Kentucky Derby Marathon Recap … 3rd Marathon in 14 days

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Saturday was the ever popular Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and “mini-marathon” (AKA – Half Marathon).    I chose this race for the 3rd in my “4 For 40” series because it was a mere 5 hour drive from Chicago and I was somewhat familiar with the area.  I had also heard positive things about this race from other “serial racers”.  Plus, I was hoping spring had sprung and I’d get some much needed sunshine!  I was not disappointed in any aspect.  It was warm, upper 70s, and the area was beautiful.  Louisville was clean, charming and small enough to leave my car parked and walk everywhere safely with my kids in tow.  

We rolled into town Friday afternoon to get the race packet and hit the expo.  The expo was a decent size with good vendors but certainly not what I’m used to as far as the big city race expos that Chitown offers.  Smile   We zipped thru pretty quickly, then walked around Louisville getting our bearings and finding our way to the race finish area.  I’d like to add that as we were walking toward the finish, a race official in a golf cart saw us and asked if we needed help.  He was kind enough to take a minute to not only tell us where to go but to also tell us which side of the street to walk on come race day.  Super nice!!  Great day and we turned in early to prep for the race! Just before we turned drifted off to sleep, we heard fireworks and looked out the window to see the display going off over the stadium.  Nice!

fireworks

The race started at 7:30 am eastern time and it was mid 50s at the start.  Perfect running weather with a promise of rising temps and lots of sunshine to come.  The start was on Main Street and it was flooded with runners and spectators alike making it hard to move very quickly and it “might” have been a bit of a cluster getting to bag check and funneling into the corrals.  The atmosphere was charged with nervous chatter and many around me were not necessarily excited but more so nervous about the impending start.   The majority of runners were planning to tackle the “mini” and it was apparent that many were also first time half marathoners.  The mini ended up with 11,599 finishers, while  2,030 people finished the full and an additional 68 teams completed the marathon relay.   Big race for Louisville, Kentucky!!

Once the gun went off, the corrals started moving slowly toward the start.  There didn’t appear to be any separation between corrals but rather a rolling start.  Once we started running it was definitely busy but not so busy that I felt confined, just enough that I had to pay attention.  Smile  The course started by passing all the  Main Street businesses, bars, restaurants, a large concert venue and several museums.  But I personally was just bidding my time, and chatting with Greg S who I had befriended in the start corral.  I was trying to be patient because that’s a necessity for me in the marathon.  I also reminded myself that this was my 3rd marathon in 14 days and I knew I would start feeling that sooner or later.  However, I was feeling good at the start and thankfully Greg was SUPER entertaining and kept me moving right along without time to think about the 26.2 miles in front of me.  I was grateful for his company.  And his stories.  He wasn’t concerned about pace so didn’t get upset or run off without me when I hit the brakes a couple times to slow our pace.  Then we were thru University of Louisville and on toward Churchill Downs.  The excitement grew as we reached the horse track and I was thrilled that we were able to run thru the tunnels to hit the infield.  We were even able to spot several horses running the track.  Yay!!  So exciting!!

churchill downs  churchill downs_inner track

Then we were soon out of Churchill Downs and ready for the half/full split, which I was not at all expecting.  I was still on the high from Churchill Downs and just followed the crowd {and my new buddy Greg}, the majority of which was running the half.  It took me a minute to process that  1)  I was on the wrong side of the split and 2)  My new buddy Greg was running the half.  BOOOO on both accounts!  I quickly corrected the situation and fortunately didn’t trip up too many people the race coordinators anticipated a “few” people messing up the split because they left open sections in the fence for those of us who ended up on the wrong side.  Thank you!!    Now onto the real challenge, Iroquois Park, which encompassed miles 11-15. 

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I’d been previously warned that it was going to be bad so I thought I was mentally prepared.  But it was tough.  Super Tough.  Yet super beautiful at the same time.   I walked/jogged thru the park and just tried to enjoy the day.  I didn’t want to push on the hills too much and then trash myself for the remainder of the race.  After I was out of the park, I still needed to cover an additional 11 miles so I took it easy.

Iriquois Park  Iriquois Park2

The majority of the runners turned off at the half and things were much more relaxed.   However, I was never alone.  Not even in the park where there were fewer spectators.   I was always surrounded by friendly runners who where happy to chat.  There were also aid stations & potties every 1.5-2 miles.  Medical stops every other aid station or so.  And there were spectators.  A lot of spectators who were cheering, playing music, clapping, holding signs, and handing out water or snacks from there own homes.  Great crowd support, Louisville!!  The course was also marked at each mile with a large mile marker sign and then again on the ground.  Couldn’t miss those mile markers!  Super cool!

mile markers 

I felt good thru the entire race and I was super thankful for all the work Dr. Alexis did last week to help speed my recovery and to help get rid of a few “niggles” that showed up at the Carmel Marathon the week previous.  I never hurt but my legs did start to get heavy around mile 18.  I didn’t do much walking, just kept moving forward slowily, inching my way to the finish.  About the time, that I really needed to be done, we hit 3rd street and all the beautiful dogwood trees started showering me with little pedals.  Very magical.  I absolutely loved it and was so thankful that I had picked the Derby Festival for #3 this month.  Great day.  Great race.  Great course that rained flowers when I needed a little extra energy!

flowering trees on 3rd St

And as always, the finish will eventually show up if we are persistent enough to keep moving forward.  It was a welcome site and it was also super cool that the kiddos were out to cheer me on at the end.  Special thanks to Miss Katie who was kind enough to hang out with the kiddos all day long and get them to the finish to see me.  Normally Katie would be running too but she is in taper mode to prepare for her 100 miler on April 26th!!  Go, Katie!!  You are an amazing friend and a strong runner.   Can’t wait to hear how you crush 100 miles next weekend!

Katie took  a few photos of me heading toward the finish  & then with the kiddos afterward.  Michael says it’s too sunny and he doesn’t like the sun in his eyes!  Temps were in the upper 70s by the time we finished running so it was warm and very sunny.  LOL!

me_running toward finish1  me_running toward finish  me & kids_finish

Swag:

swag  Medal

I really loved this race.  It had a lot of little ups and downs but was mostly flat except for Iroquois Park.   There was plenty to see to keep things interesting.  The race is well ran and well supported by both volunteers and locals.  I’d put this on my top 3 list for marathons.  As for the stats, this was marathon #13 for me and the 7th state in which I’ve ran a marathon.  Next up, the Illinois Marathon on Saturday (4/26/14).

