Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler: A Race Recap in Two (Maybe Three) Parts

Part One: in which I do not die from pre-race anxiety, do receive a room upgrade, and survive the race expo.

Wowwowwow, what a weekend!  If you were following along on Facebook and/or Twitter, you already know… I finished!!!  But how did I finish – was it a repeat of last year’s pain, or did I find redemption?  Read on…

My journey to the fifth dimension began around 4:30am, Oct. 5 – when I awoke to the delightful refrains of a cat about to yak on my bed and a giant surge of anxiety-fueled pre-race adrenaline that didn’t let up for almost 20 hours.  After hugs and goodbyes to Gramma (my mother, who was in charge in my absence) and Leo, I pointed my car east on Interstate 4 and enjoyed a calm, speedy drive to Walt Disney World.

My resort of choice for this race was Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (CSR), a longtime favorite, though it was not a designated host resort for the race.  Truth be told, I enjoy all of Disney’s moderate level resorts and usually book whichever one I can get most cheaply.  In this case, I scored CSR through Travelocity with a coupon code for $50 off and almost $20 cash back and a $10 Target gift card by booking through Ebates, on top of a general pubic discounted rate from Disney.  Nothing Fuzzy about that math! Alas, my room was not yet ready when I arrived, but the Cast Member checking me in, upon hearing that I was there for the race that night, told me to come to the desk and ask for a supervisor if my room wasn’t ready by the time I was in need of a nap; they’d find a room that was available to ensure I’d get the pre-race rest I’d need.  That was very sweet and very much appreciated, given the early start I’d already had.

My next stop was the Tower of Terror 10-miler race expo at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, where I had only two goals in mind: 1. Pick up my race bib, gear bag and free shirt, and 2. Purchase a couple Sweaty Bands to tame my growing-out-a-short-haircut-choppy-mess ‘do.


After seeing first-hand the fiasco that was the 2013 Princess Half-Marathon race expo, and hearing second-hand of an equally insane Disneyland Half-Marathon race expo, I was a little worried about this one.  The Tower 10-Miler is a much smaller race, with only around 12,000 participants in the weekend’s events, but it seems a bunch of unscrupulous Disney traders have caught on to the race expos and have been swamping them to gobble up merchandise, which they then sell for quadruple the price.  Not cool, and I wish runDisney would take some steps to curtail that.  But, to my delight, this expo was quite calm by the time I arrived.  There still seemed to be plenty of official and unofficial merchandise available, I never waited in a single line, and the atmosphere did nothing to elevate my already edgy nerves.  I had my stuff in no time and headed out.

With plenty of time to kill, I decided to sit a spell and do a little social media-ing.  And I found a lovely spot in the shade, with a nice breeze, right here…

Champion Stadium, where we’d later be running!

It was, by then, coming up on lunch time and I was getting hungry.  Not knowing just where I’d be around noon, I had no plans in mind for lunch.  An online running group of which I’m part was having a pre-race meet-up at Downtown Disney (DTD), so I started heading that way… but traffic was a big, fat MESS that way.  Much of DTD’s parking area is torn up right now and there were looooong lines of cars trying to get in on each green light.  My blood sugar was dropping and I needed to eat quickly, so I had to pass on the meet-up.  Since I was already heading that way, I kept going and turned past DTD, making my way to Saratoga Springs Resort, my Disney Vacation Club Home Resort.  For now… I’m trying to sell my DVC contract, so it seemed a fitting “goodbye” to have lunch there. 

I’ve enjoyed every dish I’ve tried at the Artist’s Palette quick-serve restaurant and this was no exception: my flatbread topped with mozzarella and tomatoes, with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, was delish. It wasn’t too busy there, so I took my time eating and stayed another 15 minutes or so, reading my book to kill time while waiting for a text message saying that my room was ready.

It was nearing 1:30pm at that point and I was anxious to get into my room.  So I drove back to CSR and parked by the main building to see if someone could help speed things along… when I received the text I’d been waiting for!  How’s that for some Disney magic?!

I was assigned the Casitas section, which comprises a few, four-story buildings near the lobby and restaurants.  As seems to be the case at most Disney resorts, it was a long, convoluted, confusing walk to my room, but I did eventually find it (though I’d get lost later…)  And what awaited me was a surprise… I’d been upgraded to business class!  Sort of.  No one ever told me that, so I’m not at all sure I’d have had access to the lounge or anything, but my room did come with these:

It also came with this killer view…

And a large assortment of, um… er… interesting towel art.

I got myself settled, pulling out and organizing everything I’d need for the race: outfit, bib, waist pack, armband for my iPhone, change of clothes for the after-party, cookie sheet…

Yes, a cookie sheet.  More on that in a bit.

With everything ready to go and a couple hours before I needed to head out, I got comfy and tucked myself into bed for a good nap.  The race wouldn’t start until 10pm, I’d be running for more than 2 hours, and the after-party went on until 4am the next day… and I’d already been up since 4:30am that day – I NEEDED some sleep!  Sleep eluded me.  Again.  I laid there for a while, feeling my heart pound, as it had been all day, and my nerves tense.  There was just too much adrenaline flowing to calm down and get some shut-eye.  I read for a bit, then watched some college football (Go Gators!).  Finally, I gave up and took a quick shower, hoping it might ease some tension, even if I couldn’t get any real sleep.

After getting dressed and checking once, twice, three times to be sure I had everything I needed, I left and drove over to the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), an official race host resort, to meet my friend Nancy, who got me started on this runDisney stuff.  Carrying my cookie sheet like the Log Lady from Twin Peaks

One day my cookie sheet will have something to say about this.
… I found Nancy’s room, greeted her and her boyfriend, Peter, and got to work: there was costume prep to be done. 

Before this past summer, I’d never seen LOST.  When it premiered, my life was too busy to watch.  By the time I had time to watch, the show was too far along and I’d be more lost than the characters.  But, thanks to the magic of Netflix and some free time this summer, I watched all six seasons and fell in love with the show.  Nancy, too, is a big LOST fan and it was she who thought up our brilliant-but-suitable-for-running-in-the-heat race outfits' theme.  I did the designing and when I arrived at their room, ironed-on their shirts.**  

We were: Team DHARMA.

Disney is my constant.

Costuming complete, we grabbed some dinner at the CBR food court, and then hopped a bus to the race.  Race time had finally arrived!

Stay tuned for Part Two... when we actually, you know, race. (Part Two here...)

** Enter the cookie sheet. The iron-on paper required a flat, heat resistance surface, NOT a squishy ironing board. So I brought a cookie sheet.  And it worked beautifully. :)

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