Monday, January 9, 2017

I did it. I am a marathoner (again).

There were so many tears during this race. They started when my husband sent a photo of my daughter in a “run, mommy, run” shirt at mile 9 and exploded right after I crossed the finish line. Heck, I’m tearing up now as I attempt to write this.

This was my 8th marathon (9th if you count IRONMAN Florida, 10th if you also count my ultra-marathon), but it’s my first since we started trying for a baby in 2013. It’s my first since becoming a mom and life changed in the best way possible. It’s the first since running became something that I “used to do” and I became comfortable with a new routine.   It’s the first since I realized that along the way I lost my former self and needed a goal to get me back on a path. It’s the marathon I had to work the hardest for (even if it is my slowest time and had the least amount of training miles associated with it) and I am so, so proud of what I achieved. It felt like my first marathon all over again and it was the best feeling in the world.

There are so many things I want to write about with this experience, so I’m going to split it up. The first post will cover the first half of the race weekend, and the second will cover race day.

Everything started on Friday. I took the day off of work to prep for race day. My original plan was to head to Walt Disney World early, but the transmission in my car decided it had other plans. In a crazy whirlwind of events we didn’t end up leaving Tampa until after 6:00pm. By the way, trying to withdrawal cash at 4pm on a Friday (because paying cash for said car repair would save us $100+) may not have been my smartest decision ever. Holy moly did that massive line move at a molasses speed with just one bank teller! Anyway, we finally made it to our hotel (Waldorf Astoria Orlando) close to 8pm and, thankfully check-in went smoothly.

In full disclosure, our hotel accommodations were comp’d for the weekend. I’m going to write a follow-up post with full details on the joint Hilton Bonnet Creek/ Waldorf Astoria Orlando Marathon Weekends offering because it truly deserves a dedicated post. Everything from the Runners’ Concierge to the send-off celebration to the shuttles to race start were top notch and fully exceeded all of my expectations. If you’re planning on running a future runDisney race, I really can not recommend the Marathon Weekends package enough!

Almost immediately after checking in I received a frantic call from my sister – the half marathon and kids races had been cancelled for Saturday due to weather.

Both Annalynn and my nephew, Owen, were registered for the 100 yard dash. We’d been making plans all week for their race and were extremely disappointed with the cancellation. I also received texts from friends who were registered for the half and were really bummed they wouldn’t be running in the morning. Even though I 100% respect runDisney for making the tough call and putting everyone’s safety first with the cancellation, it was still hard news to take. I will say I was impressed with runDisney’s immediately action plan to remedy the situation. Among a variety of options for the half marathoners, they offered full refunds to Saturday’s kids races participants in the form of a Disney Gift Card.

My mom and sister-in-law were also planning to make the drive over to watch Owen and Annalynn’s race, so we made some minor adjustments to our original plans. Instead of meeting at Wide World of Sports, we planned to meet at Disney Springs at a later time. I still had to pick up my own bib at the expo, so I was in charge of collecting the refunds for the kids races.

After sorting all of that out, we ventured into the hotel to find some food. We ended up at the Harvest Bistro at the Hilton Bonnet Creek for pizza and a burger (which were both delicious, by the way). We made it back to the room just at 9pm and quickly put Annalynn to bed. We brought the pack ‘n’ play and she went down pretty easily.

I didn’t have quick access to a clock, so I had no concept of time through the night, but I did wake up to thunder at one point and quickly fell back to sleep. When I finally got up for the day, it was cloudy, but the sun was shining brightly in the distance. I’ve been told the weather got pretty crazy around 2:00am (right when all of the race staff would have been setting up the course) and the weather did turn pretty stormy between 8-9, so it sounds like runDisney made the best call.

When I looked out the window I also saw quite a few runners circling the property. I checked out Facebook and saw there were actually hundreds of Dopey, Goofy, and Half Marathon runners all around Walt Disney World property working hard to fit in 13.1 miles. Some took to treadmills, while others took to the various trails around property. There’s some incredible videos out there of the water and cheer stations set-up at the Pop Century/ Art of Animation running trails. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and these runners found a way to earn their finisher medals/ titles. I was definitely inspired!