** Keep Moving Toward the Finish, Regardless of Pace ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Carmel Marathon Recap …. My 2nd Marathon in 7 days

The Carmel Marathon weekend was a Team Tough Chik event and I was excited to go meet some of the ladies who I had previously only known “on line”.  We did dinner.  We talked.  And then we ran.  Perfect meet-up!!  Plus  I’m just loving the Team Tough Chik run singlet this year so it was the  perfect excuse to make it’s debut at the first warm race of the season!!

I also was able to hang with Katie, From Ice Cream To Marathon, once again and we always have fun!!   Plus my friend, Julie made the trip with me so that she could knock Indiana off her 50 States quest!  And of course we saw, Mike (Run Nerds Rock) since this is a hometown race for him.  Good times pre & post race!

Carmel Marathon_me&katieCarmel Marathon_julie & meCarmel Marathon_katie mike me

The Carmel Marathon was a new one for me.  I had heard good things about it from past participants and the early bird entry fee was low, like really low.  Maybe $30 for the half and $40 for the full?  So I signed up around Thanksgiving of last year when they were doing a registration blitz and I heard that several other Toughies were going.  It’s a small race with 833 finishers for the full marathon and 1431 finishers for the half.  

Parking was free and close to the start.  Since we were “newbies” to the race, we parked at the first parking spot we came across and this resulted in us having about a 15 minute walk to the start.  This also put us a bit behind schedule because the start area was jam packed with people, runners and family members alike.   We headed to bag check and found a very long, single file line, with probably 40 people in front of us.  Bags were just being accepted and tossed to the ground.  There was no attempt at any sort of initial organization.  That bit me in the butt when I realized that I left something very important in my check bag.  I tried to retrieve it, they just stared at me blankly and told me that they had no idea where my bag might have gone.  Boo for me!  Sad smile

Then we hit the potties.  Long lines there too and not nearly enough potties for the crowd.  We were, in fact, still in line to potty when the start gun went off.  Boo for me and hundreds of other people.  Sad smile

Then we finally got thru the potty line and headed to the start.  People were still streaming thru the start line so no worries on our part other than we had hoped to run with a pace group.  The course was flat with a few very small inclines.  Good terrain with all of the course being on paved forest preserve paths, thru neighborhoods or on busier streets where they reserved one lane for the runners.   Aid stations with water every 2 miles.  Gatorade at every other stop.  One food station which offered bananas.  No gels offered on course.  Very little crowd support despite a super sunny day and warm temps which inched up toward 70 degrees.  Friendly volunteers and police support but some seriously unhappy residents that we were blocking traffic. Sad smile

Overall, this is the race you want to run when you feel great, don’t need much help and are looking for a clear course to just bust a move.  If you are a person who needs a little love from the crowd to boost your mood or help propel you thru the end miles, then maybe find one a little bit larger or with a community that is fully invested in a marathon on their city  & neighborhood streets.  There were a lot of people really hurting toward the end of this race.  Not a lot of people were talking.  Nobody was singing.  Sad smile  This is one of the very few places I’ve been where almost everyone was walking at the end.  It was warm so I know that was an issue for many.  Then there just wasn’t much support out there for those of us at the back of the pack.  It was a good race, that was done well but it was a drag and those end miles REALLY drug out forever.  Cool swag though:

Carmel Marathon_swag

Lastly, this was my 2nd marathon in 7 days.  Last week’s ultra was only 3 seconds slower per mile than this marathon.  My legs are definitely tired.  In fact my quads feel like hamburger and my right hip is irritated.  I am facing down 2 more marathons this month to finish my 4 for 40 quest.  I knew this wasn’t going to be easy but a challenge is never easy or it wouldn’t be considered a challenge.  I’m hoping for a party awesome atmosphere this weekend at the Derby Marathon so that I can get a little help from the crowds to carry me thru to the end!  I know #3 will be the hardest so I’m crossing my fingers that Louisville will be out in force to help me get this done!

don't stop

Let me know if you are headed to Louisville for the Derby Marathon this weekend.  I would definitely love to know a few people out on course! 

** Questing for 4 Marathons in the 4th Month of 2014 for my 40th Birthday **            Amanda – TooTallFritz

Lakefront 50K Race Report ……

Saturday, brought us a beautiful day in the CHI and my 2nd ultra in the form of the Lakefront 50K.  This was not a trail ultra but a nice flat event on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.  Great ultra for first timers or those worried about covering the distance because you are not isolated on some crazy trail out in the woods but constantly surrounded by other people, in a populated area.  Plus there are three loops, so you actually pass by your car 3x.  This could be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it!  Smile  But on the up side, you get to pass your friends over and over again, whether they are in front or behind you and that’s a BIG win in my book!

2nd loop

The reason I signed up for this race was because my friends’ Mike (Run Nerd’s Rock) and Michelle (This Momma Runs – green shorts above) were running the event.  I figured, “why not?” so I signed up!  Then I later found out that several of the ladies from my running club (Frankfort New Lenox Running Club) were also signed up.  This added to my excitement, despite my low mileage throughout March.  And the bonus to running with Mike, when he is fast enough to literally run circles around the rest of us, is that we made let him take all the pics and we just focused on the run.  So pretty much every pic in this post was taken by Mike.  Thanks, Mike!!! 

collage

The springtime Lakefront 50K is 3 loops.  It’s on the north side of the city, starts at Foster Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park and weaves south to the North Beach boathouse (then back).   The start line was steps away from the lake; however, the Lakefront Trail ends on the north side of the city, just past Montrose Harbor.  Therefore, it was necessary to weave thru a few parks on crushed limestone trails before hitting the actual paved Lakefront Trail which has made Chicago so popular.   The route was marked VERY well with orange painted arrows.   There was never a question about the course and I was super impressed by the meticulous attention to detail because I have been dropped from a CARA pace group lost in this area in the past.   

