Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 Goofy Challenge Race and Disney Vacation Report

Since 2007, my Mom and I have gone down to Walt Disney World (FL) for the annual marathon weekend. The 2007 Disney World Half Marathon was my first-ever endurance event, and so this weekend holds a special place in my heart. I returned in 2008 to complete the marathon. In 2009, I participated in the Goofy Challenge (half on Saturday and Full on Sunday), and my mom ran her first half marathon. We skipped 2010 for no reason and, really, and were lucky to do so because it was 20 degrees and snowing.

We returned this year so that I could do Goofy again, and my mom could do the half marathon. So Dad made our travel plans and sent us on our way - me away from work for a couple days, and Mom away from the snow in CT.

I arrived on a red-eye from LA on Friday morning at 5:30am. I was the only one (as usual) on the Magical Express bus from the airport to the Polynesian Resort. The entryway is gorgeous ... and empty at 6am. Luckily my room was ready, so I caught a few hours of sleep before my mom arrived.

Polynesian Lobby Flora

We went over to the Wide World of Sports complex to pick up all of our packets and tickets for the weekend. Since I signed my mom and I up for the Half Marathon Race Retreat, and the Spectator Package (for her) for the full marathon, we exited the expo with more bags, tickets and fliers than I've ever gotten at any race. And I have to say, though the Goofy Challenge is one of the most expensive race weekends, they give you a lot of great stuff: three medals, three shirts, a ticket to the Magic Kingdom for Monday and a sleeve of Clif ShotBloks (among other tiny samples of race food).

Disney's Wide World of Sports

Pre-Half Marathon dinner was at Les Chefs France, at EPCOT. We wandered around the park for a bit (covered 7 miles or so) before going to dinner. Mom got the short ribs and I had the scallops. We protein-ed up and headed off to bed early, 8:30pm, to ready for our insanely early wake up call.

Mom at Epcot on our walk to Dinner at Les Chefs France

Sculpture on one of the Italy Walls. Looks like Dad.


Since I had my blackberry alarm on California time, our 2:45am wake up call on my phone translated to an 11:45pm alarm. That's right, screw jetlag, I had to get up when many of my friends in LA were still out at bars.

But getting up for the race was no problem. Adrenaline took care of that. We dressed and grabbed our bags, headed for the monorail that would take us to Epcot. For anyone thinking of doing any of the WDW races over marathon weekend, it's a bonus to stay at one of the hotels on the monorail (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) because you can avoid the parking fiasco (or having to deal with the courtesy buses).

Mom waves goodbye to the room

Monorail to the Start Line, 3:20am

We arrived at 3:30 and grabbed bagels at the race retreat. It was nice to get in the warm tent. The starting line temp hovered around 45 degrees - cold for this west coaster!

Breakfast in the Race Retreat Tent

It took about 35 minutes to walk a mile to the start line. There were 27,000 runners and walkers in the half marathon, and everyone seemed to want to go over at the same time. Chaos in the form of a crawling mass of people.

When we got over there, we entered corral D and met up with my good friends Brett (@runnintbird) and Chris (@Run2SaveLives). They, too, were doing the Goofy Challenge. I've known Brett since '08 when we did the Alaska Marathon together for TNT. And I've run under and coached with Chris for TNT since '07.

Us at the Start Line

Brett (@runnintbird) and Chris (@Run2SaveLives) at the Start

Gun time 5:35am! Fireworks for every corral! Disney knows how to put together entertaining races.

I prefer races that start with fireworks

Here is the course for the day. It was cold but mom heated up quickly. Holding a 12:00/mile pace, we made our way away from Epcot and along the flat road that leads us into the Magic Kingdom.

There is a lot of Disney course support (cheering, bands, music) along the way. And the first set of family and friends crowds gathered at the TTC at mile 3.5.

Transportation and Ticket Center

The Contemporary [California Grill dinner]

After a quick dip under the waterway of Bay Lake, we headed into the Magic Kingdom.

Entering the Magic Kingdom

We ran down Main St. and past the castle. We took a right toward Tomorrowland. These two miles are why you run the half marathon!


The Teacups, appropriately blurry

About to run through the castle!

We ran through the castle and into Frontier land around mile 6.

Splash Mountain

You exit the park around mile 6.5 from a staging area. Every year they park a pirate ship there, and people stop to take pictures with Captain Jack Sparrow. I should note that there are characters all along the course for pictures. We didn't stop though, I think Mom wanted to get the race over with!

From the Magic Kingdom, you head back to Epcot almost the same way you came. But before you get onto Disney World Drive (I think that's its name), you run past the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian (interesting fact: we ate at The Grand Floridian Cafe three times in five days!).

The Golf Course across from the Grand Floridian

Sun rising over the Polynesian

Mom started to get tired on the way back. We took some extra walk breaks and, like we always do, just kept going.

After scaling the overpass at mile 10.4, we entered Epcot for the final miles.

