Monday, October 20, 2014

Please! Not Now!

I'm injured... 

For about two months, I 've been having some trouble with my right knee. Weird kind of trouble. It was slight at first but now it's really an issue. It doesn't hurt when I run at all. But after cooling down, it starts to act up and hurt. By the next morning, it really hurts. Then, it gets better to the point that I venture another run (usually the day after) and the cycle begins all over again.

Two weeks ago, I went on an 8 mile long run and then on Monday, I could barely walk. The Philly Half Marathon is in 1 month now as of this writing. Time to go to the doctor.

So I went to the Doc and after an X-Ray and a check up, and after telling me not to worry too much, he told me two things that raised an immediate red flag in my head:

1) He prescribed Cataflam, an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. I've never taken Cataflam but I know of it. My Mom, who has had chronic back issues most of her life, calls them her "knock out pills". My Mom is one tough lady so if this is what she takes, it must be strong stuff.

2) He also prescribed an MRI. Never had an MRI either but I know this: That's what Doctors tell football players to get right before they tell them their season is over. Not a good sign.

Oh yeah, pending the MRI results and my next appointment with him, I can't run. My reaction:

I calmly tried to explain that I was running a Half-Marathon in November and that I was concerned the "don't run" indication was going to be a problem. He explained that the MRI was just to discount a few theories and that before taking any action he wanted to be certain of what was going on... blah blah blah...

Look, the guy is awesome (I've visited once before) and he actually operated my Mom, one of my cousins and an uncle so he comes very well recommended but all I heard was "You can't run." With the Half so close, I'm freaking out a bit. It's not so much that I can't run. It's the race, for which I already paid airfare, hotel and registration. The knee, I can deal with. Traveling to Philly to be the World's most expensive race spectator... not so much.

The MRI results

So I get the MRI and subsequently, the results which I don't really understand, of course but I read some stuff that seems to be good news. The L's are OK! Or as the results say, "unremarkable". You know the L's right? MCL, ACL... the stuff that gets pro athletes in trouble. Every time I hear of serious injury to the knees, these are usually mentioned so in that regard those are good news.

Further down though, some concerns. I see the words "tear", "cyst" and "defect". All these related (I think) to the meniscus. Now, you can't "tear" a meniscus (it's a bone right?) but you can tear stuff related to it. Maybe I shouldn't be jumping to conclusions and let the professional tell me where I stand.

Well, I hated the appointment. First, he looked at the MRI results and said there were several problems then I got the kind of ambiguous doctor talk I hate to hear but it boiled down to this:

1. There is a meniscus issue but it is very small. He doesn't think its the cause of my pain.

2. There are some degenerative issues that are causing the pain and discomfort. The Doc recommends lower impact exercises like cycling or swimming. Long term he could perform surgery. A kind of "cleaning" (his words) of the knee area.

3. It's not that I can't run anymore, but putting too much stress frequently on the knee will not help the situation. Cross training will be very important. (See #2)

4. Losing weight will help. (duh)

Based on what I know of the situation here is my take on it:

1. Up to this point in my running journey, I didn't have any major issues. The advantage of being a slow runner is less impact on the knees. Since my focus had been on just finishing, there were no problems.

2. This year, I vowed to pick up the pace. Many of you know that my goal for Philly was to run a sub-3 Half Marathon. As I increased my mileage while running faster, that's where the problems began.

Obviously, the Doc doesn't know how much I love running so I can't blame him for the way he looks at it. He just sees an overweight guy that runs and the solution is to not run and try something else to keep losing the weight. But I want to keep running.

He told me to take it easy with the training and run the Philly Half and if a couple of weeks from the race I was having too much pain, to go to his office and get an injection. Not exactly what I wanted to hear but I'll take it. With so little time left, there is no room for a new strategy. I just have to suck it up and run but the prospect of a sub-3 is looking grim. Long term, I'm gonna have to restructure the entire way I look at training and weight loss will have to happen faster. At least if I want to keep running long distances.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quick Update and Hoover Dam

If you have been seeing my Facebook and Twitter updates, (and you should be getting my Facebook and Twitter updates) then you know by now that I have been sidelined by a knee issue and have been told by the Doctor to not run pending the analysis of an MRI. I have the MRI results and my appointment is on Monday. I promise to give you the whole story as soon as I see the Doc. In the meantime, please enjoy the rest of my report about my trip to Las Vegas.

-The Fat Runner

After getting back on the Pink Jeep, we had lunch on the way to Hoover Dam. For this tour, a box lunch is included in the price and the sandwich was pretty tasty along with chips and some veggies and cookies for dessert. 

It is often said that even today, Hoover Dam would be very difficult to build. The fact that it was built in the 30's in the middle of the Great Depression makes this even more of an achievement. Oh, and it was finished ahead of schedule on top of everything else. When was the last time anything was done on time? 