Aid stations were about every 2.5 miles.  One at the start/finish.  One at the midpoint of the loop.  One at the turnaround.  At each turnaround location, we had to check in and give them our bib number to ensure that we had ran the entire 3 loops.  The aid stations were stocked with:  water, gatorade, coke, sweet pickles, giant olives, twizzlers, yogurt covered raisins, m&m’s (with and without peanuts), goldfish crackers, potato chips, shoe string snacks, and bananas.  I’m sure I’ve missed something but there was a lot of different options.  Bathrooms at each aid station too.  Plus we had a drop bag at the start/finish on a tarp which we could access each time we passed.  Super simple.  Super organized.  Very well ran event.  Plus we had the added bonus of breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan!

lakefront heading south

This was  a fun run.  Not a race for me.  Just a run in the park with my friends.  That’s how I approached it mentally and I tried to stay slow throughout so that I could finish strong.  I won’t say the 3 loops weren’t daunting, especially at the beginning but by the time that third loop rolled around I was ready to be done and it was nice knowing that we “only” had 5 miles out, then back, to put it in the done column.  I even had a little bit left at the end, which is nice when I can finish strong.  I definitely feel as if I’m becoming a stronger runner, mentally as much as physically.  Thanks to Marty & Jill who were waiting at the finish for the F’N Runners and caught this pic of me running to the finishing!

Finish

Some of the FNRC ladies after the event.  From left:  Melanie (See Mommy Race  – ran her first 50K!!), Julie M, Judy F, Jill Y (Jilly Runs – ran her 20 mile training run THEN came down to see her girls finish the ultra!), Me & Amanda W (Get to Goal who supported us throughout the day!). 

FNRC

Myself, Mike & Michelle after the finish:

me mike michelle_done

The swag:

swag

I think I paid  $55 for this race when I registered.  Big bang for the buck.  However, the event comes with a race “course” that is filled with extras.  Everyone shares the trail with the local runners, bikers and walkers.  Kinda cool but if you are in it to race it, then it might be annoying.  And the bikers are fast and certainly irritated by the extra traffic on the trial.  Other than the bikers, everyone was super supportive and it really was a great day! 

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Shamrock Shuffle Weekend …. 2014 Edition

It’s not really fair to call this a race review because honestly, I’ve openly admitted a billion times that I think the Shamrock Shuffle is the BEST.RACE.EVER. 

Green Men_Shamrock

I mean where else can you chase down “little green men” and be considered sane?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  BEST.RACE.EVER.  And what’s better than 2 green guys?  Three, like we saw in 2013.  And what’s better than 3 green guys?  Well, the addition of a green gal, of course.  As a result, 2014 may be the BEST Shamrock Shuffle EVER cuz we now have 3 green guys and a green gal.  Thank you, mystery lady, it was super nice to see your addition to the group!  You can follow “The Green Guys” on Facebook HERE.

Shamrock Shuffle 2014_green guys & gal

In addition to chasing green people, there were a few more things to the 2014 Shamrock Shuffle weekend.  We started with the expo, which is super family friendly and busy over at Navy Pier.  My friend Nicki and I always take the kiddos on Saturday.  We spend the day “frolicking” at the expo, then hiking Michigan Avenue and the Lakefront path with our little monsters angels.   In addition to more candy than even MY children could eat, the expo also offered lots of fun in the form of a magic act, multiple dress-up photo ops, free food samples, free logo items, lots of “wheels” to be spun and people to meet.  The kids look forward to the expo each and every year and there is always a lot to capture their attention and lighten momma’s wallet.  We even took a friend of Aby’s this year to help with Mr. Michael enjoy the festivities.

Shamrock Shuffle 2014_kids expo  Shamrock Shuffle 2014_Aby Kara  Shamrock Shuffle 20104_kids-water

Sunday morning brought us SUNSHINE and coolish temps that quickly warmed up into the upper 30s, low 40s, by race time.  I met with some friends pre-race.  My Frankfort New Lenox Run Club (FNRC) members, Rebecca W – one of my fellow Emergen-C Ambassadors, my girl Nicki who goes to all the shorter distance races with me, and Kerry C who I’ve know for so many years and so thankful for our friendship!

Shamrock Shuffle 2014_fnrcShamrock Shuffle 2014_me & rebeccaShamrock Shuffle 2014_me & nicki Shamrock Shuffle 2014_me & Kerry

Then we were at the start corral’s and off and running before we knew it.  2014 brought us a three wave corral start, which I heard had a few hiccups, PLUS a new run course! 

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The new course was great and kept us closer to the Loop and Grant Park areas.  I liked the course a lot.  Fewer bridge crossings which are super hard on bad feet!   Wider streets.  More centralized location for spectators who want to see their runner more than once.  Great update for 2014!

As for my race, not the best but not the worst!  I finished in under 40 minutes and given my current schedule, lack of March miles, and the “few” extra LBS I’ve gained, yeah, I’ll take that as a win.  And as always, the Shamrock is a great kickoff to the  Chicago running season and let’s us all know what’s up in regards to our fitness. Good, bad or ugly.  Winking smile

There is always a huge post race party.  So if you didn’t like your race OR if you need to celebrate, maybe head over to the beer garden to drink a few beers listen to the band.    Here is a pic below of Maggie, Nicole, Judy & and I “listening to the band”. 

Shamrock Shuffle 2014_maggie nicole judy & me

Short of any “problems”, I’ll be ShamROCKing next year.  Maybe I’ll see you there?

Don’t forget to enter my raffle for RMHC – Ronald McDonald House Charities HERE.

**ShamROCK Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Oak Forest Fleadh 5K – 2014

Oak Forest Fleadh_logo

The Oak Forest Fleadh 5K was on Saturday morning.  It’s a race we have ran before, this is our 3rd time actually, so we knew what to expect.  It’s one of the many Shamrock theme races in our area and this one has a great course with 2 miles on a normally very busy road, Cicero Avenue.   Yes, I do keep coming back specifically to run on Cicero Avenue.  Smile  Something great about busting it down the middle of a city street that is normally brimming with traffic!

Oak Forest Fleadh_course

Easy packet pick-up, a block from the race site on several different nights leading up to the event OR you can get your packet the morning of the race.  Win, WIN for me!  I also like that the event collects food for a local food pantry so we took lots of goodies with us for donation.  This is the fifth year for the event and I’m happy to say that it gets better every year.  The event is in a prime location at the most busy intersection in town but the organizers do a great job keeping everyone safe by directing traffic, shutting the roads down, and setting up the pre & post race events in the train station parking lot AWAY from the traffic. 

