Motivation Mantra: Do it for Disney!

Motivation is the name of the game. When you find what gets you through, it can absolutely change your perspective, desire, and, in some cases, the outcome of whatever you’re striving to achieve. With my second marathon a mere 9 days away (but who’s counting?), I am trying to muster all the motivation I can find. Going into my first marathon I was motivated by the incredible feat, determination, time and training that went into it, and especially the sense of absolute accomplishment upon crossing that finish line.  Now that I have done it once, I know I can accomplish it, but I definitely need a little more drive to get me through.

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At least I do have some pretty spectacular views on the trail near my house. It could be worse.

Training this time around definitely felt different.  Early in my training I was wearing shoes that were causing pain in my shins (thankfully not shin splints). My legs were achy and tired after my runs, so I immediately switched back to my beloved New Balance 3190s, which are actually discontinued.  Thank you Amazon for having one of the last size 8 pairs of 3190s – your company saved the day!  After fixing that issue, I also had a few colds that bogged me down this year, and made fitting in the miles significantly harder. My body was definitely telling me to slow down while my training plan was telling me to speed up.

Once I got over the hump of October, training began to gradually fall into place. Maybe it’s because the marathon sparkle had worn off having already done one, or maybe my body was annoyed at the idea of doing it again, but it really took until my 20 mile run for everything to feel right.  Internally I was beginning to worry when my legs and my breathing weren’t in sync, and hoped that it would come together on race day somehow.  What made matters somewhat more challenging was all of the snow we had been getting throughout December, covering my trail with snow, slush, ice, and mud. Training on those surfaces is no picnic, and at this stage in the game I really don’t want to risk injury.  Which is why I completed my 18 mile run on a treadmill (I absolutely do not recommend this for anyone, talked about boring…) and thought about quitting at mile 11 of my 14 mile taper run last weekend… I didn’t quit, but it was a major mental struggle.

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It actually took until my longest training run for everything to feel just right.
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It looks a lot prettier than it actually was – mud, ice, and slush everywhere. I thought tapering was supposed to be the easy part!

Although I have been excited about the prospect of sea level running with 19 miles of Pacific Ocean views and a maximum elevation gain of 100 feet, it was hard to find the motivation I needed to get through this training cycle.  Now with one weekend left of tapering and the race in sight, it’s getting a lot easier to feel the pre-marathon excitement. Not to mention, DISNEYLAND!

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We are going back to Disney, but this time West Coast style!

So what does one do after a marathon in southern California?  Obviously you go to Disneyland. This Disney fan has always been a tried and true Disney World supporter, believing its enormity and plethora of parks made it better than it’s California rival. In the back of my mind, however, I have always wanted to go to Disneyland – to see the original, visit Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and get a sense for where it all began.  It will be my hubby’s birthday, so I wasn’t sure if he’d actually want to go. Thankfully I got home from work one day last week and he turned to me and said, “You know, it might be fun to go to Disneyland.” Done and done. Tickets are booked and reservations made – to Disneyland we go!

Here’s a little recap of the last two weeks of training:

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/9/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/10/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.18 miles
1/11/17 (Wednesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.3 miles
1/12/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.32 miles
1/13/17 (Friday) N/A 3.36 miles
1/14/17 (Saturday) N/A 20.05 miles
1/15/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/16/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.27 miles
1/17/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 2.5 miles
1/18/17 (Wednesday) TIU Bombshell Booty, TIU Core on the Floor, TIU Sleek Arms 3.1 miles
1/19/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.13 miles
1/20/17 (Friday) N/A 3.1 miles
1/21/17 (Saturday) N/A 14.05 miles
1/22/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
TOTAL 62.46 miles

Any recommendations for this Disneyland novice (we will just be doing Disneyland Park)? If you had one day in Disneyland, what would you do?  What motivates you to get through marathon training? Has anyone else ever run 18 miles on a treadmill – isn’t it terrible?

#SquadUp: Running Loves Company

Every person has someone who inspires them. In fact we all probably have many people who inspire us in different ways. For my running “career,” I owe that inspiration to three amazing ladies: Samantha, Justine and Christine. These are my back home gal pals, sorority sisters, and besties who spurred the inner athlete in me. When I moved to Colorado with my hubby in 2011, it was the first time I’d been “away from home” in 13 years. Although I moved with my family a few times while my dad was serving in the Air Force, I’d never been away from my parents, and truly it was the first time I was distanced from my closest friends. Robbie was definitely my rock during that time, but I still wanted to find ways to continue connecting with my besties back home.

