Race For Recovery

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Race for Recovery

Race for Recovery

I do not talk about what I do for a living much on here, but I wanted to share with my readers an event that we are hosting in March.  Now, this is certainly more interesting to my Memphis area readers, but Shelby County Drug Court is hosting their first annual 5K named the Race for Recovery 5K which will be at 9:00 am on March 29 at Overton Park here in Memphis, TN.  Proceeds for the event directly benefit the Shelby county Drug Court Program.  You can register here.

From the event website:

We are pleased to announce that Shelby County Drug Court Foundation is hosting the Race for Recovery 5K race on Saturday, March 29th, 2014 held entirely in historic Overton Park. Our goal is to make the Race for Recovery 5K an annual event. Following the race, we will have a medals and awards ceremony.

We invite you to run with us. For over sixteen years, Drug Court has been intervening on the lives and families of the arrested due to alcohol and drug problems. Drug Court reduces drug use, reduces crime, saves money, restores lives, and saves children, and reunites families.

All proceeds from the 5K, will go directly to offer services to participants in the Drug Court program. Services that help our participants become productive tax-paying members of Shelby County. Theses participants in turn will strengthen our community.

For more information about Shelby County Drug Court Foundation, please visit us at http://shelbycountydrugcourt.org/foundation.php. For more information about how Drug Courts impact our community, please visit http://www.nadcp.org/learn/facts-and-figures.

I have been doing this work for five years now and I can assure you that this program has a significantly positive influence on the community and that this money not only will be put to good use, but actually helps save the community money in the process.  At least once a year, I do a cost savings analysis for the program, and routinely, our program saves tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars per sample.

Register today!

Odds And Ends

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This is going to be a catchall post for some random events and happenings over the last week or so.

Susan created a photo book on Shutterfly of the WDW Marathon to help commemorate my experience there.  She used a variety of pictures from the event, the celebration after, and some of the events that preceded the event. I have added a few pictures so y’all get an idea of what she did.

Cover Art

Cover Art

I have written on here before about my transformation over the years, but I really have not posted many pictures of it.  Susan included this in the book.

My transformation

My transformation

Right now over at FitFluential, there is a challenge going on to do 1,000 burpees before February 28.  Participants are encouraged to use the hashtag #FFBURPEE and at the end of the challenge, one lucky male and female participant will win head to toe outfits from Under Armour.  This will be an excellent motivation for my upcoming Spartan Race.

Enlisted

Speaking of the upcoming Spartan Race, traveling to Tampa has proven to be harder than expected.  I was excited that Southwest was moving to Memphis, but after my first experience with them, I am not so sure.  Over a seven-day period, flights from Memphis rose nearly $200 per person!  And in fact, the rates seem to change hourly.  Last night, I was able to find a rice that was suitable to me, but once I tried to order our tickets, and was declined because the price of the tickets actually changed while I was checking out! I called customer service and was informed that I could buy one ticket at the advertised price and one at a higher rate.  I declined that option.  I ended up booking seats with one airline to Tampa and a different one on the way back to Memphis.

Atlanta today vs The Walking Dead

Atlanta today vs The Walking Dead

What is happening in Atlanta and Birmingham is insane.  It is concrete proof of how ill-equipped southern cities can be for winter weather.  And then there was an amazing photo today of the deserted streets of Atlanta that is quite similar to the famous shot of Atlanta in The Walking Dead.  It is eery how similar the two photos actually are.

Officially Registered for Dumbo!

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One of these is hopefully in my future!

One of these is in my future!

I was able to register early for the Dumbo Double Dare somehow this morning, so I am on track to earn my Coast to Coast medal this Labor Day Weekend!  I will also be earning a medal from the 10K, Half Marathon, and Dumbo Double Dare that same weekend!  That is a lot of bling and even more cash!  My 2014 race budget is officially exhausted, so any other races that I participate in will be local events.  But, I will mark off another state in which I ran and accomplish the Coast to Coast so those items can be marked off of my running bucket list.

