Tag Archives: Star Wars

Race Report: Disney/Star Wars Dark Side Challenge

April 15-17, 2016
Orlando, FL
Half Marathon #26
Events #95-97

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“2:21 am. In a shuttle with all my running essentials. Bib…check. Timing chip…check. Running belt…check. Garmin…check. Magic Band…check. Lightsaber…check. The list of running essentials is a little different at Disney…”
-FB post on Half Marathon morning

To me, Disney events are “experiences”, not races. With all sorts of photo stops and other distractions on the course, speed and finish time is a secondary consideration. As long as I am fast enough to not get swept, I’m happy,

The theme again was “Star Wars”. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a geek about all things Star Wars. That said, this will be my last trip to the House of Mouse. I have reached my saturation point with Disney…grateful for my experiences with no compelling desire for any more.
Registration:

Just registering for Disney events is a huge challenge. The events are very popular, and can sell out in minutes. I have heard many stories of people trying to register the moment the tickets went on sale…and they still could not get in. I was already registered for the Star Wars Disneyland races for 2016 when the WDW races were announced. They also announced a special coast to coast award for anyone running both in the same year. If I were to run both, I wanted that extra medal. The other motivating factor to sign up this yeas was that my speed had vanished in the past 18 months. I could still use some of my faster times from my 2014 season to guarantee me preferred coral placement. However, another Disney trip would be a significant expense that was NOT in the budget (Disney is very skilled at separating cash from their legal owners). With strong spousal support (thanks dear!) we sorted out a way to make it work…if I could get registered. Fortunately, there are a lot of Disney fans who are runners and there are a lot of Facebook groups out there of runDisney fans. I belong to several, and one group has set themselves up as an official runDisney travel group who can secure tickets in advance. I put in my requests and got everything I wanted. I then had to find hotels (at WDW, it is worthwhile to stay on property since nothing outside the parks is in walking distance, and there are free shuttles from all Disney resorts to and from the start/finish lines). After all that, I had to figure out “Magic Bands” for the first time. These bands are attached to your wrist and have a computer chip in them. They are linked to your credit card (allowing for easy purchases on site), are used as a room key, serve as your park admission tickets, and you can reserve dining and attraction FastPasses. Setting it up, downloading the app, and figuring my park itinerary months in advance took a lot of work (but, it did make life easier once I reached the parks).

July 14 – Expo

Straight off the plane, I headed to the expo.

Disney had lost my bib.

They had my info, my registration, and my bib number, but no bib. Took about 30 minutes to straighten out. Got a new bib (still in coral A), my 4 shirts (cotton shirt for 5k, tech shirt for 10k, HM, and “Dark Side” challenge). Once that had been sorted out, I headed to the expo. It was a decent size, but nothing overwhelming. There was a wait to get into the official merchandise area, and some things had already sold out (early afternoon on the first day!) Fortunately, my needs were modest. I wanted an official event cotton t-shirt, a few commemorative pins and I was set (I would have bought a hoodie too, but they didn’t make any for a race in Florida). Once that was done, I went to Downtown Disney to shop and eat before turning in for the night.
Ride Photos.

Disney decided to stop outsourcing race photos for the first time. They do a very lucrative business taking guest photos at their parks and the race photos got bundled with those plans. So, for one fee, I got photos from all the races, all my ride photos and park character meet and greets. I’ll be spacing them throughout the race report. I’ll start with a few ride pics…

Test Track:

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Space Mountain:

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Seven Dwarves Mine Ride:

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Tower of Terror:

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Expedition Everest:

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Aerosmith Rock and Roll Coaster:

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April 15 – Dark Side 5k

The race started at 6am. The shuttles started rolling at 4am. I was up at 2:30am. Sometimes they have some cool things to do while waiting for the race to start. This event did not disappoint. They had set up 8 character meet and greets/photo ops with detailed backdrops. The mini-sets included Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Captain Phasma, BB-8, Raptors (those tentacle monsters from Force Awakens), and Stormtroopers. With the lighter crowds at the 5k, and getting there early, I got through every line except BB-8. I’ll share highlights of each a little later. But I did spend as much time as I could at the photo ops before racing over to the starting lines.

