Which 2021 Disney Distance?

This is my birthday present! How awesome is this. But now I have to decide which of the races to do – Mickey’s marathon, Donald’s half or both for the Goofy or do I add the 5k and 10k in too and make it Dopey number 3? My heart is of course saying Dopey. Dopey is my thing, my impossible, it’s Dopey. Even having done it twice three years apart I can’t actually believe I have done it. Dopey is something special and of course I want to do it again. So now would be a really good time to remind myself why, after the last time, I said I was (probably) done with Dopey. I think this is maybe one of those occasions where I need to be more sensible. The getting up early and waiting around wasn’t fun and the 4 day challenge took an awful lot out of us and also out of our holiday. We either go to do Dopey or we go for a Disney holiday – I’m not sure both works.

So that leaves the Goofy challenge but I was also pretty categorical about not wanting to do another road marathon. Ok so for the Disney marathon I wouldn’t be doing it alone. Kath would be with me and there is something absolutely fab about running through each of the theme parks but there are long long stretches which are on pretty boring roads. So if I am not actually doing Dopey then I see no point in running 26.2 miles at all. I’m not bothered about Goofy. If I am going to train to run a half and full marathon back to back I might as well add a 5k and 10k… So

Well really that means decision made – half marathon it is. It is my favourite race distance. It’s a proper challenge. You have to respect the distance – well I do anyway – you can’t just go and run it but training for it doesn’t take over your life and running the race doesn’t take over the holiday – or even the day of the race – we will be done before breakfast. This sounds like the sensible plan, the thing to do, the thing that will actually be most fun all round – for training, for running, for playing in the parks… but there is a tiny bit of me that will always have my heart set on Dopey, those 6 medals and that feeling of just having achieved the impossible.

Dopey 2019 Reflections: The Celebrations

Our celebrations started with a long sleep like most good celebrations do. Then we went for a lovely dinner at the California Grill which is located at the top of our hotel. It was a lovely celebration meal with gorgeous food, a blissful glass of wine and gallons and gallons of water. We watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the viewing area at the top of the hotel, had chocolate cake and went to bed. After that Dopey joined in.

Coming with us to all the parks

Drinking ALL our booze

Then he got a bit silly including behaving inappropriately in the toilets (probably Stitch’s influence)

So we limited him to beer and made him drink lots of water and coffee and put him on a time out

Once he’d calmed down a bit we let him come with us and play in the parks until he got a bit tired

So we thought we better feed him

He likes cake!

Dopey 2019 Reflections: Rest and Recovery

Just over a week ago I finished the Dopey Challenge with a personal best marathon time in spite of really struggling with the heat and humidity. You can read about that here. For those of you who thought I was done with Dopey posts – nope. I’m going to milk it a little longer. I want to tell you about the rest and recovery that got us through the challenge in this post and then the celebrations and the medals in the next.

So the first thing to think about it how much sleep you’re going to need. Dopey is tiring and I think we managed to make the challenge enjoyable in part because we slept loads. We had an afternoon nap every day during the race weekend. It meant not playing in the parks but it was the right thing to do! Work, Christmas, travel and all of that meant we were tired anyway, add early starts and running increasing distances for 4 days in a row. You need to sleep – at least you do when you’re me!

So afternoon naps and early bed helped massively and that pattern didn’t stop – we slept after the marathon. On the Monday after we played in the parks with lots of sit downs and stops and we came away quite early. On Tuesday we went to the parks early but then came back and slept before heading back out, same on Wednesday. Thursday we managed a full day in the parks without a nap and were sooooo proud of ourselves, Friday we were back to resting if not napping!

The only thing that really got me was chafing. I shall spare you the details but trust me when I say you should never be that conscious or that worried about exactly where your underwear sits. It all happened during the half marathon when we had a pee stop. Sweaty lycra pants are tricky to get back up properly and they never sat right again. The full just aggravated the already raw areas. As much as it freaks me out, this was a job for vaseline. I hate vaseline, the texture, the smell, everything… but vaseline it had to be.

I am sure that being relatively active helped recovery. We walked a fair bit and kept those legs moving. I also spent quite a while lying down with my legs up in the air and overall I think I did pretty well. After the half marathon I was fine. After the full I was tight and my feet were a bit tender. However nothing really hurt. My lower back on the right side and into my right hip were niggly on and off but nothing too bad. I suspect that could have been avoided completely if I had stretched more. In fact this is the one thing we really neglected. We’re idiots! We hardly stretched at all which is just daft because that actually makes a massive difference and I think would have avoided the soreness that we did experience. Live and (probably not) learn.