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Yeah, that about sums them up!

That year all three of them were ramping up their running game. Samantha had been a runner in high school and was diving back in full force, Justine had already completed at least one marathon by that time, and Christine was working towards half marathons the upcoming year. These ladies were my runspiration. Not only did they transform themselves and their lives for the better, but they could share it together! And to be completely blunt, I wanted in on the action. I wanted to know what the heck they were talking about (PR’s, GU, Glide, BioFreeze, foam rollers, and all the other foreign terminologies). Runner’s World actually has a quiz to determine if you speak runner, and at that time, I did not. Even from 1,700 miles away, I still wanted to be able to connect with my girlfriends, and share in the new experiences they were having. It may not have been the best motivation, but it doesn’t matter how you get to the race, just that you have the courage to run it.

It’s not surprising that they all turned to running. The Washington D.C. metro area is among the top 10 cities in the U.S. for runners, according to Forbes Travel Guide and Active.com (as well as Boulder, CO, my first home in Colorado!). It makes perfect sense, given the numerous lengthy paths and trails, countless races, and the city’s scenic beauty and national landmarks. If only I’d really been into running while I was there!

I have been lucky enough to run a race with all three of these ladies before, the Nike

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#GoSquad at the Nike Women’s Half. These ladies have inspired my whole running “career”!

Women’s Half Marathon, before they discontinued the race in D.C. It was the first time all four of us had participated in a race together, and my first race in the D.C. metro area. To say shenanigans occurred would be an understatement to end all understatements. There were moments of skipping, Peep eating, and a lot of photo ops.

This weekend I will return to my former home to celebrate the wedding of my dear friend, Christine. In other words, #squadreunion. We

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The last time we were together celebrating a beautiful bride-to-be!

have an amazing weekend planned for the bride, from a winery tour through Virginia wine country to a bridal tea brunch. I won’t say more, because of course we are hoping for a lot of the elements to be a surprise, but it’s going to be fabulous! The other thing to consider is I am still training for my marathon, and that doesn’t stop even while traveling. Thankfully I will be visiting ladies who know the area, know the trails and have trained in this city for marathons of their own.

I cannot deny that last week was an incredibly off week in my training. I only managed to run a total of 15.1 miles, in part because of a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow in Denver in less than 12 hours, and also because

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Sunday’s run was not only shortened, but I had to forgo running on my usual trail. SO MUCH SNOW!

of work and personal issues. Even when I tried to fit in a 14 mile run this Sunday, my usual trek along the Highline Canal Trail was completely covered in ice and frozen-over snow. Needless to say I turned around after two miles in and finished my run on pavement. Every runner, every athlete, nay every human experiences an off week. It’s how we bounce back and not let it bring us down that defines us. So I am moving on and letting this week be a good one. Because let’s be honest, we are hardest upon ourselves. No one else is going to judge my progress or feel guilty about not fulfilling my goal except for me. So why carry that burden and let it affect the rest of my training? No one has space for that kind of mentality in their lives.

Furthermore, I am hoping that this week I will be able to fit in 18 miles while visiting in D.C. Weather is extremely permitting, with thunderstorms clouding the forecast. The weather gods may need a serious sacrifice… My friend, Samantha, has it all planned out and is going to bike along with me on the Mount Vernon Trail if all goes well. I am hoping to be able to run past monuments and the tidal basin, currently blooming with cherry blossoms. It would be nice to switch it up, and running at sea level doesn’t hurt either!

These days, though, I have many runspirations. My hubby is probably my biggest supporter and source of encouragement. He and I have been training together for the Colfax Marathon, and it makes the miles all the more wonderful to share them with him. He has been my rock and motivator this entire time. Often he will tell me, “I only started running because of you,” and I know it’s true. Better still is that is gives us another way to spend more time together. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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Our second Denver Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon together in October 2015.

Here’s last week’s recap – on to a bigger and better week of training!  Have you ever had just incredibly off weeks when training? Who is your runspiration? Do you speak runner?

