Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Disney, Pt. 2: The Dark Side 10k

Happy Star Wars Day, friends! May the 4th be with you!

And speaking of Star Wars, let's talk Dark Side 10k!

As I mentioned yesterday, the impetus for our entire Disney trip this time around was the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10k. We heard about this new Disney race last fall and were instantly intrigued, and I considered trying to do the 5k, even though I was currently not running even a little bit, ever. But a fun Star Wars-themed Disney race was intriguing.

So, I thought about it some more. Maybe I could actually start running. I was looking for a way to start getting in some regular exercise, but I wasn't having much luck with anything I was trying. The main reason for that was, admittedly, my selfishness and/or laziness: every morning I would wake up swearing I would work out as soon as the kids went down for their naps that afternoon, but by the time naptime finally arrived, I was so in need of a break I would instead opt for working at my computer and eating mint Oreos. Needless to say, that was not an especially effective "get healthy" strategy.

But, we were going for walks every evening with the kids after their naps, so I thought, "what if we just went a little faster?" We bought a used double jogging stroller last year, so I thought that maybe if we put it to use and basically just picked up the pace of our walks, maybe I would do it. It wouldn't take time out of my precious little free time, I didn't have to wake up early or go to bed late to get some exercise in, and it was something we could all do together. I decided to give it a go.

And I decided to challenge myself right off the bat. I didn't want to just do a 5k (3.1 miles). I knew that on any given day I could go out and walk that. I wanted to do something that I'd have to actually train for a bit, something that would force me to get out there and keep working at it. And that's how Eric and I came to sign up for the Dark Side 10k this April.

So, I began running. Eric was an excellent coach and motivator, and with his guidance I ran my first 5k on New Year's Eve, and then we really focused on the 10k. In total, I ran 100 miles to train for the 10k and lost 16 pounds (since January 1) in the process. I felt great! And, I was actually enjoying (most of) my runs with my family by my side.

Race Day was April 16th, and I felt confident going into it. Eric and I got up at 3:30 in the morning, got dressed in our Star Wars running attire and went out to the starting line at Epcot. (My mom stayed behind at the hotel with the kids.)

He's the storm trooper to my Darth Vader!

We walked out to our corral at 5:00 a.m. and waited for our group's turn to start. Things got underway at 5:30, but, being in one of the back corrals, we actually got started about 15-20 minutes later. But, we finally had our turn at the starting line, and we were off!

Here goes nothing!

At the starting line, ready to run!

The course we were about to run!

Just before the first mile marker we came across our first celebrity photo op: R2D2! We planned to stop for all the photos, so we pulled off to the side to join the line for a 20-minute wait. It killed our momentum a bit, sure, but we were running a Disney race for this very reason: all the fun little "extras" along the way. Not long after we got in line, however, they closed it down behind us and didn't let anyone else in to wait. All those poor people in the back two corrals never even had a chance at it!


Mile One is complete!

Mile Two took us into Epcot for a bit, then out along Disney's Boardwalk. It was here that things started to get really congested. The course was narrow and there were far too many people in general, plus runner's etiquette had gone out the window and people were just walking across the entire width of the course. We were jammed in there and there was no way to actually run. All you could do was walk with the masses. I found that very frustrating, because I trained to run 6.2 miles, not walk it! But, we pressed on, running whenever we had a little opening and grumbling to ourselves when we didn't.

Welcome to Epcot!

Mile Two is complete!

Crowds of walkers

Mile Three took us through the gates into Hollywood Studios, where we paused for a photo with Darth Vader. Of course, our slow walking pace meant that race staff were rushing us along by the time we got there, warning that we were mere minutes away from being swept off the course if we didn't get moving. We rushed through our photo op and then picked up some speed. (It was in Hollywood Studios that my FitBit alerted me I had already reached my 10,000 step goal for the day - by 7:00 a.m.! Neeldess to say, I had never done that before.)

OMG how embarrassing. We totally wore the same thing.

Mile Three is complete! Nearly halfway there!

By Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios

Miles Four and Five took us along the roads between Hollywood Studios and Wide World of Sports. It was still heavily congested with slower-moving crowds, but every now and then we could find an opening to run if we ran off-road on the grass. Not ideal, but at least we were moving.

Mile Four is complete!

Cross Mile Five off, too!

There were more photo ops along the way (you could sit on a speeder and/or in the Emperor's throne, plus there were a myriad characters to pose with), but we only stopped for a quick selfie with a Rebel pilot before enjoying some open road and heading in towards the finish line. When we passed the sixth mile marker, we knew the end was near!

Quick selfie to show our support for the Rebellion

Mile Six is done - we're almost there!

What a feeling of satisfaction to cross that finish line! We did it!

Crossing the finish line!

We did it!

My medal!

We got our medals, water and snacks and took our official finish photo:

Yay, us!

Then, we checked out some of the photo ops they had set up at the post-race festival. There were eight different scenes set up: Boba Fett with Han Solo in carbonite; rathtars from The Force Awakens; BB-8; Darth Maul; storm troopers by Kylo Ren's interrogation chair; Captain Phasma; Darth Vader; and Jabba the Hut. However, by the time we arrived at the festival it was already 8:00, and they were closing everything down at 9:00 to clear out the parking lot before the race expo opened up for the day at the Wide World of Sports. So, we only took the time to wait in one line (we probably could have done two, but that's it), and again, I was left feeling sorry for the poor souls behind us who would probably miss out on this opportunity, too.

Photo ops at the post-race festival

Jabba the Hut!

But, we did it! I was feeling pretty good!


That is, until we tried to get back to our car. For whatever reason, the race began at Epcot and ended at Wide World of Sports. That meant everybody parked at Epcot and then had to take a shuttle bus back to Epcot to get their cars. I don't know exactly what went awry here, because Disney usually seems to have its life together, but this was a DISASTER. We waited in a line for a half an hour and barely made any progress at all. We were still so far away, we couldn't even see where the busses were picking up. I mean, we were probably six long line-snakes (if that makes sense) away from even being in the epically long straight line leading to the busses. There was starting to be talk of them not even guaranteeing that they would have buses back to Epcot for everybody. Staff members were strongly advising people to instead take one of the buses going to one of the resorts and then take the resort shuttle to Epcot. It was a nightmare.

We decided to heed the advice of staff and hopped on a bus going to the Contemporary Resort. However, we waited a long time to leave, then luckily, we had a pretty aggressive bus driver or we would've been stuck in traffic until the end of time. We did still have to stop at Fort Wilderness which made it a very long, roundabout bus ride, but we eventually made it to Contemporary. From there, we hopped on the monorail back to Epcot and fianlly were reunited with our car. We took our last photo at the post-race festival at 8:30 a.m. and were back to our car at 10:40 a.m. Just ridiculous.

But, we made it back and we completed the race! I was exhausted but we still had an afternoon at Hollywood Studios to look forward to. That will be coming up next!

As for me and running, we took some time off when we got back home after Disney, but we're back at it now. And, I signed up for another race: The Disney Half Marathon in January. I have officially lost my mind, folks. But, it's happening! I knew I needed another challenge to force myself to get back out there and work, so that's what's on the calendar. Get excited!

If you want to see all of our photos from the race, you can see the full batch here!

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