on what your job is and where you are stationed, you took the bus numbers in your credentials and the instructions.  I was to take any bus # 1-9 and meet under the "Simba Sign."  We also had to "check out" and take the Volunteer Bus back to Blizzard Beach when our job was complete.  FYI:  You do need your own transportation to be a Volunteer, as
buses do not start as early as our Check-In times.  I also did not request late check-out, so I packed up my car at 2:45am to head out when my shift was complete.  
 By being a volunteer during the Princess Half Marathon, I had the best Team Lead ever in Kem Sprawls!  From now on, I will look at race finishes in a different light.  I have never noticed straight rows & labels facing out...this is truly "The Disney Way" of perfection.   
Kem had wonderful specific plans, got us all together to discuss each step and we had a great group even during the "fire-drill" fast paced parts of our jobs.  My task on Sunday was to pass out Princess Mesh Bags to the Finishers.  Volunteer opportunities don't "seem like" hard work...but you do  have to get up early and do a job.  In return, you get magical moments, inspiration, water, snacks, coffee (Sunday only) & I got a race box both Saturday and Sunday.  I grabbed a banana and some water on Sunday when I needed it and Run Disney does take good care of everyone.  I also got a really nice light jacket with the race logo on it.  I got to keep both jackets (one from Saturday and one from Sunday with each race's logo on it.)  I even earned a 1 Day Park Ticket for my weekend of service.

By Volunteering and asking for the fun facts, I learned:  
-  There were 3,000 Total Volunteers for the entire 4-day event
-  8,800 people ran the 5K 
-  10,000 ran the 10K, 
-  25,000 registered for the Princess Half Marathon
-  6,000 people registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge 
-  6,000 registered for the Coast to Coast medal in this race weekend.  
-  90% of the packets were picked up
-  21,000 people started the Princess Half Marathon
-  4 people were swept at mile one

When you volunteer for Run Disney events, you are a part of something magical.  I was so thankful to have the opportunity to congratulate so many people that I know after they had just completed the race and being just a small part of this wonderful event.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Disney Dining at the Rose & Crown - Treats from the United Kingdom in EPCOT

If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World, all of the wonderful dining options can be a bit overwhelming!  After listening to a recent Restaurant Review of the Rose & Crown on the WDW Radio Podcast, I needed to taste it for myself.  By the way, the podcast was very informative and goes over all the foods on the menu - I highly recommend you listen to Show #347 on www.wdwradio.com  - posted on January 19, 2014.
I had always just thought of The Rose & Crown as a Pub for a drink, but never went inside for a meal.  After years of passing up this wonderful place, I was very impressed!  We walked up and had maybe a 45 minute wait, so we tried some brew on the outside:  the Stella Artois Draft and Strongbow Cider which had wonderful new flavors to us.  The "Stella" was quite smooth and the Strongbow Cider was a wonderful Apple Cider taste...we enjoyed our choices!  Then when we went inside, we realized that the Dining side on the left has an entirely different atmosphere as the bar...it was quite a cozy and quaint.  We tried the Scotch Egg as an appetizer - which is "Golden fried Hard-boiled

Egg wrapped in Sausage Meat with Mustard Sauce" -- Four thumbs up!  I also had to try the Mushy Peas, which is great with Fish & Chips.  We also had the amazing Indian-style Chicken Masala.  We had already heard the menu from the WDW Radio Restaurant Review and heard what Emma, who was vacationing from the UK thought of the food in comparison to the Pubs at home...and we were so happy to have had the insight to try things that we had not even thought were common foods of the country.  While we were there, I did have some wonderful conversations with Ben, our Server who is here for 12 months from Wales.  He was so helpful with our questions and insight from his homeland.    I also tried the Snake Bite, one of the Pub Blends that is Cider topped with Harp.  For dessert, we tried the Bakerwell Tart with spiced Cerme Faiche and Bee's Honey Mead Syrup - we LOVED the honey and interesting spice taste!  Very different and yummy!  We'll definitely have to go back for the Sticky Toffee Pudding...and next time we'll have to try the Yorkshire Pudding which comes with the Grilled New York Strip Steak and Fried Fish...by the way, they serve a different type of fish inside the Rose & Crown vs. outside. 
 Outside you will get Catfish & inside you get a wonderful Cod.  While you're there, you really should take a few moments to visit the bar-side to sing along with Carol Stein, The Hat Lady.  She performs a wonderful family-fun show Tuesdays-Saturdays.  So, enjoy a lovely holiday any day with great music, entertainment, food and drink in EPCOT's World Showcase.  I'll definitely be back very soon!  Let me know if you have been or plan to go soon.  They do change and freshen up their menu every 6 months.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Road to Running The Dopey - Run Disney

My 2014 Dopey Run Disney Experience began during Marathon Weekend 2013 when I started to tell people that I was planning to run "THE GOOFY" in honor of my Dad.  My Dad has Leukemia & had hip replacement in 2013.  Goofy is his favorite Disney character.  So, in honor of all the difficult things that he's been through, I wanted to put a Goofy Medal around his neck!