The other thing that probably wasn’t ideal is food. We fuelled relatively well during the challenge having chosen our restaurants carefully but even then the portions were too big and we probably had too much. The days after we could probably have made better choices to help with our recovery. We didn’t go crazy and kept the booze within relatively sensible limits but Disney portions and menus that kept enticing us to have three courses meant that we had far too much and too much of the wrong stuff. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find some actual green vegetables! The food was amazing and part of our celebrations but it was really not a healthy week!

I was worried about how I would mentally deal with finishing Dopey, recovering and then starting running again. I mostly did quite well. I was overwhelmed and had little cries every now and again but I recovered well mostly. I had one major wobble. It didn’t come until Tuesday when we were queuing to get into Hollywood Studios. There were a few Dopey runners and marathon runners around and many of them looked very sore. I was feeling ok. I suddenly thought, wow I clearly didn’t work hard enough, I’m not sore, I should have done so much more… and I started thinking about points where I could have pushed harder. I soon snapped out of it but every now and again my mind goes back to that. I also forget or fail to recognise that Dopey is a pretty big deal. It can’t really be because I did it. And I don’t do things that are such a big deal.

I was also worried about getting back into running after Dopey. I struggled with that last time and London Marathon prep suffered as a result. I was concerned that I won’t recover enough to train properly. The first test came on the Thursday after Dopey. We decided to try a little run on the Contemporary running track. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how far I would go or how fast. I just wanted to see if I could still put one foot in front of the other. I could. I was incredibly tired and my legs felt pretty heavy. I trotted round a mile and a bit, took some pictures. Right at the end I felt my hip niggle a bit so I stopped. Overall, it was a good first trot out.

Dopey 2019 Reflections: why I’m (probably) done with Dopey

Dopey 2019 has been awesome on a whole load of levels. I am loving having done it. I am loving walking around the Disney parks with the Dopey medal. I am loving pausing every now and again to remind myself that we did something pretty special a few days ago. I am excited that I improved my running and fitness levels to a point where even the marathon was not totally miserable. It has been great. However, I’m pretty sure I’m done with Dopey. Here’s why.

1. Training for Dopey is pretty tough. Not significantly worse than for a marathon actually but Dopey training happens as the nights draw in, days are short and daylight limited and then there’s Christmas towards the end of the training. It’s not a great time to be training for a multi day running event culminating in a marathon.

2. I’m really really not a marathon runner. I will have one more go for the London Marathon but I don’t have anything to prove here and I think there are other challenges out there for me that I will enjoy more. I want to get off road more. I want to be a more confident trail runner. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it’s a serious distance but it doesn’t break me. That is absolutely true and I think with a marathon there is always a risk that it will break me and put me off running. I have learned never to say never when it comes to running but at the minute I feel like I have achieved what I wanted with Dopey 2019. There is no unfinished business. I am more than happy to take this Dopey and remember it as the marathon weekend that helped me believe that I can do the impossible.

3. Dopey is brutal in two unexpected ways. It’s not the running. The running I would do again in a flash notwithstanding the comments above. The first is the early morning starts. Even with the help of staying on U.K. time, getting up at 2.00am ish for 4 mornings in a row is tough and you get more and more tired and reluctant to get out of bed with each day. The second is the waiting around. There is no getting away from it really, at least none that I can see. Thousands of people have to get to the start line and then into the right corral etc so you have to set off early on the transport provided, then you have to wait. Waiting takes its toll. There is a lot of sitting around, standing around, just waiting and that actually makes running more difficult because even with a good warm up routine you end up standing around for at least another 30 minutes after that and most likely much longer. If you are a middle to back of the pack runner it can take another hour to cross the start line… I don’t think I want to do that again. Not for 4 days in a row.

4. Florida weather in January. It can be anything! So in terms of running gear you need to pack everything. It might not be warm. This year it wasn’t. It was cold, really cold for the 5k, the 10k was marginally warmer, the half was just nice and for the full, well it’s been the only really hot day we’ve been here so far. It was humid too and clearly I don’t function well in humidity. While dealing with whatever weather for one day is doable, having to run 4 races on consecutive days in potentially completely different conditions messes with my mind. Perhaps I don’t need that again.