The Fleadh 5K is a fast race which is close to home, cheap and convenient.  I also love that this year they gave the option of a cotton long sleeve tee or for an additional $5 we could upgrade to a technical long sleeve wicking tee.  Nice touch.  I think when I registered the cost was $25 with a $5 fee (optional) to upgrade the shirt.  Super affordable for both Aby and myself to run. 

Temps were in the low 30s on Saturday morning but it was snowing hard, and blowing, and then snowing some more, maybe even snowing sideways, yeah, I think that’s an accurate description.  Despite the weather, the race director and the village did an excellent job salting the road and everything was clear, even the side streets in the neighborhood.  I was super happy and it was safe even it the wind was fierce and I had to wear sunglasses to keep the snow out of my eyes. However, the weather did effect turnout.  Originally, they had about 700 registered runners but only 350 who showed up to run in the blowing snow.  I didn’t have as much in my legs as I had hoped and quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be my “best 5K ever” but I was able to run well enough for an age group win.  My friend Aurelia passed me in the last mile (to secure 3rd place overall female!!) and tried to get me to pick up my feet.  Her words did help a little because I tried to go with her but my legs were just heavy.  Thanks for the encouragement Aurelia!!  And my girl Aby took 1st in her age group too.  It was a good day for all of us!

Oak Forest Fleadh_14_Aby   Oak Forest Fleadh_14_Aby Aurelia Me

Big THANKS to Nicki T. for not defriending me on Facebook after this race too.  She always goes to all the local races with me and well, we usually don’t get good weather.  It’s always a topic for conversation as to weather she should “reevaluate our friendship”.  LOL!  But hey, what are friends for, right?  Let’s all suffer have fun together!

Now for the SWAG!  Loving the shirt design this year!

Oak Forest Fleadh_SWAG_Aby

Great local race for a reasonable price.  Potties at the start/finish.  Two water stops on course.  The majority of the race is on Cicero Avenue too so plenty of room for spectators!  I’ve also heard that the after race “bar scene” is pretty good too but I normally go home.  So if you want to give the Oak Forest Fleadh a try, maybe schedule in time for a green beer or two after the race!

** See You Next Year ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Little Rock Marathon Race Review

2014LittleRockMarathonHeaderIII1

The 2014 theme for the Little Rock Marathon was “epic” with a comic type Super Hero flavor that was pushed hard all the way until and thru race day.  I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered a race that delivered a better PR campaign.  And I’ve certainly never ran a race that delivered above and beyond what the PR campaign promised, until I ran Little Rock.  I was impressed with so many aspects of the race starting the moment I found the race website and how it was designed to fit the theme.  I loved the race booklet they sent prior to the event to create hype leading up to the big day.

booklet

I loved how the booklet fit right in with the theme and was formatted in comic book style giving us a glimpse of what to expect.  I particularly liked getting a heads-up to look for the lipstick “aid” station in the 25th mile before the finish.

lipstick station

Little Rock is a 9 hour drive from my home (south of Chicago) and to be honest, I had NO IDEA what to expect from the town itself.  No, Little Rock was never on my “to be seen” list of places I wanted to travel.  No, I didn’t really know anything at all about Arkansas.  I made the trip because of the race, because of the good things I had heard about it from other runners, because of the large number (270+) of Marathon Maniacs who were attending and because of that wonderful PR campaign that really drew me to the race and the town itself.  And I must admit, Little Rock was a  pleasant surprise with a beautiful River Walking Trail, lighted bridges, lots of restaurants and bars in the River Market District, President Clinton EVERYTHING (parks, library, museum, bridge), beautiful homes, historic landmarks & monuments, and an old Street Car Electric Trolley, which was one of our favorite things about the town. Street car on the left.  Julie M & Judy F inside the street car on the right.

Streetcar Julie & Judy_Streetcar

We had a lot fun before the race even started and that was an unexpected treat.  The expo was a great size with lots of vendors, keynote speakers and plenty of time to pick up packets prior to the race.  The event also offered multiple race distance options for the entire family.

  • Kids Marathon – Finishing last mile on SAT – 1900 participant cap (sold out)
  • 5K Run/Walk – SAT – 1400 participant cap
  • 10K – SUN – 2000 participant cap
  • Half Marathon – SUN – 6200 participant cap
  • Marathon – SUN – 3500 participant cap (sold out)

The theme continued with a tricked out start line in comic book style.

start

The race directors even dressed up like super heroes and stood on top of start (by the right flag) and started each of the corrals the morning of the race.  In the pouring rain.  At 3-4 minute intervals.  It took us 22ish minutes to get across the start line and begin our journey thru town.  The first mile was crowded as always but the road soon opened up and we were on our way!  Temps at the start were in the 50s with rain so we were pretty tight from shivering in the rain while we waited to get started; however, after 4 miles or so we were loose, warmed up, the rain gave us a short reprieve and we were READY TO RUN!  We wove thru town,  ran across the big bridge and saw Capitol Building.

capital

By mile 6, we had already tacked a few hills, I was feeling good and starting to get antsy.

Mile 6

The real test of the marathon is patience. I’m not a fan of waiting.  In fact, I really can’t stand to wait.  This is the reason why marathons and I don’t really get a long.  BUT in Little Rock I was with friends and the goal was to have fun.  I had zero expectations and I’m not really sure they did either, if they did they were quiet about it.  We knew the weather was going to be an issue. We knew there would be hills but we had no idea what to REALLY expect.  So we were patient.  We didn’t dawdle but didn’t run fast, just kept eating up the pavement, stopped for a potty (or two) and just kept moving.  When I noticed a hill, I just put my head down and ran up without looking beyond the pavement in front of me so that it didn’t drain me mentally.  Then the rain came faster and harder.  Then the wind came. Temps started dropping A LOT (all the way down to 30 degrees by the  finish).  We passed the Governor’s Mansion and Julie excitedly waived to the man in a blue raincoat who she SWEARS was the Governor, himself.  We ran down streets with lots of history and amazing houses.  We passed a priest who stood in the rain, blessing runners with Holy Water and we made a B Line over to him so that we could be blessed because it seemed stupid to pass that up.  And then it got cold.  Like really cold.  Around mile 10 or 11 the wind really picked up and the rain had us soaked to the bone.  Our hands were red and we could hardly move our fingers.  We made a consorted effort to wiggle our fingers, shake our arms and get the blood flowing cuz we knew how fast things could go “south”.  Some of our marathon friends took the turn off for the half because they were so cold that they were starting to go hypothermic but we just kept our heads down, eating up the pavement as much with our eyes as our steps.  We couldn’t see much thru the rain anyhow.  I tried to take a few pictures but they all looked like this photo of the historic Central High School.  Cloudy and foggy thru the rain.