This thing is huge! Not the "vastness of the Grand Canyon" huge but more like "this is a big chunk of cement" huge. Heck, the tunnel they dug to channel the water so it won't go over the top of the dam is gigantic by itself. (And that has only happened once, in 1983 by the way) It is very hard to take picture of this thing. There is an observation deck but somehow I missed it so I couldn't take a whole pic but it was very impressive nonetheless.

So this thing is like, big.

Of course we had to take the Dam tour. How can you go to Hoover Dam and not take the Dam tour. The guide said we could make as many Dam jokes as we liked and I'm transferring that policy to this blog. Since I was taking the Dam tour, I made sure to take as many Dam picture as I could. You don't take Dam pictures every day you know?

The Generators on the Nevada side. There is an identical room on the Arizona side.

The Dam tour was very interesting, especially for a history buff like me and going through the Dam tunnels was fun but I was very disappointed at the end. You see, no matter how much I pleaded with the guide, no matter how much I asked, (and I asked. A lot.) She would not show us the "Megatron room". I know he wasn't in there. (He thawed... duh!) I saw the film and all but I wanted to see the actual room and she would not take us there. I think it was because of National Security and stuff. Her annoyed expression confirmed it.

Finally, I went to very middle of the Dam which is the state line between Nevada and Arizona. I was in two places at the same time! St. Frank you can now call me.

One leg in Nevada, the other in Arizona

 This area has been going through a drought in the last few years even for a dessert. When you look to the lake side, you can see how much the water has receded.

Rain much lately? Check out the water line!

As of 2013, you no longer have to cross the Dam to cross state lines. They built a bridge right in front of the Dam which is the second longest single arch bridge in the World. I took pics of it during our time in the dam but they came out kind of blah. As we were arriving though, I got to take this shot the split second our driver/guide stopped to turn around. It's one of my favorite shots of the entire trip.

In the Jeep, through the glass, turning around for the win.

And with that, we headed back to Las Vegas. This tour is really a once in a lifetime experience. Especially for someone like me who coming from a tropical island who is really not familiar with this kind of terrain. It was without a doubt the highlight of the whole trip.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Grand Canyon

Without a doubt, the highlight of the entire trip to Las Vegas, was this tour in which we visited the west rim of The Grand Canyon and then Hoover Dam. I completely loved the contrast of being able to witness a wonder of nature then a man-made wonder.

We got picked up pretty early. The Grand Canyon is not exactly close to Las Vegas so it requires some time and planning to go there(you actually have to head over to Arizona). We chose Pink Jeep Tours to take us there and yes, their vehicles are indeed pink. The ride was pretty comfy and it wasn't a big huge bus so you get more personal attention. The guide/driver was great and very knowledgeable. If you are thinking about doing this tour or something similar I highly recommend them.

On the way to the Canyon we drove by Joshua Tree National Forest which is an area completely covered in... wait for it, Joshua Trees. Interesting since a Joshua tree is not really a tree and since we didn't stop I wasn't able to get a decent picture. This one is the best I could do.

Joshua Tree

Then we stopped in a rest stop in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. This little town right in the middle of the desert, for a bathroom break. They have this pseudo-fake Starbucks sign. They don't sell Starbucks coffee. They only have this little fridge with those bottled Frappuccino drinks you see in gas stations. I thought it was funny.

Even in the middle of nowhere, there they are... Sort of.

Then we arrived at the Hualapai reservation who own the land where this area of the Canyon is located and after switching to one of their buses we were taken to Eagle Point.

Folks, there simply are no words. Once we got there my jaw just dropped. This is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. I can only hope the pictures do it any justice but I don't think so. I have seen pictures and video of the Grand Canyon all my life. Nothing prepares you to see it in person. With the exception of the Skywalk, (I'll get to that in a second) the Hualapai tribe has not really developed the area -a good thing in my opinion- so all you get is this vast, natural beauty. It's dangerous though. There are no railings or fences. Take a wrong step and you will get to experience the "Grand" part of the Grand Canyon first hand. The place is called Eagle Point for a reason and I hope you can make it out in the picture. Can you spot it?


The shot above is a Panoramic shot Phostoshop stitched together of several shots I took of the area. It's really the only way to get it all in there. (I think you can click on the pic to make it bigger) It is that vast. What looks to be right next to you is actually miles and miles away. You only notice when the many helicopters that tour the area go down there and they end as tiny dots in the distance.

After catching our collective breath, we headed over to the Skywalk. This building has a horseshoe-shaped cantilevered bridge in which the floor is made glass. This is how it looks from the outside. That drop right below the bridge is 800 feet. The entire way down? over 3,600 feet. Yeah, so its a bit of a way down...
Looks scary? Try walking on it.