WDW Marathon Medal Display

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Susan and I made this for my WDW Marathon race medal since it was my first marathon and we wanted it to stand out.  This is very similar to the display I have for my very first half marathon expect Susan and I made this on our own.  She did the painting and I cut it and added all of the mounts.  We may put Disney World down the right side, but we are very pleased with how it came out.

WDW Marathon: Everything But the Race

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I feel that I covered the WDW Marathon and my experience rather thoroughly, so this post is going to be about everything else that I did while I was at my runcation.  Susan and I traveled to Disney World on the Thursday prior to the marathon and left on Monday.  During that time, we squeezed in four days in the parks and several excellent meals.  And since we went down to Disney for the marathon, our approach to visiting the parks was altered slightly from what we have previously done.  Instead of going 100 miles an hour from the second the parks opened until the second the parks closed, we scaled back our time in the parks, but still logged several daily miles.  I also brought my GoPro camera along on some of the rides.

The Resort:  Usually, Susan and I stay at Coronado Springs when we visit Disney, but we could not book a room there for marathon weekend.  Instead, we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, which is the largest resort at Walt Disney World, and falls into the moderate resort category.  Caribbean Beach was very disappointing and honestly was overpriced for what you get.  The interior of the room felt and looked cheap.  There were pools, and beaches, and dining at the resort, as it is at all of the moderate resorts, but the rooms were lacking.  There are no rooms with king sized beds in the entire resort!  Our room had a cheap, white ceiling fan, a Finding Nemo wallpaper runner around the top of the room, and uncomfortable, bland bedding.  For the same price, Coronado Springs has ornate doors and decorations, much better bedding, and closer proximity to the amenities that make the resort a moderate resort.  We will never stay at Caribbean Beach again.

Nemo wallpaper from our room

Nemo wallpaper from our room

Thursday: Between flying into town, checking into the resort, the expo, and an intense rain storm, most of our day was consumed outside of the parks.  We did manage to go to Epcot late in the afternoon to ride some rides and dinner.  Test Track is by far the best ride at Epcot (sorry Soarin’ fans), even if it is just a Chevrolet commercial. and enjoyed dinner at the Coral Reef, which is an underwater themed restaurant with a large aquarium.  You pay more for the atmosphere than the food, but every time that I have gone there, I have found something worthwhile to eat.  On this evening I tried the grilled Mahi Mahi with laughing bird shrimp, hearts of palm, jasmine rice, cilantro, and a coconut-lime sauce.  Susan had the crab cakes and both were good.  After dinner we grabbed a cronut for a snack, which is the greatest thing ever!  It is a croissant prepared like a doughnut (not runner friendly), covered in cinnamon and sugar.  This was the first time we had one and it was not disappointing.  After our dessert, we watched the fireworks show Illuminations, which is a phenomenal show and it is the personal favorite of both Susan and myself.

The Cronut!

The Cronut!

Friday:  We did some park hopping, trying our best to maximize the value for our tickets.  Our day started at Hollywood Studios, where we rode the Tower of Terror multiple times and took in several shows since we were trying to limit the miles we walked.  We also were able to work in a ride on Aerosmith’s Rock ‘N Roller Coaster thinks to Fast Pass+ on our Magic Bands.  Dinner was at the Brown Derby where we enjoyed their “world-famous” Cobb Salad and grapefruit cake.  After dinner we headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check out the new Fantasyland, including Beast’s Castle and the new Little Mermaid ride since that is Susan and my sister-in-law’s favorite Disney movie.  We also watched Wishes, which is their nightly fireworks show.

I used my GoPro on several rides throughout the day, but honestly, they were not that impressive.  Tower of Terror and Space Mountain were too dark to be worthwhile, whereas the Little Mermaid ride is a little slow to post.  I honestly shot that one specifically for my sister-in-law.  I did not use my GoPro on the Rock ‘N Roller Coaster because I was afraid it would fall off (same as Test Track) and it was dark in there as well, so the video would not have been great.

Saturday: We started our day at Animal Kingdom, which is the best park to start at since everyone wants to go to the bigger parks first, so you can do everything you want in a relativity quick manner.  We rode Expedition Everest three times, Dinosaur, and the Kilimanjaro Safari within the first hour an a half of going to the park.  I got an awesome video from the front seat of Expedition Everest since there was not that many people to contend with for seating.  My video for Dinosaur was not great, so I will not be posting it.  So enjoy my video of Expedition Everest!