HS

So we kept moving.  Not quickly but not dawdling either.  We didn’t walk thru water stops, just slowed til everyone could get in fluid and fuel.  We had to help each other a bit with our fuel cuz our fingers were so frozen we couldn’t get into our belts.  Or open the packages for the gels/chews.  Our pace seemed solid though and our spirits were high.  We loved the course.  We loved the houses.  We loved seeing so many Marathon Maniacs and yelling support to as many as possible.  It was fun.  We were honestly having fun.  There was a decent amount of entertainment.  The course was diverse and interesting.  Aid stations were well stocked with water & Gatorade.  There were food stations with pretzels, bananas, oranges, jolly ranchers, & GU.  There were surprisingly a lot of spectators considering the weather conditions (wind, rain, thunderstorms, and a promise of hail and freezing rain to come).  It was all good until mile 20 when we saw the first sign that said that the race was canceled and we needed to get off the course. 

Event Canceled sign

We were in disbelief but kept running.  Then slightly past mile 20 there was a very nice older man who was very aggressive about getting us off course.  He was able to redirect some runners, while a few of us stopped to discuss the situation with him, then stepped off course to check the radar on our phones and decided to keep on running.  By this time, it was pretty bad honestly.  And not many people were running, most were moving at a slow walk, frozen with tight muscles. Spouses and half runners were coming back for the marathoners and bringing them warm clothes and rain gear.  We were instructed MANY, MANY times that the race was canceled, that buses were in route for us, that aid stations would be closing, that roads were opening, that traffic control was shutting down, that we should take shelter due to approaching storms.  But there wasn’t anywhere to go.  We were on a path (see the photo above with the lady holding the sign), on the riverfront without any buildings in sight.   No buses in sight to “pick us up”.  It was just us and the weather and we needed to keep moving for our own safety.  So we ran!  It was finally at mile 24 when a police officer with a bullhorn was shouting at us that if we continued it would be at our own risk.  We had the option of staying on the riverfront and heading to the finish or crossing over the road, walking thru the trees, and heading toward a Walmart {which was not visible} where buses were supposedly waiting to pick us up.  At that point, we headed toward the finish.  There wasn’t any lightening. Yes, it was still raining and the wind was really blowing hard.  Yes, we were frozen to the bone.  Yes, our muscles were cold and cramping.  However, we were determined to finish and to be honest, we couldn’t see the buses and we didn’t necessarily believe they were there waiting on us.  It was too damn cold and wet to go with the unknown.  I’d like to think that it was an educated decision on our part to go with what we knew and we knew that our hotel and car was at the finish.  We knew our drop bags with warm clothes were at the finish.  We knew that big ass medal was at the finish.  What we didn’t know was that we had two massive hills to conquer in order to get there!  But we made it.  And the lipstick station was still open in the 25th mile, even if those poor ladies were frozen and shivering!  Thanks, L’Oreal for the lipstick stain! 

lipstick

And it was an official finish.  And we got that big ass medal.  Done, baby!!!  WhooooHooooo!

with medals

I can’t say that I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race!  LOL!  It was an amazing day.  It was a great race.  I’d definitely go back and not because of the medal but because of the event, the people, the town, the course, the fun.  If you haven’t yet ran the Little Rock Marathon, I’d strongly suggest putting it on your list!  So much fun!!  And thanks to Julie & Judy for going with me because friends make any event so much better! 

** Running For Fun, Cuz That’s What It’s All About ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Dopey Challenge – Final Thoughts & Cost Analysis

For all of you who are all Dopey’d out, this will be the last post.  I wanted to do a final one and make it more of a highlight reel and then go over the cost and what is associated with the fee verses expectation and hype and well, the BLING FACTOR.  To make it clear, I went to Disney to run the Dopey Challenge as a social event.  For fun.  Not for time.  Not to be competitive.  But to spend time with my running friends, hang out and become one of the Inaugural Dopey Challenge Runners.  That’s why I went.  We were also focused on enduring the event and making sure that we ran slow enough to take it all in and enjoy the experience instead of just zooming past everything and putting the hurt on in an attempt to run fast times.  It was all about the experience for us.  We wanted to walk away with great memories.  Have amazing stories to tell for years to come.  Enjoy a beer at the end as a triumph, not lay on the ground withering in pain like so many others we saw.  Part of the fun for us was creating silly photos that we can laugh at far into the future.  Thanks, Julian for introducing us to the “monkey” pose.  I’m still not really sure what we were doing but maybe you Brits can fill me in sometime.  All I know was that it was funny as all get out in our sleep deprived state.

monkey pose

We utilized the Disney photogs A LOT, much to the dismay of some of the other serious runners who were pissy irritated when we would all stop to do something stupid funny for the camera.

funny 10K pic

We clowned around.  Whooooped.  Hollered.  Played loud music DURING the race.  Sang.  Danced.  Annoyed other runners.  Made memories. 

holding jason

My favorite race by far was the 10K because it was far enough that we weren’t too crowded but short enough that we could have fun without worrying about conserving energy.  We ran a decent pace but still stopped for silly photos.  And we got to meet Minnie Mouse at the end.

Minnie & Me

The temps are, of course, unpredictable and while it wasn’t “too”  hot this year, we did have several days in the 70s with 100% humidity.  Normally I melt in the heat and humidity but this year I did GREAT!  What was the difference, you ask?   My treadmill miles.  All those stupid training runs which I did inside on the treadmill when I didn’t have any other choice.  Huge benefit to me.  Those sweaty miles allowed my body to function better under the warm, “moist” conditions.  Finally, an answer to improving  my performance in the harsher conditions?  Let’s only hope.