The bridge is designed to withstand the weight of 71 Boeing 747's and there is whole story and explanation as to how it was built and how safe it is. Bullcrap. Once you start walking on top of the glass, every fiber in your body and mind is telling you to get off that thing. The sensation is weird and scary as heck. It took me a while to get used to it enough to walk freely. Most in my party never did. It made for some funny moments. There are painted sections of the glass on either side of the bridge and people can't help but walk in that area to feel safer. 
800 ft down? No problem!

My brother was not so successful. lol

Yeah, the painted glass is gonna save us all.

By the way they don't allow cell phones or cameras or anything else for that matter, on the Skywalk. You can only buy the pics the employees take of you. (Those three pics above were taken by them)They did come out pretty nice in our case so while I couldn't shake the feeling of being ripped off, I was happy with the results. People have to earn a living I guess and besides, the pics are more expensive at Disney World and especially on a Disney cruise. By the way, we chose to get a USB drive with all our pics for $68 and it included some stock photos of the Skywalk that are quite striking.

After getting our trembling legs off the Skywalk we took another bus to Guano Point. Guano. As in bat poop. Apparently there are some caves in the area filled with the stuff and some people tried to extract it for profit many years ago but they went under. Some structures still remain though.
So apparently extracting guano here was not a good idea.

There are two points of interest in Guano Point. The first is getting to the edge of the point. Once there you are almost completely surrounded by the canyon from all sides and its a sight to behold.
The Canyon and the Colorado River

The other is this mound of rocks  you see in the next picture. You can climb to the top of it and get a pretty glorious view from there. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment.

As I made my way up, there was a couple from Korea at the top. I helped them take some pics and they returned in kind and took this shot.
Yes, those are in fact, my running shoes. Wait, is that my house I see?

Then, they wanted to take a picture of them with me, which I thought was weird but they didn't speak English so I couldn't just ask them. Fans of The Fat Runner from Korea? Anyway, after going back down I rejoined the group.

I also saw this bush (or what's left of it I guess) I thought looked interesting. It kind of reminded me of the biblical image of the burning bush Moses saw in the book of Exodus.

After Guano Point we got back in the pink jeep and our guide had lunch ready for us. he gave us the choice of eating it at Guano Point or on the Jeep while driving to our next destination, which we chose. Next was Hoover Dam! But that is another post. This one went too long as it is.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Belated Vegas Report

So now that things have calmed down a bit, we continue with our regularly scheduled programming.

Vegas... what a town. It's really hard to describe, except to say that it is all about excess. And I'm not talking about just booze and gambling (of which there is plenty) but about everything. Everything in Vegas is amped up. Extreme. Whether its partying or relaxation. You will find it here in its pinnacle.

Welcome to Sin City

I hate using this analogy but it truly fits: Vegas is Disney World for adults. The powers that be here have created worlds. It is an architectural, technological and entertainment marvel. The fact that it has been built in the middle of freaking nowhere only adds to the allure.

In a land of excess, the Wynn is the most majestic of all.

The Las Vegas people come to visit is essentially divided into two areas: The Strip, aka. Las Vegas Boulevard, is where the biggest concentration of mega-hotels is located. Paris, New York, The Bellagio, The Venetian, The Mirage and all the rest are all there. Each hotel is a world unto itself and after trying it myself, I wouldn't attempt any major walking tours. Each hotel is huge and designed to be self contained. You really don't need to leave the premises (and that is by design) unless you want to sight see the other hotels. It is very tempting to do so. Every hotel is beautiful and you want to take it all in but be forewarned: switching hotels is very walking-intensive. They all look like they are close to each other when you see it all on TV but they are so humongous that the actual walk is pretty long. My suggestion? Don't try to hit several hotels in one day. Pick the ones you really want and do one each day. Can you do more? Yes, but it can be exhausting pretty quickly. We walked from a hotel I can't remember right now, to Paris, to the Bellagio to try the Buffet and it was quite the hike.

The Strip

If you want to walk around, I recommend the other area of Vegas: Downtown. This is the original Las Vegas if you will. Before The Strip, before the mega hotels, this is where Elvis and Sinatra and The Rat Pack hung around. When you think of films like Casino, this is the Vegas it depicts. When the big resorts came in, this area almost died but some people worked very hard to keep it going. They closed Fremont Street to traffic (which you could call the "original strip") and installed what is essentially the biggest LCD Television in the World as a roof over it. The result? The Fremont Street Experience.

Fremont Street in all its glory

While not as glitzy (or technologically advanced) as the stuff in The Strip, this I found the perfect place to take in Vegas. With the huge LCD acting as roof, you walk around even during the day (which is scorching hot by the way) without getting sunburned and since it's closed to traffic there are all sorts of performers, characters and freaks at all times doing something. There is a real "anything can happen" atmosphere there that I found exciting. Plus everything is closed together and within walking distance as opposed to the Strip.

