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 that...here 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 CafĂ© 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)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 4

You can read the previous installment HERE.

The next part of the course, to me, seemed like the killer portion.  We were to head out of the AK parking lot and make a long loop arc via the Osceola Parkway onramp.  It was then straight east into the sun for what I anticipated to be about 75.3 miles, on two overpasses and back down before finally, mercifully, turning into the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where we make about 4,375 lefts and rights around various fields before FINALLY making our way back towards a theme park.  The cheering was going to be pretty sparse in this area, too.

Yeah, you could say I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the course.

Darrell, Ellie, and I were all getting a little tired, and there wasn’t a whole lot of talking by us (or anyone else around us, for that matter).  Ellie tried again to get me to go ahead and finish without her, and I again reassured her that the sweepers were nowhere near to us (we’re still < the 16:00 pace, plus we have the padding of the corrals that started after us and before the sweepers).

Mile 14 was in the books at 16:08 (hr 155), and Mile 15 (on the first overpass) was at 15:46 and 157 hr.  We were looking forward to the top of this overpass, because we knew that there would be a Team AllEars contingent waiting for us up there!  Bryan and Melanie Camphouse, along with Brian and Laura Thompson.  Man, we NEEDED that cheer squad!!!

(Photo courtesy of Darrell Burgoon) 

We stopped and talked for a couple of minutes with the 4 of them.  Bryan handed a Coke to Ellie (who had requested one before the race) and asked if I wanted one.  I declined, but he looked at, paused, and asked if I really wanted to have a Coke.

I again said, “nope…thanks, though!” … then I noticed his smile and his head-bob towards Ellie.

Yeah – I was a little slow on the uptake.  I’ll hold it for Ellie for later down the course.

All too soon, we said our goodbyes, and we started back down the overpass.  The Coke did Ellie some good, as she got some more bounce in her step.  I kept the other Coke hidden from her as we hit mile 16 near the top of the World Drive Overpass (16:26 and 158…pace was slower from stopping at the McDonald’s Team AllCheers group…SO WORTH IT!)  As we crested the second overpass, we finally were able to see racers returning from the Wide World of Sports on the Ramp-From-Hell near mile 21.  Well-known (and absolutely insane, in the best way possible) mega-cheerer Laura Smith Ozo was near mile 20.7, on the other side of Osceola…once I found her, I went back into military drill-instructor voice and gave a rather loud show-out to her.  Laura definitely heard it and waved/shouted back to all of us.  It was a good thing she saw us; she sent out a FB post mentioning that she saw us; it was the first update on our progress since the half split, and some folks (Sheri) were getting a little concerned that something had happened to us.

Sheri was definitely relieved, and she started posting Disney quotes on my FB wall (though I didn’t see most of them until I was a little outside of Hollywood Studios and finally took a minute to check FB (Troost…no comments!).  
“Just keep running. Just keep running, running, running. What do we do? We run, run. (channeling my inner Dory)”
"Keep moving forward."- Walt Disney”
I am on my way, I can go the distance. I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong. I know every mile, will be worth my while. I will go most anywhere to find where I belong. Hercules”

Ellie had just about downed her Coke, and I pulled out the second one and gave it to her, with Bryan’s blessing.  She nearly hugged me right then and there.

I was also looking for Joe Taricani broadcasting on the course, but we didn’t find each other.  The excitement factor was increasing again as we turned right onto Victory Way towards WWOS.  Most everyone was high-fiving the outgoing runners as we passed each other.  About halfway to the WWOS entry, Ellie spotted Bob and Barb Kennedy on the outbound side.  We all stopped for quick hugs and updates.  Barb was looking simply awesome, with that smile on her face!

We left and immediately found the Mile 17 marker (16:15 and 159).  Soon after, we turned right and headed into WWOS!  Finally…we’re off the road.

…and we’re on a bunch of walkways…with the first one seeming to go on for-evah!!!

Darrell peeled of hit a restroom.  We offered to wait for him, but he said he’d catch up.  Honestly, I thought we wouldn’t see him again.  A couple of minutes later, Ellie and I saw a sight that may as well have been Nirvana; RunDisney was handing out towels soaked in cold water.  We both grabbed one and nearly kissed the RunDisney folks handing them out.

We took a left and a right through soccer fields and then found ourselves entering the track.  Our legs were LOVING the track surface.  I pulled out my inner engineer, and Ellie and I took the most direct route to the inner portion to minimize the distance.  AS we hopped off the track, we hit the mile 18 marker (16:36 and 160), and Darrell surprised us by catching up really quickly.  After a bunch of lefts and rights, as well as 1-2 shortened run intervals to help with the heart rate, we were all cussing this part of the course.  On more than one occasion, Ellie let out a “I HATE ESPN!!!!” to everyone around us.  Each outburst gained progressively more shouts of agreement by the runners.  The trek to the Mile 19 marker seemed to never arrive, but it finally did (16:47 and 159).  The mile splits were heading up quite a bit, but I think we all were losing motivation with the course. 

