Friday, August 29, 2014

Soooooo....Just How Many Attractions CAN you Do in the Magic Kingdom in One Day?

Okay…this may have been one of the craziest ideas that I have EVER come up with regarding a Disney park.  While planning for our September 2012 trip to WDW, I noticed that, on the day we were doing Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the Magic Kingdom was scheduled to have VERY low crowds; so low, in fact (according to, that this was in the bottom 10% of days in the year for crowds.  

That got my imaginative juices flowing…I wonder just how many attractions we could do in one day.  Now, I have to take a moment to discuss who “we” actually would be for this trip.  It’s not just “me”…I have the bladder the size of Texas, and, depending on the circumstance, I might be willing to wear Depends.  “We” also includes my wife and two boys (both under the age of 10).  In order to get them to come on board with the idea, I knew I had to incorporate a few rules/caveats/quid-pro-quos.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk at the pace I wanted to – dragging your kids through any WDW park is distinctly unpatriotic (with apologies to Sam Eagle).  I also knew that, with the Halloween party going until Midnight, I’d probably have to schedule in a break out of the park for a little while.  I also wanted us to have a meal in the park, to regenerate and to give our legs a rest.

Without telling anyone else, I started looking around at the TouringPlans “Ultimate” Magic Kingdom touring plan, which includes pretty much EVERY attraction in the park.  I took that plan and went into editing-monster mode.  I added the break…I added the lunch…I added the Halloween Party items.  The application that determines wait times and orders completely blew up – I was actually nervous that I broke (and wondered if this was how Fred Hazelton felt when he took down much of the eastern Canadian networking capabilities when he tested something for TP).

After a message to the gurus at the site, it was determined that (WOW…BIG SURPRISE HERE) I had too many things going on, with the break in the middle of the day, for the site’s optimizer/evaluator application to run.  I did a workaround (basically had around two hours of free time between my last attraction before the 3:00 parade and the actual parade), and, after not including a couple of items, I had the evaluator spit out a plan that had me hitting a TON of attractions before midnight…there were 40 steps that estimated us to be done around 11:45 pm…38 attractions!  I had a feeling that, based on the times it estimated, we’d be ahead in a couple of places to sneak in several more “bonus” attractions that took around 5 minutes.  I had my goal….50 (FIFTY!!!!) attractions in one day.


With kids..

With an afternoon break…

With (hopefully) an intact marriage afterward.

I strategically told the boys first to get them excited about the idea…that way it would be harder for Sheri to say, “NO”.  

Oh, don’t judge me…most of you would have done the EXACT same thing!

Luckily, everyone agreed, though I think Sheri was doubtful about my promise to not drag everyone around at warp speed.  The boys were genuinely excited about A) staying up until around midnight; and B) trying a whole bunch of new attractions at MK.

To improve our chances, we set up ADRs for Kona Café at 7:30.  This allowed us to be carbo-loaded (me with Tonga Toast and Sheri with Pineapple Macadamia Nut Pancakes) before the endeavor, and it also gave us a chance to have a decent parking spot at MK so we could save time by avoiding the trams when we left the park.

The day of reckoning arrived, and we were out the door of our unit at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek at 7:05.  Being that this was the first time we’ve EVER driven on WDW property, I spent countless hours figuring out how to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ on Google, and it was time well spent…not a single wrong turn the entire trip!  This was an easy route…left on Buena Vista and take the ramp to World Drive…simple as that.  We stopped at the MK toll plaza, and I took great pleasure showing our new APs that allowed us to not have to pay the parking fee.  We followed the cones and signs and ultimately found our way to our parking spot…front row…third spot from the walkway to the TTC.

Holy cow!

We parked, collected everything (including the ever-important clipboard with my sheet/plan), and started walking to the Polynesian.  As we walked, we realized just how spread out the Poly was, and, after a short jaunt to Georgia, we made it to the Longhouse for breakfast. 

We ate and were on the monorail to MK by 8:20.  By 8:30, we’re at the turnstiles and positioned to the left of center, so we could be close to the tunnel but still able to see the welcome show.  Sheri got the requisite train station/floral pics, and we waited about 15 minutes for the show to start.

Now, for an ultimate touring plan to be counted in the Hall of Fame, the participant must get pictures at every attraction.  Even though we knew that it wouldn't count, we decided to have a little fun and treat it as though we were going for it.  Be prepared...there are a lot of pics in here!

The boys were primed for the day...

The show started, and the game…was…ON!

  1.  8:50 – Welcome Show
    • We were on Main Street by 8:55...and, of course, we have to pause to get pics of the park all dolled up for Halloween.
    •   I knew Sheri wanted a Photopass pic on Main Street early to minimize the chances of the boys spilling stuff all over themselves before the pic.  I initially suggested that we wait a bit since Photopass was all busy (and I wanted to keep ahead of everyone); however, as we neared the hub, there was a free Photopass photographer, so we jumped in for pics…and, of course, about 40 pics were taken.  No problem…through the castle.
    • Of course...we stopped for even more pics (argh):
  2.  Cinderella Castle – 9:00 on the nose!
    • We stopped and grabbed pics by one of the mosaics before continuing through.
  3.    Peter Pan – 9:04
    • The folks from Crystal Palace and Cindy’s breakfast were ahead (curse them for doing the same thing we do when we book 8:05 ADRs inside the park).  Peter Pan was a 4 minute wait, and we were out at 9:12