Me? Well, I loved seeing so much stuff going on around me and totally loved every minute of it but I'm a bit of a geek by nature. The one night I went to the Strip, while everyone was partying and carrying drinks around I was carrying my camera and tripod (the resulting night shots you are seeing in this post) just so I could take a nice picture of the Bellagio fountains which were spectacular I might add. Although I kept having this recurring thought where Sarah from Run Ginger Run and Dani from Weight Off My Shoulders and their respective significant others, join me and my wife on a local brewpub crawl. (of which there were 
plenty) Because bloggers... that's how we roll.

I carried a tripod for miles... for this shot.

And then there was the day we went to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. But that's another post.

Not that you would want to, but I do take pictures from all the places I've been, if you head over to my Flickr account, you can take a look at them.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Celebrity Blogger in the House!

Have you guys ever heard of Mindy Bobe and her blog Road Runner Girl?

Of course you have! Even if you have visited this blog only casually during its short life, you know I have mentioned her and her blog many times. To me, she is simply an example to follow and someone I hold in very high regard. She is a wife, mom, teacher, runner and an inspiration to others and watching her juggle all that is truly a sight to behold.

As if I wasn't star struck enough by reading her blog, I actually got to meet her during Marathon Weekend in Disney World.

And I didn't even remember to ask her for her autograph. Recently, she truly focused on health and fitness. She is currently maintaining a running streak that is closing in on 150 days straight. She lost a bunch of weight and is looking fabulous and to celebrate she hosted a Diet Bet (which I participated in). Recently, she PR'ed her most recent Half Marathon (her favorite distance) by a huge margin. 

In case I haven't mentioned this enough, you have to go check out her blog. And now more than ever, because today (Sunday) I'm being featured in her weekly series Runner Spotlights where she introduces runners from all walks of life to her readers. So you know what that means...

Yup, I'm gonna be famous. So, as a celebrity we are going to be making a few changes around here. I will of course be charging for appearances and you can now address me as Mr. Fat Runner or "Your Highness". Whichever you choose. I'm flexible.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2014 Part III by Donald S. Hite

Day 5 - Disneyland Half Marathon
I awoke before my alarm at 3:15 and couldn’t sleep.  I tried to be quiet and got up to get ready.  I forgot to turn off my alarm.  I heard it sounding and it woke up my sister.  I had gathered my gear the night before and it made it easier to head out the door.  We made our walk over to the Disneyland Hotel and there were Marathon Photographers everywhere.  This was the bigger race and definitely had a higher attendance.  We were making our way to the corrals early by 4:30 and we were able to get near the front.  We both had Corral H.  I thought it was funny that my bib’s corral assignments were my initials. (D/H)

There were groups gathered the in corrals, some stretching, some singing and dancing to the warm- up music, and some telling personal stories a little too loud.  The corrals seemed more narrow and cramped, but longer (city street wide).  There wasn’t enough room for the late arrivals and some jumped the fencing to squeeze in the front.  Everyone stood as time progressed for the start and the National Anthem was sung, followed by a short burst of fireworks as the wheelchair participants began.  They were followed shortly by both Corrals A & B.  They sent both together; as well as C & D, and E & F.    Corral G was the beginning of the lone starts.  When we began walking after the corrals started, it thinned out and people had room to stretch and breathe again.
Some notable differences with this half and the one in January included no security bag checks at Disneyland, nor were there fireworks before each corral.  There were only a couple of minutes between the corrals, that weren’t joint start, versus the 5+ at Disney World, with separate starts for each corral.  We began by running along the neighboring city street to the back side of California Adventures and into the park, similar to the previous day.  We were greeted by Local High School Bands.  They were rocking it early in the morning.  They played awesome!  They have a tradition of having runners ring the bell. We continued running backstage and entered the park at Paradise Pier and the World of Color Show.  The water was illuminated.  We crossed over to Cars Land shining bright with Neon. There were long lines for Lightning McQueen and Mater, so I jumped in with the car, DJ.  It’s the one who woke the sleeping transport truck in the beginning of the movie (I think).  We continued on towards Hollywood Tower of Terror and Hollywood Boulevard.  He exited the park and ran across the plaza into Disneyland.