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/21/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.1 mile run
Tuesday, 3/22/16 Active Rest: 45 minute walk Rest
Wednesday, 3/23/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Coconut Core and Booty N/A
Thursday, 3/24/16 Zumba,  TIU Burn HIIT Up, TIU Band Workout N/A
Friday, 3/25/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 3/26/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Sunday, 3/27/16 N/A 12 mile run

Dining (and Wining) Around the World: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I finally got to tell you about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but I almost forgot the entire reason that race exists: the Epcot Showcase of Nations Food and Wine Festival!  Each fall, Disney hosts an expansive Food and Wine festival, in which the Showcase of Nations is transformed with additional food stands for numerous other countries.  In total, there are 36 countries/regions represented.  Given it is Friday and a time for favorites, I am going to list off my favorite items from the festival, and some items that were worth a bite, but not quite as memorable.  Thank goodness I took pictures of the menus, because we had so many good nibbles and sips it’d be hard to remember them all! 2014-FW-Festival-Guide-MAP-AND-MARKETPLACES-2014-page-0011.  The Spicy Hand Roll from Japan: Japan did not hold back in creating a delicious and rather large hand roll that took numerous bites to finish.  This roll included both tuna and salmon and a delicious, lick-your-fingers-when-it’s-done-it’s-so-tasty Kazan Volcano sauce.  Both Mrs. BakeNBurn and I ordered this and I could have had another and called it a meal.

2.  Given I am Greek and spent this past weekend making my Nicolau family baklava, I have to go with Greece’s spanakopita! My mother, I think, makes the best

Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach... I love my roots.
Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach… I love my roots.

version (she makes a spanakopita crustard, aka pie, which will knock your socks off), but these delicate triangles had just the right balance of cheesey gooeyness and spinach.

3.  Speaking of cheese, I have to follow-up number two with the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I really wanted to lick the paper tray when I was finished.

4.  Moving on to good ol’ America, and in keeping with my love of cheese, I have to say that the American lobster macaroni and cheese (or pasta alfredo as they attempted to market it) was delectable. The hubs and I savored every last bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese – because what’s better than pasta, cheese, butter and lobster?  I also had their carrot cake, which was tasty, but not overly exceptional.

Canada was pretty darn tasty!
Canada was pretty darn tasty!

5.  Canada did a great job with their “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Although the filet was a little overcooked and tough, the sauce was delicious and not overpowering.

6.  Je aime la France! As one should expect, I focused on some bubbly and dessert in France. It’s really what I most enjoy about French dining – Champagne, pastries, and all things dessert.  The sea salt caramel crème brulee was quite a tasty treat, although could have used more sea salt to balance the caramel.  The sparkling pomegranate Kir Royale, however, whet my palate with perfection!

Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.
Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.

7.  Having recently visited Scotland, which someday I will share with you, I had been craving a local dessert called Cranachan. This dessert is traditionally served

Where's my Scotch?
Where’s my Scotch?

as whisky (or Scotch to us Americans) soaked raspberries, layered with whipped cream and toasted oats.  It is DELICIOUS.  This version, sad to say, did not live up to my memories from Whiski, a fabulous whisky bar and eatery along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  The raspberries weren’t soaked in whisky at all, so the hubs and I also ordered a sample of Scotch to pour into it.  Good, but still not quite right.

This about sums up Edinburgh...
This about sums up Edinburgh…
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!

8.  Danke Deutschland! The Riesling samplers were awesome.  Both Samantha and I spent some time in Germany, being the military brats we are, so of course we had to pop over to Germany.  We were torn between the beer or the Riesling flight, but we went with the wine.  It was delicious.  We both liked number 2 the best, but I had a preference for the third, and Samantha for the first, so we split them perfectly and enjoyed each tasty sip!

It's appropriate to just drink in Germany...
It’s appropriate to just drink in Germany…

9.  The hubs loves himself some duck, so we stopped in China for the Beijing Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce, which was almost sticky bun style. I took a nibble and it was awesome, so this one I wish I had saved more room to eat in entirety.

10.  We stopped in Mexico, even though we would later dine at La Hacienda, so the hubs could get his tequila flight and I could try the mango-strawberry 2014-11-09 16.41.40margarita. The tequila flight was decent and the margarita too sweet.  If you go to the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot, you pick varying quality levels for your tequila flight, which is a much better option.

11.  Of course an offering of Prosecco in Italy was a delight, and really a tradition whenever in the World Showcase!

12.  And finally, who would I be, the Anglophile I am, if I didn’t get a hard cider from England?  Alas, it was not Bulmer’s, but I do enjoy the occasional Strongbow as well!