After leaving the park, we returned to our hotel to relax with Susan’s cousins at the pool.  I did make a return trip to the expo for some fuel and a last second walk around.  Dinner that evening was at Il Mulino and it was easily one of the best Italian restaurants in which I have ever eaten.  I took it easy, but all of our friends and family really enjoyed the food and wine.  The rice balls and gnocchi were both phenomenal and the Caesar salad was hands down the best I ever had.  The portions were huge and I am really glad that Susan and I decided to split the gnocchi.  And honestly, the place was the most reasonably priced meal of the entire weekend, especially when you consider the quality and amount of food you get.  I can not wait to return there when I can fully enjoy the menu and atmosphere.

Sunday:  After the race, we went to Germany in Epcot to refuel and enjoy some liquid refreshment.  My grandmother is from Germany and my mom spent many years over there, so I love German food.  Not to mention the gigantic beers that they serve there.  After lunch, I had to have another cronut, this time a la mode, and then we went back to our hotel to shower and crash for a couple of hours.  That was the best sleep of the entire week!

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

After our nap, we returned to Epcot for dinner at Le Cellier, which is the steakhouse in Canada.  My first impression of the restaurant was that every employee was incredibly attractive.  It was quite noticeable and unexpected.  Apparently there is something in the water up north.  Now onto the food.  Susan and I split the cheddar cheese soup and Caesar salad for appetizers.  You are also given a trio of breads, all of which were good.  Dipping the pretzel bread into the cheese soups was great. Then we both ordered the filet with wild mushroom risotto and the steaks were on par with any steakhouse that I have had the privilege to previously visit.  It was the most expensive meal of the trip, but it was worth it.

This is Disney Parks photo of the filet at Le Cellier. Ours looked really close to this actually.

This is Disney Parks photo of the filet at Le Cellier. Ours looked really close to this actually.

We enjoyed our trip to Disney, and even though we did not do as much as a typical trip there, we did hit all of our favorite rides and enjoyed some great meals.  I really did a poor job of taking photos of my food while in Disney, so I do apologize for that.

Walt Disney World Marathon Recap

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Now that is a way to start a race!

Now that is a way to start a race!

On Sunday, after months of preparation and dedication, I ran in my first ever marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon.  This is a wildly popular event, with over 25,000 registered participants for the marathon alone this year!  Add in the other three races of the weekend and there were over 45,000 participants in the running events at Walt Disney World!  Several of these runners were completing either Goofy’s Race and a Half, which entails running the half marathon and full marathon, and Dopey’s Challenge which entails running all four of the races on consecutive days!  As cool as those events are, and as much bling as you can earn from them, I did not participate in either one because this weekend was about completing my first marathon and I did not want to cheapen that accomplishment in any way.  Furthermore, I now have a next step, if I chose to take it, to strive towards in future years.

Often, Disney is associated with the premium price tag that one must pay for the privilege of visiting a park, buying merchandise, or even participating in a race.  But the company does pay attention to the details and very rarely disappoints in the desired quality.  The WDW Marathon Weekend was no exception.  Yes, there were some areas that could, and should be improved upon in the future, but overall, the entire event was ran quite well.

The Expo: The expo was not nearly the nightmare that I was dreading.  This year, vendors and packet pickups were distributed between three buildings at ESPN Wide World of Sports, helping with traffic flow and congestion within the expo.  There were signs everywhere directly participants where to go, and I did not have to wait very long in my line for my bib or race shirt.  There were also multiple areas dedicated to runDisney merchandise (because this is Disney and they do know how to turn a profit), which made it easier for runners to buy commemorative items and souvenirs from the various events.  I could not say no and left the merchandise booth lighter in the wallet, but with two new shirts, a commemorative pin, and decal for my truck.  I honestly could have spent more, but I did a good job of sticking to my budget.  And honestly, there really is not a thing that I passed on buying that I regret today.

