Sunday, November 30, 2014

Guest Post: Avengers Half Marathon

As most of you know, my husband Eliot did the Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon a few weekends ago at Disneyland.  I asked him to write a guest post with a recap of his trip and the race experience.  Here it is!  Enjoy!!!

Photo Source: RunDisney
The Avengers Half Marathon was my second half marathon participating in.  However, it was my dad’s first.  My dad had three goals he wanted to complete this race:

  • 1. To Finish the Race
  • 2. To Not Get Hurt
  • 3. To Not Die

I trained all summer except the six weeks before the race due to me hurting my knee during a four mile run in late September. I was afraid of hurting  it more before the race so I decided to not run on it.  My dad, on the other hand, had not trained since May. That being said, here is how our race weekend went.

On Saturday, we arrived at the Downtown Disney Parking Lot after driving up from Oceanside, CA. My father and I headed towards packet pick-up while my sisters went into the RunDisney Expo while they waited for us.  We headed down the ramp onto the black carpet towards pickup where we signed our lives away and headed towards our assigned sign at packet pickup.

My father and I were both around the same bib numbers with me being 10268 and my dad was 10352. We were in the same line since we both showed no time to finish. In this race, there were only corrals A-H.  At the Walt Disney World half there were corrals A-P. (They have more room to line everyone up. One advantage to showing up the second day of the expo was that packet pickup was much quieter with less people.)
After picking up our bags, we headed back up the exit ramp and into the expo. Before entering the expo, we saw these flags in which you could take photos in front of.

We headed towards the line to pick up our long sleeve black race shirts.  We both signed up for an XL, however my dad decided to go with the larger size.  (They do run tight.)  We then headed across the expo to pick up our extra commemorative items. I decided to purchase an “I Did It” shirt, a magnet for the car, a Coast to Coast medal pin, and RunDisney shoe lace/bracelet lights.  Looking, back, the shoe lights weren't a great option since they have no off switch.  The batteries are not replaceable and they turn on every time they sense motion. (Making the batteries die quickly.)  We then met up with my sisters to head down towards the park.

My sisters decided to stop at Build-A-Bear while my father and I headed towards the parks to buy our tickets. My sisters and dad got season passes while I got the Premier Passport (an annual pass for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts).  We met back up with my sisters to find that they got me an Olaf Build-A-Bear!

We headed into the Disneyland and California Adventure parks for the rest of the day. My dad and I decided to leave around 6pm to head to our hotel for the night. It gave me enough time to get back to the hotel, repack my bags, and to get a good night's rest.  If you decide to do a race at Disney, I suggest you put your bib on your shirt the night before. This way everything is ready to go in the morning when you get ready. We had to be there no later than 5:30am. My dad and I took showers the night before rather than the morning. We were staying at the Motel 6 about a mile from the front entrance that night. It was much cheaper than staying at the Disney hotels. We went to bed at 9pm and planned to get up by 3:45am and to leave by 4:00am.
Sunday morning came way too fast.  (I'm not a morning person.)  I have a Fitbit and it told me I only got about 5.5 hours of good sleep. Unfortunately, my sisters arrived at the hotel just after midnight and woke me up, which didn’t help either. My Dad and I were in the car by 4:01am and headed towards the Mickey and Friends parking garage. Once we arrived at the garage, we showed them our annual passes, got our receipt and a special yellow tag and headed forwards. We turned left and stayed on the first level. Due to my father’s box on top of the car for skiing we got to stay on the bottom level. (A perk of an annual pass is free parking.) We got out of the car and headed towards the sound of the music. We then followed the corral signs and found Corral H. At Disneyland races, you get to the corrals before arriving at the morning stretching and festivities. We didn’t know this until after the race. We decided to go for our corrals so we could get as close as possible to the front of the corral. Below were the corral times.

Photo Source: RunDisney
There were 3,872 runners in corral H and that’s before some people decided to move backwards to be with friends. Below is a photo of when we go to our corral.

When we got to our corral (around 4:15am), there were about 50 or less of us.  As the morning rolled along, many more people showed up. By the time we started moving forward to get to get closer to the start line, the corral was wrapping around the gates. We stretched while we were in the corrals and my dad and I made some friends around us. At 5:29 they started getting racers on the course with the wheelchairs at 5:29 and elite runners at 5:30. We got to the start line around 6:10am.

