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The Wine & Dine Half-Half; Sergio’s first #runDisney experience

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The plan was to go back and conquer the #WineDineHalf, the goal race that planned all our very first running around.  A race that we were literally soaked to the bone from head to toe, colder than the flash freeze of Arendelle at the hands of Elsa.  But wait a minute it wasn’t that bad!  You had a lot of fun and really enjoyed that race!  You said so right here!

Okay, okay so we did have a lot of fun 🙂 But we were not happy with our time and how we felt physically after that race.  So after our bump in confidence from #PrincessHalf and wanting to give our good friend Sergio ( who came up with the crazy idea to run Dopey before we turn 40) a runDisney experience before Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, we decided to sign up for Wine and Dine Half.

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The weekend was planned to be done on the super cheap so we drove down (spending on $80 US on gas one way!!), stayed off property at a cheaper hotel, and didn’t get Park tickets.  We arrived Thursday after  lunch and were VERY hungry!  So where’s the best place to go?  Well Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs of course!  I highly recommend eating at one of their many locations if you ever get the chance!  You wont be disappointed!

 

Friday Sergio treated us to tickets to Universal Studios!!!

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Karen and I had never been before and Sergio wanted to be our guide for our first trip much like he did for our first Walt Disney World trip! 🙂  We really enjoyed these two parks and all the crazy ride but we were really glad we tried it without the kids first!  While Universal does have quite a few rides for younger kids it felt to us like this place is more geared to the pre-teen and older category.  Perfect for us 3 since it meant we could go on any and all the crazy rides that were open.  We started the day at the main park and rode: The Simpsons Ride & Men in Black Alien Attack. Then we went off to see Diagon Alley! Wow did they ever put a lot of thought into the detail of this!  We were in aw from the moment we stepped into it!

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Saturday!!  Race/Expo day!!  I always like going to the runDisney expos, mainly because we get to see Jeff Galloway and also because we get to checkout the latest runDisney & new balance merchandise.  We learned the hard way, however, to never go to an expo on the second day!  There was hardly any runDisney gear left at all!!  From now on we will always go first thing in the morning on the first day!  We did get to see Jeff Galloway though which we always loves!  I was so busy listening to him give us advice though that I forgot to snap a pic with him 😦 oh well I will definitely do that during the Dopey expo.  Changes with the speaker line up meant though that we missed Jeff’s formal talk!  We were very sad about this!  (Jeff didn’t even know until the morning, I think there were a lot of unhappy people that didn’t get a chance to see him since his talk was pushed earlier than what was printed).  We still got great Dopey advice though when we spoke to him personally at his booth.

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Always love checking out the New Balance booth!

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I’ts almost go time!!

With bib in hand it was time for some lunch and a nap!  wp-1449033281535.jpeg

Man sure is nice to run a race in shorts and a t-shirt!  After we all ogt dressed we drove over to Epcot to park the and catch the shuttle to EPSN.  We got of the bus and headed over to bag check and got that all taken care of.  We had some extra time so we checked out the entertainment and the host for a while then went to the beginning of the line at the entrance tot he corals. We had this wicked plan, since we were in the last coral, to get to the very front so when they released everyone to the corals we could be at the front.  We stood at the front for a good 30 mins before the wind picked up.  and I mean PICKED UP!!!  The palm trees were bending over like crazy, a-frame signs were tipping over and cups and debris were blowing all over the roads.  Then we get word from the race official that the need to evacuate us to shelter???!!!  What the heck is going on???  All the runners were then escorted from the parking lot area back to ESPN zone to the baseball stadium.

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Waiting here for what seemed an eternity allowed us to scan social media and find out there was a big storm that was coming close to the route.  We later found out that there was a lot of lightening and the storm passed right over Animal Kingdom.  We were very worried that the race was going to be cancelled all together!  We didn’t get too many updates either and the ones we did get over the loud speakers we couldn’t even make out!  I like always tried to remain positive unlike someone I know …..

Finally the time came for us to go back to the holding areas so we goes filter into our corals. During the time while we were waiting in our coral we heard the dreaded announcement 😦 The race officials thought it safest to cut out the Animal Kingdom loop.  They were essentially cutting out 6 miles from the half marathon which essential made this now a 7.1 mile race!  Bummer ….  Not the worst news but not the greatest!  It was comforting to know that runDisney had our safety as their number one concern!

Our coral made it to the start line so that meant it was time for one last selfie! wp-1449033279366.jpeg

One of my favorite things about Disney races is the fireworks they blow off for every coral of each race and I finally caught ours on video.