The 5k course is pretty simple, and always the same at WDW. We start in the EPCOT parking lot, run for a mile outside the periphery of the park (to spread us out a little) before entering World Showcase and doing a lap. We then run through Future World and exit again…finishing in the parking area. The run through the park was great! Very scenic, lots of photographers, and just a few character photos (R2-D2, Chewbacca, Rebels, Stormtroopers, and a scenic shot of Spaceship Earth. The race wasn’t timed, and the lines at the photo ops were short (well, shorter then I expected them to be during the next couple of days). So I stopped at all of them. Once the fun run was over, I headed to the Magic Kingdom (mostly to check out the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride Coaster) before heading to Hollywood Studios and checking out the Star Wars themed attractions.

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In Park Character Meet and Greets:

Hollywood Studies has two Star Wars characters for meet and greet photo ops. These are Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. Unlike the photos at the races, there are not rushed. The actor stays in character and multiple photos are taken. Here’s a few highlights.

Chewbacca:

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Kylo Ren:

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April 16 – Tie Fighter 10k.

Race started at 5:30 am. Shuttles started at 3:00 am. I was on the first shuttle again, jogged to the meet and greets…to find that some of the lines were already cut off! I did get a couple, but the lines (and the crowds) were much worse today. The starting line was not in a parking lot, but on a closed highway. There were still 6 corals, but they were much larger. This race was point to point. It started outside of EPCOT, did a very short run from one side of the park to the other (no park tour today), followed by a run through a shopping/resort district on out way to Hollywood Studios. We had a nice run through there before the boring highway stretch to ESPN Sports Complex. Same characters as the previous day (much longer lines-45 minutes for Chewbacca) so I passed on most of them. They did have an Emperors chair set (from Return of the Jedi) that you could sit in (pretty cool) and speeder bikes, and a scenic shot at Tower of Terror. But, overall, kind of disappointing. They had moved all the starting line characters to the finish, and I had time to get several more photos. After that, I headed to the other two parks. Expedition Everest alone is worth the price of admission to Animal Kingdom. EPCOT disappointed. Future World has a retro-future charm that reminded me of The Jetsons. The 3 rides I wanted to see was Soaring (closed for refurbishment), Test Track (easily the worst coaster I have even been on…and basically an ad for Chevy), and Mission Space (retro dull flight simulator). However, there was a food and garden show going on in EPCOT where there were several food trucks with very good tapas style appetizers and deserts. I basically just ate my way through World Showcase. I headed back to the hotel early. The next day would be insanely early (even by my standards) and I had to get packed. I could not get a late checkout and time might be a little tight after tomorrow’s half marathon.

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Pre/Post Race Character Photos

I discussed this above. Some photos came out pretty good. Some didn’t. Here are the highlights.

Raptor:

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Stormtroopers:

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BB-8:

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Captain Phasma:

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Darth Maul:

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Jabba The Hutt:

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Boba Fett:

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Darth Vader:

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April 17 – Dark Side Half Marathon