Just about that time, RunDisney must have sensed it, because we had another banana stop.  We each grabbed a banana and said “Thank You!!” to the volunteers (along with a “no offense, but WE HATE THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS!!!” – which was met with laughs) and trudged forward.  The next big cheering section (we hoped) was going coming up…the baseball stadium.  We entered, and I immediately got warning track gravel in a shoe.  


I didn’t waste the energy to see my ugly mug on the jumbo tron, and, if you check out the video, I think you’ll agree that most people were not really feeling it.

We (mercifully) left the stadium, and I had to pause to get about 2.5 lbs of rock out of my shoes.   A few (dozen) more turns, and we finally made our way out of the WWOS.  We all nearly gave it an honorary single-fingered salute as we left, but decided against it.  Mile 20 was 16:40 and 159.  I lobbied for another reduction in the run/walk ratio, and all agreed (not sure if they liked the decision, but we all added another 15 seconds to the walk interval).  The mile 20 split notification came through, and we were still below the 16:00 pace, though barely.  We noticed as we got back on Victory Way, though, was that nobody was entering the WWOS. Street Sweepers were working on cleaning up the course.  Ellie went into a dead panic that we were going to be swept; however, we were in WWOS for 45-50 minutes, so we were still under 16:00; besides, once we got to Hollywood Studios, the chances of being swept were reduced to almost 0.

6 miles and ½ of a marathon to go!

The Finish can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 3

Part 2 can be viewed HERE

We entered back-stage where the parade floats are typically stored. We bypassed that and went straight for one of the rougher parts of the course…affectionately called “Cone Alley” by runners.  Seriously, there has to be something like 10,000 cones to mark the course!  It was around this time that the group started spreading out a little.  One member of our group was starting to get a throbbing pain in a shoulder and had increased the pace a bit to help block out the pain.  Still, we were within 20 feet of each other for the most part.  One thing that we did start doing, though, was implement verbal cues instead of visual ones…”Start” when our run interval was beginning and “Stop!” or “Walk” at the end.  Mile 6 was in the books…it was slower because of the bathroom break (18:01), but it also gave the heart rate a chance to come back down a little, especially after the sprint up Main Street.

Cone Alley is always an odd part of the course…it’s eerily quiet, probably because one of the most exciting portions (MK) was behind us, and the next theme park was more than 6 miles away.  I was feeling good…getting onto Cone Alley without injury was something that I had yet been able to do, so I was thrilled!  At mile 6.2, we saw another Team AllEars contingency (including Deb Wills) waiting for Linda to finish her 10K.  We gave/received high-5s and hugs and continued onward.  We had a nice musical interlude at the mile 7 marker (14:53 pace with a 152 HR).  Well…it started out as a nice musical interlude.  They had Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline playing at concert-level volume, so we could hear it from about a half-mile away.  Of course, the entire armada of runners was doing the “bom bom bom” during the refrain, as well as singing the “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” at the appropriate places in the song.  Once the song was over, it repeated.  Okay…we sang it all again, though not with as much enthusiasm as before.

By the 4th time we had heard the song, we were completely sick of it.  Instead of “Bom Bom Bom”, I was singing “TURN IT OFF!” in my head, and “shoot me! kill me! please now!” where the “so goods” were supposed to be. 

We (mercifully) got past the speakers with our eardrums more or less intact, and we started getting quiet again.  Ellie threw in her earbuds and started jamming to her U2 playlist as she ran, occasionally belting out some of the lyrics.  I took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery by the golf courses and Shades of Green.  Mile 8 was at a 15:17 pace, and the HR was 151.  The sun was starting to make its presence known, however, and we were nearing another downhill/uphill portion of the course in order to make it onto the Speedway.  I had heard horror stories about how steep this was and that the best course of action to handle this was to walk it.  EVERYONE was doing this, but it didn’t really help the fact that we were going up what felt like a 70-degree incline.  We all were cussing this stretch. 

Of course, they would just have to place a MarathonFoto guy right at the top of that hill.