A big-ticket item at the expo was the release of this year’s runDisney New Balance shoes.  I get the appeal in the shoes, but maybe not the $400 price tag for them on eBay, but the particular models of the shoes do not treat supinators well, so I did not have to worry about fighting for shoes for Susan or myself.  I will say that I know of several people who waited for over six hours to get shoes on Wednesday!  And this wait time was with Disney having a pager system for people buying shoes! Absurd!

Every running vendor imaginable was at the expo, and there samples galore.  I went to the expo twice, once on Thursday when we arrived, and once on Saturday since I forgot some race fuel and needed something before mile 11 on race day.  Both days the crowds were very similar, with the KT Tape booth and the runDisney booths being the busiest by far.  I did not buy anything besides some Sport Beans from other vendors, but I did enjoy browsing around  We were also able to register Susan, Susan, and Richard (the last two are my best friend’s parents who came to support me) for the Chear Squad gold level at the expo.

Chear Squad swag

Chear Squad swag

Chear Squad: Chear Squad is an excellent example of how Disney can turn everything into a profit.  Disney actually sells cheering opportunities for friends and families of runners!  It sounds a bit greedy, but with limited space and 25,000 runners, there actually was some value to it.  Without Chear Squad, Susan would not of seen me cross the finish line.  And that was worth the $65 price tag to her alone.  There were other Chear Squad viewing options along the course, but travel to them were next to impossible, and I imagine very few people could make it to multiple locations during the event and actually see their runner.  Susan gave up trying and just waited at the finish to see me.  Chear Squad members in the silver and above packages also get a swag bag with a waterproof blanket, t-shirt, and Mickey clappers.  Susan was glad that she registered for Chear Squad, but thought that Disney should have made better arrangements for travel between viewing locations and should have had someone dry off the bleachers in the viewing areas since it rained the night before.  If you are going to charge for seats, they should be somewhat accommodating.

Transportation:  This was the biggest catastrophe of the entire event.  Susan and I always stay on property when we go to Disney, and there is an internal shuttle service for guests to the parks, resorts, and shops.  And on race weekend, there were special shuttles to and from the expo.  This worked well for the most part.  What did not was race day transportation.  I was on my bus to the race by 4:00 am.  I was staying at Caribbean Beach, which is near Epcot.  I did not arrive to Epcot until 5:07 am!  And once you are dropped off, you walk across two of Epcot’s parking lots to a security check then to bag check then the porta potties (if you need them) then have a hike down a service road to the corrals.  This was nearly a twenty-minute process, so needless to say, there was no pre-race restroom break.

Also, there was no transportation for resort guests between 5:00 am and 7:00 am, so Chear Squad participants were left to fend for themselves.  Susan was able to catch a bus for last second runners, or otherwise she would have missed the first half of the race!  A little clearer communication on when and where she needed to be would have been helpful.  For future reference, spectators and runners should leave their on Disney property hotel by 3:00 am to accommodate for the transportation issues.

Running through Mexico

Running through Mexico

The Race:  The race itself was ran about as smoothly as possible.  The course was clearly marked, corrals were organized and entry closely monitored, there were frequent medical tents and water stops, refueling stations, and entertainment.  Bathrooms on the course were frequent, but there never was many in one location.  Corrals were released every three minutes and congestion on the course was not nearly as bad as you would expect for a race of this size.  I know some people thought the first few miles were too congested, but what race does not have that issue?  There was a constant stream of runners for all 26.2 miles, and it never seemed to be overwhelming at any of the water stations, of which there were twenty-one.  Apparently, the medical tents ran out of Biofreeze later in the race, but that is just what I have heard.  Bag check might have been the most efficiently ran aspect of any race that I have ever participated in.  Locations were separated by last name, so if your last name started with A or B, you went to one tent, C-E, to another, and so on.  You were provided a sticker with your bib number and last initial which was used to organize the bags.  Dropping my bag off and picking it up took about a combined forty-five seconds.

