Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon

So, in case you missed the earlier posts, I registered for my first half marathon last summer, trained for six months, and very much enjoyed my Disney vacation leading up to the race.

…which brings us to RACE DAY! Finally.

Sunday February 21, 2016
We woke up at 3:00AM. I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and even woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock which was a great way to start the day, but I still felt a lot of race day nerves. Continue reading

Disney Half Marathon Vacay

When I signed up to run the Disney Princess half marathon in the middle of winter, I don’t think I realized just how badly I would need an escape from my first winter in Boone. I’d been uncomfortably cold for months. After six months of training, I was so ready for this race and for the four-day Disney vacation that came with it!

Thursday
After waking up at 3:30am (let’s call this a practice wake up call for race day) and driving for 10 hours, we checked in to our hotel. The drive was long, but we didn’t mind. We love Florida. We miss Florida. Driving to Florida felt like a breath of fresh air and sunshine after being trapped in the mountains for nine months. Continue reading

A Dream Come True in February 2016

I have some exciting news!

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Last year while I was in Orlando with Bret, my sister, and bro-in-law, we walked into an arcade and I felt compelled to win this princess crown. I can’t really explain the force that came over me, but I had to have it and I was convinced that whack-a-mole was my game. I played like a champ, and I won. I won, like, a hundred tickets. And the crown was mine.

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Since then, this tiara has been sitting on my dresser with no real function… but that will all change in February.

Why? Well… I am over the moon excited to announce that… I am training to run a half marathon! The Disney Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World to be exact!

Disney 1.5 Marathon LogoWhen one of my very best friends and Snack Time Co-Founder invited me to do this, our 6AM conversation went something like this:

B: I think I’m signing up for the Disney Half Marathon in February. You should too!

N: I would love love love to but I don’t think there’s anyway I can run 13 miles.

B: You could totally do it! There are a lot of stops on the course (photo ops with Disney characters!) And we have plenty of time to train.

N: It would be pretty cool. And I could wear a TIARA?! And a TUTU? Okay. I think I want to do this.

I haven’t run competitively since 7th grade, but I love a big challenge. I talked it over with Bret who was completely supportive and obviously on board for a Disney trip, and then I registered. I was lucky enough to snag a spot with Bret’s help on my lunch break. (I had no idea how tough it would be to secure a spot – they sold out within a couple of hours of registration being open!)

This is something that I never even thought I would attempt, but since committing, I feel ridiculously excited and empowered. I am going to do this!

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I’m stoked for so many reasons. First, I love Disney. For the three years that Bret and I lived in Florida, we were spoiled Annual Passholders who took day trips to Disney every chance we got. You think we’d be over it by now, but Bret talks about how much he misses Epcot all the time. In fact, he may be more excited than I am. We’re so happy to have an upcoming trip on the calendar. After a cold winter in Boone, it will be the PERFECT time for a vacation.

Disney Pass

Secondly, I’m especially grateful to be running alongside two of my best friends. I recently wrote about the challenge of maintaining close friendships with long-distance friends but how it’s so worth it. Brandi is one of those friends. We are such a good team and we dream the biggest dreams together. Even though we live pretty far apart, we manage to see each other several times every year, and I look at her picture on my desk every single day:

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We do a pretty good job about carving out time for each other when I’m in DC for work, and we text a lot, but working toward this goal together and then meeting up in the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH…?!?! I’m pumped.

My wonderful and original long-distance friend, Kris, is going to be running with me, too! We were JMU friends for one short year and since then we’ve maintained a long-distance friendship mainly through old fashioned letters. We’ve only seen each other THREE TIMES in the past eight years: once in Colorado, once at my wedding, and once in Florida for Harry Potter. She’s way more fit and a better runner than me, so it’s going to be great to be able to train “together” from afar. I just can’t wait.

Kris

Last but not least, I’m stoked that Bret is going to be my in-person training partner. We both enjoy running, but we are out of practice. Seven months is the perfect timeframe to realistically be able to build up to the full 13.1 miles. He’s not actually running in the race, but he’s going to be capable of it by the time February rolls around. We started off by walking/jogging for 4 miles under one hour on Tuesday. For the half marathon, you’re supposed to aim for 15 minutes/mile so we’re right on target! I just need to do that two more times and then one mile to the finish line. Easy peasy, right?

