RR #30: Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

This is part two of my report of the 2018 Dark Side Half Marathon weekend – I again did the First Order Challenge, which means I ran the 10k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.  I talked about the expo and the 10k here.  This is the race report for the half marathon.

 So – a recap of where we are:  I had just hit a massive PR on the 10k, in a crowded runDisney race.  I was feeling really good about life in general, really.  Saturday after the 10k I was able to legitimately rest.  I took a nap with my three-year-old, and my wife made a spaghetti dinner.  Because I’m still working on that last stubborn 20 pounds to lose, I hadn’t had spaghetti in a while and it was nice to be able to enjoy it guilt-free … including the seconds.

My goal for this whole weekend was to PR the 10k (check!) and then just get out there and have fun on the half marathon.  I ran past some photo ops when I ran the half last year, and so I intended to make sure and get those this year during the run.  The ice cave on Hoth, in particular, was a picture I regretted missing out on in 2017.  So I wasn’t too worried about preparation or anything for this race – mostly I was just planning to survive it.

The weather wound up being a pre-race story.  I’d intended to go to bed around 8pm, but I was pretty wound up for whatever reason, and the forecast wasn’t looking so good.  All week they’d been calling for a good chance of rain on Sunday morning around race time, but by 8pm the night before they were saying a 70% chance of thunderstorms between 6:30am and 7:30am – right at the time when they would have nearly every runner on the course.  If there was going to be lightning they were going to have to call this off, or at least delay it – and then, of course, there was the question of whether I wanted to go run in the rain at all given that I wasn’t taking the race all that seriously.  In particular, I didn’t know (still don’t, really) how they would handle the character photos if it was raining.  So I stayed up too late researching how and when we would know if they called the race off and finally went to sleep sometime around 9:30pm.

So the 2am alarm sucked, as you can imagine.  I immediately pulled up the weather … and they had pushed the rain forecast all the way out to 10am at the earliest – some services had it pushed out until the afternoon.  The race was on!  I had some coffee, fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and toasted a bagel, and headed out to Epcot.  Same deal for parking as we had on the 10k – park at the finish line at Epcot, long walk over to some busses, bus over to the start line in the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Image taken at 3:19am …

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RR #29 – 2018 Star Wars Dark Side 10k

In the afterglow of Ragnar Washington DC, my friend and van-mate Dave had me convinced to run my first full marathon this spring. We tentatively chose a race, we made tentative plans, we tentatively started looking at training schedules, the whole nine. And then, back in January, he realized that a nagging injury and the time suck involved was going to make it all but impossible to get trained up, and he backed out. It took me about two seconds to make the obvious choice about what to do next.

The space on my calendar meant I got to do the Star Wars First Order Challenge at Walt Disney World again!

I ran the Dark Side Challenge last year and loved it, even if it was quite warm and humid, and even if I didn’t even sniff PRs. You don’t try to PR runDisney races, you know? And I’m such a Star Wars nerd that I was feeling bad about NOT doing it even as I was planning (tentatively!) my first full marathon. I’ll likely get that full marathon under my belt one day, but that day was not to be in 2018.

Star Wars!

I will again split this up into two parts – here I’ll talk about the expo and the 10k, and in the next part I’ll talk about the half marathon. Because I described things in some detail last year, I’ll probably skip over some of it this time – if it feels like something is missing, you can always read last year’s report here.

So I took Friday off of work to handle the expo again this year. I just prefer to not have to worry about being rushed or feel the pressure of timing at all. The expo is held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports complex, and just like last year, by the time they opened things up the line was quite long and I’m glad I got there early enough to be second in line. If there is a chance I’m going to be waiting in an extended line anyway, I’d rather do it that way.

Imagine WWoS, with John Williams’ genius music in the background…

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Race Report #25: 2017 Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

This is part 2 of my Dark Side Challenge at the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend.  If you want to read my review of the 10k, you can find that here.

Okay!  When last we met, I was finishing up the Star Wars Dark Side 10K and then going to run another mile and a half chasing my kid around an inflatable obstacle course with a camera.  That was fun!  Really!  Enough that it requires multiple exclamation points!  But, it did leave me with a couple of challenges going into the second half of the Dark Side Challenge – the half marathon.

I was not, when I was chasing him, wearing running or technical equipment.  I didn’t have my compression shorts on.  And (and there is no way to do this but just to spit it out and get it over with) – I hadn’t prepared my nipples.  And though I didn’t leave that event actively hurting (other than my throbbing feet) … I did feel a sensitivity in the force, if you know what I mean.  Some gingerness in the upper thigh region.  A little scratchiness on the man nipples.

I had allowed myself to start chafing, is what I’m saying. Read more

Race Report #24: 2017 Star Wars Dark Side 10K

This is part 1 of my Dark Side Challenge race report – you can see the half marathon review here.

Hi.  My name is Matthew – and I’m a Star Wars nerd.

I own that.  Really own it.  And so it was a natural fit to make my first runDisney race … the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.  But, in a fit of optimism brought about by a 10K PR on Thanksgiving, I did something that may seem foolish.  I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge.  This means I signed up for a 10K on Saturday AND a half marathon on Sunday.

Yikes.

I’m going to break this up into two posts – I’ll talk about the expo and the 10K in this one, and then the half marathon in the next one.

Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), runDisney races are a big deal.  People come from all over the world for a chance to run through the different parks and take pictures with the themed characters.  Several characters come out especially for these races – you don’t see them at other times.  They estimated 14,000 people started the 10K – looks like just under 11,000 finished – and then 20,000 for the half marathon.  Even though many of those are the same people that ran both races (like me) – that’s still a ton of folks.   And, in typical Disney fashion, they’ve got it very well organized. Read more

No, seriously – LEGO DINOSAURS

I mentioned at last Friday’s weigh-in that we had a plan to visit Legoland Florida over the weekend – and visit Legoland we did.  The tickets are pretty expensive (and don’t include parking!), so we found that it made sense to buy season passes.  All we have to do is go one more time and they more than pay for themselves.   I ordered them online last Friday, and off we went.

Legoland Florida is in a town called Winter Haven, and has only been in existence since 2011.  I’ve been coming down here now for 9 months, and from the beginning I’ve thought that Winter Haven was a weird place to put a major amusement park.  It turns out, though, that the site for Legoland is the site of an old Florida institution called Cypress Gardens.  Cypress Gardens went bankrupt in the 2000s (9/11 and the three-hurricane year of 2004 did them in), and Legoland bought the whole shebang and fixed it up.

Our first impression was that the administration of the park, and in particular the lines, feels like an old, somewhat rural, amusement park.  Disney World is famous for how well than handle a huge number of people and their line management.  Busch Gardens is also quite good at it.  Legoland?  Not as much.

Not that this is going to be a negative post – that’s pretty much my only critical comment.  We had a really good day.

2015-09-26 11.48.24
Right inside the gates. This little chef is amazing, and is just a tiny taste of the Lego creations…

Two things really stood out early in the park.  First, the large-scale Lego “statues” are unbelievable.  The chef in that picture above is almost an afterthought, and had to have taken hours and hours to build.  Second only to the grandeur was the attention to detail – there were little Lego details everywhere.  Squirrels in the trees, stop signs made out of Legos, just every detail.

Right inside the park there is a carousel.  In retrospect, we should have headed straight to the back of the park and worked our way forward – the line was long and the rides were short.  But we got in line, and rode the Lego horses.

He was already anti-picture
He was already anti-picture

And then we came to the most amazing thing.

They call it the Mini-City.  They have all of these scenes and cities that they re-create … with Legos.  The attention to detail is mind boggling.

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
On the pirate ship
On the pirate ship
The grandstand at the Daytona 500
The grandstand at the Daytona 500
The infield at the Daytona 500
The infield at the Daytona 500

They have the Florida State Capitol, Washington DC, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal in NYC, just an unbelievable spread of Lego detail.  We were amazed.

Just up from that is a sandwich place for lunch, and then we split up so I could take a look at a couple of different things.

Lunch time is the best time...
Lunch time is the best time…

The original Cypress Gardens Park had been built around a big botanical garden, which itself was built around a big banyan tree that was planted back in the 1930s.  As the park started going through financial distress and started changing hands in the 80s (and all the way through 2011), there was some concern in Florida about the “old Florida” elements of the park – and particularly the botanical garden – being dismantled and swept away.  At one point either Polk County or the State of Florida actually owned the property and just leased it out, to make sure that this didn’t happen (not sure how that ownership works now).  As part of that, in the middle of Legoland and on the edge of the lake, the old Cypress Gardens Botanical Park still exists – and I needed to go take a look at that.  So my wife took the bigger kid and they went looking for rides, and I took the baby and we went for a walk.

Obligatory alligator, because Florida
Obligatory alligator, because Florida

Right inside the gate we saw our alligator, so we got that out of the way.  Little guy, but he was there.  And then we started winding through the grounds.  Because of the middle of the day and the fact that I couldn’t chase birds and butterflies (babies, you know – plus people waiting on me), I didn’t get a ton of pictures.  But let me tell you, the place is beautiful … and then you walk up on the banyan tree.

Pictures do not do it justice
Pictures do not do it justice

This thing – wow.  As the limbs grow, they send out their own roots that, when they find the ground, develop into their own little trunks to support the limbs.  Over the course of 80 – 90 years, it develops into this massive system of limbs and trunks and roots and just an amazing piece of nature.

Just past the banyan tree
Just past the banyan tree

We walked around a bit more, and then hurried back to meet up with the other two.  When the weather breaks a bit here, I’ll go back during the day (I only work 15 minutes from Legoland) and get some good pictures.

And then came the rides and the ice cream.

He got a driver's license for this.
He got a driver’s license for this.
This is his
This is his “don’t take a picture” face
Coastersaurus - and his first roller coaster!
Coastersaurus – and his first roller coaster!

At this point, the day was hot and we were starting to lose our children to tiredness and crankiness, so after that dinosaur roller coaster we mostly just pushed through.

2015-09-26 14.48.59

One thing we had missed, though, over by the Mini City, was the Star Wars section.  They had scenes set up from the movies, but the cool things were the statues.

Darth Maul is apparently a short guy
Darth Maul is apparently a short guy

Here I will say that Darth Maul is an under-rated Darth, I feel.  There was also a Darth Vader, but the line for him was several people long.  We waited zero minutes at Darth Maul for the opportunity to take a picture – and he was really cool.  #nerdalert

We really had a great time, and we learned some things.

  1.  11am on Saturday morning is not an ideal time to arrive.  Chaos entering the park, but it was calm and quiet by the time we left around 4pm.  Either get there early or go ahead and wait until after lunch.  This may change when the weather gets better – if the park fills up, all bets are off.
  2. When it is busy, head straight to the back of the park and work forward.  You’ll be working the opposite way of the crowds.  This is a good thing.
  3. There are lots of scheduled things – shows, etc. – that, now that we’ve seen the whole park, we will be sure and make time for next time.

Will let you know how it goes when we take our next trip.