This is what I saw when we arrived at the start line. They had us wait about 60 seconds before they got us onto the course. My dad decided he wanted to speed walk the course and I wanted to stick with my dad as much as possible. Since we were at the beginning of the corral, we had a good start on the balloon ladies.  We headed towards the back of California Adventure first.  I tried to take picture of as many of the mile markers as I could. All of the characters were all within Disney Property or in other words the first 3 miles. The only characters that I saw that were not Avengers oriented were the fire truck from Cars (in Carsland), Dug and Russell from Up and the Seven Dwarfs (on the Carousel in Fantasyland).

We headed towards Mile 1 where we were greeted with this Mile marker.

Between Miles 1 and 2, we saw Thor and Route 66. We also got to see a festive Haunted Mansion where Jack Skellington had taken it over for the holiday season.

Between Mile 2 and 3, we saw the Seven Dwarfs on the Carousel and walked through Sleeping Beauty Castle. This is always a slow part of the race since people are taking pictures down Main Street and it is a narrow spot.

We also went through back stage area and finished the Disney parks part of the race. We started running on half of the road. Mile marker 3 was on the other side of the road.

Between Mile markers 3 and 4, you are just running down Harbor Blvd.  By the time we got on the main roads, it starting getting very windy. This race was more difficult since the wind was either coming at us sideways or a head wind.  Due to the high winds, a lot of the mile markers were either broken or knocked down.  We guessed that the wind was between 30 and 40 mph gusts and at least 20 mph constant. By Mile 4, we had already been through 3 water stations. In addition, there were a few bathroom spots before this.  However, most were just normal bathrooms in the parks. Between miles 3 and 4, we also saw the best sign ever with Baymax.

At Mile 4, we were greeted by a fallen Mile Marker.

After Mile 4, we turned the corner to head towards Mile 5 and the Christ Cathedral. There is not much to see here except companies that are all closed due to the race. Between the 4 and 5 Mile markers, it was so windy that my dad and I both got hit in the face with some small branches and debris from some surrounding trees. Just before getting to the Cathedral we turned into complex. Mile 5 was just before the water, bathroom and medical spot.

After Mile 5, in the middle of the Christ Cathedral Complex, was the biggest bathroom spot up to this point. It was also a large water spot and a medical spot. This was only the second medical spot of the route thus far. My dad and I decided to keep moving and get some water while moving. Just as Miles 3-4 and most of 4-5, there was not much to look at while between 5 and 6. We went over the highway which was the biggest bridge we had to go over (or go under) during the course.
The Mile 6 location had a special sign the runners could hold while taking a picture with the mile marker.

About halfway between Miles 6 and 7, we got to another water spot. It was also the place I finally used the bathroom. My dad was slowing down a little at this point.  However, he kept moving as I was going to meet up with him after using the bathroom. After the bathrooms, you turn onto a paved trail that is in Anaheim. Under normal circumstances this would have been perfect- in this case it was not. Since it was windy, the sand was flying in the faces of all the runners.  Most of this section of the race, from Mile 6.5 to 8 (outside Angels stadium), runners were getting pelted with sand.  I was able to get a picture while the wind was down of runners in front of us.

You can see the sand flying off to the left of the photo. Mile marker 7 was off to the side and due to the glare on my phone I was unable to get a good photo of it. Just after heading under the bridge, you were able to see the big Angels "A" that stands at the front of the stadium. At Mile 8, the “A” was still off in the distance but much closer than when you were at the bridge.

Between Miles 8 and 9 was Angels stadium. 

We got to run into the stadium, onto the field (around the outside) and then out of the stadium. I was able to get a quick photo of my dad as he was coming into right field.

After leaving the stadium, Mile Marker 9 (like so many before it) did not work out very well. This time the Mile Marker was facing down.

After Mile Marker 9, we were able to get a Cliff Bar Shot that they were giving out. By the time we had arrived at the station, they only had Citrus (my favorite) and mocha (least favorite).  I grabbed four from four different people, slurped them down and kept moving. Just after the Cliff Bar stop, my dad and I saw what we never wanted to see: the balloon women.  I wanted to stay with my dad but he told me to run ahead and keep pace with the balloon women. My dad kept falling behind and I pushed ahead. As I was trying to push ahead and keep up with the balloon women, both my calf muscles started to pull extremely tight. The only thing I could do was push through it and hope that jogging would eventually stretch them out. They eventually did as we were nearing Mile 10.  However, I was still in pain due to the calf muscles. People behind me kept yelling out how close the balloon ladies were and we would start to jog after we heard them.  Mile 10 is usually the last time they pull people off the course; however, they can do it as late as just before mile 12.  Since I was pushing through Mile 10, I was unable to get a photo of it.
Between Mile 10 and 11 you head underneath a highway.  This time it was completely flat. I passed the hotel we were staying at. Below is a picture of Mile Marker 11.