I was up at 1:00 am. Shuttles started at 2:30, and I was on the first. Surprisingly, the lines were better. I got through Vader again, as well as Boba Fett. After that, I did not have time for a third. The crowd was bigger (12 corals today). Fortunately, I was able to use my 1:44 Half Marathon time from two years ago to get me front corral placement all weekend long (1:51 half marathon time or better was needed). Again, I counted on that preferred start to get me to the photos before the lines got crazy. It worked at the 5k, but not at the 10k. The course would follow yesterday’s 10k route until after Hollywood Studios. Then, it would take a long detour to Animal Kingdom before routing us back to ESPN. I figured that the first two photo ops would be the same as before (R2 and Chewie). I was satisfied with the photos I had of them and made the strategic plan to skip them and only wait in line for “new” characters. Surprisingly, R2’s line was short (shorter then the 5k). I could not pass that up. Then, Chewie’s was short as well, so I stopped yet again. I had lingered in line long enough by then that the course was much more crowded. Hollywood Studies had a big stage with Kylo and some Stormtroopers (stopped again). The road to Animal Kingdon was long and dull, once there, we did a big lap around the parking lot before entering the park. There were mini sets of the Trash Compactor and Wampa cave, Stormtroopers were on patrol, and scenic stops of “Everest” and the “Tree of Life” (stop, stop, stop), before the last stretch back to ESPN. When I got there, I received FOUR finishers medals (Half Marathon, Dark Side Challenge (finishing the 10k and Half Marathon during the same weekend), Kessel Run Challenge (finishing the Star Wars Half Marathon at both DisneyLand as well as Walt Disney World in the same calendar year), and Coast to Coast Challenge (finishing any Half Marathon in both parks during the same year). I snagged a couple more photos before leaving.

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What The Heck, This Is A Race Report, So Here’s A Few Words About The Actual Running…

I was undertrained (a 5k training run once or twice a week since October) and I felt it. I was very slow and not very motivated. Despite the character stops, my finish times were awful. I was having pain in my big toe (never had that before, and it would just randomly come and go), both ankles (chronic issue, and getting worse), and my left knee was feeling modestly unstable. Hamstrings were tight by the final race. Fortunately, I had a head start and a generous amount of time to finish…so I was never at risk of being swept. The weather was great for the 5k and the half, but very muggy for the 10k. I did a lot of walk breaks beyond the photo stops and aid stations. The aid stations were plentiful, and Disney did a good job keeping up entertained. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is a great event and I would recommend it highly. My finish times are awful, but here they are…

5K – no idea-it was untimed and I forgot to stop my Garmin

10k – 1:14:30
3341/12169

Half Marathon – 3:03:46
10423/18171
Final Thoughts:

So, was the event worth it? Mostly yes…but I am a runner and a diehard Star Wars fan, who also loves Disney…so it hit all the right nerd notes for me. However, the California and Florida experience were quite similar (WDW did a great job having a lot of character experiences off the course so the lines would not be cut off and people would not get swept simply for stopping for photos…but I expect DL to incorporate that opportunity next year). I really enjoyed it, but a more casual fan should be fine with either DL or WDW event. Running all the races at a weekend does allow more opportunities for character and running photos, and I would recommend doing so to most participants. The 5k (being untimed, and much less crowded) provides a great opportunity to do the Disney experience. Then, the more serious runners can just run the timed events and ignore the distractions.

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As I stated, I had a great time, but this will be my last big trip for a long time. They are just too expensive, too much stress planning, and too much time away from home. I am driving to Fargo next month for a Half Marathon (3 hour drive and an overnight star at a Super 8). After that, I will be staying a little bit closer to home…

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Another “A” Corral!

My 2014 continues to pay dividends! With a 1:44:03 Half Marathon finish at the end of that season (how on earth did I do that), I find myself at the front of the line for the Disney/Star Wars Half Marathon/10k/5k races!

Of course, I will not be able to use my 2014 finish times for much longer. My spring 2015 races would have landed me in corral C. My current finish times would place me in corral F.

Sigh. The joys of aging…

So, one last time, I will get to enjoy starting at the front of the pack.

For the Disney/Star Wars races, this is actually a big deal. They have character photograph stops on course. The lines get really long and they do get cut off. Starting early makes it much easier to hit these stops (especially since the speedsters tend to be more concerned with their finish times then these photos), the lines are much shorter and are less likely to be closed.

Should be a great weekend!

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Looking Ahead To My Spring Races…

Compared to previous years, my spring calendar is sparsely populated. This is a good thing since I was waylaid in my training for SEVEN WEEKS with a bronchitis that just would not go away.