    • Quick walk to the Winnie the Pooh FP Distribution – Return time 9:50.
    • As I got the FPs, we received bonus FPs for Dumbo, and I had to convince the rest of the Mushfam that we’ll try to catch it at night…it’s supposed to be much cooler at night.  I put them in my pocket and started looking for someone who might want them.
  4.   Tomorrowland Speedway queue line at 9:18
    • This one was just about a walk-on, and I was feeling confident that we were doing fine…4 minutes behind schedule, but we had Cinderella Castle done, which was scheduled a bit later on.  We rode around…I nearly got whiplash from Aaron’s driving.  We finally got to the exit portion, and, as luck would have it, we get stopped so that the CMs can add 8 more cars into the attraction…ARGH…that cost us a good 3 additional minutes.  This probably also meant that the line at Space Mountain was going to be a bit longer, too.  We were out at 9:28.
  5.  Space Mountain queue line at 9:30
    • The posted wait was 10 minutes, and I was hoping that it was an over-estimation.  It wasn’t.  We got on the ride at 9:41 and off at 9:46.
  6.  Tomorrowland Arcade at 9:48
    • This was a REALLY quick one…the boys did the basketball hoops, and we flew out at 9:50.  Time for our first new attraction for us at WDW…
  7.  Astro Orbiter – in line at 9:51
    • Elevator up and flying by 10:01.  Done at 10:05.  Elevator Down.  Boo-ya.
  8.   Decision-time…Philharmagic was up next on the Touring Plan, so we entered the queue only to find that we JUST missed the next show.  I made an executive decision to come back to this one later.  We headed out and hopped in line for the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.
    • In line at 10:14, on at 10:17, and off at 10:22.
  9.  Winnie the Pooh
    • We flew from the carrousel over to Pooh and, using the FPs that we had, we were in line at 10:24, on the attraction at 10:26, and off at 10:29.
  10.  Dream Along with Mickey
    • Knowing the castle would be closed for the forecourt show, we headed around the Tea Cups and hit the bathroom.  I had a particular place in mind to view this, and it was about as close as I could be from where we were (about 1 o’clock from the Partner’s Statue).  We got there at 10:33…just before Dream Along with Mickey started.  This gave us a chance to sit down a bit, too. 

  11.   Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It
    • After Dream Along, I grabbed a couple of drinks for us to enjoy while we waited for the floats to make it up Main Street.  There was a lot of energy with this short parade!  The number of guests was pretty low, though…I could see the hub really rocking when the park is full!  We were done with this at 11:19.
  12.  Dapper Dans
    • I had a little cushion with what to do here.  I knew I was running out of time to grab a ride in one of the Main St. vehicles, so we made our way to Town Square. I grabbed FPs to meet Mickey, and the return time was 12:10…EXCELLENT!  Oh, and, yes, we got another free set of Dumbo FPs, too.
    • After that, I initially jumped in line to get signed up for Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom, but the line was slow-moving, and I was watching the stable for any sign of them hooking up the trolley. At 11:40, we make our way to the little-known location for the trolley loading.  While we waited, the Dapper Dans popped out near the stables and serenaded us.  I moved to the other side of the Square to listen.  Yep…that’s what I want to do when I retire!
  13.  Main Street Vehicles
    • We got on the trolley at 11:53 and enjoyed a leisurely ride up Main Street around the hub.  Off the trolley at 12:02.
  14. Casey’s Piano Player
  15. Casey’s Piano Player
    • Waaaaaiiiiit a minute!  How/Why am I counting this for 2?  Well, we hopped off the trolley and immediately went to the baby care center to see if our friend Judy was in there.  We took a quick bathroom break, and we were at Casey’s Corner at 12:09. The piano player had already started when we walked by, so we listened for the required 5 minutes.  While we were there, the Fire Marshall (Main Street Character) came in and sang a song with him.  Hey…my plan…my rules!
  16.  Main Street Show
    • The trolley that we got off was soon loaded with the CMs for the Main Street singing show.  As luck would have it, it was going on as we left Casey’s and walked through the Emporium in search of Judy.  I stopped at one of the exits and watched them.  Yes, the pic is from just before they started, but hey, it's proof!  Start 12:15.  End 12:20.
  17.  Town Square Meet-and-Greet with Mickey
    • Arrived at 12:23…in line at 12:25, and done at 12:31 (see ya real quick!).
    • BREAK TIME!!! We were already by the entrance (yeah, it was planned this way…I’m an economist, so I want efficiency!).  We headed out, hopped on the express monorail, and were back at the car and at the resort by a little after 1.
    • This may have been a mistake, because, while we did rest for a bit and grabbed a bite to eat, we didn’t sleep at all, and we were all really antsy to get back to the park!  SOOOOOOOOO…
    • At just after 2:00, we were back in the car and back into MK.  We ended up quite a bit further away from our earlier spot this morning and had to take the tram.  Off the tram and onto the resort monorail (the express monorail just left as we approached the station, and a resort monorail was leaving the Contemp for the TTC).   We were back in the park at 2:50…just in time for: 
  18. Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade
  19. Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade

    • Yeah, I’m double-dipping again…sue me!  By some freakish twist of fate, there were spots available to view the parade in Town Square, so we grabbed some pavement and waited just a couple of minutes. It was then that I recognized one of the CMs directing foot-traffic around the square before the parade.  It was the well-known Barbara, who is famous for dancing during the parades and, in the process, lost a lot of weight.  I’m counting her as an attraction, and, yes, she was dancing with the parade!  3:18 was when the last float passed, and we then started our way up Main Street (next to the last float for most of the way).
  20. Carousel of Progress
    • We looked in the Emporium one final time to see if Judy was there, but it just wasn’t meant to be this trip.  We crossed back over and headed into Tomorrowland, where we caught up with the next attraction on the Touring Plan list…CoP.  Entered at 3:35 and was sitting down at 3:36.  Out at 3:58.  Across the hub and finally into Adventureland.  We grabbed a FP for the Jungle Cruise, with a return time exactly where I was hoping it would be…4:45.
  21.  Magic Carpets of Aladdin
    • In line at 4:10, and we had a slight delay here…on at 4:17 and off at 4:20.  I was getting a bit nervous because the next attraction was a show that was going to start at 4:25.  At least you can tell that we went back to the resort and changed clothes with this pic.
  22.  Pirate Tutorial
    • We high-tailed it out of Aladdin and flew to the Pirate Tutorial with a couple of minutes to spare.  4:22 arrival, and it started right at 4:25.  Over at 4:45.  I contemplated running over to the Frontierland train station to knock off the train as well as the Flag retreat, but there was no guarantee that we would be able to make it to Town Square in time, so I grudgingly axed it from the list.