After entering Disneyland, we ran down Main Street.  Approaching the Castle, there were lines of runners to get the photo in front of the partners’ statue of Walt and Mickey, with the Castle in the background.  It was so packed, that I couldn't tell if Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) was there or not.  We ran past Matterhorn and circled the Fantasyland.  At the Carousel, just about every runner in a Cinderella costume was in line for a picture with Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, and the two step-sisters.  So far, I wasn't enticed to stop for photos.  We entered Tomorrowland and the line for pictures with the Storm Troopers was at least a 30 minute wait.  I didn't see Darth Vader. When I passed by, he was on break.  I also missed Donald, Jose, and Panchito (the Three Caballeros).  I also passed by the villains, Maleficent, Evil Queen from Snow White, Dr. Familiar,  Cruella DeVille, Hook, Jafar.  I did get some pics as I ran by.   We then went backstage and greeted by the Disneyland Custodial Staff and a water stop.  I noticed a cast member cheering us on with an awesome trading pin lanyard.  I had a couple in my pocket for later, and made a trade.  I asked if anyone else had traded with him yet, and he told me that another runner about thirty minutes prior also traded.  I wasn't the only one. 

We left the park and entered the city streets near Disneyland Drive, almost around the corner from where we started our corrals.  We passed the four mile mark and turned onto Ball Road.  Here we encountered an overpass to beat all others.  It’s one of those that when you are driving and it looks high up, and it looks twice as high when running!  This one crossed over Interstate 5 and was massive.  At the top, I happened to look down and found a street marker "131".  I had to take the pic, being so close to 13.1.  Coming down the overpass was great and I got a speed boost.  We toured the city streets and industrial park area till we made it to the half mark.  Along the way we had high school bands, cheerleaders, dancing ensemble, Latin musicians/dancers in costumes/folk attire, and hula dancers (male and female).  We passed by an area that had signs posted to inspire us and spectators passing out orange slices, red Twizzlers, and cold ice sponges. 
We headed toward the Honda Center and entered the classic car show area that seemed to last for a couple of miles.  The car owners were cheering us on.  This was definitely an improved distraction from the industrial park buildings.  I saw a hearse with fake coffin beside it.  I asked the owner if she could take my picture as I lay beside it and the coffin.  She did, but she took a close up of me and didn't include the car and coffin.

 I realized I needed to specify my request.  The cars started from the oldest to the newest.  Just before the Santa Anna Trail leading to the Angels' stadium, I found Batman's car and Lightning McQueen as a real car.  The trail started off gravel and dirt and went along the banks of a dried up river.  There was no water.  I did see a kid riding a dirt bike in it, jumping mounds of dirt.  We left the river trail and were greeted by the giant "A" outside Angel's stadium.  Here were hundreds, if not a thousand, boy scouts and girl scouts as we passed Clif gel tables.  We entered the stadium via a tunnel that rivaled the tunnel at Richard Petty speedway at Walt Disney World.  It was just as steep.  Exiting the tunnel, were the thousand scouts and families cheering and waving signs.  A thunderous applause!  We saw ourselves running on the Jumbotron Screens.  I took a pic of my sister who caught up to me.  She was about to take mine when someone tripped taking out a barrier post. Just as I was pointing it out to her, she snapped my pic.  No smile for me, just a weird expression.  We exited to mile 10 and the sun was out in full exposure. 

I started slowing and feeling horrible.  I was drinking water and PowerAde.  I ate a couple of sports gels along the way, but something wasn't right.  I struggled to get back into sync with the run, but it just wasn't happening.  I was questioning if I started too strong, too fast.  I was stopping to take pictures and videos, and had a great pace going, (12:30 to 13:30 min pace).  We had more high school bands playing and then cheerleaders as we approached Disneyland Drive again. .  Being on the homestretch, I had to give it my all.  One couple holding signs inspired me to keep going, "Remember when you thought you couldn't do this", and "Take a break! Grab a balloon from that lady behind you!"   We came into the back stage area of California Adventure and back out. I sought out whatever shade I could find.  I was baking in the sun.  I slowed to a 14 minute pace until we passed Paradise Pier Hotel and somewhere deep down; I had more energy to keep on going.  It was probably the crowds at Downtown Disney as we approached the Disneyland Hotel finish.  I came upon a runner who had taken off his shoes and was crossing the finish in his socks.  He joked; he was running so fast, he ran out of his shoes.   We crossed and received out half Marathon medal.  We were herded toward the maze to get the water or sports drink, ice towels (great addition to the end).  I went and collected my Coast to Coast Challenge medal and the Dumbo Double Dare Medal before heading out to find my sister and our running group friends.  I stopped at each of the Marathon Photo spots and made my way out, stopping only to pick up a runners' snack box filled with goodies (chips, cheese spread, Clif bar, Almond pops, and chocolate candy item).   I met up with the group and we discussed how our run went.  The general consensus of the group was we wished there was more run in the parks instead of the city.  This run had a different feel than Florida's which made it unique to California.  One of our group members, Jeff, had hurt his knee and had to ice it up at an aid station.   There were plenty of aid stations and volunteers.  (If you weren't able to register for a Run Disney race, definitely consider volunteering). 
Later, we ate, swam, slept, and went back to the parks.  It was good to walk around at night in the cool breezy air.  Most runners in the parks wore their medals.  I didn't because my Half Medal was defected with poor finish and scratches.  I didn't want any of the other medals to get messed up as well.  I wished I had checked it when it was handed to me, but as tired as I was at the end, excited to have finished, and wanting to pick up the other medals, I didn't look it over.  I was told to contact Run Disney and check on replacement.  I noticed later on Facebook postings with different groups, I was not alone. 