I got sick right after the DisneyLand Star Wars HM. I am just now feeling about 100%. During those 7 weeks, I did some infrequent spinning on the stationary bike, and I went for just…ONE…run. That was the Valentine Day 5k…and it kicked my butt. It was on one of the coldest days of the winter and my lungs were not up for the challenge.

In the last week, we got some early warm weather, and I decided that I would go out for an easy 10k. Well, when you have done a total of 5k in 7 weeks, the words “easy” and “10k” should not be used in the same sentence. I was slow. I also managed to (slightly) injure myself. My hip was throbbing by the end of the run, and I felt a little bit of plantar fasciitis setting into my foot the next morning. Since then, I have limited my runs to 5k, and something aches after every one of them.

This does not bode well for my next race. It’s a 10 miler, and it’s this Saturday. I have never been worried about such a short distance (at least, not since I started running in 2012), but my run fitness is just not there. Unfortunately, the weather will be miserable as well (mid 30’s and rain). It is a part of the race series that I am running this year and I don’t want to sacrifice it. So, I will go into it as a long training run and focus of not doing myself any harm.

After that, I have a string of 3 Half Marathons at about monthly intervals before I start my summer triathlon season. I am not too worried about these. If I can pull off the ten miler, I should have little trouble adding an extra 5k over the next several weeks.

First up is the Walt Disney World/Star Wars 5k/10k/HM weekend. That should be a blast. A month later is the Fargo Marathon Weekend. I am scheduled to run the 5k and HM. I had strongly considered bumping it up to one last Full Marathon but the lack of training (and how I was feeling after running a 10k) would make this incredibly stupid. Pity, since the race is supposed to be great, it’s a pancake flat course, and has great bling (they even have a medal for the post race pub crawl!), it would also have added one more state to my marathon list, and they allow a full seven hours to finish the race.

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Love this bottle opener “medal”!!!

Finally, I have the Red, White and Boom Half Marathon on July 4th (annual tradition race for me, and the third race of my series). After that, my long races are done for the year. I have a few sprint triathlons over the summer, then a 5k/10k/10 miler combo at the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend to finish the season.

Once I finish my last HM of the season, I will have to re-evaluate my future in running races. I have the start of plantar fasciitis and IT band issues. My chronic ankle injury is misbehaving, my knees are not happy with my runs, and my motivation isn’t there. The next few races will likely help me decide my running future. But one thing is certain, Disney and Fargo will be my final destination races for the foreseeable future. To much time and money to keep up all of this traveling. Knowing that these will be the final trip actually has me looking forward to these instead of dreading these events. But, for now, I have to get through this weekend’s 10 miler. Hopefully the cold rain clears out a little earlier then predicted…

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Race Report: DisneyLand/Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

January 15-17, 2016
Anaheim, CA
Half Marathon #25
Events #90-92

Learning to run with a lightsaber…

Well, I like Disney, love Star Wars, and I have a passion for running. So, when I first heard of this event, I knew I had to run it. Prior to that, I was undecided about returning to Disney (expensive, time consuming, exhausting). I enjoyed doing races at both resorts in 2013, but figured that I had the experience, and saw little point in repeating it. This event was a game changer. It includes a 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon in 3 days. There is a similar related event just announced for Orlando (“The Light Side” at DisneyLand, and “The Dark Side” at Walt Disney World). Each weekend includes a challenge medal for the 10k/HM combo, and a different one for running races on both coasts. I signed up for all of it.

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Leading up to the event however, I was physically and mentally burnt out. I had competed in too many events last year and didn’t have a lot of fun. My last race was on Halloween and took a much needed sebaticle . I planned to train, but life got in the way. My dog got really ill and passed away recently. During the last several weeks, she needed 24/7 care and exercise was the last thing on my radar. I had gained some weight (not the good kind) and had to go on a strict diet a couple of weeks before Christmas. Finally, I had a health concern that popped up which ended up needing a whole bunch of tests and specialists appointments. Looks like it was just a false alarm, but it did take up a lot of time and additional mental stress. Finally, we got a beautiful new puppy. With all of the chaos (and my lack of training) I almost had to cancel the trip. But, with some creating schedule changes (and a VERY understanding and supportive spouse), I was able to rearrange my schedule but keep this event on the calendar.