5. Dopey is not to be underestimated. If you also want a Disney holiday and you want to play in the parks, it’s tough to do that during the race weekend. At least it is for me. We needed naps on each of the race days and we headed to bed early. We have a full week after the race weekend to do stuff which takes the pressure off and means we can still do our favourite Disney things. But we are tired. We had naps on Monday and yesterday, we have had a lot of downtime today and we are going to bed early. I’d like to combine a runDisney event with a holiday again but maybe with a half marathon, not with such a huge mileage challenge. Something that I can recover from more quickly and which means I don’t have to spend my holiday napping. I don’t feel like I am missing out because I’ve been here several times before and because we have prioritised our list of favourite things to do. I think if you combine Dopey with one of your first Disney trips you really need to be careful not to do too much and exhaust yourself. Disney can be full on and exhausting even without any running!

6. What are the chances of running three personal bests during the Dopey Weekend – one in all but the 5k race – again. Probably zero! I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead! For anyone else thinking about it though, it’s phenomenal, it’s magical and it is great to have done it. Just don’t rely on pixie dust alone! It’s a serious challenge and a serious achievement and I will wear my race shirt and my medal (and possibly the ears too) with pride!

Dopey 2019 Reflections: Logistics and (not) cheese

It’s the Wednesday morning after the Dopey Challenge. I’m going to milk this for all the blog posts it’s worth so there are a few more to come. This one is about the logistics, the race organisation and most importantly, the snack boxes you get at the end.

Disney races are unlike anything else of this size. The organisation is slick. I see grumbles on Facebook pages and I heard people complaining but I don’t quite see why. Disney can do logistics. They get it. So over the entire race weekend which actually starts on Wednesday with the Expo, things run pretty well and are well thought out. They have frequent and plenty of buses from resorts to the Expo and back, they have buses starting early to get you from the resorts to the races and the only slight glitch here was having to wait until the course cleared on 5k day. On half and full marathon day the monorail runs from the monorail linked resorts and it runs frequently.

I loved the fact that this time the monorail exit linked straight into the race village thus bypassing the main security bag check making this much calmer and taking the pressure off all areas. The start area is big enough for everyone with plenty of quieter corners to hide in. You can choose to be pumped up by the main stage or focused somewhere at the back tucked away. The corrals are easily identified and there are staff and volunteers everywhere telling you where to go and by when. You don’t need your brain, you can just focus on doing your race thing and follow instructions (and crowds).

Here’s the big one: toilets. There are porta potties everywhere. Queues are always fairly short, the potties are well stocked and re-stocked with toilet rolls and the loos are not limited to the start area. There are some along the corrals and then plenty on the course for each of the runs too. Race organisers take note. This is how you do toilets at a race event! The picture shows a tiny selection in one area.

The courses are extremely well marked and marshalled with volunteers, signs and announcements everywhere. In fact I suspect that ‘Caution Runners! Course narrows ahead’ will be stuck in my head for a while! While it’s still dark volunteers point out any corners or turns with glow sticks that remind me of lightsabres. Volunteers are also strategically placed along the course to cheer you on and shout encouragement.

Water and aid stations Are plentiful and have water or Powerade and Vaseline, biofreeze etc respectively. again they were staffed by fabulous volunteers and were set out on wide stretches of the course with both drinks at either side and plenty of room to keep going through the middle.Then there is the entertainment on course. I have read and heard a couple of grumbles about how limited and crap it was. I disagree. There was pretty much something every mile. There were character stops, music, DJs and then of course the very Disney mile markers themselves. That and of course actually running through the parks themselves. While you don’t spend much time in them, a mile max really, they do really lift you.

The finish line area is wide and the first thing you come to is the medals which are given out by enthusiastic volunteers ready to congratulate you on your achievement, then there were space blankets or cooling towels, then further on bottled water and more Powerade, then the mouse ears on marathon day and then the snack box and banana station.

So the snack box. I’m not sure what to make of it really. It was some nice bits and pieces in including tortilla chips, pretzels and some apple purée which I actually really like (but not immediately post run) and then there is this:

Despite its name this is not cheese. I don’t know what it is but it’s not cheese, not even anything remotely resembling cheese. Nothing should be dipped in it. This stuff, whatever it is should not pass your lips. Just no! The thing is, people have been saying this for years. Our Dopey 2016 boxes had ‘the cheese’. There were so many comments about it, the whole non cheese thing was named cheesegate. Well chessegate continues. But seriously, just no!

So if you want to organise an event, you can learn a lot from Disney, throw people at it, more people than you could ever imagine you might need, brief them well and then make sure you have enough space and enough toilets. Everything else runner’s are likely to forgive easily but insufficient toilets is a big no and so far Disney races are the only ones where I have actually seen enough! If you can’t make that happen, just make the bling ridiculous. Disney have that covered too!