  23.  Jungle Cruise
    • I told you I was hoping for a 4:45 return time…now you know why.  At 4:48, we entered the queue with our FPs, and we sailed away for our two-week trip at 4:51.  It was a quick two-weeks, because we were back at 5:00.
  24.  Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
    • We JUST missed the start of a show, so we had a 12 minute wait here…in the pre-show area at 5:02…in the room at 5:14…and out at 5:27.  
    • By now, the clouds were really starting to look ominous, so I decided to skip the Liberty Square Riverboat, which appeared to have called it a day.  We headed over to the Hall of Presidents and just missed the start of the show.  Knowing how close the Frontierland Shooting Arcade was, we headed over there next.
  25.  Frontierland Shooting Arcade
    • In at 5:32, out at 5:35.  I was a cheapskate and didn't grab a gun for myself.
  26.  Hall of Presidents
    • We were back the HoP at 5:40.  At 5:46, we’re in the theatre and watching our history.  Out just after 6:00 (I forgot to write down the exit time).  It was about time to start prepping for the party.  Before that, though, we were near Fantasyland, so we made a beeline past the Columbia Harbor House and hopped in the queue for Philharmagic.
  27.  Mickey’s Philharmagic
    •  This attraction was mocking me today…we juuuuuuust missed another show.  In line at 6:13 and not into the theater until 6:25.  Out.
    • By now, the rain has commenced, and it was coming down in buckets!!  We contemplated the Tea Cups, but there was somewhat of a line, and it was already later on in the plan, so we kept on going around into Fantasyland.  They were doing wristbands for MNSSHP near Stitch, so we got in line to dry out a bit as well as get legal for the party.  Since the rain was coming down in buckets, we ran across and get in the queue for…
  28.  Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
    • In line at 6:49, and our timing was perfect…in the room at 6:52.  Out at 7:09.
  29.  Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café (Sonny Eclipse)
    • The rain was really wreaking havoc on everyone’s plans now, so we continued working for the indoor stuff. We were getting hungry anyway, and Cosmic Ray’s was right there, so we went in and ate…and saw Sonny.  Out at 7:39.
    •  You I am creating this blog post, I realized that I need more Instagram friends...0 likes and 0 comments in many of these pics.
  30.  it’s a small world 
    • This was the longest line I’ve seen here.  In at 7:43 and on at 7:47.  That may seem like a short wait, but seasoned veterans know that anything more than a 2-minute wait in slow times is big.  Everyone was on it to stay out of the rain.  Off at 7:59.  We went through a Trick or Treat line and got some candy to keep the energy level up.
  31.  Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    • The line was just out the door as we walked by, so we thought it wouldn’t be too long…in line at 8:09...
    • ...aaaaannnnnd on the attraction at 8:24.  Yeah…it broke down when we were by Buzz.  This one killed the plan completely.  Off (finally) at 8:29.  It was a complete disaster because Aaron also lost his bag of candy on Buzz.
  32.  TTA Peoplemover
    • We skipped over to the TTA (yes...we actually skipped)…there at 8:30, on at 8:32, and off at 8:42.  As we got off of the TTA, there were rumors swirling around like crazy regarding the Boo To You parade being canceled and HalloWishes either being canceled or delayed.  We were completely playing it by ear at this point.
  33.   Pirates of the Caribbean
    • We headed to the hub to try getting some more reliable information on what was going on.  Eventually, we heard that there was only going to be one Boo To You parade at 10:15 and HalloWishes at 9:30.  It was around 8:50, so we had a bit of time to hit something before fighting for a spot for the fireworks.  I made an executive decision and headed towards POTC, which can move crowds quickly.  We arrived at 9:02 and were on at 9:07.  Yo Ho’ed out at 9:16. (no was starting to get a little late)
  34.  HalloWishes
    • We hustled towards the hub, made it over the Adventureland bridge, and veered to the right…in front of the Crystal Palace.  We were able to get to a place where we were allowed to stand at 9:22.  9:30 was the start, and I was too amazed at the show to write down the time it ended.  WOW!

  35.  Boo To You Halloween Parade
    • The instant HalloWishes was over, we made a beeline back to Adventureland and snuck through the bathrooms to search for a spot to watch the parade.  Knowing that the parade started in Frontierland, we could be one of the first ones done with the parade.  We found a spot around 9:50 where all four of us could fit without cutting in front of someone.  There was a young couple next to us that gave the boys their candy haul from the trick-or-treating.  Yeah, Aaron was happy.  We waited for the Headless Horseman, but the rain did not permit him to ride down the road (that just means we’ll have to head back to see it again).
    • Around 10:17 the first float comes into view…the last float passed at 10:35.