Check out my friend Megan’s full experience with the impromptu event HERE

We had a lazy morning before enjoying breakfast at Oscar’s located at the ground floor of the Waldorf Astoria.

Oscar's at Waldorf Astoria Orlando

This was hands down the BEST breakfast buffet I’ve ever encountered at any hotel. There were so many delicious stations covering everything from fresh pastries, to gourmet cheeses, to fresh honey straight from the comb. There was an omelet and crepe station, as well as fresh fruit, breakfast potatoes, a variety of bagels, meats, and so on and so on.

Pastries station at Oscar's


cage free eggs at breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet Oscar's Waldorf Astoria Orlando

fresh honey from the comb

Derek, Annalynn, and I enjoyed multiple plates and left stuffed to the gills. I’m not a huge fan of pasta carb loading before races, but I could definitely get behind breakfast carb loading.

Annalynn eating at Oscar's

Derek took Annalynn back up to the room while I headed to Hilton Bonnet Creek’s runners’ concierge to check-in. The concierge was extremely helpful in answering my questions regarding the race cancellations and navigating race morning. I put my name down for the marathon shuttle bus and was handed a wristband that would act as my bus ticket on race morning, an itinerary of weekend activities, a map of suggested running routes around the hotel, and a raffle ticket to win a free weekend stay. They also gave me some recommendations on the best places to eat on property before the race.

Due to the storm, expo hours were pushed back from 10am to 11am. We left the hotel at 10am, assuming the crowds would be a little crazy with thousands of runners looking for their race refunds. After hitting a bit of traffic, parking in the back, and walking to the entrance; we were pleased to see runDisney decided to open the expo a little early and the crowds weren’t as terrible as we were expecting. We picked up Annalynn and Owen’s bibs first, then waited in a short line to claim their refunds. The line was maybe 5 people deep when we got in it, but grew to 20+ by the time it was our turn at the front. We filled out a form and were handed two gift cards with $20 each. Easy peasy. We also got to keep both shirts, medals, and bibs.

I picked-up my bib next, which took all of 5 minutes. I handed over my ID and waiver, signed my name, and was handed a bib with instructions to head next door to get my shirt and bag.

Marathon Bib Pick Up

WDW Marathon Bib in hand

The lines for the marathon bibs were short, however, the lines in front of the half marathon booths were growing. They were now instructing people to wait outside and the line was at least 100+ people deep by the time I exited the pavilion. I could see the line of runners switching from the half to the full (roughly 1500 people made the switch!) was also starting to build. We definitely made the right move getting there early.

Walt Disney World Marathon Map

Walt Disney World Marathon Expo

I grabbed my shirt in the main expo, said hi to a few friends, and we were out in flash. I kind of wish we could have spent more time wandering the expo, but we were meeting my family at Disney Springs and Annalynn was getting antsy in the carrier. We did see Mickey and Goofy on the way out, which made her happy.

As we were leaving the expo we saw the line of cars to get into the parking lot was getting crazy. Yep, definitely made the right choice getting there early.

We met my family at Disney Springs and enjoyed lunch at D-Luxe Burger (which was amazing, by the way) and taking advantage of photos of all the cousins at the PhotoPass studio.


D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs

Cousins at Disney Springs

The temperature was steadily dropping while we were walking around Disney Springs. What started out as a warm and rainy morning was turning into a cold and cloudy afternoon. The predicted cooler weather was making its presence known and we were all shivering in acknowledgement.

Legos at Disney Springs

cold day at Disney Springs

We headed back to the hotel mid-afternoon and let Annalynn burn off some energy running around the room. I laid out my running attire for the next day and realized I accidentally left my ipod on the charger at home. Whoops. I also enjoyed a hot bath in the huge tub, which was amazing. It made me realize how much our next house could use a huge tub.

Toddler in Waldorf

bath time at Waldorf

Dinner time rolled around and we opted to order room service instead of going out. The three of us split chicken tenders, a burger, and pizza.

I set 3 different alarms, and went to bed right after I put Annalynn down around 7:30.

The only thing left to do was sleep and run.

race outfit for Walt Disney World Marathon

Next up – Race Day!


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