Day 6 - Labor Day
This was a morning I thought would be crowded in the parks.  Since I was a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) member, we were invited to a morning party event at the Disneyland Hotel reception room.  Here we had beverages, pastries, and played a trivia game.  I won a Mickey Head luggage tag. We watched a video of different DVC opportunities that included the parks, cruises, Adventures by Disney, and Holiday celebrations.  We all got a special DVC trading pin.  The meetings usually had a sales pitch, but this one was more a celebration event.  It ended with everyone getting a picture with Mickey, who just happened to pop in.  We then headed to the parks.  We met with our friends and had a blast at both parks.  I got to play tour guide.  After getting pictures with Goofy and in front of the castle with medals (I borrowed one for the pictures), we made it to the Dole Whip station.   It was a treat!  We rode the major attractions at Disneyland, and then ventured over to California Adventures.  We ended the night with a ride on Hollywood Tower of Terror and a snack at Ghirardelli Ice Cream Parlor.  It was an early night since we had to pack for our departure the next morning.  At the hotel, I realized, I had lost my camera.  We called lost and found and made a claim.  I was upset with myself and had difficulty sleeping.
Day 7 - Departure Day
The next morning we had breakfast at the Grand California Storytellers Cafe.  We had some time before breakfast and walked to Disneyland.  They were not letting anyone through the security checkpoint and we couldn't reach the Lost & Found office.  I called and the cast member told me that it was located in the Tower of Terror.  He was kind enough to bring it outside the park to me.  I was relieved at the fact, I still had many pictures on the camera and it had been found.  All the cast members that I had contact with this week were incredibly helpful and nice.  We made it to breakfast which was a hidden gem.  It was a buffet character meal with only the animal characters, Chip & Dale, Pluto, Brother Bear, and the Raccoon from Pocahontas. For a holiday, mid-morning, the restaurant was almost empty.  There was no waiting to get food here. There were quotes all around the restaurant, and one stuck out to me.  It read, "With each new adventure, A story begins". 

Robin contacted our shuttle, and we made it to Orange County Airport within twenty minutes.  TSA checkpoint was as soon as you enter the airport.  With all the medals in my carry on backpack, along with camera, phone chargers, I thought I would get the full search, but I didn't.  No hassles at all.   The flight seemed longer on the way back.  I enjoyed the week and new adventure in the parks, but I missed my family.  I wished they could have come with me. 
Would I do it again?  Yes.   
Which parks/races did you prefer?  I loved the Paradise Pier and Cars Land at California Adventure, but I preferred Disneyland.  In regards to the races, I liked the 10k simply because it ran mostly through the parks, Downtown Disney, and ended at Disneyland Hotel. It had the 'Disney' feel to the race.   If the last part of the Half Marathon ended through the parks, instead of the beginning (similar to Hollywood Studios and Epcot during the Marathon), I probably would have loved it more. 

Next Race? My whole family will be joining in the fun of Tower of Terror 10 miler at WDW.  My daughters are excited that they finally get to participate.  My wife, a non-runner, said she will walk it.  I think I’m almost as excited for them joining me in a Run Disney event, as I was completing the Dopey Challenge.  We’ll see in just a few days. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2014 Part II by Donald S. Hite

Don't know what this is about? Go here.
For Part I of this story, go here.

Day 3 - Expo and California Adventure

We made it back to the expo at opening because Robin really wanted to have her knee taped (KT tape booth).  I had mine taped during Marathon week and it lasted the entire four days.  I believe it helped with my IT band.  Since last January, I had been using the foam roller more and my IT hasn't been as tight.  I highly recommend a foam roller.  We made it to the booth and they weren't open yet.  It was next to Marathonfoto booth.  I saw the expo pre-event certificate and decided to get one.  I didn't get one at Marathon week and could have saved $25 on photos.  It's a risk of actually getting photos you would want, and I decided to get it.  Now I had to make sure I looked for the photographers on course to make it worth it.  We got out knees/legs taped and I wasn't feeling good about it.  My legs are quite hairy and I tend to sweat a lot especially when it's humid and hot out.  I asked if she was going to shave the area she was going to apply the tape, like the other trainer did in Orlando.  She said it wasn't necessary and sprayed it with adhesive spray.  It didn't last the day.  After the expo, we went to California adventures.  After riding Grizzly River Rapids, where I was soaked, the tape peeled off.  I'll do it myself next time.
Anyway, the second day at the expo wasn't crowded.  We visited each of the booths and there wasn't a line to get to the runDisney merchandise.  The first day, however was a different story, with two hour waits to get to the area.  It wasn't as large as Marathon week in Orlando. 