    •  Yeah, we had a better pic of the last float, but I actually had a couple likes on Instagram, so I had to show proof.
  36.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    • They weren’t even queuing the guests up…in at 10:48, on at 10:52, and off at 10:58.  It went so fast that I didn't have time to get a pic!
  37.  Splash Mountain
    • Yeah, we were already drenched, so did it really matter if we got wet on this?  In line at 11:02, on at 11:04, and out at 11:22.
  38.  Cadaver Dans
    • Many of you are going, “Who????!!!”  During MNSSHP, the Dapper Dans don different digs and become the Cadaver Dans.  We were able to catch them for a few minutes while walking back from Splash towards the Haunted Mansion.  We started watching them around 11:27, and we moved on around 11:32.
  39.  Haunted Mansion
    • I figured that this would be getting quiet as late as it was getting; however, this attraction proved me wrong.  Entered the queue at 11:33 and in the stretch room around 11:41.  A cast member dressed as a ghost rode with someone a couple of buggies behind us.  I don’t have a time where we exited, but I'm guessing it was around 11:50.

I thought about one final attempt at doing Dumbo but decided against it and threw in the towel.  We started heading down Main Street towards the exit...

 ...along with several thousand of our best friends (we found Waldo, too!)  As we hit Town Square, Sheri looked to her right and snapped this:



We all paused for a minute to reflect on the day...39 attractions in 1 day...with a break?

Yeah...we'll consider it a success.

This was a really fun day, and we hopped on the ferry tired, but with 4 large smiles on our faces.  Both of the boys crashed on the ferry, and we had to struggle a bit to wake them up long enough to make it to the car.  We all slept really well that night, and we even slept in long enough to make it to Epcot only 25 minutes after park of the first times we have ever missed a rope drop.

Soooooo....which ones did we miss?

NOT Country Bear was down for a major refurb.
Flag Retreat
Liberty Square Riverboat
Tinker Belle Meetup
Merida Meetup
The Great Goofini/Barnstormer
Casey Jr. Splash and Soak (though we got soaked walking across the hub)
Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom
Stitch's Great Escape
Swiss Family Treehouse (in the rain???  Not a good idea)
Tom Sawyer Island
WDW Railroad (oh, the horror!)
Tea Cups

Had we not taken the break, we probably could have taken care of most of them (though I doubt all of them).

See Ya Real Soon


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Taking a Slightly New Direction

When I started this blog a few years ago, I meant to have it as a storage space for the Trip Reports from Walt Disney World, but I caught the bug and started writing more about the family.  I then made a post regarding podcasts, and its popularity caused the blog to undergo a metamorphosis and change into a sort of repository for updates of Disney-centric podcast episodes.  That lasted for quite a while, and it gained popularity; however, I received many requests to add more podcasts, and, coupled with time constraints in real-life, I had a perfect storm of no time to do the podcast updates, the dreaded burn-out and a laptop with all my templates, iTunes, etc. dying.

The end result involved writing posts that simply were not to my liking.  Add to that the fact that others had started doing a similar thing (and doing a much better job), and I ended the podcast updates; however, trip reports continued, and a new format was added - my experiences with Team AllEars!  I utilized this as a platform for updates and fundraising announcements for the 2011 and 2012 Teams.

After the half-marathon in January 2012, I again went into a hiatus as I was over-invested with my time.  I was pulling an equivalent of 1.5 jobs with my teaching at both the University and the local Community College and my advising role at ISU.  I was coaching/assisting 2 different baseball teams.  I was heavily involved with our local scouting organization as both our boys were in - I wore several different hats on top of being a den leader.  I was also trying to devote as much time as I could to completing my Ph.D. work as I was starting to worry about the school allowing me to finish.  The end result was a total of 0 posts for all of 2012 and most of 2013, when it again became a platform for Team AllEars, which, if you're a reader, just concluded with the most recent dozen posts on here.

Well, as my life experiences have evolved over the years, so has the blog.  I feel that I'm ready to take the format of this in a slightly different direction.  In a way, it might be harkening back to an earlier version; in another, though, it's new.  I'm going to experiment with making this primarily more of a travel blog...more than just Disney-based (though you can expect to still see a healthy amount of Disney information, as some of the posts in the queue will deal with the Mouse).  Our family has been fortunate enough to do a little bit of traveling, and we have had a number of people ask for help in planning trips to some of the places that we've been to.  Most of these inquiries have been for help with planning trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World; however, we have also offered advice for people going to places like Branson, the Wisconsin Dells area, and, just recently, the Napa Valley area.  As the boys are getting older, I'm confident that we'll start more trips to places like the various Universal resorts, historical locations (they have already started these with other family members), etc.  I also haven't given up my journey/crusade in trying to get Sheri on our first cruise :) .  I'd like to include entertainment, dining, and more in these posts.  Granted, you may still see the occasional family blog post sprinkled in amidst the rest of posts...

The goal is to shoot for a post to the blog every week, though this can obviously depend on real-world constraints and writing material.  Hopefully I can provide good material for you on somewhat of a schedule. 

With we go!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - Epilogue

Several from the Team remained to watch us finish:

Afterwards, Phil and Evelyn DeLuccia offered to drop some of the runners off at their resort, and Steve and I took them up on the offer.  Steve hopped in the shower first, and I jumped on Facebook to start getting caught up.  I was overwhelmed with the likes, well-wishes, and congrats from everyone on there…I was rendered speechless.

After getting cleaned up, we headed out for the bus for Epcot and had to wait about 25-30 minutes.  A bunch of friends were meeting up at La Cava del Tequila, but I initially passed as I wanted to stay on my feet.

I know…the horror!!

The bus stopped at several other places in Caribbean Beach, and I struck up a conversation with another marathon finisher from Alabama.  It was funny because I remembered her saying she was planning on eating around a side of beef at Le Cellier.  While that in itself might not be funny, I checked Twitter while in a queue line at Epcot not long after arriving there and saw someone who I followed that looked a LOT like the girl I was talking to on the bus tweeting about eating a huge hunk of steak.