Runners turned another corner and headed towards Mile 12.  I knew I would be able to complete the race. At this point, I had no idea if I was going to see my dad cross the finish line. We got to Mile 12 and ran into the back lot of California Adventure. I kept pushing ahead. As everyone was slowing down I was speeding up for the last 4 miles of the race. I made it to Mile 12, which was outside the back lot. I kept hearing cast members tell us how many miles were left throughout the back lot.  I started to hear the cast members say 1.1 miles then 0.9 miles then 0.5 miles. Then, as you head into the finish shoot, people were lined up on both sides. I was unable to get pictures due to my phone dying (I was tracking our progress) and taking so many pictures early on.  I then crossed the finish line.  (I know Marathon Foto has the rights to these photos but here is me crossing the finish line.) 

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
I finished with a time of 3 hours, 39 minutes and 25 seconds. My dad finished in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 23 seconds.

Photo Source: RunDisney
Unfortunately, I did not finish under the allocated time runDisney gives you, but I did get to do most of the race with my dad.  I got my medal, something drink and missed the Coast to Coast medal entrance. I had to walk back around to get my medal. After I got my medal, I looked towards the finish line hoping my dad would be able to cross. After approximately 10 minutes (that felt like forever), I saw my dad walking towards the medals.  He had finished!

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
I was so proud of him.  We then got our pictures taken together.  I could tell my dad was spent.  I was spent hoping he would cross.  (Here's another Marathon Foto copyrighted photo with my dad and I.)  

Photo Source: Marathon Foto
We headed back towards the car (very slowly) and relaxed before heading back to the hotel.  We showered, changed into our “I Did It” shirts and headed into the theme parks. We had to leave at 6 so I could catch my 9pm flight from Long Beach to JFK and then back to Maine where it was very cold upon my return.

Overall, this was a great weekend.  You will remember the 3 goals of our weekend.  I got to do most of the race with my dad, my dad finished, was not hurt and did not die. It was a success and he completed all three of his goals. In fact, he enjoyed the race experience so much that he wants to do another one and to complete it in under 3 hrs. I hope he is willing to do Disneyland Marathon weekend in September 2015.  Maybe we can do the Dumbo Double Dare together (10k Saturday and the Half Marathon Sunday).  Perhaps someday I will convince him to do a full marathon with me as well... maybe the WDW Marathon weekend?  
I'm so proud of Eliot and father-in-law!  I'm glad they had a great time!!!  °o° 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fun Find: Hokey Donut

It's time for Fun Find Friday!  Today's find is Hokey Donut on Etsy!!!

In honor of Black Friday, I wanted to share a shop from one of my first Etsy friends.  I met Cheryl when I was in the process of planning our Disney wedding.  Cheryl makes Disney jewelry and I immediately fell in love with all of her designs.  I've bought from her shop on a few different occasions.  (I really can't help myself.  They're just that awesome.)

Cheryl makes designs for the holidays, Disney Cruises, Aulani and events- like a Disney Wedding!  She has different characters, different patterns and designs.  She also has designs for popular movies, music groups, sports teams, sci-fi, and other well known characters.  You can find her Etsy store here and her Facebook page here.

Those of you who follow me regularly know that I have a weakness for Disney holiday items.  I was completely hooked when I discovered Cheryl's holiday earring designs.  So far, I've gotten some for Halloween and Christmas.  I'll probably have to see if I can get designs for the other holidays at some point.  ;-)

The other thing I've fallen for are her Origami Inspired Rhinestone Lockets with Charms. I've always loved floating locket designs.  Cheryl has made them a must have.  She's designed charms that are perfect for a Disney locket!  How cute is this Disney Christmas locket with the little snowman, nutcracker, wreath and Santa hat charms!

You can get charms of your favorite character, holiday, movie or even a Disney Cruise honeymoon design with bride and groom ears!!!

Plus, if you become a fan on Hokey Donut's Facebook page, you can receive the latest scoop on new products and specials just for her fans!  Also, yours truly is one of the featured customers on her cover photo!

Purchasing from Hokey Donut means you are getting high quality polished earrings and locket charms that are coated for protection.  These are great quality.  Cheryl also takes great care in shipping them so they'll arrive safely.

