Welcome To The Dark Side (Challenge)

Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.

ANYWAY – When all of your friends are obsessed with Star Wars, and you’re obsessed with half marathons, it only makes sense to make a trip down to Florida when Disney decides to combine the two! I decided to do the Dark Side Challenge (10k + 13.1), while two of my friends would be doing the 10k, and two others doing the half. Part of my “training” would be to watch all 6 movies before the trip, which I did not do. Planning began in September, flights were booked in January, and I began counting down the days in March.

FINALLY – the weekend arrived! I flew down on Thursday with my friend Bryce, and after meeting at the airport and checking in to our hotel, we headed to Celebration for some sushi carbo-loading. We went to Ari, and it was DELICIOUS – albeit a little expensive when you’re used to half-priced sushi. I think this is enough sushi for two people, no?


On Friday morning, we met up with the rest of our group at the expo and (somehow) spent nearly two hours there… doing what? I’ll never know. There was beer involved.


With race bibs, shirts, and goodies in hand, we went over to Disney Springs for some more carboloading and Disney shopping. We ate at Wolfgang Puck Cafe, and it was insanely mediocre. My mac and cheese was cold, and barely had any cheese on it whatsoever. I won’t be back. We took it easy Friday night after checking in to our condo and just ate at the bar at the pool (I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). After a quick sit in the hot tub, I was lights out by 9 thanks to some Tylenol PM.

Saturday morning rolls around and I’m exhausted – already looking forward to Monday morning where I don’t have to set an alarm for 3am. I probably drank too much alcohol and not enough water on Friday, which didn’t help the early wake-up call. In all of my Disney racing, I’ve never stayed off property, so I was really nervous about traffic and parking. I’ve heard horror stories about people getting there too late and getting stuck in traffic and then being too late to start in their corrals. So I was insistent that we leave at 3:30 for the 5:30 race. But, from where we were staying, it was super easy to get to the Epcot parking lot, find a parking spot, and get to the start staging area.

Saturday morning was SUPER windy, and I was freezing. So, what does any logical person do when it’s cold – find a generator to stand in front of. Bryce tried to pull me away from it at one point because it smelled like gasoline, but after my incessant complaining, he said “Do you want to go back to your generator?” … Yes, Yes I do.

After meeting up with Abby and Amelia, we made our way to corral D and waited for the start. While waiting, they showed clips from various Star Wars movies and talked about Star Wars-y things that did not make a lick of sense to me. And at 5:56, we were off! And true to form, I had to pee less than 1/4 mile into it.

FullSizeRender (1)(See, I know some Star Wars things!)

I don’t know if it’s because we started at the back of our corral, but this course felt SO congested. We basically walked the whole first mile. We stopped at a real bathroom in Epcot, which made the course a little less crowded, but as soon as we left the park and started toward Hollywood Studios, it was packed again. Disney has to get away from having part of the course on a sidewalk. It’s not working out.

The other thing I generally hated about the 10k course (and half course too) is that the last mile is on a dirt/gravel road. It was crowded, dusty, hard to run on, and mostly miserable. How much does it cost to pave one mile of road? Really. Get it together, Disney. Abby wanted to finish her first 10k in 1:20, and we crossed the finish line in 1:22 – which is great considering our bathroom stop and how crowded the course was! Check out this finisher picture!

4-24-2016 4-28-29 PM


We met up with my friends’ parents at First Watch for brunch (carbs + protein = waffles + bacon!). And after a stop at target for a birthday gift and the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD, we headed home to rest up for Sunday. While a few people hung out by the pool, I napped inside and tried to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate for Sunday! We played a really confusing game while watching Episode IV and ordered Olive Garden carry out. I was definitely asleep before 9…….

…. because my alarm was going to be very rude and go off at 2:30 am. When I do Disney races, as soon as that alarm goes off, I always vow that this will be the last time I run a Disney race, because SO EARLY. Bryce and I left the condo around 3:15 (after I quietly yelled at Bryce to hurry the F*** up). I’m used to being alone on race morning, and not having to wait for someone to brush their teeth and tie their shoes, etc. etc. It was a different experience, for sure.