Yeah, I was talking to @BamagirlRUNS aka Kristin Long on the bus without even knowing who she was!  We exchanged tweets over the incident and laughed it off.

After a couple of attractions (Gordon Harvey reminded me to move around and not sit too much…but Living With the Land was SUCH a niiiiiiice, calm, peaceful boat ride…), I still had about an hour or so to spare before my ADR at Biergarten.  I decided to head over to La Cava and toast our collective races for a few minutes.  Sure enough, they were all still there, and a seat was still open!  I was only able to stay for about 25-30 minutes, but the servers were overwhelmed with runners “rehydrating”, and the check took quite a while to get here.  I won’t name names, but one of the members there ended up picking up the tab for everyone’s queso/flights/shots and refused to take any money.  More on that later…

I knew that Brian Swann and a friend had an ADR at Biergarten about 30 minutes after my ADR, and we agreed to meet up.  I left the Mexico pavilion about 5 minutes after my ADR time and slowly strolled over to Germany.  About 15 minutes later, Brian and his friend show up, and we asked the CM manning the front to see if I could just be seated with them.  YEP!

Brian and I (and his friend, who hailed from Indiana) were seated with a larger family from somewhere in Europe (can’t remember…sorry!), and we immediately started taking care of our runger (runner’s hunger).  I was able to talk to Brian briefly the previous April when a large group of friends met up at Via Napoli for a mini “Moose Meet” (Go back to the first installment of this saga to read about that), but he wasn’t able to stay then.  It was great catching up with him.

After that was the Main Team AllEars Dessert Party and meet-up.  Back in 2012, I initially wasn’t going to do this, but one of the Team members wasn’t feeling good and let me use their wristband (again…they wouldn’t take any money).  I absolutely loved this, and there was no way I was going to miss this one.  There were lots of smiles and laughs, and, yes, even a few tears shed as most of the group was together for one last time (while there was a breakfast the following morning, many had to catch earlier flights and couldn’t make it).  The line of the night had to go to Laura Smith Ozo, who, while talking to me and Ed Russell, mentioned something about “K-Y tape” instead of K-T tape. 
After having a beer at Biergarten (when in Rome…or Munich, as the case was), I didn’t want to push the gout potential, so I steered away from my beloved Mickey Rice Krispy treats.  I stuck to coffee and a couple of cookies, while cursing my big right toe for all it has done to me.

All-too-soon, Illuminations was about to begin, and I decided to stream the show for those at home to see it.  I’ll readily admit that I initially was not a fan of Illuminations, but, as I watched it more and tried to understand the story line, it has become one of my favorites.  This one was probably the best…during the show, I took some time to look around and watch the rest of the Team.  As I was moving the phone around to take it all in for the live stream, I paused to get Deb…to get the Troosts…to get some of the Nerd Herd…to those helped get me through some of the tough parts of the training.  Near the end, I paused when I noticed the captains, Mike and Michelle, along with Beci, together near the back of the area, smiling as they watched the fireworks.  It was a perfect visual to wrap up the night.

After Illuminations ended, many of us stayed around as long as the cast members would tolerate, and we slowly made our way out of the park.

I don’t remember much after getting back to the room…I packed a little bit and crashed on my bed, snoring within a few minutes.

The next morning had us up surprisingly early…I think we were awake before the wake-up call.  We finished packing and headed to the Custom house for our airline check-in.  That took a little longer than anticipated, so Steve and I hopped on a cab to the Poly for the good-bye breakfast.  We bustled around the entrance to Kona Café while we awaited it to open.  I was fortunate to sit next to one of the Team members that I simply hadn’t had a chance to get to know too well…Dan Fulk.  
As was with the dessert party, there was a lot of laughing and hugging at this meal, as an occasional Teammate departed for a park or a plane.  Since I had the tonga toast only 2 days ago, I opted for my second favorite…the pineapple-macadamia nut pancakes.  The person who paid for La Cava the previous day and I split a pressed pot of the 100% Kona coffee, and I told him/her that it was going on my tab to offset some of the tequila.

As luck would have it, the server didn’t separate my check from the person across from me, and he/she offered to just pay for it.  I could tell by the faint glimmer in his/her eyes, however, that I don’t think it was a mistake.  You know who you are…I know I thanked you there, but I wanted to do it again on here.  I sincerely hope our paths cross again sometime!

Soon it was time for all of us to go as we had monopolized about 40% of the restaurant’s seats for quite a while.  I got one last pic with Ellie:

Steve was heading to Animal Kingdom with some of the Nerds, while I decided to head back to Epcot.  We all got in line to give Deb and Linda our best wishes and hugs, too.  There were also long lines to talk to Michelle and Mike one final time.

…and then…

…Team AllEars was done.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the runners of Team AllEars over the years.  I want to name them individually, but I know I'd miss several.  From my first time on the Team in 2011 to our final Team in 2014, please accept my heartfelt "thank you" for helping raise money to defeat cancer; for giving me many, many laughs as well as a few tears; for helping each other out on the bad days and for cheering each other on the good days; and for so much more.  I consider all of you friends, and I hope we get to see each other again!