Ciders and beers in hand!
Ciders and beers in hand!

Sadly I wasn’t able to get to everything.  Our stomachs just wouldn’t allow it.  The next time I go, I would recommend either a true whole day in Epcot (starting at 11am when the booths open) and break it up with some of the other activities’ Epcot has to offer (maybe not Mission Space, unless you really do want to lose your lunch to fit in more food…).  We were able to see Captain EO (any Michael Jackson fan NEEDS to see this MJ meets Star Wars movie music spectacular – directed by George Lucas and everything!).  It’s one of the hubby’s favs, so of course we had to educate Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  We also rode Soarin’, Spaceship Earth (LOVE it, always a favorite thanks to the narration of Dame Judy Dench), and Living with the Land.  We, of course, closed the day with one of my favorite firework shows, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I mean, I may have the CD soundtrack and know all the words to the song… You know… Overall, it was the perfect way to end our Disney trip with such incredible friends.

Can't wait to go back!
Can’t wait to go back!

Isn’t the Epcot Food and Wine Festival the best excuse an adult could have to drink around the world?  Which nation looks the best to you?  Aren’t you impressed we stayed awake to eat and drink that long?

Run Now, Wine Later: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap

Thanks for bearing with me, fellow blogging world! Over the past three months I have made the transition into a new position at work, and it’s been quite a bit all-consuming.  I am still trying to figure out how to balance my work, personal, and social media lives, so I appreciate your patience as I have been so absent!  I know it isn’t yet the New Year but it’s never too early to make goals (see my thoughts on resolutions).  One of my goals is to make time to write – it makes me happy, I love to share fun experiences, and I appreciate the feedback I get from fellow bloggers and readers.  So on that note, I would like to (finally) present to you the race recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

When Samantha and I initially began plotting what we wanted to do for the Wine and Dine, of course we naturally started with the costumes.  We went to many iterations, first trying to plan a group costume, and then deciding it might be easier to do couples’ costumes.  Finally we ended up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (aka Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn) and the hubs and I ran as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl!  The hubs and I are huge fans of the Incredibles, so it was a perfect fit.  And knowing my hubby isn’t thrilled by running costumes, it made the outfit very easy (although we did see some Incredibles couples with the men wearing red tights… that’s dedication!).

The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!
The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!

The day of the race was pretty relaxed.  We’d stayed out in the Magic Kingdom until the end of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, so we woke leisurely, grabbed some grub at the cafeteria and lounged by the pool.  The day was overcast, which was rather foreboding for the weather forecast that night.  It was predicted to rain starting around 10pm, just when the first wave of the race was set to start.  We figured at this point there was little we could do, but Samantha had the brilliant idea to look for ponchos at the resort gift shop.  Remember those $10 giftcards from the packet pickup?  Oh yeah, they came in handy, along with the visors we purchased the day before!  We each bought a poncho, ate a quick dinner, and went back to the room to change.

Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Pre-race photo ops, of course!
Pre-race photo ops, of course!

Having already done one Disney race, I knew it would not be beneficial to risk catching the last bus from the resort to the staging area.  We decided the second bus, which would pick us up just after 6pm.  Given our resort’s proximity to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is where the race began, it was a quick ride.  We arrived just after 6:30pm and decided, what the hey, let’s get some pictures.  We found pre-race photographers, used the porta-potties, and stood in line for a Minnie Mouse photo-op (it was perfect for Mrs. BakeNBurn, although I think Minnie really preferred Mr. BakeNBurn!).  We sat down for a little while, but I decided one additional restroom break was in order, and by the time I returned, it was time to get ready for the race!

Two Minnies and Elastigirl!
Two Minnies and Elastigirl!

We donned our ponchos, because at this point it began to sprinkle.  We all decided to start together in corral H, but Samantha

We make ponchos look good.
We make ponchos look good.

and I would let the boys do their own thing once we started.  We didn’t realize at the time that Samantha was actually fighting a knee injury, but boy was she a CHAMP.  We waited about 20-25 minutes before our corral actually set off, and by this time it was just plain raining.  Given we didn’t really have a choice, we decided to make the most of it and just have fun.  And that is precisely what we did!

YAY Wine and Dine!
YAY Wine and Dine!