   We finished up touring the expo and headed to the second park, California Adventure. 
We had paper tickets.  No magic bands here.  When we entered, a cast member took our photo in case we lost our multi-day ticket and needed to replace it.  This park reminded me of Hollywood Studios in Florida.  It had Tower of Terror like Hollywood studios and Soarin' from Epcot, but it also had unique areas.  It had Cars land,  Bugs Land, Pacific Wharf (food court), and Paradise Pier.  and Grizzly Peak.    I was like a kid in a toy store!  I wanted to explore and try everything.

We first went and got fast passes for Cars Land Racers.  I was told by a friend to get fast passes for the racers and World of Color before you do anything else.  We met with our running group friends, Mandy and Jeff.  I thanked her again profusely for bringing my shoes.  I think I owe her a Cannoli.  We then met with other runners in front of Paradise Pier for the iconic picture of the California Screamin' Coaster and the Ferris Wheel.  We took on Grizzly River Rapids, then headed for the Coaster ride.  We met Donald Duck along the way.  This coaster was fast and fun!  I took a video of it, and I'll try and find a way to share it.  We then went to the Ferris Wheel.  It wasn't simply a slow moving view of the park, we picked a sky bucket that rocked back and forth and also traveled on an elliptical path  as it circled the wheel. 
I found the first ride that I couldn't ride, simply because I was too tall and my knees wouldn't fit under the lap bar.  Goofy's Flight School.  It's a smaller coaster that whips you around similar to Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, Florida.  I waited at the end and it wasn't but  two minutes later, my traveling party all told me how lucky I was to have avoided it.  They thought they had broken ribs and whiplash from being knocked around.  They all noted, smaller kids would love it, but they hated it.   We picked up dinner in the Pacific Wharf area.  This is like a super Mall Food Court as it had four different restaurants and a couple of adult beverage vendors, and of course Ghirardelli Ice Cream Parlor.  They have also added healthy food options and Gluten Free options at each of the restaurants as well. 

We went to Cars Land and waited in normal line for 50 minutes for the Racers.  They have cool mist sprayers for when it is really hot.  I loved the ride, but others in the traveling party who had not seen the movie, not so much.  They didn't think the ride was worth the wait.  We still had fast passes for the ride a couple of hours later.  They declined to ride it again.  We moved on to Bugs Land, where we met Flik, the ant.  Here the decor is made to look gigantic as if you were suddenly shrunk bug sized.  It was a fun and creative area, with mostly small kid rides.  We passed through on toward Tower of Terror.  Here, we dropped about nine times, completely random for each ride.  We luckily didn't revisit our dinner. 
Mandy and Jeff headed back to the room to get rest for the 10k the next morning. We made our way back to Cars Land.  The park is completely different atmosphere at night, and with all the neon in Cars Land, I felt like a kid, completely in awe of the detail that went into creating Radiator Springs. Robin rode Racers with me one more time, and then she also headed back to rest up.  I just had to close the park again and waited to see the World of Color Show.  This is a light, water, and video show similar to beginning of Fantasmic as Hollywood Florida beginning, but much better orchestrated.  The plumes of water and color show responded to the action of the movie and songs played.  It was dynamic.  The water seamed to get as high as the top of Mickey's ears on the Ferris Wheel.  Each of the nearby rides stopped along the bay, to prevent distractions or interruptions to the show, and because anyone close by the lake, gets wet.  The park breezes carry the misty to those nearby, and everyone gets wet.  This is a don't miss show.  If you did miss it, I'm sure someone has posted it on you-tube.  Being there in person, is simply an incredible experience.

The show was great, but leaving the park was not.  The park doesn't have a straight venue like a main street to funnel people out.  The streets of the park meander, twist and turn.  I remembered that there was a park exit into the Grand California Resort and bypassed everyone trying to leave through the main entrance into the plaza and Downtown Disney.  It was a short walk through the resort and I was back into my own resort.  When I got back to the room, I set out my gear for the morning and couldn't get to sleep.  Around midnight, I dozed off.

Day 4 - The Disneyland 10K

We woke at 4am and headed out by 4:30am.  We thought it would only be a short walk to the Disneyland Hotel for the start.  Nope!  This is where Disney specializes in getting you warmed up for your race.  They navigate you through side streets to get to the staging area.  I think this added at least a mile before we ever began.  What I noticed was no security bag/running belt checks.  None!  They did have plenty of volunteers and barricades set up to funnel the correct bibs to the correct staging areas.  No corral jumping here, till the area overflowed and late arrivals, filtered in.