What I did right for the Dopey Challenge?  I was very chill about it and focused on fun.  I ran conservatively every day, even marathon day.  I was prepared.  Shockingly, I met many people who hadn’t trained for the Challenge at all.  Some of them finished, some did not.  Out of the 7000 Dopey’s who started on THUR in the 5K, only 6200 finished.  How did I train?  Not via any “dopey” internet training plan cuz they all looked like the mileage was WAY too high, in my opinion, but I did train.  I focused on CrossFit 2x a week.  In the last 6 weeks prior to Dopey, I had little to no running at the beginning of the week, then piled on the miles at the end of the week.  Almost always running 4 consecutive days, with low miles on THUR & FRIs and then bigger miles on the weekend.  Total rest on Mondays.    I was also running a lot of hills and trails in order to prep for the Huff 50K at the end of December.  I was counting on those trail miles (and hills) to build my stabilizer muscles and toughen up my feet for whatever Disney tossed my way.  It worked well.  I basically trained for a hilly, slow marathon.

What I did wrong?  My tummy was my one and only issue this weekend.  I had some aches and pains, most of which were due to my slip/fall at the finish line of the 10K {totally my own fault} and a Plantar Fasciitis flare up but everything was manageable.  The IBD  gave me a lot of hassles in the half and full.  If I could have a “do over”, I would try an Imodium pill before those races.  I have shied away from Imodium in the past because it has side effects, like dehydration, but multiple incidents of “bathroom stops” are also dehydrating so I think I would have taken the chance and it’s something I’m going to try in the future. 

Where I stayed?  We stayed off site at a residential villa complex.   This probably brought us slightly earlier wake-ups in order to ensure we were on property with plenty of time to spare but it also lowered our overall expenses.  It also gave us the opportunity to cook our own food, which had to help with both my tummy and my budget.

The cost?  I paid $500 for registration, then another $25ish for an active.com fee.  I also did an add-on for a necklace which commemorated the Inaugural Dopey Challenge.  That was about $20-$25.  See necklace below.  Total cost for my registration (plus necklace) ended up at $550.

Dopey Necklace

Included in the registration?  1 cotton tee for the Family 5K and 5 gender specific technical tees for each of the other 5 races (10K, half marathon, full marathon, goofy challenge & dopey challenge).

shirts

6 amazing medals.  Honestly the bling is the best that I’ve ever received and I don’t run for the bling or even really pay much attention to it.  I hang all my medals on a stair post, the kids play with them, and when too many accumulate, I take them downstairs to the basement and toss them in a box.  But I have yet to put these Disney medal on the post.  They are still on the kitchen counter.  I really don’t know what to do with them.  It seems like a shame to just hang them on the post.  I don’t have a medal hanger/rack.  I don’t want a medal rack/hanger cuz I don’t have anywhere to hang that either.  Just not sure what to do with these babies but they are amazing.  The first photo is the medals for the four races:  Top Left – Marathon (it’s huge and heavy), Bottom Left – Half Marathon, Top Right – 10K, Bottom Right – 5K.  Then the Goofy and Dopey medals.  All beautiful.  

4 Races - 4 medals  Goofy & Dopey medals

The registration fee included the 4 races, with tons of workers/volunteers, characters who were “on-duty” and working for our enjoyment at various intervals.  I’d say there was a character siting every 1.5 miles or so.  Lots of work put into each scene too where the characters were located.  Each spot really told the story of the movie in which the character starred.  Clocks & Mile Markers at every mile.  Massive firework displays sending off each corral.  The fireworks also got better and better with each day which I thought was very impressive.  Medical tents, aid/water stations {with loads of port o potties} every 1-1.5 miles.  Cliff Bar shots & chew stations on course.  Banana stations.  Food stations with pretzels and/or candy.  Even a fruit snack and chocolate stop in Hollywood Studios during the marathon. 

To be honest, I can’t even imagine how much planning would even go into something like this.  The Disney Marathon was marathon #8 for me and many of the previous marathons were Chicago Marathons so I know a big marathon when I see it.  I know what it takes to do it right and understand that the planning cycle is year round.  The Disney event was even a bit “bigger” than your big city marathon.  I really enjoyed it.  All of it.  And I appreciated the effort, the planning and the flawless execution of everything from the race down to the countless number of people they needed for parking the cars {for free, no parking expenses}, running the security for bag check, down to the pre-race party with a DJ who was energetic and dancing each and EVERY morning of our 4 day event.  Was it worth the money?  YES! 

Would I do it again?  Probably not.  This was a big price tag for me and my family and it was a huge time commitment for me being gone that long.  It took a lot of extra effort for Hubby.  It tough being gone from work that long.  Honestly, between travel (snow delays/flight cancelations) and the race, I was gone from Tuesday afternoon until Sunday night.  I didn’t get home until Sunday night at 8:30 pm.  I had very little time with the family on SUN night, just snuggled the little guy, talked a bit, showed everyone the bling and the various gifts that I purchased for them, then we went to bed so I could go to work on Monday morning.  I had fun.  I enjoyed my experience.  I think it was worth the money.  But it’s a one and done for me.  I’d rather go elsewhere and make more memories, run different races and have a new experience.   But that’s just me.  I met many people who were Perfectly Goofy and running their 9th consecutive Goofy Challenge. I met a lady who was returning to run her 21st Disney Marathon.  She has ran EVERY ONE that they have ever held.  Super cool, but I want to run ALL THE RACES so can’t afford too many repeats unless they are in my backyard.  Smile

Great experience and I’d recommend it to anyone.  Take it slow and easy.  Train.  Be ready mentally and physically and you too can be  DOPEY!  Take LOTS of pictures. 

Dopey Challenge times:

  • 0:29:33 – 5K time
  • 1:00:06 – 10K time
  • 2:23:01 – Half Marathon time
  • 4:59:37 – Full Marathon time
  • 7:22:38 – Goofy Challenge time
  • 8:15:17 – Dopey Challenge time
  • $10.80 per mile {$525 registration fee/48.6 miles}
  • 98.6 cents per minute {$525 registration fee/532 minutes}

Worth the money?  You tell me.  I feel as if I had a $1 worth of fun for each and every minute I was on course and that doesn’t even factor in the medals & tees.  Of course, you can’t replicate my Dopey Rockstar pals but I’m sure you have your own pals who would make your experience just as amazing.