Once our wave was ready to set off, the boys went ahead to run to their hearts’ content.  Samantha and I frolicked along looking for fun photo ops.  There were many to be had, although a number of the characters weren’t available due to the rain.  The first photo op was with some random fairies, but knowing many other photo stations wouldn’t be operating, we jumped in!  At this point Samantha had ditched her poncho, somewhere around the 1st mile marker, but I decided to keep mine on for a while.  I hate being wet, and thankfully it was vented along the side so I could still feel cool.  Also, I get cold really easily, so I knew I didn’t want to be shivering through the next 12 miles.  Instead, I would turn my poncho into a cape (which I know is terribly wrong, considering Edna Mole’s comment on capes: “NO CAPES!”).  I mean, hey, when life gives you ponchos, you make capes!

Edna, I failed you...
Edna, I failed you…

Past the third mile marker we made our way into the Animal Kingdom.  I completely forgot how awesome the Animal Kingdom is,

The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!
The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!

and loved running through it.  With the rain it really felt like a jungle! Before entering the park we passed by a mini light parade and Rafiki! There were photographers scattered throughout, and running in DinoLand was pretty spectacular.  This portion of the race took up about 2 miles, so once we exited we were on our way to the 10K mark.  Miles 6 through 8 were all on roads in between the parks, and because of the rain, course entertainment was not to be found.  Thankfully we were finally making our way into Hollywood Studios!  This was by far my favorite park of the race.  We entered through a back lot into the middle of Hollywood Studios and quickly made our way past Mickey’s wizard hat.  It was pretty spectacular all lit up at night.  We meandered through Hollywood streets and then towards the back of the park where we ran through a psychedelic tunnel with windows into costume design studios.  We got to see the costumes and mock-ups for the princesses, which in my mind, was spectacular.

Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
Goodbye wizard hat!
Goodbye wizard hat!
The costume design rooms were spectacular!
The costume design rooms were spectacular! Look, Prince Charming!!

I was wondering two things around this time: 1) when were we going to see the Incredibles, and 2) when were we going to run through the Osborn Family lights?  Thankfully my questions were soon answered.  Alas, the Incredibles characters were not available when I ran past, but I took the opportunity to pose enthusiastically in front of the Incredibles backdrop.  I was in character, after all.  I was positively joyous when the photographer shouted, “Elastigirl, you made it!”  It was nice to see the photographers cheery, because they, also, had to be stuck in the rain.  Shortly after passing my photo op, we looped back around in the backstage area of Hollywood Studios and quite literally emerged in the splendor of the Osborn Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!

This was my moment to shine!
This was my moment to shine!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
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Beautiful!
So sparkly!
So sparkly!
Quite literally everything has a light on it.
Quite literally everything has a light on it.

If you’ve never seen this spectacle, it’s completely worth the visit.  I have never seen as many glorious lights in my life.  Disney took the idea from the Osborn family in Arkansas who initially started doing light shows coordinated to Christmas music.  It’s really phenomenal and had last seen the show in December of 2010.  It in every way encompasses the magic of the Christmas season!  During the section we didn’t even bother running because we wanted to take it all in and have chances for photos.  It’s just too beautiful to run right through!

This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.
This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.

Once we finally peeled ourselves away from the shimmering scene, we wound our way back through the park and passed once more by Mickey’s wizard hat.  It turns out this hat will be bidding a fond farewell to Disney World so I am happy I could see it one last time!  Once we exited the park, we were on our way to mile 11, with just the Boardwalk to go!  As we made our way from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk, we ran under a bridge.  The space underneath was PACKED with ChEAR squad participants, excited and encouraging in the wee hours of the morning!  These folks are truly phenomenal – they show up to the Disney races, which are either at 5:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night, and never fail to put a smile on a runner’s face.  It was the little boost we both needed to get through the last few miles.

Passing by all the Boardwalk resorts was also a lot of fun, although the boardwalk itself was rather treacherous while wet.  We trod carefully and worked our way up and into Epcot!  We entered in the back of the park through the entrance to the Showcase of Nations.  The after party was taking place, but I think we had already decided that hanging around later into the early morning hours in the rain didn’t sound overly enjoyable.  We weaved through the park and ran out of the entrance toward the finish line in the parking lot.  We made it, and boy did we work for it.  Samantha and I both held up pretty well given the conditions and the miles.  Our costumes remained intact and we were so thankful to be done.  We grabbed our mylar blankets, post-race snack packs, and of course, our gorgeous medals.  These babies were well worth the effort.  We found an open finisher’s photographer station then made our way out of the throng of runners to find our hubbies.  Rather than go to the party they were waiting for us after the finisher photos.  We were all pretty ready for hot showers and bed, so we worked our way to the bus stations, and thankfully made it on the available bus for Caribbean Beach.