I have over 15 pairs of earrings from Hokey Donut.  I absolutely love them and they're my "go-to" earrings while I'm in the parks!  I always match them up with my theme park clothes.  I also have some for my eventual Disney Cruise and trip to Aulani.  I even have a Gryffindor pair of earrings for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  (The photo below is a few of the Hokey Donut earrings I have collected thus far!)

You can get customized options!  I ordered custom Disney Bride earrings with Eliot's and my wedding colors and I still make sure to wear them whenever I can.  Cheryl is great with specializing your order to what you want.  You just have to ask!

Here's the best part!!!  Cheryl is offering My Disney Life blog readers a VIP experience with FREE SHIPPING in honor of Black Friday.  The coupon code is MELISSA and it will be active from Friday until Sunday!!!  (11/28/14- 11/30/14)  All you need to do is type in MELISSA during the checkout process.  Please note, there is a $10 minimum total of your purchase for the free shipping.

So get on that guys!!!  It's a great time to get some!  These are perfect stocking stuffers for the Disney fan in your life!!!  In fact, I'm going to do a little shopping myself!!!  °o°

Note: All of these photos are from Hokey Donut's Etsy and Facebook pages. Cheryl owns the copyright on them.  Please do not use them without her permission.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!  I hope you've all had a fabulous day!!!  

Photo Source: Disney
We've had an interesting Thanksgiving as we haven't had electricity at our house since 4:30 last night.  I had more posts planned, but lack of power and internet have forced my hand.  That's ok.  Life happens right?  In light (or lack thereof... ha ha) of the current circumstances, I remind myself how much I'm thankful for everyday things like heat, electricity, the internet, lights and running water.  My heart aches for those regularly without those simple "everyday" things.  We're blessed that this is merely a huge inconvenience for us.  Don't worry.  Tonight we're in a hotel, warm, with working water and with internet.  We're ok!  Anyways... 

Every Thanksgiving I like to reflect on the things I'm most thankful for.  This year has been full of wonderful experiences and memories.  Each year at our Thanksgiving dinner, my family members each share what they most thankful for.  I think my gratitude can be put into one of seven different areas.

I'm extremely thankful for Eliot's job.  I'm so glad we took a leap of faith and moved to Southern Maine.  He loves his job and what he does.  We love where we live and we feel like we're finally "home."  It's a great feeling.

I'm also incredibly thankful for my new job.  Things have been a little hectic for us with the fire and all of the uncertainty that followed.  Now we're hopefully getting our keys in the next week or so.  We should be able to move furniture in soon and we'll hopefully be up and running in the next month.  I really enjoy my team and I'm very excited about what next year will bring.

I am so thankful that I took a huge leap of faith and (finally!) opened Happily Ever Hatter. I've had plans to open a hat business for a while now, and I've been so fortunate to have had a successful opening year.  I am so grateful for every sale I've had, every "heart" on Etsy, every "like" on Facebook, for each of my Facebook "fans" and for all of the support from my family,  friends and Eliot.  This has been a dream come true.  I am thankful that I have this as an outlet to share my creativity with others.

I am exceedingly thankful to be a part of the Key to the World family.  I had an amazing time meeting all of my fellow travel agents at KeyCon 2014.  This is just the beginning of a magnificent adventure.  I am so excited for all of the awesome things in our future.

No post on thankfulness would be complete without mentioning my thanks for all of you. When I started "My Disney Life", it was mostly something to do to pass the time.  I didn't realize how much I would enjoy blogging.  I'm so thankful for all of my readers.  I am grateful that people love my free Mickey and Minnie calendars and I'm happy to share them.  I am glad my blog gives me a good excuse to work random crafts I probably would keep pushing off otherwise.  You guys are the best!

I am also thankful for my family and friends.  I don't know where I would be without them. They've helped make me the person I am today.  Their love and support is never ending. For that, I will always be grateful.

Finally, I am thankful for my health and happiness.  I'm incredibly blessed.  °o°

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday to Me!!!

Today is my 30th Birthday!!!

Wow!  I can't believe I turn 30 today!  I remember 10 years ago when I was thrilled to celebrate my 20th birthday.  Time certainly flies.  I've had a great decade experiencing a lot of great moments.  I met my future husband during a college admissions tour.  I graduated from college with my interior design degree.  I went to Italy and Greece.  I traveled to Chicago, Las Vegas, New York City and Washington DC.  I attended a bunch of leadership, yearbook and women's conferences.  I was in a few weddings and we added many new members to our growing family.  Eliot and I moved into a house and are settling down.  I also took a huge leap of faith and launched Happily Ever Hatter!