A lot of Star Wars fans get REALLY into these events. They make some very elaborate costumes that they can somehow still run in. I had no such aspirations (or talent for that matter). So, instead, I limited myself to one small prop…a lightsaber. The saber was red, lightweight, collapsible, and would light up. This worked out well and became fairly easy to run with and pose for photos on the fly. It was a fortunate choice since Disney tightened up costume regulations shortly before race day…banning toy blasters and many of the more elaborate costumes.

The weather was forecasted to be quite pleasant, but I had to bring a lot of running options. It would be partly cloudy to mostly sunny, but could be cool in the mornings (how cool fluctuated quite a bit). I had to bring every combo from shorts/t-shirt to thermal tops with tights, and a light jacket/windbreaker. Good thing I did since I used all of it…

I arrived in LA (loved the warm weather compared to Minneapolis) on Thursday morning and I got a shuttle to my hotel (just across the street from the parks). Finally, I was able to go to the expo and packet pick up. I picked the best time to go, and was in-and-out pretty fast. The included shirts were great (3 long sleeved running shirts for the 10k, HM, and Rebel Challenge) and a t-shirt for the 5k. All were nicely designed and good quality…the 10k was exceptional!

After I had my gear, I went to event merchandise. There were huge line ups earlier in the day, but the wait was down to 30 minutes or so by the time I arrived. They still had everything in plentiful supply from what I could see. All of the race merchandise (aside from the participants shirts and finishers medals) had a very retro (late 70’s-early 80’s) vibe to it. I usually am not a fan of retro…but it always seems to work with Star Wars. I had planned on only getting a few race pins (pin collecting is a very Disney thing). I have been getting a lot better about avoiding all of the race swag (since I run so many races) but I am still a sucker for anything “Ironman” and anything Star Wars. The gear was so unique that I caved-in and I did get a few (ok, several) souvenirs in the end. I then proceeded to get some food before heading back to the hotel and getting some rest.

This event is mainly in the parks, but the first 3/4 miles is around the perimeter with some stretches that go “backstage”. I was concerned that the line to get character photographs would get really long, and getting a ton of photos was my top priority. I was fortunate to be in the front canal and decided to sprint to get to the photo stops (I find the faster runners are more interested in speed then this type of diversion, and hoped to get to the first before the lines got long-it worked!)

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The first stop was Chewbacca. Got the pic and carried on to some of the others…some characters from “Rebels”, R2-D2/C-3P0, BB-8 being the highlights.

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It did seem like there were very sparse photo stops on this race and hoped that this would improve as the weekend continued. Overall, it was a fun (untimed) run in very nice (but slightly chilly) weather conditions. The medal was “meh”…expected for Disney 5k events…a soft plasticky rubbery thing that kids can’t inflict damage on each other with.

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I headed back to the hotel, showered and went off to DisneyLand. The park was fun but it got really crowded in the afternoon (I got almost all of my rides done by then. I also got to have a meet and greet with Chewbacca and Darth Vader!)

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The day concluded with an amazing parade and fireworks display. As I was heading home, I saw on FB that Elton John was performing a free concert in front of the castle for an upcoming TV special. I ran back to try to get a glimpse…and that was all I got. He only sang about 4 songs and we were packed together like sardines. I ended up getting a decent angle…when he got up and waved goodnight to everyone! I did hear him sign a few times while trying to move about, but it was a just a tease. I will have to watch the special when it airs next month….

