I Love Disney’s FastPass+

I’ll admit I was skeptical when Disney rolled out its FastPass+ program.  It just seemed like this was one more thing I would have to plan long before we actually arrived at WDW and as much as I like planning for our vacations, my family doesn’t like to have every element of our holidays “scheduled” in advance.

For instance, after purchasing the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan one visit and booking dining reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it felt like all we did was run from one reservation to the next and it took some of the fun out of the visit for us. Now I only book one or two Table-Service meals per week to avoid the dreaded “schedule”.

If you are staying at a WDW Resort you can book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance of your check-in date and if you have purchased advance tickets (without a WDW Resort stay) you can book FastPass+ experiences 30 days in advance of your use date.

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From either your computer or your smart phone you can access the My Disney Experience web page or App to set up your FastPass+ experiences. You select 3 choices from the available attractions and the system will provide you with a number of time slot options for you to select from. It’s so easy.

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I liked the fact that for most experiences you get a one hour time slot and not just a specific time.  This one hour time slot provides a lot more flexibility to arrive at the attraction at a time that works for you within the hour window.

The hardest part about the whole process was deciding which 3 attractions/experiences are your favorites that you want to guarantee a time slot for.   We have a few must do’s every vacation that do not normally have very long lines so we decided to forgo using FastPass+ on those rides and used them for the rides that traditionally have longer lines (such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania)  so we didn’t have to wait as long.

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When all was said and done I loved the FastPass+ system and being able to book 3 attractions ahead of time.  I hadn’t realized before this trip just how much my family likes to sleep in.  We aren’t early risers.  We would much rather sleep in and then stay at the Parks until they close.  Under the old system, by not getting to the Parks early we were often too late to get a FastPass for our favorite attractions and would just have to wait in line.  The new system shortened our overall wait time immensely.  I loved it and can’t wait to use it again.

It’s here, it’s finally here. My DisneySide @Home Celebration kit is finally here and I still can’t open it.

One day that seems like an eternity ago but was really only back in December I opened my email to find an invitation to apply for a DisneySide @Home Celebration.  I was over the moon with the thoughts that this year I might get selected to be a host.

I followed the link provided to submit my application. Imagine my surprise when I got to the section to fill out where I was from and there were no options available for Provinces only States.  Oh no, did this mean they were only accepting applications from people in the US? I hadn’t seen any disclaimer/rules saying it was not open to Canadians and since I’m not one to give up, I improvised.  I didn’t select a state; I let the survey default to the blank selection and then entered in Ontario, Canada on the second address line and hoped for the best.

A few days later I received the following email.

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Again I was thinking oh no, did my not selecting a state mess up the submission.  Well I wasn’t going down without a fight so of course I promptly filled out the survey and submitted again

In early January I started to see other Disney lovers and bloggers that I chat with post about having received congratulatory emails that they had been selected.  Since I hadn’t received an email, I was feeling a little discouraged until I spoke (ok, I texted, but spoke sounds more personal) to another Canadian who was in the same situation and she encouraged me to email BSM Media directly. As some great philosopher once said the answer is always no, if you never ask, so I emailed them directly and asked.

Well guess what, I had been selected and was told I would be receiving my email soon.   YIPPEE!!! I was elated.  What a great excuse to show my #DisneySide (not that I need one) and have a party.

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Now it was time to wait, and wait, and wait and wait some more for my package to arrive with items to help throw my party.

Finally today after stopping in eleven different cities in 2 different countries over 6 days my package has arrived.  But guess what, I have to wait some more.  Why?  Because it’s my husband’s birthday today and he deserves to have his special day without me jumping up and down in excitement over something besides him.

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So my package sits on the table waiting and taunting me.  I REALLY, REALLY hope my husband takes pity on me and suggests we open it tonight. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books

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Before I get into why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books to show my #DisneySide, let’s start with some basics in case you are unfamiliar with the Disney PhotoPass service.  Here is a quick summary.

As you wander around Walt Disney World, Disneyland, ESPN Wide World of Sports or even Aulani you may see photographers (often wearing a tan vest) with camera in hand or on a tripod and wearing an official name tag.  These are Disney PhotoPass Photographers who can take your picture when asked and then scan it onto either a PhotoPass Card or your MagicBand.

To claim your photos after your holiday is over, you will need to create an online account for Disney PhotoPass Service then enter the code from your PhotoPass Card or MagicBand to retrieve your photos.  Once you have retrieved your photos you can edit them with the multitude of options available for customization including stickers, borders and graphics.

As a word of warning, if you don’t purchase the photos taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers they will expire 45 days after they are taken so if you plan to use any of their photos in your Photo Book you need to create it within this time frame.

Disney offers a Memory Maker product for $199 that provides digital copies of all photos taken by their photographers and scanned to your PhotoPass Card or Magic Band.  Memory Maker can be purchased more than 3 days before your trip, at a reduced rate of $169.  Memory Maker appeals to many people who want to be able to post the pictures taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to social media and/or share with friends and family.  You can then also print your photos for putting in an album or use for scrapbooking, etc.