Weather for the race was not nearly as unbearable as last year’s event.  Temperatures were mild, with the temperature at the race start was 62 degrees, but the humidity was at 100% and the dew point was very high as well.  I was drenched by mile three, but thank goodness that these numbers dropped throughout the race.  By the end of the run, the weather was nearly perfect.  I did forget to wear sunscreen, so I had an interesting tan line from my GoPro camera strap, however.

Getting my second or maybe even my third wind in Morocco

Getting my second or maybe even my third wind in Germany

The Course: It is mostly flat, road with the only real inclines on the exit ramps for the parks and the entrance to the Walt Disney World Speedway.  There are a couple of narrow spots on the course, but the traffic in those areas was manageable.   One of the big draws of the race is that runners get to run through all four Disney parks.  And while this is true, the bulk of the miles still come outside of the parks.  You also run through ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Walt Disney World Speedway.  On the stretches of road outside of the parks, Disney has numerous marching bands, DJ’s, and character meet and greets to keep you occupied.  Captain Jack Sparrow, Lilo and Stitch, Jack Skellington Sally, Royal Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, White Rabbit, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, Christmas parade reindeer, King Louie, the gravediggers from Haunted Mansion, Dopey, Wreck It Ralph, Belle, Mulan, a green toy army man, and Duffy were the characters that I remember.  The line for most of the character meets was insane, so to take a picture, you were definitely would sacrifice some time.  My favorite portion of the course was the last three or four miles.  Once you entered Hollywood Studios, you had no more lulls.  You ran through Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Boardwalk to the World Showcase in Epcot to the finish line.  My pace picked up over these last couple of miles and there were several good photos captured over these miles, including one of me high fiving Mickey at the finish!

High fiving Mickey at the finish line

High fiving Mickey at the finish line

My Experience:  This was my first marathon and I really think that I chose well on the location.  I was quite nervous about how my body would react to the event.  I chose the WDW Marathon since it would distract me and help keep the negative thoughts at a minimum.  For the most part, this strategy worked.  I hurt my toe around mile 8 and had to fight that for the rest of the race.  Looking at my splits, you can definitely see a rapid drop-off from the point of the injury.  I am not sure what happened, but the pain was intense for the entire day and is still a little sore.  I do not think it is anything major, but I will monitor it for a couple of weeks to make sure.

The calm after the marathon storm

The calm after the marathon storm

If you were to ask me today if I want to do another marathon, I would probably say no, the half marathon is the distance for me.  Ask me in a couple of weeks, and I would say that it would be something that I would consider.  Ask me in a couple of months, and I would say something along the lines of, “Sure, I know that I can handle the mileage and I need to lower my time.”  So we shall see if I attempt another marathon, but as of today, I am just basking in the glory of knowing that I was able to complete this task and live to tell about it!

My five-hour race in just 7:48!  Obviously, my marathon video has been edited down.  So much of it is such me plodding down a highway, and who really wants to watch that?  I will also be doing a recap of the other part of this trip, vacationing at Disney, but for now, I shall leave you with my overall grades of the event.

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

Swag: A+: Good looking tech shirt, amazing medal, plenty of support along the route.  Prior to the race, I was a little bummed that this year’s medal for the WDW Marathon was not as cool as last year’s.  But the more that I think about it, I really do think that this medal is on par with last year’s.  Maybe that is just my enthusiasm talking, but it is definitely my favorite medal.

Shirts & other items from WDW Marathon

Shirts & other items from WDW Marathon

Course: A: There was plenty going on to distract runners and incorporating all four Disney parks was fantastic.  Runners ran through Cinderella’s Castle, on a race track, through Asia, through Champion Stadium, Downtown Hollywood, across the boardwalk, and through the World Showcase.

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Overall: A: Great race that despite a premium charge, it feels like I got good value for my money.

WDW Marathon Teaser

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As most you already know, my first marathon was this past Sunday.  I have been working towards this goal for months and realized my goal when I crossed the finish line on Sunday morning.  I am currently writing my race recap for the blog, as well as editing video from my GoPro (yes, I bought a GoPro, more on this later), uploading photos and the such.  I imagine that there will eventually be multiple posts about this event.  Until I do my entire recap (tomorrow or Wednesday, I suspect), here is my official race medal!

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

This is officially my favorite race medal!