Since we had already navigated to Epcot the morning before, I wasn’t as nervous about traffic and parking, and we, again, had a very easy time getting to the staging area (highly recommend staying at Summer Bay Resort or in that area if you’re going to stay off property for a race). We sat down on the ground around 3:45 to wait for our friends, who were due to arrive any minute.

Until I got a call from one of them that the unthinkable had happened … He forgot his bib at home. Literally, the stuff of my nightmares. He was planning to run with me, so he told me to just go ahead and he would catch up. SO – we brought our bag back to the car and made our way to the port-a-potties and corrals.


It was Bryce’s first half marathon, so while walking to the corrals, I shared some general race etiquette tips – like, if you’re going to walk, hold your arm up and make your way to the right. He was in corral B (for Bryce), and I was in G (for GOAT), so we parted ways around 4:30, while Clayton was nowhere in sight. I politely chatted with some people around me, and they all agreed that the worst thing that could happen on race morning was to forget your bib at home. Silly Clayton.

But, low and behold, about 5 minutes before my corral was set to go off, Clayton finds me among the thousands of runners. I was relieved that he made it in time, but also kinda bummed, because I love running by myself and was nervous that having someone that’s much faster than me wanting to keep my pace would add too much pressure.

And at 5:28, we were off. The first few miles of the course were significantly less crowded than the morning before, and we ran a really fast first mile. 5 minutes into the race, I realized I hadn’t turned my watch on, and had to run the rest of the race with incomplete/inaccurate data, which was awful. I have no idea what kind of mile splits I ran. Everything felt really good until just after we got to Hollywood Studios, when I accidentally kicked the back of Clayton’s shoe. *ouch*

After that, I was desperate for water and desperate for a break, but Clayton would not let up. We did our 5k in 36:32 (7 minutes faster than my 5k from the day before). Once I got some water around mile 4, I felt much better. Until I had to pee. At this point I was LITERALLY praying to God that he would present a port-a-potty right in front of me. And when I saw one around mile 6, I think I actually shouted “JESUS, YOU THE REAL MVP, THANKS FOR THE BATHROOM!” as I peed for 5 minutes straight.

We ran our 10k in 1:18 (4 minutes faster than the day before). But, at that point, I my feets were starting to scream, and I was pretty bored of running. But Clayton was really intent on hitting 2:30 – which seemed physically impossible to me. He wanted to run, I wanted to walk. And I had to frequently tell myself to run MY race, not HIS. This is why I enjoy running races alone so much. I can go at my pace without feeling guilty for slowing someone down.

We entered Animal Kingdom around mile 8 and ran around the parking lot before going in a back entrance. The parking lot was empty, save for a few wheelchairs. And Clayton wasn’t too keen on the idea of pushing me to the finish line, even though I said I would push him around Magic Kingdom later in the day. So rude. I haven’t been to Animal Kingdom in probably 10 years, so it was fun to run through it and see the tree of life and Expedition Everest. Soon enough, we were running out the main entrance and on our way to ESPN WWOS.

Around mile 11, I had to pee again, so Clayton ran off ahead of me and I felt a real sense of relief that I could finally run my own race. It was so weird that someone else was able to have such a real impact on my mental state during a race. He was intent on sticking with me even though I told him on multiple occasions to leave me behind. He never once complained about our pace or gave me any reason to feel like I was holding him back. But the last two miles of the race were very liberating for me. I was able to enjoy myself a little more.

Before I knew it, I was turning on that stupid gravel road and running up through ESPN. Abby and Amelia were hanging out around 12.6 and I nearly missed them as I ran past. And as I ran down the final stretch, Bryce and his parents were cheering along the left sidelines. I finished in 2:49:29 – my 4th fastest half! And I think this finisher photo accurately shows how I felt to be crossing that finish line:

4-24-2016 4-35-38 PM


Overall, it was a great race. I would make some changes to the course itself, but as always, Disney puts on an unparalleled race. Course entertainment, medals, organization (with the exception of the buses after the 10k) were all superb. It certainly won’t be my last Disney race.

13 down, 17 to go! EEK!! Next up is the Flying Pig THIS Sunday! My favorite race weekend of all time! :)

2 comments on “Welcome To The Dark Side (Challenge)

    1. woof – it was super early. really the only downside to disney races.

      Registering for my next one today! THE MARATHON! Hopefully we can get together when I’m there for that! EEK!

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