This pic was taken about 2 seconds after Ellie screamed, “I HATE THE SPEEDWAY!!!!”  We were all busting up at that one.  As we made a left hairpin turn to get onto the speedway, we all realized that this was going to be a LOOONNNG trek around the track.  MJ was having issues with her Galloway interval timer, and she was about to drop-kick until she found the setting that was causing the problem.  We crossed mile 9 on the track…15:21 on the pace, and the HR kept inching up, with it now averaging 153.  When we finally were able to hop off the track, we cut across a median and made it to Bear Island Road.  While there wasn’t much in terms of characters or theme parks, it was a shaded area, which made for a little cooler feel for the run.  While on this stretch, Teammage Rob Wilhelm caught up with us and ran with the group for a few minutes.  It was great to see Rob as I hadn’t had the chance to talk to him yet over Marathon Weekend.  Laura Gilbreath also caught back up with us and ran with us for a few minutes:

(Courtesy of Laura Gilbreath)

Mile 10 gave us another split pace check from RunDisney.  Our pace was 15:41, but that included that long bathroom break in MK, so we weren’t too worried about the time…not TOO worried.  Amanda Tinney was still about 3 minutes ahead of us, and the Nerd Herd was ahead by several minutes.  The road curved right and left a few times, and what I initially thought was a nice cool portion eventually turned into a long, LOOOONG stretch with no end in sight.  Mile 11 (14:40 at 156) came and went. 

Then came the water treatment plant for Walt Disney World.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Actually, it wasn’t too terribly bad, considering some of the stories from last year’s marathon.  Still, our group was beginning to spread out again, and this time the range was increasing to 50-75 feet.  Ellie’s legs were starting to hurt a little (the Goofy Challenge is definitely NOT an easy task), while others were bearing down more and blocking out pain by increasing the pace.  The “START” and “STOP” commands were becoming more important now.  A well-timed banana stop gave us a little bit of energy to power on.
When we got to Western Way, we caught up with Jazlyn Zombo Doolittle, who was running in full firefighter gear.  We talked to Jazz a bit on her cause (she’s a cancer survivor, a firefighter/EMT, and the wife of an active duty soldier) and introduced ourselves and what Team AllEars stood for.  She was struggling a bit under all the equipment, but was continuing on, and I saw that she did indeed complete the Dopey Challenge, all of it wearing the suit.  For more information on her fundraising, please visit http://www.active.com/donate/Code3ForACureFound/jazzzombodoolittle .

After crossing Western Way, we could tell we were nearing Animal Kingdom with the buildings that we passed by.   We popped through the security gate, and animals were everywhere!  There were cast members all about with animals on display (I took special note of the vulture…wondered if he would remember me when he circled around my carcass in a couple of hours).  Several characters were out there, too, as they had the jeep from the AK opening show out there with most of the Fab 5 waving and posing for pictures.  Just before entering AK was the mile 12 marker (15:06 and 159).  The group was really spreading out, and a decision had to be made.  Ellie was starting to worry about the sweepers and she told me to just go…she didn’t want me to be swept on my first attempt at 26.2.  I looked at her and said point-blank that this was my first marathon and I was going to PR the flippin’ thing regardless of my time…we were staying together.   Besides, I was guessing that the sweepers were still a good 45-60 minutes behind us.  Darrell also agreed that he was sticking with us no matter what.  The rest of our group slowed to a longer walk for us to catch up, and, after discussing it for a few seconds, we all agreed to split into 2 groups (with emphasis from the group in the back that we were completely fine with it).  Evelyn could tell Ellie was hurting a little bit, and I told her before they headed off that I would keep watch over her.  Soon after, Evelyn, Steve, and MJ were a good 100 yards ahead of us and continuing on.

As Darrell, Ellie, and I continued on, I realized that I was so caught up in all that was going on around me that I wasn’t even close to fueling the way I had trained.  I started eating energy beans as though I had forgotten to do so for the past 2.5 hours! 

We entered AK, and, as expected, a second wind came across most of us with the excitement of a new park.  Within minutes, we were at Expedition Everest, where was saw some members of the Nerd Herd waiting for fellow teammates to get off of the attraction.  For the briefest of moments, I contemplated asking if anyone else wanted to ride it.  Then, common sense kicked in (I still have over a half-mary to go!!), and we continued on past the mountain…though the screams from the ride made me nearly turn back.

(Still feeling good!!!  Ellie was jamming to U2)

Running through AK was fun…as a family, we have been taking shorter trips, and we haven’t been in that particular park for 3+ years.  Unfortunately, our trek in the park was short-lived, as we were back off-stage behind Dinoland.  Soon after, we hit the Mile 13 marker (15:37, HR 156).  It was about this time that we decided to bump up the interval to :30/1:00, as the sun was starting to really make itself known, and there was no real shade around.  Having already received tons of halfway split texts from other runners, I took notice that Amanda Tinney hadn’t crossed yet, though we were about to cross it ourselves.  We received our split texts, and, about 50 seconds later, Amanda's came in.  I immediately started looking around and behind me in case she was struggling with her legs, but I couldn’t find her.  I found out later on her blog post that her family met her in the AK parking lot (Read her marathon recap HEREOur halfway splits: 3:25:10, pace 15:39.

Halfway through the race distance-wise, but about 25% through the marathon.

Part IV can be viewed HERE.