Our starting corral was D.  We obviously got there late as we were in the back of the already filling corral.  We managed to weave our way forward mid way.  We were so far back, we couldn't see the Jumbo-tron Monitor that was displaying the opening ceremonies.  This race was Stitch Themed and he had a favorite celebrity to co-host the event, Elvis.  Elvis sang the National Anthem.  This wasn't a lip-sync of the real Elvis, it was someone pretending to be Elvis, attempting to sing the National Anthem.   This could have been skipped and replaced with a real singer.  It was rough.  what was rough was, "Let it go" played at the beginning of every corral start.  No Fireworks.  Just, "Let it go, let it go..."  

I started out definitely too fast.  I started my running app early as I didn't want to fool with it as we started.  My First  mile pace was 11:13 and second mile was 11:12.  This was city street running to circle the Anaheim Convention Center and head into the back of California Adventures .   I took photos of each of the Stitch themed mile markers.  As we entered the backstage area to Cars Land and Bugs Land, there were cheerleaders. 
We came into Cars Land where Lightning McQueen and Mater were waiting.  We ran on through Paradise Pier.  Here is where I really added some time (five minutes).  I hoped onto King Triton's Carousel and took a spin with about thirty others.  Wasn't as exciting as Everest at Animal Kingdom, but fun to ride a ride during the race.

 I was back at a 12 minute pace as we headed out of the park via Grizzly Peak and  Hollywood Lane.  There was a large Bear that appeared to be scared of all the runners.  We rounded Condor Flats where Soarin' is located and passed the next mile marker.  We continued down Hollywood Lane to a back stage area that led to our first water and Powerade station.  We then came up a tunnel to a very narrow walkway to the Plaza.  This area was so congested.  I had to run on the gravel flower bed area to get around groups walking side by side.  We came out to the Plaza and were greeted by numerous spectators with some great signs.  One I loved was "Runners Win When They Cross the Starting Line".  Another was "You Feel Like Crap but You look Good".  We went into Disneyland under the Train tresses where a marker read "Here you leave today and enter the world of Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy"

  We ran down Main Street and turned toward Tomorrowland.  We passed mile marker 4 and was greeted by a smiling Matterhorn Mountain.  It appeared to be smiling to me.  I then saw Officer Chip and Inmate Dale, along with Jailhouse Rocking Elvis.  I had to stop for photos.  This added about 6 minutes off my 12 min pace.   We went across the railroad tracks, back stage past parade floats and back into the park through Toontown. 

     We left Toontown headed back into Fantasyland.  Unfortunately, the tea cups were not up and running for rides.  We made our way into Frontierland and towards the rivers of America, where Elvis Stitch was posing for pictures.  We ran through the Castle and out of the park into Downtown Disney.  We passed Mile Marker 6 and was on the home stretch back towards Disneyland Hotel. I was back on pace with 12:35 mile.  At the finish line, Minnie was waiting for high 5's.  There was staff yelling to keep moving, "no stopping, no cellphones!"  It seems, prior to my arrival, there was a jam of people stopping to pose for pictures with the characters using their cell phones, causing congestion. I had to be stealthy and take mine running and blurry.  We were ushered to a line to get our Stitch 10k medal, and runner's box, water and Powerade.   We snaked around another set of barricades to photo stations and then finally out to family meet up in the Lilo Lot.  Here, Mandy (dressed as Maleficent), Jeff, and Robin met me at the end.  We waited for other members of our group and took a group photo. 

 I finished with a time of 1:34:41.  I took my time at the picture locations and had fun.  This wasn't my best 10k, but it was my PR for Disneyland 10k.  
Afterwards, we walked another two miles to an IHOP on the other side of California Adventures, near the convention center we first passed, and had pancakes.  I learned it was a Team Awesome tradition. 

After breakfast, we cleaned up at the hotel and ventured back to Disneyland to ride some rides we missed, Space Mountain, and see Fantasmic.  I found another ride I cannot enjoy riding at Disneyland.  Space Mountain at Disneyland seats two side by side.  I am too tall. I squeezed my legs in under one bar and embedded my knees into the metal seat cover in front of me.  The imprints stayed with me for a couple of days.  Fantasmic was better than Hollywood Studios.  It didn't have Chernabog, but instead had Maleficent and the Dragon.  Peter Pan battled Captain Hook on the Columbia, and Steamboat Willie piloted the Mark Twain.  The show was great.  We kept our spot, and Robin finally got to see 'Magic' fireworks at Disneyland.  We again closed the park and wondered if we would regret it in the morning when we awoke early for the Half Marathon.