The group of runners…we were the visible portion of the team.  Dave Aulen made a great compilation of this year’s races, which you can see here:

There is a hidden part of the Team, however, aside from the family members who have also sacrificed (Love you forever, Sheri!!).  I may have run the race, but the real heroes are the ones who gave their money in the hopes that we can make progress on cancer.  Here is the final roll call of my sponsors:


Sheri, Aaron, & Eric Mushrush..........................125
Jim and Karen Guglielmo................................100
Vicki Killus.........................................................100
Dan and Jen Metsch.........................................100
Chris Mushrush (Match contest).........................100
Avanti's Dine to Donate Program.........................80
Patrick and Julie Miller........................................70
Jim and Jean Beierlein......................................50
Brad and Emily Griffin..........................................50
Thia Wagner........................................................50
Joe's Station House Fundraiser...........................50 
Denise Frederick.................................................30
Tom and Rebecca Bingley...................................25
Double-C Boutique..............................................25
Barb and Bob Gilhaus.........................................25
Michael Mayers....................................................25
Meatheads Restaurant Fundraiser.......................25 
Robert and Cynthia Miller....................................25 
The Mouser Family..............................................25 
Dan and Jayne Mushrush.....................................25
Sandra Perkins...................................................25
Heather Sullivan................................................25
Louise Wallace...................................................25
James and Carol Kunce......................................20
Andrew Miller.......................................................20
Kurt and Tricia Williams.....................................20 
Sara Rhodes......................................................10

TOTAL: $1,575


Thursday, July 17, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 5

Part IV can be read HERE.

We turned left back onto Osceloa and awaited our meetup with Laura.  Laura never disappoints!  She had signs posted a good 100 yards before her post with her thingimajig.  We got there with tons of smiles waiting for us!  She was handing out oranges, which tasted absolutely amazing.  She let us know that Tom Troost had just left here and was only about 3 or 4 minutes ahead of us.  We told her that the Nerd Herd would probably be coming up in the next 10 minutes, too.
We gave hugs and said our goodbyes, but then I heard a “MUSH!!!” behind me.  Laura raced to catch up with me for a selfie! 

After the pic came Mile 21 (16:14 and 162)…the oranges helped, plus, I had a new goal…to get us to catch Troost to try to finish with him!  First, though, we had to do battle with the Ramp-from-Hell onto World Drive.  It has a significant uphill portion in order to clear the main entrance to DHS before dropping down to World Drive.  Sarge, from the Green Army Men, was placed there, and I contemplated dropping for 10 push-ups; however, I feared not being able (or having any desire) to get back up to finish the race.  I gave my best salute as I went by, though.

After much cussing and gnashing of teeth, we made onto World Drive, where RunDisney had another music selection near the Mile 22 marker (17:04 and 162).  This one was the online poll, where we could vote for which song would be played.  The options were Let it Go, Don’t Stop Believin’, and Firework.  My vote was for Let it Go, but the votes were so close that RunDisney decided to play all 3.  I got to hear two of the songs…

Guess which one I didn’t get to hear.

Ellie was nearing “back teeth are floating” stage, so we stopped near the medical tent on the off-ramp from World Drive to Buena Vista.  There were a couple of porta-potties there, and Ellie hopped in line.  The line was only 3-deep, but we think that people fell asleep in there, because the line crawled. The wait helped me, though, because I was able to drop my heart rate to below 150 for the first time since Mile 15.

As we passed the medical tent near the on-ramp to Buena Vista Drive, I started taking inventory of where we were and what we had to do yet.  We had Hollywood Studios, and we had Epcot.  We knew there would be crowds in both, and we knew that we’d have 2 cheering squads near Yacht & Beach as well as by the Mexico Pavilion (the Nerds and their margaritas…).  We had a chocolate stop by Tower of Terror soon.  I was nearly out of Gatorade and was going to hold off on PowerAde as long as possible (to avoid any chance of a gout flare-up post-race).  I was definitely tired, but, thus far, my body was holding up.

While waiting for Ellie, I paused to check Facebook for more of Sheri’s inspirational message.  I noticed that Ellie had posted something on my wall.

It simply said: 18 I heart Chris Mushrush

That one got me.

Little did she know that the tables were about to turn.

Darrell was still with us, and, after Ellie made her way back to us, we all started motoring up the onramp towards DHS.  Right as we made the right turn to enter Studios backstage, my left calf gave me a little indication that it didn’t really appreciate all that I was asking it to do…it gave me sort of a “mini-cramp”.  It was about 15 seconds into our 30 second run, and we all shut it down and skipped a run interval.  A couple of minutes later, I tested out the leg on another run interval, and it seemed to hold.  Ellie asked if she should drop out at the Studios, and told her that we could almost moon-walk it the rest of the way…besides, once we made it past the Studios parking lot, we were pretty much home free as they likely wouldn’t sweep us past that point.

We entered backstage and started praying for a breeze to help propel us to the next stop…I also said a silent prayer that they had not yet run out of chocolate!  After 2 more mini-cramps in my leg, we made it to the water stop, where I finally broke down and grabbed some PowerAde to replenish my empty water bottle (I also topped off my water in my belt).  I nearly kissed the kids handing out the mini chocolate bars.  I got 3 of them and immediately wolfed down the first with water.  The second one soon followed…then I was full.

Seriously?  Free candy bars, and I can’t even eat them??!!!  I asked around if anyone wanted my last one, but nobody around me bit (rim shot), so I grudgingly threw away the last one before it started melting. 
Mile 23 came and went (19:40…bathroom break added the time…average hr was a little lower at 158), and I realized that we only had about 5K to go.  About 5 minutes after eating her chocolate, Ellie…well…how do I put this…let’s just say that I think her blood sugar levels were a little low just before taking in the chocolate.  She got this HUGE surge of energy and looked like the Ellie from Mile 3!!  