WE DID IT!
WE DID IT!

All in all, it was a great race, and one I would definitely do again.  Sadly you cannot control the weather, and I would love to be able to experience it in better conditions, with all the characters out in action.  I was so thrilled to be able to run a second Disney race in 2014, and with another of my dearest friends.  The whole weekend was topped off by the Disney Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, so although we didn’t indulge in the after party, we still managed to get our fill!  Here’s to an amazing running year, and having completed now my 5th ever half marathon – all in 2014!

Have you ever run a half, or longer, in the rain – any other recommendations?  Would you run for wine (and food)?  Which Run Disney race is your favorite?  Who doesn’t love frolicking through sparkly Christmas lights?

The Holiday Season, Magic Kingdom Edition

Can you believe that Christmas is only a month away?  It’s by far my favorite holiday, just the joy, the season, the songs and the décor all make my heart overflow with holiday happiness.  I have already started listening to “Holiday Traditions” on SiriusXM radio in the car, and I am fairly certain I sing along to every song!  I haven’t put up my tree yet, but that’s only because I am hosting Thanksgiving this year with some of my dear friends, and I want it to look like Thanksgiving.  The day after – well there are no guarantees!

Reminiscing from my first Disney Christmas experience!
Reminiscing from my first Disney Christmas experience!

However, for one of the most magical Christmas experiences you’ll ever have, Disney is the place to be.  I was blessed to be able to spend a wonderful weekend in Disney World with our friends Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn, and part of the Disney magic included Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party!  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Disney World just before and directly after Halloween, but it’s a phenomenal transformation!  One day it’s Halloween, the next it’s a winter wonderland – MAGIC!

So I am finally getting around to talking about our wonderful holiday-filled extravaganza in the Magic Kingdom… I know, for shame.  But it’s never too late to reminisce about the holidays.  Friday morning, after the chaos of the Disney Wine and Dine Expo, we made our way merrily to the Magic Kingdom.  This day was all about fitting it ALL in, and boy did we.

Ears in tow and ready to go!
Ears in tow and ready to go!

Given that Samantha and I are no strangers to Disney World, we made our way quickly through the gates just around 1:20pm, and worked our way back towards New Fantasy Land.  If you haven’t been to Disney since the addition of New Fantasy Land, it’s worth a revisit.  They’ve extended the park to include the Be Our Guest dining experience at the Beast’s castle, the Under the Seas journey of Ariel, the Little Mermaid (along with Ariel’s grotto of course), the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride, and a plethora of other experiences.  One of my favorite additions is Rapunzel’s tower!  It’s all so charming and a constant reminder of Disney’s attention to detail.

Once in New Fantasy Land, we headed straight to Be Our Guest!  I am a die-hard Belle fan, possibly the brunette English

Belle fanatic? Yes indeed.
Belle fanatic? Yes indeed.

major in me, and since last February when I was there for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I have been dying to dine at Be Our Guest.  We were so lucky to snag reservations, and made our way through the line, flanked by talking (and snoring) empty armor.  Once you confirm the meal you would like (in advance) and approve payment, you make your way into the most spectacular ballroom turned eatery ever seen.  It’s quite truly like walking directly into the movie, complete with the West Wing (on the west side of the building) with enchanted rose and torn painting, and snow falling gently on the evening balcony scene beyond the main room.  Unbelievably incredible.

It is completely like the movie - who is ready to be the Belle of the ball?
It is completely like the movie – who is ready to be the Belle of the ball?
Talk about Disney magic... the enchanted rose!
Talk about Disney magic… the enchanted rose!
Dancing Belle and Beast, tres magnifique!
Dancing Belle and Beast, tres magnifique!
The cupcakes!!  SO good.
The cupcakes!! SO good.