I was up (again) at 2:30 am for the 10k and I had the same plan as the previous day. I was again in Coral A, and would sprint to the first line…this time 1.5 miles away. I was not as successful this time due to the longer distance and that there were a lot more runners (10,000 instead of 5,000).

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The first stop was for Boba Fett. Cool! But, when I got to the front, I was told that the photographers camera malfunctioned and it was cell phone photos opportunity only. That was an indicator of how my morning would go. Chewbacca and C-3P0 were on bathroom breaks (it was nice to get a pic alone with R2), and BB-8’s line was insane.

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The selfie stop with Stormtroopers was abruptly stopped when I got to the front of the line. They did have some cool movie scene stops (trash compactor, Wampa cave, Speeder Bikes).

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Also, there were some nice photo stops in front of Cinderella’s Castle, It’s a Small World, and Paradise Pier-all were beautifully lit up for the event.

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The event finished with a great medal of an x-wing fighter…and with my lightsaber falling apart (it was that kind of morning).

Finish Time – 1:12:09

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After the race (and a shower), I headed off to Disney California Adventure. This day had turned out much warmer (shorts/t-shirt for the race compared to tights and thermal top for the 5k). I was tired and I cut the park short when the crowds started building up. I did have one more order of business that day. I had re-reviewed my registration information and I had forgotten that I had pre-ordered (and pre-paid) for some souvenir merchandise. So, back I went to the expo and packet pick up. While I was there, I took advantage of a trading card maker (where I could pose with a lightsaber in front of a blue screen…a star field is then placed behind you and the image is printed in the general design of a trading card…but the size and shape of a 4×6 photo). It could instantly be uploaded to FB and other website. I ended up getting three of them and was really pleased with how these nice little freebies turned out. After that, I was done for the day…and was asleep by 5pm.

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Finally, Sunday had arrived. I was again up by 2:30 am…trying to repair my lightsaber (I got it back together, but the light didn’t work consistently-but I would not need it for much longer). There was another meetup, but I did not stay for the group photo (trouble flagging down a photographer that morning with all of the chaos).

To be honest, this was the race I was least looking forward to, for several reasons. The first is that DisneyLand is such a small resort. They really struggle with finding a way to keep all runners on site for the 10k, and they don’t even try for the Half Marathon. At mile 4.5, we would be ejected from the parks with no photo stops until the finish. It would also be the most crowded race by far (14,000 runners) and I had to finish the race in a reasonable amount of time. My flight out of town was in the early afternoon, and I had a vey tight itinerary. I had done very little running in the past 3 months and I had not completed a 13 mile run since October. I was certainly feeling the lack of training as my legs were already very sore and heavy from the first two events and from all the walking I had done at the parks and at the expo. Finally, I (correctly) assumed that we would have a rerun of all the same photo stops as the past couple of days. I was right about all of it. My legs were sore and leaden. All the character and movie scene stops were the same.

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This was good and bad. I was able to review most of my previous pics from the first two races and sort out which ones I wanted to re-do. Boba Fett was my only priority (unless there were new characters).

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I skipped all of the droids. There was only one stop for an in park scene (Cinderella’s Castle).

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After 4.5 miles, I left the park for the long dull finish. I tossed the lightsaber (no more photo stops and it was broken anyways). I was doing some mental math, and getting to the finish line as fast as I could was getting critical. I had burned more time then I had expected in the parks and my legs were dead. The volunteers were great, and there were a lot of cosplay characters around mile 9. Some of their costumes were absolutely amazing! If I had more time, I would have stopped for a few photos.

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Finish Time – 2:44:48

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I got back to the park later then I feared. I ran past the finish, got my medals, I had a few very quick finishers photos taken and sprinted out of there. Fortunately, I was able to make very good time back to the hotel. Once there, I quickly finished packing, got a quick shower and was even able to get my free (and fast) breakfast before my airport shuttle arrived.

So, was it worth it?

Mostly yes.