Group_10K

** Had An Amazing Time with the Dopey Challenge ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Dopey Challenge – Day 4 – THE Marathon

Sunday, brought Day 4 of the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World.  Marathon Day.  26,000 runners.  We were down to about 6,400 Dopey runners out of the 7,000 who had started with us on Thursday, in the 5K.  The half marathon on Saturday, and specifically the 100% humidity had taken out some of my Dopey friends.  Sad smile  But alas, the majority of us were still standing strong, even if we were a little delusional from lack of sleep.  My Dopy Rockstar pals once again climbed out of bed at 2am FL time (1am, Chicago time) and hauled it up and out, leaving for our drive to Epcot by 2:30am.  Easy parking day.  We were very close to the entrance as opposed to the other days.  Seems Disney Officials finally got it right and put the early birds up front by the gates.  Just in time for us for the BIG day!  We stayed tucked up in the car til the very last minute it was time to go in for gear check.  We made a lame attempt at photos.  My brilliant photo thought of the day was to do “game faces” but as you can see, Judy and I just smiled cuz well, that’s all the thought we could put into this last game day.  Jason, Dawn, Judy & I below:

game face

Then we did a quick meet up with a few of Jason’s British friends.  I think we were going for muscles here, not really sure.  Me, Jason, Julian, Dawn, Judy, Jonny & Martin.

pre marathon

Then off to the start to finish this thing run the marathon.  Another amazing set of fireworks, even better than that which they did for the half, if that is even possible.  This is the photo that runDisney posted and it’s ahmazing!!

marathon start_runDisney

Each corral (A thru M) started with their own set of amazing fireworks with Mickey Mouse as the official conductor who sent us off into the darkness for one last run thru the streets of Disney.  Here is the course map to get an idea of exactly how much of Disney we would be tackling.

Full map

The first portion, maybe 8 miles was a repeat of the half marathon, which I was perfectly fine with me because I had really enjoyed it the day previous.  However, soon enough they turned us off to see new things.  I did get an early photo of Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate ship, from Pirates of the Caribbean, because it was so cool when I saw it on the half that I wanted to make the stop to take a pic this time around.  Disney really did a great job setting up the scene where each character was located in order to create the look and feel of the movie set for which they represented.  It was very nicely done and a pleasure to see as we sped past.

Pirate ship

On to the Magic Kingdom and I don’t think running thru there could EVER get old!  This was definitely my favorite part of both the full and the half marathon.  Running down Main Street was absolutely amazing and there was MASSIVE crowd support.  It was even better this go round seeing a run club buddy, who has moved to FL, in the crowd cheering!!  Love main street and I love Diane!!

diane

Then the highlight of Magic Kingdom for me was seeing Cinderella’s Castle all lit up and draped in icicle lights.  Absolutely breathtaking.

castle

After the Magic Kingdom, we started weaving thru the rest of the parks, starting with the Richard Petty race track where a local car club got up super early to surround the track with all for their old and new muscle cars.  We ran the entire track and it was SUPER cool!  Then off on the back roads to Animal Kingdom where I was super stoked to ride the Everest Adventure roller coaster.  Til I got there and it was still closed.  Boooo!  I was SO disappointed.  Like really disappointed.  I had been anticipating riding the Everest during the marathon ALL year.  I was crushed.  Last time the family and I went to Disney, I was pregnant with Michael so didn’t get to ride.  This year when we go back, Michael will still be too little to ride.  This was my only chance for YEARS to come.  Sad smile

It was right before we got to Animal Kingdom, around Mile 12 that my tummy started giving me trouble too {read more disappointment}.  I had spent all day/night Saturday trying to refuel from everything I had lost during the half and it was going well until I popped that first energy gel of the day, then it was ALL down hill.  I may have even shed a tear or two on one of the SIX potty stops I had to make (under total duress) during the last half of the marathon.  It was a rough because it left me empty and devoid of energy.  I just kept following my Dopey Rockstar ladies who were so utterly kind to wait for me each and EVERY time I had to stop.  Now those are good friends.  Thank you, Dawn & Judy!  So the second half of the marathon course is a bit of a blur.  I just followed their shirts.  Didn’t talk much.  Noticed the characters were out but always wondered if we would see the ones I liked.  We didn’t.  Here is Maleficent in a photo that Dawn snapped.

I really expected more characters to be around from all the hype I’ve heard about previous Disney Marathons.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot but I expected all the big name Disney characters to be out so we could see them and that wasn’t the case.  I thought it was a great course though that covered a lot of the property.  I didn’t mind the back roads at all and I just kept on trucking.  We stopped for a few photos but since I had my own issues happening, I just tried to keep moving.  We walked thru water stops, and there were a lot of those, probably every mile or mile and a half, but kept moving otherwise.  We finally did find Dopey right at Mile 25 though and fortunately Dawn had run ahead (during my last potty stop) and she had a place in line for us.  Yay!!

Dopey pic

Over all, I give the Disney Marathon several thumbs up.  I really enjoyed running thru the parks, even the back roads.  There were tons of water stops.  Medical support at every aid station.  More volunteers than you can possibly imagine.  Anything you might want:  sunscreen (thank you!), Motrin, Biofreeze, Vaseline on sticks, and so many port o potties (super thankful for that!).

The bling is off the hook and that’s coming from someone who rarely even looks at a race finishers medal.

Dopey medals

They offer events for everyone from your little one, all the way up to Grandma and Grandpa.  It’s a real class act and a very family friendly event.  Plus they have beer and champagne at the finish and let’s just say after 48.6 miles of fun, I was ready to have a celebratory beer.  Myself and Judy toasting to a job well done.  We were happy campers!

Dopey Finishe_me & Judy

So that’s that.  The Dopey Challenge, race by race.  Tomorrow I’ll sum everything up and let you know if I think that the big price tag is worth the experience.  Until then, Happy Running my friends!

** Just Keep Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Dopey Challenge – Day 3 – Half Marathon

The third day of the Dopey Challenge brought us the half marathon, much larger crowds and AMAZING fireworks to send off each and every corral.