I couldn’t do it tomorrow, but by February, I’m going to be so ready. (Truthfully, though, I have no idea what I’m doing, so any advice/tips from fellow runners is appreciated!)

I’ll blog about our training updates periodically. And I’m looking forward to being able to post some epic running pictures in seven short months. How wonderful is it going to feel to cross that finish line and then be able to celebrate in the Happiest Place on Earth?!

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Let the countdown begin! 216 days to go!

There’s always time for Disney

January has been jam-packed full of crazy. Work has been more than a little overwhelming for me, and Bret has been traveling for interviews, plus teaching, dissertating, you know. It’s a temporary season, thankfully, but so far these 2015 days have been non-stop exhausting. I’ve been on an endless reel of work late, help Bret prep for his next interview/presentation/class, crash and wake up early in an attempt to work on my novel (…but I usually just started working on work). It’s not our preferred pace of life. That’s probably why I ended up with the flu.

Anyway.

I didn’t want this busy season to pass us by with nothing pleasant to remember it by. So. A few weeks ago, I realized Bret and I would both have MLK, Jr. day off of work, so I suggested spending this 3-day weekend in Disney World. (This is our last few months as Disney Annual Passholders, and I don’t want them to go to waste!) Originally, I thought this was going to be a good time for a trip. I thought that things would slow down a bit, but they didn’t. When the actual weekend arrived, I wasn’t sure how Bret was going to react to having this mini vacay sandwiched between so much travel and craziness.

Well, I should have known… he would be thrilled.

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After Bret flew in at midnight on a Friday, we slept in until about 7:30 on Saturday, and then hit the road. Being able to hop on the road and drive to the happiest place on earth is one of our favorite Florida things. I just can’t describe it.

We arrived before check-in, so we left our things in the car at the hotel, and walked over to Epcot.

Yes, walked. I got a found discount staying for two nights at the Swan which is within walking distance of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A dream come true, I tell you.

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I had everything planned out. We say we’re spontaneous with our Disney days, but truthfully, once we get there, we so often end up doing our same favorite things over and over. That’s fine – I think – but it kind of makes all of our day trips run together. This time, I wanted us to try new things and make new memories, so I’d made a list of a few attractions and dining options we hadn’t tried before, narrowed them down, organized them by park, and made a Fedule. (This is what my sister and I call a “fun” “schedule” — a fedule.”)

We had lunch somewhere we’ve been wanting to try for a while: the Spice Road Table! Most of the restaurant is open-air (or, at least the part we had seen before was), but we got to sit inside which was really pretty and really nice.

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We considered each getting a “small plate.” They range in price from $7-$12 and include thing like mussels, omelets, greek salad, brie fondue, hummus and pita… Nicole food, basically. I was hoping to sample a few things, so I was really happy that Bret was interested in sharing a the Mediterranean Vegetable Platter which included:

  • Harissa Hummus Fries,
  • Rice-stuffed Grave Leaves,
  • Mixed Olives, and
  • Baba Ghanoush served with Pita Bread

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It may not look like a lot, but it was surprisingly filling and not too expensive since we shared it. We were happy to spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the countries at Epcot. We realized we had never watched the Circle Vision movie in China, so we did. We wandered around the Japan store because Bret loves it. It was relaxing, fun, perfect. Then we went back to the hotel to check in, relax, and get ready for dinner.

For the most part, we kept our meals light (and cheap): sharing a Mickey pretzel and lemonade or eating a burrito out of a food truck at downtown Disney, but I picked one special dinner that we were really looking forward to: BOMA!

Boma – Flavors of Africa is a  huge buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

I wanted to go to Animal Kingdom, we didn’t really have time, but I did REALLY want to check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge and this was the perfect way to do it. We took a bus from our hotel to the Animal Kingdom park, and then from the Animal Kingdom park to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The whole exterior is lush greenery and it just makes me feel happy and peaceful. Check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby:

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I’d read that there were tons of vegetarian options, which is always a big selling point for me, but I was especially eager to get to try and sample a bunch of new flavors without  having to pay for an entire plate that I may not like. I love buffets. I was excited to graze on brand new flavors and… also… I wanted to go to the gift shop.

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I love giraffe hugs.