I also had some great Disney milestones this past decade.  I was a semi-finalist in the 2008 Disney ImagiNations competition.  I went to Disney World multiple times.  (I think the count was 10.)  My Mom's family had a big reunion at Disney World.  I celebrated a few New Year's Eves and New Year's Days there.  I also celebrated Halloween and Easter there. I participated in my first runDisney event.  I became a travel agent.  I went to Disneyland for the first time!  Finally, last but certainly not least, Eliot and I had our dream Disney Wedding at Walt Disney World and honeymooned there.

It's definitely been quite an adventure.  Most people don't look forward to getting older, but I've decided to embrace my thirties.  I'm on a roll lately and things have been going great, so why not greet this new decade with open arms?  In fact, I decided that I wanted to take a page from Rapunzel's book and to make it the "Best (birth)day Ever!"  That's right. I'm having a Tangled themed birthday party this weekend with my girlfriends!!!

Tangled holds a special place in my heart since I walked down the aisle to "I See The Light."  I thought this was the perfect theme to start off the next decade.  I'm so excited to see everyone this weekend!  We've also got tickets to go see Mockingjay Part 1.  I've been seriously counting down for this movie for-ev-er.  I'm sure it'll be a great event!  I'll be sure to let you guys know how it turns out!

In the meantime, I'm going to see if I can find some birthday cake… °o°

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

KeyCon 2014 Trip: Day #7

My last Disney day, I woke up and packed everything up.  My flight wasn't until later in the evening so I had to leave my bags at the front of Pop for the day.  This required a lot of thinking to make sure I had everything I needed.  Once I was ready, I had luggage services help take my bags to the front and I said goodbye to my room.

I hopped on the bus to Blizzard Beach so I could enjoy a few more hours of the relaxing in the lazy river.  I floated around 2 times before getting off for another round of the toboggan racers.  I went on them once and had so much fun that I went again.  The second time was not as much fun as I smacked my left foot pushing off.  For a few terrifying minutes, I thought I broke my foot.  I hobbled back over to the lazy river and thankfully my foot felt better a few minutes later.

I went around the lazy river one more time before deciding I better get out to check the time.  (I was planning to go to the Magic Kingdom and I really wanted to catch the parade.)  I took a quick shower and got dressed in my park clothes.  Then, I returned the locker key for another Olaf bag.  (I had to get one for myself since I planned to give the other one to Eliot!)  After, I bought the Blizzard Beach shirts I'd found in the Beach Haus.

I made my way back to Pop Century to drop off my bathing suit and my shopping bag. Luggage services added it to the rest of my bags.  Next, I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for the parade.  The luggage guys didn't think that I'd have enough time, but I can move when I really want to.  Before entering the park, I went to Guest Relations to upgrade my seven day pass to an annual pass.  Yay!!!

I went into the Magic Kingdom and realized that I was not going to get a good view of the Festival of Fantasy Parade… until I decided to climb up to the Train Station.

I had a great view of the parade from up there.  I stood behind a few ladies who were seated.  Unfortunately, my cell phone ran out of photo space right as the first float went by.  The upside was that it forced me to enjoy the parade instead of focusing on taking a ton of photos.  The parade was amazing.  I fell in love with the costumes and the floats. The details in them were absolutely incredible.

After the parade, I made my way down Main Street for some last minute shopping over at Momento Mori.  I was determined to get the Haunted Mansion shirts for Eliot and myself, but they were still out of most sizes.  Instead, I headed over to the Christmas Shop in Liberty Square and bought the Christmas Duffy I'd fallen in love with.  Finally, I made my way to the Emporium to pick up a few more last minute gifts.

I was cutting it close on time, so I was unable to make the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean my last rides of the trip.  However, I still made time for my most important end of Disney trip tradition: I took one last look down Main Street at Cinderella Castle and made sure to soak in the view.

I said goodbye to Cinderella Castle and the Magic Kingdom and went back over to Pop Century to catch my Magical Express bus.  Luggage Services helped me get my bags and I waited for the bus.  Before I knew it, the bus was there, I was on it and I was headed to the airport.  I checked in, went through security and was on the flight home.  

My KeyCon 2014 Walt Disney World trip was absolutely incredible.  I met so many wonderful people, experienced so many new things and had the best time.  I can't wait to go back to Disney World in January and I really can't wait for KeyCon 2015.  °o°