Heading into Epcot, final mile

Last Water Stop, Mom's ready to be done

Epcot Interior

I would not let her walk the last half mile. She may or may not wanted to disown (or unbirth) me right there. But my goal was for her to finish under 3 hours. With the help of MANY twitter friends, I cheered her on to the finish line.

Just .1 to go!

The Finish Line!

We finished in 2 hours and 55 minutes! Mom was happy, and even more than happy ... she was relieved!! Second half marathon in the books!

We went to the race retreat tent for a well-deserved breakfast.

Mom in the Race Retreat

I want to thank all of the twitter folks who cheered on my Mom at the end of the race. She flinched a smile through her grimace each time I read the supportive tweets. Thank you so much:
...for your tweets to my Mom.


As I mentioned in my last post, Chris has a stress fracture in his tibia and could not run the full marathon. He was registered for Goofy long before the injury appeared, and he decided to complete the races. I decided to walk the marathon with him.

Since we would be completing the marathon much, much slower than our comfortable race paces, Chris decided to use the walk to kick off the Hope Next Exit raffle. As we'd walk, we would tweet our progress, take requests, and do whatever we needed to in order to raise money for Chris' personal mission to beat cancer.

I can't describe how deeply important this commitment is to my friend - I'm not even sure his own words can convey his determination. Sometimes words just aren't enough. He has very much dedicated his life to ridding the world of this disease, while (as a TNT coach) helping others discover their potential. And for that, I was grateful to be a part of another effort to raise money. That, and I'm one of the few people who can laugh with/at him for 6 hours at a time.

Thought about buying this outfit to wear for the race. Chafing inevitable

Chris thought about wearing his normal clothes

So another 2:45am EST alarm, and I'm off to the start line at Epcot. Brett - who would finish the race in a smoking, personal best 3:42 - met up with me, and we shared a blanket. Thank you Delta, and Colin (@runwicked) for the suggestion.

Brett and I as Running Red Riding Hoods

I bid goodbye to Brett (Corral B) and met up with Chris at Corral D. While waiting, we had the chance to see Lisa @bemadthen and Dre @drefrench as they got themselves ready for their race.

When Chris and I got into Corral D, we spent a great 15 minutes with Kimberly @kimberlyrunner who is one of the amazing runners I follow on twitter. K, it was a pleasure to meet you!

And then, fireworks! And the walk begins. Here is the course for the day.

Here we go again!

The Disney Characters bidding us good luck

So when you run a marathon, and its 39 degrees at the start, you wear clothing that you eventually shed along the first couple miles. Turns out, though, when you WALK A MARATHON you have no desire to strip down. I was in shorts and a tshirt and a blanket. Chris was in shorts and long-sleeves. We were so cold we could not tweet.

So as we walked along, and as other runners undressed, we started picking up the disgarded clothing ... and bundling up!

Thanks for the gloves, Stranger! Hope you don't have a communicable disease!

It was cold. We held a 15-minute walking pace (tough!) that we widdled down to 14 minutes as we booked it. And still, everyone ran past us. But we have no egos - just jokes.

Epcot before dawn

View from Mile 3

Chris used to be a club promoter. I believe Bruce Springstein sings about moments like these...Glory Days...

Chris + Disco = Crisco

The sun did little to warm our hands, which would act like claws until Mile 9 or so (2.5 hours into the race)

Mile 4 Sunrise (Epcot ball on the far right)

Around Mile 7, we started planning the two requests we had gotten from twitter world. For $150, our friends Lori @LJ3000 and Javy @javier1280 asked me to sing "Like a Virgin" (Madonna) as we walked. And for $100 Roz @rozbatson asked that I do 5 cartwheels in a row without taking out other runners.

Mile 7 - Me Planning my Cartwheels

There was a stretch along the course before the Magic Kingdom. And after a face-plant practice move, I went for it...and almost hit the pole.

After that embarassment, we booked it into the Magic Kingdom. By now (Mile 9) we are realizing just how tough it is to walk 26.2 miles.

Approaching Space Mountain, Mile 9

Again, this is why you run/walk this race!! It's a cool moment.

Main Street, USA - Magic Kingdom

After the Magic Kingdom, met up with my Mom, who fed us pretzels. After sleeping in and recovering from her race, she came out to support us at Mile 9 (TTC) and Mile 13 (Grand Floridian), and then met us at the finish line!

Mile 14

The course took us through a wooded section of the resort. So it was time for the next challenge: Singing Like a Virgin to a very silent marathon crowd. At least Chris and I had fun. And my apologies for your ears.

Clearly we kept ourselves entertained. And this entertainment included playing "Gotcha!" with the Port-a-Johns. When I snapped this picture, the girl next to me laughed. And another girl looked at me like I should be banned from Disney World:


We headed past the Waste Treatment Facilty - thank you, Disney, for once again showing me this - to the Animal Kingdom. Chris saw an owl he had to take a picture of ... as we all do during marathons.

Is it spelled "H-O-O" or "W-H-O"?

Through the AK we went. Donations started trickling in to Chris' TNT website. This became less of a race to 26.2, and more of a race to get $580 worth of donations via the raffle tickets.