At the exact same time, my right calf decided that it was also being neglected and started micro-cramping too.  We took a left and entered the air-conditioned, enclosed, perfect, costuming area from the Backlot Tour.  Ellie was on a mission now, and she was starting to pull away…I told her to keep going…I’d catch up after I walked the span of the air conditioning.  Darrell positioned himself between Ellie and me to keep tabs on both of us.
I was starting to get a little mad at my legs…yeah, even I think it sounds stupid.  I was starting to slow down the other 2, and told them to go ahead and finish…I’ll be able to complete it.

The tables had turned that quickly.

Both Ellie and Darrell said they’d pick me up and haul me over the finish line if they needed to.   I buckled down and started focusing on giving them both the RUN and WALK intervals.  Ellie was about 25 yards ahead of me as we worked our way through Studios.  As we were about to take a left off of the Streets of America onto Commissary Lane, I started about 5 seconds before the run to try to close the difference a little.  When the “official” time to start running came, I hollered out a “RUN!”, not realizing that the Streets of America facades made for a really good echo chamber.

Everyone around me jumped and wondered what was up with me.

I think I had 4 or 5 spectators in the park start running.

Ellie could definitely hear it – she turned back to see if I had donned a drill sergeant’s uniform from the costuming area earlier.

After hearing how loud that one was, I started laughing and apologized to those around me whose heart rates jumped about 20 beats per minute.  

Ellie was getting stronger by the minute and was running GREAT as we made it to Hollywood Boulevard.

That blue blur at the beginning of the video was Ellie streaking by.

Darrell mentioned that his wife was near the entrance to Studios.  I asked him what her name was and told him I’d make sure she knew we all knew her.  Ellie slowed down to wait for us as we approached the entrance.  We passed through, and, as we weaved to the Boardwalk Pathway, Kerri (Darrell’s wife) appeared.  We let out this huge barrage of KERRRRRIIIIII!!!!!!  WE LOOOOVVVE YYOOU!!!!!!!!!  Embarrassed but happy to see her husband, they talked for a quick minute, and she gave Darrell a shirt to hold up at the finish line (the “I DID IT” one).
I started ahead of the others a bit because I knew I’d be slowing them down in no time at all.  Ellie ran next to me again for a while, and, as we passed the last point where the busses could be at to sweep us, I told Ellie that there’s no sweeping us now.

That got all three of us a small surge of energy.  The only real problem that my surge was smaller than the other’s.  The course REALLY narrowed at this point, and we more or less had to go single-file as we worked our way towards the Boardwalk Resort.  Despite the time, there were still a LOT of people out cheering on the walkway, which really helped.  Many items of food, as well as a couple of beers, were offered our way.  We made to the Mile 24 marker (16:38 and 161).  Our next source of inspiration was just across the bridge by the Swolphin…Deb was going to be there with a bunch of people cheering.  Ellie saw them and kicked into 4th gear.  I told Darrell that Deb was going to be at this one and that we’d probably stop for a second.

As Darrell and I made it to the top of the Swolphin bridge, I spotted Team AllCheers, who were all starting to do the MUUUSSSHHHH MUSHMUSHMUSHMUSH! Chant.  I took the downhill part of the bridge quickly and immediately cramped up again, so I glided into Team AllCheers rather gingerly.

  I gave Deb a quick but huge hug.  Team Member Kim Scharoff held up a Gatorade and asked if I wanted it.  I just stared at her for a second in bewilderment…how the heck did she know??!!  I talked about carrying Gatorade to her in passing because of the gout issues, and she went out and bought one for me to have for the finish.  I nearly kissed her for that…thanks, Kim!!!!

Before we left, I inquired about how far ahead Tom was, and they mentioned that he was about 5 minutes ahead but that Molly and the girls were camped out by the International Gateway (and then quietly…and they had a beer for us).  Depending on how much he chatted, we might be able to catch him.  We said our goodbyes and threw the run/walk interval out the window.  We decided to stay together and run as long as the three of us could until we had to walk…usually 15-20 seconds.  We saw another small Team AllCheers contingency between Deb’s crew and the Troost clan.

Then we saw Molly and (I think) Maggie up ahead. We had just finished a run portion and walked in (well, Ellie soared in…still on the chocolate high). 

Molly’s smile was just awesome, and, before I could even say “HI!”, she pointed to the cooler with our selection.  I initially declined (with the AllEars logo on my shirt, I didn’t really want to be seen with a beer can in my hand), but Molly said they had Red Solo cups for us to take.  As expected, I started singing the song.  I looked at Ellie, who didn’t want a full one, so we popped open a Mich Ultra and poured it into 2 cups.  I handed one to Ellie, and we toasted the Troost family for their awesomeness.

Photo Courtesy of the Troost Clan!

That was seriously the best-tasting beer I have ever had in my entire life.  I immediately regretted having only half of one.  Tom was only about 2-3 minutes ahead of us and feeling good…it was going to be close on whether we would be able to catch him or not.
We parted ways and approached the hill for the International Gateway.  The beer was gone within about 45 seconds of leaving them, and I was feeling good…no…GREAT!  I needed the carbs, and the beer seemingly supplied it instantly.  We entered that backstage area of Epcot and approached the final water stop – the volunteers made a big deal about it being the final stop…both for the fact that we were almost finished and for the fact that this was the last opportunity to get water/Powerade.  I passed on the water and wanted to get to the U.K. gate as soon as possible…I remember when I cheered at this spot 2 years ago and saw how big the smiles were as the runners entered the final park of the marathon.
The carbs in the beer apparently were used up, and I hit the wall in the span of about 25 seconds…about 25 seconds after we passed the last water stop.


We made a right-hand turn, and we caught our first glimpse of on-stage Epcot.  The torches were burning, and the music was blaring!  YES…we’re here!!!!!   Right as we entered the U.K. Pavilion, we saw a photographer clicking away.  Ellie and I had the same idea at the same time and got this pic:

(best pic of the marathon!!!)