Here’s a quick sampling of the menu:

SOUPS

  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • Zanzibar Crab Soup
  • Chicken-Corn Chowder
  • Seafood Gumbo
  • Curry Cauliflower Soup
  • Carrot-Ginger Soup Mulligatawny (Spoiler alert: I thought I would like this. I did not.)

SALADS

  • Watermelon Rind Salad
  • Chicken Salad with Chili Cilantro
  • Tabbouleh Spinach and Quinoa Salad
  • Pearl Couscous Salad
  • Avocado, Grapefruit, and Papaya Salad
  • Lentil and Hearts of Palm Salad

And of course there were tons of delicious entrees. They had familiar stuff like: Pork Shoulder, Ribs, Roasted Chicken, Beef Striploin, and one of my favorites: almond-crusted roasted Salmon. I was intrigued to see a variety of stuff I’d never heard of: Mater Paneer, Fufu, and Pap and Chakalaka – a south African vegetable relish that I dipped everything in. It was so good!

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I know that just looks like a heaping pile of food. That’s the thing with buffets, I just pile everything on. It was just so good! Except for the soup.

Here’s the thing, because there were so many choices, I encouraged Bret to only get one pour of a soup, to try it, and then go back and get more if he likes it. Did I take my own advice? No. Why? Some guy warned me about the soup as I was filling my bowl. He said it was terrible. I thought – I’m sure I’ll like this. Too bad you don’t have an appetite for things that are good for you like carrots and ginger.

It was horrible. I don’t even know why. It was just too ginger-y for me, and I love ginger. It was awful. I ate most of it, anyway, because I felt wasteful leaving it there. That was the ONLY non-delicious thing I tasted, though, and I washed it down with my delicious jamberry wine.

Of course, the unlimited desserts were also so yummy. We decided to share this whole plate…

 

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And that was our whole night.

Just kidding!

Bret realized the Magic Kingdom was open until 1AM, so I became SO EXCITED. I was SURE I was finally going to get to ride this 7 Dwarfs Mine Train ride I’d been trying to get a Fast Pass for for 3 months. Unfortunately, there was still a 110 minute wait. Two hours. At 11PM. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It was not a joke.

I was a little bummed, but you could still find us frolicking around enjoying everything from the Flying Dumbo ride to a spontaneous dance party:

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…Actually that dance party was at Epcot from the next night. I just thought the pictures went together so I put them next to each other and rewrote history.

The point of it all, we were happy:

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And that was just the first day!

Next came my other favorite day, Magic Kingdom day. You see, Bret’s idea to go to the Magic Kingdom was not on the Fedule, so, we got to go TWICE! We ate some snacks in the room for breakfast, and then we caught a bus over to the Magic Kingdom.

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We rode the People Mover and watched a happy little castle musical. And we rode The Little Mermaid.

For lunch, I’d read about this “hidden gem” – a sit down restaurant with counter service prices called The Plaza. What a dream! The thing is, you HAVE to have a reservation… so I made one make one the day before. It was completely, completely, completely worth it.

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The 100th customer of the day got a free dessert. We were not the 100th customer, so we bought our own dessert. Banana Split!

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It was so good. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the park.

Then we walked over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (we walked about 20,000 steps this day), used our Fast Passes to ride Toy Story, went back to the hotel and then…

…spent the night at Downtown Disney!

We basically never go to Downtown Disney and I’m so glad we did. I don’t have any pictures, but we enjoyed walking around and popping into all the shops. I got a free sample of chocolate …or two 🙂 We found this little food truck area and ate some burritos while we listened to this awesome guitar player sing and take requests from the crowd. This little 3-year-old sitting next to me ran up and requested, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and I just about crid.

My favorite part of the night? Well, other than that kid’s song request? We went in the Christmas shop and bought our souvenir: a 2015 Disney Ornament to hang on our tree!!! I already packed it up for next year, but I love it. I can’t wait to see it hanging on our tree in our new home in our new city.

It’s been a week. We’re back home and things are still busy and uncertain and kind of crazy most of the time, but I’m so glad we got away for this special trip. I hope, next year this time, when I’m thinking back to January 2015, I’ll disregard the flu and the work stress and Bret’s job search uncertainty and, instead I’ll think of this epic Disney weekend.