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And we're off!! #WineDineHalf

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We began to weave our way forward snaking our way through other runners and came to one of the character stops Lilo and Stitch!  Lets stop here and get a pic guys!

Later on  we found Woody and Buzz and stole a selfie with them out side the line since we didn’t want to wait!

One of my favorite things about running Wine and Dine is running through The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!

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After the lights there isn’t that much farther to go as you run along the boardwalk and into Epcot to get your medal!  We were really disappointed to not see any Star Wars characters this year though! 😦

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Medals in hand were were off to finally get the chance to see what the Epcot Food and Wine Festival was all about!  We sampled some amazing food and drinks and even got to go on some rides at 330 in the morning!  Not too many people can say they rode Soarin and Test Track at that time of day! 😉

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Just about to ride Soarin

Overall we still had a great time.  It was a severely shortened course and left us feeling a little unaccomplished at the end and I wish Disney would have moved some of the characters from the eliminated Animal Kingdom loop to soften the blow o the shortened course.  I really loved getting to experience the Food and Wine Festival this time since we couldn’t last time.  I also really loved getting onto some of the Epcot rides in the middle of the night!   Now that we’ve done this race twice I am not sure when we will be back.  I still highly recommend this race to people when I talk about it.  Its the only runDinsey race, so far, that happens at night, allows you to ride the rides at that time, gives you access to amazing food, its the only one that gives you a drink voucher for beer or wine  and is the only place licensed to serve alcohol so you can sample so other cool world drinks!  I can’t wait for Dopey in January and Star Wars in 2017!!!

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Cause you gotta wear your medal around on the next day!

#KeepSmilin 🙂

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Running the #PrincessHalf with my Princess

It was finally time for the Princess Half Marathon presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and just like our Wine and Dine experience we were certainly not disappointed!

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430 am we arrived at All Star Music though some crazy rain and hydro-plaining but safe and sound

We drove down again this time with just the 4 of us and because of that, we made really good time!  So, silly us, we thought “hey we could spend money on a hotel somewhere in South Carolina or Georgia or we could just split up the last 8hrs of driving and stay at Disney an extra night”!  One quick call to The Disney Travel Company and BAM a room would be waiting for us upon our new arrival date!

Ahh the health and wellness expo! This is beginning to be one of our favourite parts of runDisney weekends!  We always start our racecations with this and we always get to meet our favourite people!.  This time, however, was extra special because we took the time to meet and speak with Jeff Galloway the training guru for runDisney.

None other than the famous Jeff Galloway

None other than the famous Jeff Galloway

The expo is always filled with lots of cool running stuff!  You could literally spend a whole day there!  I esp like meeting my new running peeps and checking out the runDisney branded gear for the run!

My favorite purchase from the expo!

My favorite purchase from the expo!

Its going to take a long time to get through this!

Its going to take a long time to get through this!

The shoes!  The shoes!

The shoes! The shoes!

An autograph from Jeff Galloway!

An autograph from Jeff Galloway!

As always, a trip to Disney would not be complete without a meet up with Carrie Burrows from www.carrieburrows.com and Kristin Long from BamagirlRUNS

Gotta love Carrie and her #TeamBlurrySelfie pics!

Gotta love Carrie and her #TeamBlurrySelfie pics!

Ok so enough about the expo lets talk about the #PrincessHalf!

It's almost time!  I'm only really pretending to be nervous runDisney events always fun!

It’s almost time! I’m only really pretending to be nervous runDisney events always fun!

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This was our first time running early in the morning!  Kinda sucks setting the alarm for for 330 but not totally unusual for two shift workers!  We got up, got dressed, ate some protein bars and headed over to Epcot.  Wish I had eaten some more! I found myself quite hungry for the last few miles;  very thankful for the Gu stations near the end!   Now that we’ve done this once before it was not so overwhelming to see the mass of people, the stages, the rows and rows of porta potties and the line for bag check.  We did not have any bags to check thankfully so we picked a spot and plopped ourselves down on what used to be a section of parking lot for Epcot.  My wife began to stretch her hurting knee 😦 and I just paced around back and forth.  I always find myself so excited before a half marathon that I cant sit still on the ground or stand in one place.  Some distraction; a text from Carrie that she was in the holding area as well!  “Who-Who” Time for a pre-race selfie!