It was a lot of fun. The events were well run, the bling and the shirts were great, and it is always fun to explore the parks…but everything was familiar from 3 years ago. The photos mostly turned out great. But the limited number of character stops was a major let down. No Vader, no Kylo Ren, no Stormtroopers, no Yoda, no other Bounty Hunters, and no Disney Characters dressed up in Star Wars costumes. Apparently, most of these had been present last year, but there were too many bottlenecks and long lines. As it was, most lines still got cut off early and many who were not in the front coral did not get any chances for photos with anybody. Still, it was a fun opportunity to geek out with thousands of fellow runners who are also Star Wars nerds. I got an armload of bling and gear, tons of photos, a getaway from the cold weather, a mini-vacation, and some great memories. I am absolutely looking forward to the Disney World event in April. Since they have the “Dark Side” theme, they should have some Stormtroopers and Sith Lords. I hope they have more photo stops since it will all be on Disney property…and the parks are more spacious allowing runners to be there even when the park gates are open.

The weekend was a nice break, and will hopefully motivate me to get training a little bit more regularly. I don’t know if I will try to stretch Fargo to a full marathon (or register for any full marathons in the future) since I was reminded this weekend that half marathons hurt (when not properly trained) and I don’t feel like I have it in me anymore to go further. But, I do know that the Disney World trip will be my last Disney race. It does feel a little repetitive after the Disney events of 2013. I think that, one more weekend, and I will have my fill for a lifetime…

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The Downside of “Bling Motivation”…

I run for bling…

Well, not exactly. I run for health and fitness. I run to relax, to have “me time”, to help keep my weight off, and because I just enjoy doing it.

I run RACES for bling.

Sure, being surrounded by other runners, challenging myself, finding new courses, getting some awesome photos, and setting a new PR are all awesome too. But, all else being equal, the races with the coolest bling will get my registration fee.

Unfortunately, the race medals are not always available for review upon sign-up, and I am going on hope and faith. Sometimes, that will result in disappointment and missed opportunities.

I picked Pittsburgh over Fargo last spring. Pittsburgh had some amazing medals in recent years. Fargo didn’t. So, Pittsburgh ended up with pretty boring bling in 2015, and Fargo may have fad the coolest marathon medal of 2015. Bummer.

The only negatives about Ironman Wisconsin in 2014 was that Mike Riley did not call me an Ironman, and this thing…

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I mean, seriously, what is that?

My latest disappointment comes courtesy of Disney (they have started to produce some pretty awful bling of late…like a medal of a slipper?). I love Star Wars, so I had to sign up for the new Disney Star Wars races. There are 2 weekends. DisneyLand (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Rebel Challenge (HM/10k combo). Here’s the hardware…

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The HM medal is a reproduction of the “Medal of Bravery” given to Han and Luke in the final scene of the original Star Wars-A New Hope. This is an inspired idea (even if the medal looks bland and generic…it is a geek out item for fanboys like myself). The Rebel Challenge medal looks nice. X-Wing is a cool design but looks a little out of place next to the others (but othe ships were planned for WDW SW to go with it).

Overall, a mixed bag of bling, and was hoping for better at WDW. It was announced that the medals would feature the Death Star and Millennium Falcon! It was also announced that there would be another 5k, 10k, and  Half Marathon, along with a Dark Side Medal Challenge Medal (10k/HM), and Kessel Run Medal for doing both the DL and WDW events! Awesome! Sign me up!

The medal designs were released yesterday…

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Whole lot of dull monotone gray going on. The Tie Fighter looks amazing for the 10k…and is easily the best of the bunch. The Kessel Run Challenge medal (Falcon) looks like it was designed by a 6 year old. The Dark Side Challenge Death Star looks like a garbage can. I guess the HM medal is supposed to be Darth Sideous, but it looks like a gray lump of coal on a string…
I suppose that they may look way better in person, and that I am just getting way too picky in my old age, but I did expect better from Disney and was hoping for something truly exciting for all of the cost, time and expense involved.
Dont get me wrong, I am still very much looking forward to both weekends. The races and mini vacations will be amazing! But I was hoping for something just a little bit more amazing…