At that time, I had only done The Princess Half Marathon in 2012, so I knew I had A LOT of work to do and this was a challenge that I took very seriously.

I began training in April by doing one long run a week, rotating 6, 8 & 10 miles.

 As I got into September, I began stacking back-to-back runs and longer distances.  During my training, I also signed up for the Space Coast Marathon on December 1st, as at that point I knew that I should be ready to go 26.2 miles and wanted to do the entire distance with other people.  Long runs are really tough by yourself...but I didn't have any friends able to go 17-20 miles with me to have company during my training.
If you're a Disney fan, you'll enjoy running down the roads and "backstage areas" of Disney property.  Plus, you get a lot of really nice new running shirts! 
The DOPEY includes four consecutive days of running challenges:
-  5K (3.1 miles)
-  10K (6.2 miles) 
-  1/2 Marathon (13.1 miles)

-  Full Marathon (26.2 miles) , Totaling 48.6 miles.  But I joined with some friends on Monday to do a 1.4 mile run and round out a full 50 mile Ultra Challenge.  

I worked hard to build up endurance and complete this challenge.

During my training, I signed up for a Marathon so that I could complete my FIRST FULL MARATHON by itself...without a four-day challenge.  I did proudly complete my first marathon in 4:54:10 --  UNDER 5 HOURS, keeping a pace of an 11 min/14 second mile...for 26.2 miles!  I had a wonderful conversation with Jeff Galloway, the Run Disney Training Expert and former Olympian Runner about his help during my training.  He also ran the Space Coast Challenge and qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon with his time from that race.

We were given two bibs for the four races with instructions as one bib was for the 5 & 10K & the other for the Half & Full Marathons.  I had an added challenge as I had a problem with my bibs and had to rush back out to the Expo with only an hour before it ended.

Thankfully, the people at Runner Relations for Run Disney were wonderful in getting me 2 new bibs and saved the day!  I was now ready to run for the next several days!  I did have the opportunity to say hello to "The Voice of America's Marathons, Rudy Novotny at the Expo.  It's always a pleasure to be around such wonderful motivating and talented people!

I was amazed at how many people

were doing The Dopey!  I believe there were 7-8,000 Dopey Runners and 5,482 COMPLETED the Challenge!

My favorite parts of the run were through Animal Kingdom, where we got to see

some interesting LIVE animals & a cute mix of Disney Dogs.  This was my first time running through Animal Kingdom.  I loved the view from the 

back side of Everest.  Another fun part was running through the Speedway with race cars, antiques and Exotic cars on display.  We even saw the Richard Petty car hauler on display for us.  I enjoyed running past the Tower of Terror and so many of the behind-the-scenes areas that were so special to see.  While on New York Street, I wondered if this is what it feels like to run the New York Marathon.  I did find that when most people were saying that they were going "to die" we had some Grave Diggers from the Haunted Mansion on our path.  I also enjoyed the Pirate Ship that came with a Meet & Greet with Captain Jack Sparrow & Barbosa...it's not too often that you get to see BOTH of these Pirates with the ship in the

background.  Doesn't it make you want to lace up your running shoes and join us?  We had so many wonderful runners and supporters throughout the four days!  I am so thankful for the wonderful people who truly made EVERY MILE MAGICAL...even the 3 miles through ESPN Wide World of Sports when we used our banana phones to call each other through our exhaustion.  The entertainment and laughs will remain with me, as my teammates gave me the strength to persevere!

From our first steps through the fourth and final

Finish Line, with four amazing teammates crossing together hand-in-hand & Mickey high-fived me, as I was on the end closest to him.  Then we all celebrated with a nice cold beer over our huge accomplishment!  I did make a very special purchase to remind me in my day-to-day life to always push myself out of my comfort zone and accomplish things that I will have to work to achieve.  I have the Disney Dooney & Burke...special memories that I use daily to remember to set goals and achieve them.  I'd also like to thank everyone who supported our WDW Radio Running Team...we truly appreciate everyone who helps us to make dreams come true through Make-A-Wish!