With that it was off to the sea of porta-potties and into our coral!  They gotta find a better word for these holding areas!  It just perpetuates the feeling of being a bunch of animals being herded into a pen!  This is the place where you get your music ready, head phones on, all your clothes (costumes) adjusted and wait for your turn to start!  Each Disney race has many corals that all start in succession to one another spaced by about 10 mins or so.  As each coral starts the next one is moved up to the starting line.  And in true Disney fashion each coral starts with a bang!  Literally!

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And with the #PrincessHalf is underway!

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As you can see it is still quite dark out and the first coral gets started at aprox 530am but it doesn’t take long for the sun to come out and light the way!  The first few miles are pretty uneventful as you leave the Epcot parking lot and head along the roadways that interconnect the parks.  Somewhere between mile 1 and mile 2 was a character spot for Jack Sparrow.  We decided not to stop at this point since it felt like we had just and really the line was just too long!  Thankfully we didn’t since we found out that we would be running right by them again on our way back!  Mile 2-3 was Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope; again didn’t stop.  Next was all the evil queens together in one spot!  We had to stop and get a pic here:

While we were waiting in line for this one I noticed Brittney Smith from Main Street Memories. I stopped her and we chatted for a bit but now I’m kicking myself for not getting a pic with her cause she is awesome!!  After we got our pic with the evil queens we carried on running through the expansive Magic Kingdom parking lot.  We then began to hear some of the most amazing drumming we have ever heard and saw this!

"Just needs a little more cowbell" please tell you me you get the reference

“Just needs a little more cowbell” please tell you me you get the reference

This is just one of the many reasons we love running runDisney races!  Disney just does such a dam great job entertaining you!  Next it we ran past the Contemporary resort and entered the park via some secret employee entrance I’ve never seen before.  Magic Kingdom has now opened and there are seas and seas on spectators cheering us on!  No words can describe that feeling of running through Magic Kingdom and having all those people cheering you on!  I heard lots of “Who-Who” (I think I was the only Oaken on the course btw SCORE! {props to my wife for the idea}) and wonderful cheers of encouragement!.  After running up Main Street you make the right turn into Tomorrow Land where there was a character stop with Buzz Lightyear. We trudged onwards across the top of the park so as to enter the Castle from the rear side.  What an amazing sight; Elsa Anna and Kristof were standing at the top of the Castle waving a cheering everyone on.  They even took the time to have a conversation with me!  I think they liked the costume ;).  Don’t ask me why I didn’t take a selfie with them in the background!!  I must have been too distracted with the castle and they fact that those 3 were just talking to me from the balcony lol! There are no words to describe running through the castle as a #DisneyDad and runner other than to just experience it!.  We stopped for a big hug, a few kisses and a selfie and we continued on!

Photo bombed!  no time to wait for people to clear!  theres a big line to get pics here!

Photo bombed! no time to wait for people to clear! theres a big line to get pics here!

From here on you run towards the outside of Magic Kingdom through Frontierland where you could stop for a pic with the locomotive from the Walt Disney World Railroad.  This section along Floridian way is quite boring esp being this far into the race but at least they had members of Reedy Creek Fire Department posted at one spot along to route cheering us on and “Protecting the Magic” as they say 🙂

Had to google search for this pic; credit to https://smilesthroughmiles.wordpress.com/

From researching this pic I discovered that this was the halfway point of the race; We were still feeling great here.  Again one would think that me being a Paramedic and being a friend of Jeff Armstrong I would have snapped a pic here but sadly I failed again lol.  Onward!  From here on out the route follows the roads and is not through and Park.  So to keep you motivated there are more character stops: the Glass Slipper, the Gene in his vacation outfit with a Mickey Golf Cart, the Princess and Jack Sparrow with Barbosa.

Some of the Princess were more interested in out selfie than the professinal photographer!

Some of the Princess were more interested in our selfie than the professional photographer!

I thin Sparrow is plotting a way to plunder my Princess

I think Sparrow was plotting a way to plunder my Princess

From here on in its the last push along the roads that lead back to Epcot helped along by a Toy Story soldier ordering everyone to keep going!  The  section with the Children’s Miracle Network cheer squad had some really amazing encouraging and uplifting signs just before the entrance!  You enter Epoct and there’s a character stop for Sophia the Worst uh Last uh I mean first :). Keep running!  Lots of cheering from spectators at Ecpot as well; it was very uplifting and motivating!  Disney fans are amazing!!  From here you run past the Ball to the beginning of the world showcase.  We ended up seeing Carrie and Bama run past us going the other direction.  This very encouraging for us since this meant we were running a great race time even with the stops that we had taken.  We met them again at the choir and stopped for another selfie with them 🙂

Prise the Lord we’re almost done! Thanks for the pic Carrie

Now its a very short run to the finish line where Mickey is there to cheer you on and give highfives!