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The atmosphere today was serious. Fewer costumes by a lot , many runners who were tackling the half distance for the very first time in their lives, Goofy Challenge runners who were nervous and anxious to start their journey, then us Dopey Challenge participants who were visibly tired, not necessarily even from the running but the travel, ridiculously early wake-ups for multiple days in a row and sleeping in hotels/condos, etc where we aren’t really resting like would at home. As for my Dopey Rockstar pals, we had a 2am wake-up {1am Chicago time} and were on the road by 2:30 to make sure we were in the park with plenty of time to spare. We waited, then waited some more, then hit the potty 15x, then tried to flub our way thru a “muscle” photo and just kinda fell flat all together. Here is our lame attempt at muscles. Sorry, it was the best we had at the time.

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Along with the change in atmosphere, the numbers increased four fold. We were at about 10,000 runners for each of the last two races and today we moved up to the about 38,000 participants. There were people as far as you could see in any {and every} direction. Then Donald Duck and a slew of fireworks sent us on our way. Hey, Donald!!

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Then we ran. Along the highway, which had plenty of room. Along the backroads thru the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. UNDER the entrance sign for the Magic Kingdom.

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Under a pond in Magic Kingdom where the runDisney sign was displayed.

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Down Main Street with amazing spectators who had to get out of bed WAY too early to come cheer for us and breathtaking views of Cinderella’s castle.

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I really, really enjoyed the run today. I had some tummy troubles that required 3 potty stops but we were just running leisurely anyhow and having fun so it didn’t make me panic cuz of the time I was loosing or anything which was nice. Judy and I even stopped to take a photo with Lilo & Stich. Thanks, Judy! Thanks, Lilo & Stitch! I’m a big fan. :)

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We finished in 2:23 with smiles on our faces. Then we collected our medals featuring Donald Duck.

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Grabbed a new wristband.

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Then we headed home to eat and nap. We were all well aware that today was the most important day of the Dopey Challenge. The one where we need to slow our roll. Stay hydrated. Fuel. Avoid pooing our pants. And basically stay ON TOP of the game so that we can come back tomorrow and complete the challenge with the full marathon. Today was huge and we finished happy and relatively pain free. We are ready do ROCK the marathon tomorrow. And for those of you who are contemplating the Dopey Challenge for 2015, I want to let you know that you can do it. Just take each day easy. Don’t take yourself or your running too seriously cuz that’s just laughable here and SUPER boring. Don’t get overwhelmed by the entire challenge but focus on each task at hand individually. Run the race you’re in, don’t think about tomorrow. Enjoy the journey.

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** Always Believe ** Amanda – TooTall Fritz **

Dopey Challenge – Day 2

Today brought us the race at Disney which I was awaiting, the Inaugural Minnie Mouse 10K. I’m pretty sure I signed up for the Dopey Challenge JUST to run this race cuz really, who would come all this way to run a 10K? Maybe me but I added in a few other races to make it seem legit for hubby. Without further adoo, my photo with my girl, Minnie. We are totally BFF’s now. She hugged me and complimented me on my outfit. Total BESTIES!

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Of course, before I got to the point where Minnie and I got to have a real girlfriend “moment” we had a few things on the agenda. First, it was a 2:45 am wakeup call. That’s 1:45 am Chicago time and yes, I’ll keep mentioning that in EVERY post. Then a short drive to Epcot where we lucked out in getting the best parking spot ever {totally hoping we luck out like that on marathon day!}. Next, into the “holding area” for some amazing photos. I’d like to thank my Dopey Rockstar pals for being particularly cheery, amazing sports, and VERY photogenic for my most anticipated race of the series!

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We even got to meet a couple TTF readers Becky & Amy, see photo below {and let me apologize to Kristina S from yesterday who I met but neglected to take a photo of her in her amazing costume. Kristina, find me tomorrow, ok?}

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A few potties stops later and we were packed into B corral and ready to roll. The corral starts were much slower today with maybe 10 minutes between corrals. This was due to the congestion in and out of the park for yesterday’s 5K event and I, for one, appreciate that they noticed. Once again each corral was sent off with fireworks and I managed to snag a shot today!

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Off we went with a group of 10,000 total 10K runners. Remember that approximately 7,000 are Dopey Challenge participants. Today certainly SEEMED bigger, even though the numbers were about the same as yesterday. Today also brought more costumes, some which were even more amazing than yesterday. The 10K bought us a better race route too. Space. Fun. And loads of amazing people and sights. The people watching at the Disney races IS one of the main attractions and I was constantly blown away by the creativity that some showed on their artistic costumes. Kudos to you creative types. I super impressed and somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t try harder!!!! Needless to say the 10K flew by. I played music and sang in the boring parts of the race course. I waived and yelled to the crowd and volunteers. I really hammed it up during the race and LOVED every minute of it. I loved it so much that I had a brilliant idea to attempt a jumping photo with my Dopey Rockstars at the finish line. Not my most brilliant moment of the day. In my defense, I was excited. I was also assuming with the 5 billion photogs at the finish line, that SOMEONE would manage to get our jump shot. Yeah, well, the amazing action shot that they managed to capture wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned as I slipped on the wet pavement and fell down on my ass, while simultaneously hitting my head, scraping my elbows and spraining my thumb a mere step away from the finish line. Yes, I’m okay. No I’m not really embarrassed, more irritated that I ruined our photo. No, I won’t be trying again for the jumping photo tomorrow. I mean, like I’m not totally stupid. And yes, I’ll post the action shot later of me slipping and falling IF it doesn’t look like it will scare my mom too badly. No, I didn’t remember to stop my Garmin as I walked across the finish line in a very dazed and confused state. Fortuneately, my Dopey Rockstar friends did usher me in the proper direction for Dopey Challenge Finishers. Disney officials then made a mark on our 5K bracelets before giving us a 10K wristband to add to the collection.

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And they made sure that I got my medal. Priorities!

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Finally, we made our way to the line to wait to see Minnie Mouse. I thought sure since we were Besties now that my friends and I would get to skip the line. However, the Disney officials are very professional and didn’t want anyone to think that we were getting preferential treatment, due to my friendship with Minnie, so alas we waited in line with everyone else to see her but it was TOTALLY worth the wait.

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Great race. I really did love every minute of it minus the few seconds that I was flat on my ass at the finish line letting everyone get a glance of my “under the skirt” attire. Thanks, Minnie. Thanks, Disney. Thanks, Dopey Rockstar pals!

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