So the hardcore tweeting began. My arch and his achilles were acting up. But like good endurance athletes, we bit our cheeks and danced/walked/hobbled along. It was around this point where we started running a bit. Though Chris wasn't supposed to run, the time on our feet (close to 4.5 hours now) was really affecting our legs. It was time to wrap up the day.

Mile 19 - Stiff Legged Dance

Donations began to pour in. To be in such a positive place, to be with such a great friend, and to be doing something to fight such a horrible disease made this whole experience untouchable.

And a HUGE THANK YOU to Lori @LJ3000 who, from across the country, spread the message through twitter and facebook, and gave up sleep to cheer us on!!

Tweeting to #beatcancer

Mile 23, donations coming in!

About 15 minutes later...

We did a 1-minute run / 3-minute walk through the last 7 miles. Lesson: It is VERY HARD TO RUN after walking quickly (13:55 pace) for 5 hours!!!

Our last request came from Fern, who donated to Chris and asked us to high five each other at Mile 26 and tell each other that 'we done good'. And that, we did!

For our cheerleader Fern (@sitbones): We done good.

The Finish Line

Upon crossing this finish line, Chris raised over $1000 to #beatcancer

Goofy Looking Walkers and their bling

We met up with my Mom and Javier at the finish. Javy was supposed to run Goofy as well, and his training was cut short by walking pneumonia. But his is a #beatcancer warrior with a huge heart, and though he couldn't do Goofy, he'll have plenty of energy to co-coach the 2011 Summer TNT Marathon Team in Los Angeles. And he'll do great!

So ended Goofy Challenge #2 for me - such a unique race experience that I will be forever grateful for living. Mom and I walked over to Todd English's bluezoo after the race. It is one of our favorite restaurants.

Sun setting over the Boardwalk, heading to dinner at bluezoo

We ate well. Here's the appetizers.

My Beet Salad at bluezoo

Mom's Scallops over Short Ribs at bluezoo

That night, we headed back to the hotel and caught the last sights of the Magic Kingdom water parade on Bay Lake.

Is that you, Chris?

And finally, we enjoyed an extra three days at the parks.

A non-race shot of Epcot

Toy Story Mania Queue

And I saw a place that was freakishly close to my LA home...

Toluca Legs Turkey Stand at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Rode the Tronorail

I told Mom that there was a cult following for Dole Whip treats. And, though she had never even seen one, she decided we had to have one. So after two days of scouring the parks, we found one, and ate one, right in our hotel. It was worth the hunt.

The rare and magical Dole Whip

Our final night found us at the Magic Kingdom, where we caught the tail end of an afternoon celebration.

Disney Parade, Old School Style

On our way out of the Magic Kingdom on our final night

We headed to the California Grill for dinner - another one of our favorite restaurants. And before we headed upstairs, I snapped some shots of the title mural on the Grand Concourse of the Contemporary Hotel. One of my friends, artist Bob Logan loves her work, and I promised I'd send him some pictures.

Shots of the Mary Blair Tile Mural in the Contemporary's Grand Concourse

Below are some (poor) snaps of our wonderful dinner at the Cali Grill.
It was a perfect meal to end a great week of vacation.

[Overexposed] Triple Cheese Flatbread with Tomato and Arugula Pesto

Conundrum, Rutherford 09 - slightly sweet

Hearts of Romaine with anchovies

Mom's Filet with Potato Grantine

My Scallops with Puree Root Vegetables and Apple Slaw

Pecan Tart with Chocolate Weapon and Maple Ice Cream

And the next morning, I hopped a plane to Los Angeles to restart life in the real world. Mom was unlucky enough to be stuck at Disney an extra day, care of a Northeast snowstorm that cancelled all the flights back home.

We tracked our mileage and food at Disney, and here are the final statistics:

Le Chefs France, France/Epcot
Artist's Point, Wilderness Lodge
Le Cellier, Canada/Epcot
Todd English's bluezoo at The Dolphin
California Grill, Contemporary

Miles Covered:
Friday: 7.1 walked
Saturday: 13.3 run and 5.0 walked
Sunday: 26.2 walked and 3.5 walked
Monday: 6.7 walked
Tuesday: 7.8 walked

Total: 69.6 miles in 5 days!

Thanks for reading about the weekend! For more information about Chris's personal mission to #beatcancer, check out his blog And for more information about my escapades ... well, keep reading this blog.


Anonymous said...

I loved following yours and Chris' tweets during the marathon. You are both such an inspiration and congrats on another Goofy finish!! :) Keep up the great work

Ryan Knapp said...

Fantastic job completing the Goofy! and I'm sure walking the 26.2 was just as tough as running it. (that's certainly a long time).

Bob Logan said...

Great blog entry, Emily!

Man, that shot of Space Mountain on the horizon.

Looks like a fun trip!


Javier said...

Great entry, Em. Thanks for sharing and taking so many great pics. I will be back in 2012 to conquer #Goofy. Love ya, lady!

Maura said...

Congrats and Em, Em's Mama, and Chris! Such a run recap :)