 

As usual we were blown away by the Quality of the medals!

As usual we were blown away by the quality of the medals!

The next morning you go to the park and show off your medal

The next morning you gotta go to the park and show off your medal

 

Starbucks and a Medal!

Starbucks and a Medal! Note the name on the cup 🙂

at Splash Mountian

at Splash Mountian

at Splash Mountain

at Splash Mountain

Gotta show the bling off at the Castle with our bestie!

So in review I really don’t have anything bad to say about this race!  It was yet another amazing memorable experience with my amazing Princess wife that I will cherish forever!  The whole experience was amazing from start to finish, for all aspects!  The one thing I would change is to stop and take more pics to enjoy/remember the experience after.  We did make more stops this time under the advice of Carrie and very thankful for that but in hind-site now I don’t think we stopped enough.  We paid enough to be there for the race and to have the characters out we may as well enjoy it!

Well how bout you?  Did you run #PrincessHalf? Have you ever run a runDisney event before?  Do you have any questions about a runDisney race?  Let me know in the comments section.

#KeepSmilin 🙂

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My first #DisneyMP experience

For the last 3 years or so I’ve thought about applying to the Disney Parks Moms Panel.  The Panel has always intrigued me and feel I have a solid knowledge of planning trips to Walt Disney World.  I have always been heavily encouraged to apply by my good friend Carrie Burrows every time I talk to her about it, so this year I finally decided to try.  “Wait “Moms” panel? But you’re a dude!” is a response I often got when talking about it with friends.  Yes! They do have dad’s on the Panel.  In fact they have all kinds of members on the Panel from all backgrounds.  So much so, that I personally believe that it should be renamed the Disney Parks Parent Panel to better reflect the variety of talented members they have; but what do I know?  For a list of current members follow this link.

Some of you may be asking “What is the Moms Panel any ways?”

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The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a forum where online “Moms” (and Dads!) answer your questions and offer advice and tips about Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line, team sports at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and runDisney events. 

 

Now back to me.  This past September I decided to “take the plunge” and see what the application was all about.  The first round involved answering a sample Mom’s Panel question, uploading a picture showing your #DisneySide, and, answering a fun question about Frozen Fractals.  The whole process is meant to be fun as well as assess your knowledge of your chosen speciality; I chose Walt Disney World.  The application questions really were fun and I had a great time answering them.  It was a chance for me to be a little creative; a part of me I don’t think I tap into very often!    I  had formulated my answers in my head the days leading up to the deadline and thankfully was able to submit them just in the nic of time!

Surprise! I made it to round 2!

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I was surprised, excited and nervous all at the same time when I received this email from Gary Buchanan the  Social Media Managing Editor for Disney Parks .  I actually didn’t think the answers I had come up with were very good but apparently they caught the eye of the committee enough for them to ask for a second look! Yay!

In round two the committee had increased the stakes a little with more of an emphasis on writing ability.  It included two sample Moms panel questions and 5 questions that gave you the opportunity to tell them a little more about yourself & your family tied together with your Disney knowledge.  The final item was a 71 second video answering the question “What does a Disney vacation mean for you and your family”  The video was also meant to be fun and was stressed as such.  However, this was one of the areas that caused me the most stress during this phase of the application process.  My wife and I spent a few hours one day doing take after take before we had to stop.  I’m always very nervous when being recorded and that was making me forget my lines!  71 seconds is a really long time for me to speak on camera!!  We tried again the next day after I had a chance to practice my lines some more and I was finally able to get something that was worth submitting.  I did not hit my lines exactly as I had written but it was something I was happy with.  I submitted the best responses I could come up with for the questions along with my video and waited ……

While waiting in (what most online were calling) the round 2 waiting room my family and I had left for our annual Disney trip (stay tuned for posts on those experiences).  Through clues posted by Gary Buchanan I learned that the announcement emails for the successful applicants that would be moving on to round 3 would be announced while I was there!!!  I as well as my family were very excited at this point!!  What a perfect place to receive news like that!!!  I remember the day I received the email quite vividly.  It was one of our Hollywood Studios days and it was supposed to land in my inbox around 1300.  We had lunch at Pizza Planet and headed over to Toy Story Mania to make use of our fast pass.  Receiving this email had consumed the majority of my thoughts for most of the morning and pretty much all of lunch.  Before we left for Toy Story Mania I had noticed that I had received the email and kept this fact to myself!!  I was too afraid to open it ……  Just outside the ride my wife had remembered that it was after 1300 and I should have my email by now.  “Did you get the email yet???” 😀 I had also received some texts asking the same question!  I told my wife that I had the email but I was too afraid to open it!  “WHAT??? Open it! Open it!”. So after some convincing by her and all my family (now standing around me looking over my shoulders at my phone) I reluctantly opened the email. Avoiding my fate was in no way going to change it!