We found some seats and awaited our meals.  Cast members pushed elaborate carts around the room with meals in tow.  Like magic, our meals appeared, complete with delectable desserts (the men both got the Master’s cupcake, with gray icing [“Try the gray stuff, it’s delicious!”]), while Samantha had a lemon merengue and I had a delicious strawberry cream cheese cupcake.  I had ordered the hubs a croquet monsieur and I annihilated the braised pork.  It was a fantastic meal, and all I could think was that doing Disney as an adult may be even more fun than as a child… there, I said it.

After we gorged ourselves on lunch, it was time for fast passes!  Being the Type

The winning score, by Mr. RockyMtnPearls!
The winning score, by Mr. RockyMtnPearls!

A personalities we are, Samantha and I had set up everything in advance, coordinating as much as possible.  We dashed over to Tomorrow Land for our first ride of the day, the fantastic Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.  Imagine sitting in a rotating bench with a toy gun shooting lasers at Emporer Zurg and his army, with the added effect of “Pew Pew Pew” noises for each shot.  Ah-mazing.  You get points based on the number of “Z’s” you shoot, and my hubby was the group’s victor.  It was epic.

We may have had too much fun playing Space Rangers...
We may have had too much fun playing Space Rangers…
*Pew* *PewPew*
*Pew* *PewPew*
Our adorable group and the obligatory castle shot!
Our adorable group and the obligatory castle shot!

Following our Space Ranger expedition, we found the necessary photo stop and got some great photos with the castle.  One of the many parades were about to start, so we jetted across the circle in front of the castle and made our way to Jungle Cruise.  Now this ride is hit or miss and it’s all about the skipper and their ability to deliver a good joke.  Ours was a little wanting but had some excellent morose one-liners that made up for it.  And this time of year, it transforms into the Jingle Cruise, so who doesn’t love a good Christmas themed joke?

Afterwards we headed to separate fast passes, so the hubs and I went to Space

Can you tell how much I LOVE Space Mountain??
Can you tell how much I LOVE Space Mountain?? The couple behind me was less than enthused…

Mountain (amazing!) and Samantha and her hubby went to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  We met back up for Lefou’s Brew in Gaston’s Tavern, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean for us and It’s a Small World for them.  We met up again at the end, and managed to fit in The Haunted Mansion and Thunder Mountain before heading to a delicious dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern.  If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it.  This restaurant basically boasts Thanksgiving dinner all year long!  It definitely makes ordering easy, and the spread is delicious.

Once we finished dinner we emerged into what had become Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!  This event required tickets, which we had purchased far in advance, and allowed us to stay in the park beyond the normal hours, surrounded by Christmas music, magical parades, and one of the best fireworks shows I have ever seen!  It also meant that rides were much easier to get on, and the one ride we had in mind was the brand new Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride – so fun!

Fireworks were about to start, so we made our way around the front of the castle to get a good view.  Disney has daily fireworks shows, so if anyone puts on a good display, it’s them.  Their Magic Kingdom Christmas fireworks show is no exception.  The coordination of music, lighting, fireworks, and of course, Tinkerbell, make the entire spectacle beautifully memorable.  See this fabulous video courtesy of Ms. BakeNBurn!

A Frozen castle in time for the season.
A Frozen castle in time for the season.
The phenomenal final about to begin!
The phenomenal final about to begin!

One of the perks of staying for the Christmas party was the stations throughout the park with free hot cocoa and sugar cookies.  In case we hadn’t had enough food that day, we headed to the Crystal Palace for our holiday snack, munched away, and then found an ideal viewing spot along Main Street USA for the Christmas Parade.  Basically the parade turned into the Frozen and holiday parade, but I was all about it.  This being my second time in Disney around Christmas, I was pleased to see they had altered the parade slightly.  The best part?  It was snowing on Main Street!  After the parade concluded, we headed back to the resort (and thankfully made it on the first bus there) and crashed for the night.  We ended the evening very excited knowing the next day was race day!

Ta-da! Christmas in Disney!
Ta-da! Christmas in Disney!
A float of princesses!
A float of princesses!
Cinderella in her carriage!
Cinderella in her carriage!
The tin soldiers were my favorite! An actual marching band playing their trumpets through the hole in the mask!
The tin soldiers were my favorite! An actual marching band playing their trumpets through the hole in the mask!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Have you ever experienced a Disney Christmas? What are your favorite attractions in the Magic Kingdom?  Can you ever be too old to wear Mickey Mouse ears and spend a day playing in Disney?