After the pic, I turned to Ellie and said, (paraphrasing to keep this G-rated), “Ellie, we’re in Epcot!”

She repeated the exact (paraphrased) words back to me.
It was right at this time that I realized we were going to finish it.  I had to fight a couple of allergies that suddenly came up as I heard the supporters cheering and the inspirational music in the background.  Darrell took a moment to read a note that his niece wrote to him, and he was fighting back tears.  He showed it to us, and more allergies just about got to me.  I looked around for the WDW Radio Cheering Team (Lou, Deanna, Beci, and many of the Team often set up a cheering section in the U.K., too), but I wasn’t looking at the right place and missed them.  The U.K. was behind us, and mile 25 appeared on (what I never realized until just then was) a hill on the way to France. Mile 25 had us at 17:01 and 165 on the average heart rate.   Not a bad pace, considering we stopped a couple of times for Team AllCheers. 

The hill to France (again, I don’t ever remember it being there until now…I think they put it in for the race) nearly did me in, and I got sluggish heading up the bridge.  As we started the trek, down, I heard a voice calling out for Ellie and me – Team AllEars runner Rhonda Speer was out cheering for us on the France side of the bridge.  She was at the perfect place, and I really needed that.  I don’t think she realized it, but her presence gave me an absolutely huge boost…thanks, Rhonda! 

I realized that the energy was completely gone, despite another loading of energy beans and Gatorade.  I again told Ellie and Darrell to finish…I wouldn’t be too far behind.  Darrell again threatened to toss me over his shoulder across the finish line in order for us to complete it together.  I laughed and then entered a stage where I started reflecting.  I took in the music, but I also took a few minutes to think about the journey to get to this point.  My mind started going to the reason I joined the Team, and I got to thinking about those who we’re raising money for.  I looked at those around me doing the same thing and wondered about their stories.  That got me from Morocco to Japan.

Again out of energy, I trudged past the American Pavilion to the support of many people taking time from their vacation to cheer us on.  I thanked them and tried a couple more 10-15 second run intervals.  Ellie was checking up on me every few minutes, and Darrell maintained a distance between the three of us.  I really focused on the music being played for what most WDW marathoners call the “victory lap” around World Showcase Lagoon.  I looked over to Spaceship Earth and then just looked ahead.

What the…

I snapped out of my trance and looked over to my right.  Jay Griffith had been waiting in the Italy Pavilion for me to make it past.  I gave him a big smile and a, “Thanks, Jay!” as I gave a thumbs-up sign.

There it was…the next surge.

That carried me to the Outpost.

Now it became a Country-to-Country battle.  Every time I tried to start a run interval, my calf would cramp up within 5-10 seconds, and I was starting to get into my head and beating myself up.  I hobbled past China and looked for a cast member from Norway to try to lift my spirits.   I started doing the “You are not de virst to pass this vay…nor vill you be the last” phrase as my mantra as I passed Akershus and Maelstrom.  Darrell slowed up to make sure I was still alive

As I transitioned over to the last country, I knew some of the Nerd Herd would be there, and, after having been standing there for a few hours with margaritas nearby, I knew it was going to be interesting.  Sure enough, when one of them saw me, the “MUUUUUUUSSSSHHHHHH!!!” chant began again.

Photo Courtesy of Erinn Casazza

Have I ever mentioned that I Love the Nerd Herd?

That got me to near the bridge and on my way to Future World.  Right about here was when my Garmin told me that I had done 26.2 miles…we definitely did some weaving around.  Mile 26 split was slower (talked to Rhonda, Jay, Nerd Herd, plus walked a ton…18:07 pace and 160 heart rate).  As I walked, I took a moment to look up at Spaceship Earth and take in the setting…yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Julia Mascardo had just exited the Electric Umbrella as I passed.  She acted quickly and grabbed her camera:

 Thanks, Julia!!!

Ellie was still going strong about 10-15 yards ahead of us.  The crowds of those cheering was getting thicker, which again provided another boost.  We took the right turn just before Spaceship earth for the final quarter mile.

We passed the Mile 26 marker, and we were off-stage a minute later.  I could feel the smile that had been forming on my face becoming more permanently affixed as I knew what was coming up around one of the upcoming turns, and I could start to hear them.

I have always been a fan of live Gospel music, but WOW!!!!!  I applauded them at the end of the song and then turned to Darrell and Ellie, as we now only had a right-hand turn and then the final chute to the finish.
The crowds thinned just a bit at the turn, but then we all saw it…the Finish Line!!!  

We all agreed to have Ellie in the middle as we crossed the finish line.  We all went to a walk so we could cross the line at a run.  We crossed the ID strip, and I finally got to hear my name over the P.A. system as Carissa read the name that popped up on her screen. 


About 100 yards before the finish, we saw Rudy Novotny jumping off the Announcer’s stage.  He immediately saw the Team AllEars logo at the same time we saw him, and Ellie and I hollered to him just as he hollered to us.

Yeah, I’m about to finish my first marathon, but meeting Rudy is also on my bucket list!

We stopped for a brief moment and talked to him…he was curious if we heard this year’s total for TAE, and we let him know that we broke $100,000, with over $330K for the total over our 5 years.
Rudy gave us a hug for that.

He let us go, and the three of us turned back to the finish line…around 75 yards out. 

The three of us looked at each other…

…clasped hands…


 (it’s my first marathon finish…deal with it!)

(I love how you can see Rudy in the background of that last picture - as well as in the video - cheering on the runners for those last few yards)


26.2 miles. (26.73 miles, according to the Garmin)