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Dejected

I think that is the best word to describe  the sheer disappointment in reading those words.  It was a wonderfully written letter but it was still a rejection 😦  I felt like I had let myself, my family, and all those who had been rooting for me, down.  Everyone had done their very best to cheer me up and try to make me feel that I still was the perfect candidate no matter what the email said.  In the end, though, it was not their decision to make and it was still a “not this year” email.  That was a hard pill to swallow and it pretty much bummed me out for the rest of the day.  I don’t think their has been anything in my life (so far) that I had wanted so badly and not succeeded on.

Looking back on the whole thing with clearer less emotional eyes I will say the whole experience was very positive.  It was a lot of fun as the committee had meant it to be.  It was also made more fun on the social media side of things with many clues being posted by Gary, as well as chatter/playful banter by some of the applicants.  I have made new friends through this and look forward to sharing more with them!   I have learned more about myself and have increased my knowledge and LOVE of all things Disney.  As with any application process their is no feedback given by the selection committee with regard to what made you a less appealing applicant over the others.  I have gone over in my head a million times now how I answered each question and where I “think” I may have gone wrong.  While I will never fully know which characteristic or element it was that made not as strong as the other candidates I do know myself which answers that were weaker and I am more aware of some of the elements of my writing that need improvement. I am empowered with the knowledge of what I need to improve and I have a direction on how I am going to do it!

I want to send a huge thank you to Gary Buchanan and the rest of the selection committee for the opportunity to showcase myself and my Disney knowledge to you.  It was a very organized, well thought out, entertaining process.  I found myself checking Gary’s tweets multiple times/day to see what graphic clue or questions he had answered and that added to the excitement . It helped pass the time between rounds and I even kept checking after I got my “not this year” email!  He did a stellar job of answering peoples questions and keeping it fun while not compromising the process.

In the end I am still on the fence on whether I want to put myself through the process again and I think I will make that a game time decision come September 2015.  I will say though, that I think it makes you a stronger more intelligent person when you continue seek out and attempt new challenges. So I am leaning more to the side of applying again. In the end, though, I still have a beautiful and ever supporting wife (who also is just as much a Disney fanatic as me and is actually more Disney smart!).  I have an amazing family that I love dearly and will do anything for.  I have an amazing job and still look forward to our family vacations at the happiest place on earth.

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Still lots of reasons to #KeepSmilin 🙂

What? Me running? Can it be so??

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So I’ve decided to take up running with my wife (@Karenvanmil).  Why? For months now I have been very interested and following Carrie Burrows blog posts and tweets about her Run Disney accomplishments.  She has been such an inspiration to me and through her careful pushes, nudges, words of encouragement, and support I brought the idea to Karen to complete a RunDisney event during our next Disney trip (we are fortunate enough to be able to take our kids  on a Disney vacation for the last 3 consecutive years with no plans to stop).  It didn’t take long for her to decide to jump on this idea as she has always had a close relationship with her treadmill so adding a running event to what we both think is the most magical place on earth is like a match made in heaven (like us hehe ♥)

I can’t begin to tell you what this has done to her to me and to us!  First off to have a goal and date set has been huge for both of us in terms of our determination and dedication to get on that treadmill as many days as we possibly can.  It has made us push harder and harder everyday.   Also, Karen mostly, we’ve noticed how much exercising can do for stress.  Each time after a good hard run we both can sense the weight of life/work stresses lifted off our shoulders and the things that would have bothered us before don’t seem to matter anymore.   Our relationship has also seen a renewed boost!  To have a common goal to work together on has been great for us.  We have a renewed energy and boost; we can talk about our runs whats been good whats not.  It allows us to encourage and support each other which I think is huge to keep up in a relationship.

I am very excited about looking forward to the months ahead and training for this personal goal of both of us to complete the Walt Disney Wold Wine and Dine half marathon!  All our Disney vacations have been magical experiences for our whole family and this will add a whole new element that only experiencing will reveal to us!

I look forward to sharing with you my road to the half marathon and my experience there when its done!  Stay tuned …….

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