 

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Marathon Taper Begins…

Yesterday, I completed my final long training week of the year. I ran 6 out of ¬†7 days with a long run if 21 miles followed the next day with a 15 miler. I totaled just over 60 miles for the week. Today, I plan on a final bike ride of the season (which will get my cycling total to just over 300 miles…a far cry from the 3000 miles last year). This weekend looks perfect for back to back “long-ish” runs at 12 miles each (hopefully) and then mostly 5-10 k runs until the Twin Cities Marathon and I-35 Challenge.

I was getting burnt out with the training, so getting these last long runs out of the way is a huge relief. The finish line is in sight for the season and I am finally confident that I will actually get there.

I am already getting excited for the DisneyLand Star Wars Half Marathon. I bought a light up lightsaber to carry with me for the photo stops (my wife already thinks (knows) that I am a complete dork, but I am sure that reading this will make her cringe…). Still trying to decide on the second Star Wars race in Disney World in April. If I run that, I would skip the Disney 25th anniversary marathon. Decisions, decisions…and, with registration coming up fast, I won’t have long to decide.

Until then, I need to focus on a few more training runs before marathon madness hits in a few weeks.

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Is It Too Early To Be Planning 2016 (or 2017)?

I am determined to complete everything on the adjenda for 2015…but there is far too much on the schedule this year. I have 5 marathon and one ultra planned. I am extremely relieved that I could not get a 70.3 on the schedule anywhere. I intend to learn from this mistake.

My future plans are to move away from long distance events to get more balence in my life (no more Ironman’s, 70.3’s, or century rides). I am undecided about ever running another marathon, but I am certain that the “marathon season” will not be repeated. The ultra long training days will be behind me, as will most of the travel and expense of out of town events.

I have started looking at 2016, trying to see what it would look like. So far, I have come up with the following basics:

1) I will continue with a local half marathon series, but will change from Team Ortho (I have been running their races for 4 years now) to the MN Running Series just for a change of pace/scenery.

2) The Twin Cities Marathon Weekend is still the biggest event on the local calendar…and I will continue to participate…but will limit myself to the Loony Challenge (5k, 10k, 10 miles). I will still get to be involved and participate on the corporate team, but three times running the full marathon is enough for now.

3) Continue running the local Lifetime Triathlon races (Minneapolis, Maple Groove) as they are world class events close to home. I may stretch the Minneapolis race to the Olympic Distance.

4) Limit myself to no more then ONE destination race/year.

Destination races are fun, but expensive. They also are not as enjoyable as they used to be. Limiting them will make me more selective, and I will likely enjoy them more.

As I decided on that last point, at looked at all of my races in the “Parking Lot” and decided against tomato of them. When I was done, only two events remained…

1) Chicago Marathon. I have not run any of the World Major Marathons, and Chicago would be the easiest to register for. It is also in driving distance. Having a single fall marathon would be something that I would more likely be able to get excited about and train for. Besides, my marathon career is scheduled to end in Des Moines…and that just seems just so anti-climactic.

2) Disney/Star Wars Half Marathon/Rebel Challenge. I love Disney, Star Wars, and Running. I HAVE to do this sooner or later. The timing sucks for my schedule, and I figured this would have to be on the back-burner for awhile. I just got a tentative spousal green light for this event next year. If I do it, it would be my reward to myself for all the hard training over the past 4 years. All would be fun-runs with plans to stop at every photo opportunity at the 5k, 10k and Half Marathon. It would also be the ONLY destination race of 2016 making that year “marathon-free” with no option to throw my name in the hat for the Chicago Marathon until 2017.

The more I think about it, the more I like option 2. Going almost two years between Des Moines and Chicago would likely recharge my enthusiasm for a really big race. And the thought of returning to DisneyLand and running some Star Wars events just seems like too much fun to pass up…

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