Pre-Race – Arrival and Expo
On Wednesday, I left the comfort of Southern California for the humidity of Florida – and possibly some rain during race day. Weather all over the country caused major flight delays which means instead of arriving in time for dinner at 6:30, I didn’t arrive to the resort until after 9:00 pm. From the moment we checked in, excitement and nerves started. It was hard to focus – I kept thinking only 4 more days, 3 more days, etc. until I’d have finished the race. Or not finished. Whichever way, it would be over. At check in, we asked for expo bus information and race day transportation information. At that point, the cast member created a special button for my trip. “I’m celebrating my 1st marathon!” My friend also got a button that said “I’m celebrating Team Caryn.” I was very lucky to have such a good friend who was willing to travel with me to Disney World, play like a kid, and go to sleep ridiculously early and get up early every day to quickly acclimate to Florida time. She also came to the race and bounced from park to park to cheer me on. She’s been there, done that and gets it. But more on that later.
Because of late arrival, I missed dinner with my best #Firsties – the other two admins. Instead they met me after dinner to bring me water and groceries for the room so I could stay on track. We distributed wristbands for our group as well as buttons that were a surprise gift and said we’d be in touch to try to meet up the next day at expo.
Thursday morning, after breakfast, we headed out the expo to pick up my packet and bib, as well as Liza’s ChEar Squad package. Because she was willing to spend so much time focused on me this trip, and I was nervous it might not be good weather, I decided to purchase ChEAR Squad Platinum package for her, so she’d have breakfast and lunch if she wanted and a place to sit comfortably out of any potential rain. And because that package gave access to the Race Retreat tent, I purchased that for myself for the first time so at least I’d have an easier time finding her after I finished. With our bags in hand, we set out to shop! Well, I set out to stop. Liza was merely a passenger on the girly girl race shopping extravagnza. I’m known for my mad shopping skills, but this time expo was special in that this was a new distance I was to conquer. Not since the Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge (also a new distance for me back in 2014) was I ready to purchase so much.
First up – race commemorative items. My list usually has a car magnet and a running hat. This time I wanted a running jacket with the 26.2 mileage on it – not just the race weekend logo. I also managed to score the generic 2016 RunDisney Tervis tumbler for hot and cold drinks. Perfect for breakfast protein smoothies.
Next, I wanted to stop by Jeff Galloway’s booth. Since I signed up for the full marathon, I’ve visited his booth at every expo for advice on nutrition and intervals. This time, I just wanted to say “hi” and “thank you” and get any last minute tips for the race and dealing with the extra humidity since I had no opportunity to train in those conditions. As always, he was very encouraging signed my bib, and posed for a photo.
As I was moving around expo, I posted in our #Firsties group what I was wearing and where I was so others could find me. Each #Firstie we met got their band and button before our Saturday official meet-up and took a selfie with us. That way we could all recognize each other for support, and it made it more fun to wander around. Four or five found me in expo, as well as my friend who posted that fateful day last March about doing the full, but ended up with a knee injury. Was so happy to meet all these people in person who had been wonderful friends and support over the past six months.
And now for some real shopping. For each half marathon or challenge I’ve done, I’ve purchased a charm for my bracelet to remember it. It’s a way to visually see what I’ve accomplished. I figured I’d go with a Mickey Mouse Pandora charm, but I also wanted a necklace or something with the distance since this was a first. The best jewelry place at expo was Endure. There are many who make charms for bracelets that are nice, but for a standout piece, Endure has the cleanest lines and is more to my taste aesthetically. I ended up chatting for a while with Sunny (the owner) and one of the other ladies and decided on two rings I could stack. The first says “endure” – something to wear and remember to power through. The second was a simple bow shape with diamond dots ala Minnie Mouse with a 26.2 etched in the knot. Small, subtle, but represents especially as I wore a Minnie Mouse inspired outfit for the race. They were all so encouraging at the booth and I came away with an additional runner necklace and bangle bracelet. It was part of their expo specials.
The last item on my list was a hook for my medal. I have sets of hooks at home for my medals for each race and after this fall, I was out of space and needed another row. At expo, they usually offer free shipping so I ordered from there. Additionally, I decided to get a coordinating single hook for my Marathon Medal to separate it from all the others since it was to be special. Again, as I was signing my order form, I was chatting with Marcey from Sport Hooks who I’ve seen at most other expos, and told her it was my first full while she was helping me pick out the hook. To remind me how much the mental counts, she gave me a “believe” ornament to hang in the hotel.
I was really unsure, but the encouragement from strangers who had been there before, lifted me up, and held the nerves at bay.
Carbing in the Parks
That night we went to Epcot for dinner and met up with another friend of mine who had been virtually training with me from the beginning and her family. Napoli – the first of many Italian meals – was the choice and I absolutely love their margarita pizza. While at dinner, Roblyn tells me her favorite carb snack is the Nutella Waffles in Magic Kingdom. I made a mental note to seek those out.
Friday was our main park day. We started out in Magic Kingdom. In fact, we pretty much stayed there the entire day. Again, posted my outfit and whereabouts in case any #Firsties were looking for us. Because it was raining that morning, even with a late start, we managed to get on all of the rides we wanted. We snacked all day. Dole whip. Hot dog while watching a parade. And the Nutella Waffle with fruit. And, wow! That was the most amazing snack I’ve had in a long time. One of my new go-tos. One of the best moments was having someone run after me saying “Excuse me, are you the #Firstie lady with the bands?” Funny. But I got to meet 4 more of the group.
After the park we went to Downtown Disney for dinner and to look around before heading back to the hotel for sleep.
Saturday was our #Firstie Meet-up. We also decided to go to Animal Kingdom as it is a smaller park. Unfortunately, my legs were feeling tired so the day was cut short to be the Lion King show (excellent) and lunch and the meet-up. After that was dinner at Il Mulino at the Dolphin Hotel. Again, excellent. By then it was pouring rain. And I just kept thinking, keep going, empty the sky so there’s nothing left for Sunday.