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Now back to why I love the Disney PhotoBooks so much. My husband was a professional photographer for years and takes a LOT of pictures when we are away so we always have way more than enough photos for me to post to social media sites without having to purchase the Memory Maker package, so as great as it is, I prefer to use Disney PhotoPass website to create a Disney Photo Book.

I upload my favorite pictures taken by my husband and also use some from the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to make my album.  I get to pick my album cover, layout (pictures per page), background and stickers to make it exactly the way I want it.  Once finished, I place the order and a few weeks later this wonderful Photo Book arrives.  It is essentially a professionally produced hard cover book like I could purchase in a book store with good quality glossy paper for the pages.  The only difference is it is designed by me with the photos and comments I want.

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I know I could create a beautiful scrapbooked album myself but honestly I have better things to do with my time than print my photos, hunt for funky paper, cut and paste everything together all without monopolizing the kitchen table for a week or more, or having one of my cats think it’s a great game to scatter everything across the floor so I have to start all over again.

Aside from the reasons set out above, for me using Disney’s website to create my Photo Book and thereby show my Disney Side is more cost-effective.  The basic Disney Photo Book comes with 20 pages for $79.95 but you can add extra pages in increments of 2 for $3.50 each extra.  I always go over the original 20 pages.  I would end up paying way more than this if I purchased Memory Maker, scrapbook paper, an album and printed the photos.

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There is also the option of just saving the photos my husband takes on our external hard drive to pull up and view on our computer when we want to but I personally prefer having a book to take to family events to show everyone or just to look back at and reminisce with the kids.  They are keepsakes filled with love that I cherish and they sit in a place of honour on my book shelf.

I can’t wait for my next one to arrive any day now.

My take on “Into The Woods”

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Last week my daughter and I went to see the movie “Into the Woods” and having heard many mixed reviews ahead of time I was concerned we would not enjoy it, but we did. I am glad however that my husband and son did not join us.  I know my husband would have gotten up and walked out like a surprising number of people did during the movie.

This movie, to me, is a musical in the true sense of the word because a lot of dialog is sung not just a few sporadic songs.  This reason alone would be enough to deter many from watching it, my husband included.

The basic premise of this movie is that a baker and his wife who have been unable to have children discover the witch next door has cursed their family and if they want the curse lifted they have to obtain a list of items and bring them to her.  All of these items can be found within the stories of various fairy tales and this is how the fairy tales are intertwined.  It is a creative mix of stories and characters that you would not originally think could be combined into one plot.

Meryl Streep plays a convincing witch and while I adore Johnny Depp his lecherous wolf character made me uncomfortable.  If that was the intention then he was successful but I had a hard time reconciling myself to seeing him in this roll. Anna Kendrick’s portrayal of a Cinderella, who walks away from the royal life she initially craved, was both sensitive and strong as required.

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As a lover of the Brothers Grimm I appreciated the dark twists that were included from their original telling of these stories.  Unfortunately many people have not read and are therefore unaware of the often macabre and violet nature of the original stories.  The cutting off of one step-sister’s toes to try to get her feet to fit in the glass slipper garnered an audible gasp from some in the theatre who were obviously unaware of this version of the story.

The movie was not all doom and gloom however; I loved the light hearted, corny interplay between the two princes as they waded through a stream singing about their romantic woes and tearing open their shirts in a show of male ego and competition with one another.

All in aIl, I am definitely glad I ignored the negative reviews and went to see this movie anyway.

Luggage lessons – Learn from my mistakes!

Why write a blog post about luggage? Well, it is an often overlooked item when planning for a trip and was almost the cause of a major meltdown on our last holiday.

In preparation for our family holiday I purchased two new pieces of luggage.  I’ll admit I didn’t put much thought into luggage when I was buying the first piece.  I just knew that Heys was a well-known brand and it had Mickey Mouse on it, what more did I need?

Can you see the faint Mickey image in the dark purple that I copied and added in lilac vinyl to stand out at the airport.

Can you see the faint Mickey image in the dark purple that I copied and added in lilac vinyl to stand out at the airport?

I used that bag for a work trip to PEI and loved it being hard sided and the way it rolled on four wheels so when I returned home I purchased another one, knowing that we needed one more piece of luggage for our vacation.

I never thought to inspect our two old pieces of luggage that we would be using as well.  Mistake # 1.

After 15 minutes on the road, we got off the highway at the next town so my husband could pick up an item he had forgotten from his shop.  At a stop light we felt a funny bang in the back our truck.  What the heck was going on?  My husband got out to find a man behind us saying he had put our tailgate up for us.  OMG, panic attack, had we lost anything in our drive down the highway?  Were our clothes scattered all over the road?  We pulled over and checked.  Everything was still there, thankfully. I apparently hadn’t put the tailgate up after putting my luggage in or had put it up but the latch did not engage and it came down again.  I’ll double check next time. Mistake # 2.

Since we live in Canada and fly out of Syracuse, New York, surprise surprise we get snow. The airport parking lot hike (and I mean hike) with luggage being pulled along behind us through the snow led to a rather difficult and soggy journey for the two old soft sided bags, especially when one of the bags apparently had a slightly bent wheel. Refer back to Mistake # 2 – check your luggage before packing.   Additionally, never buy soft sided luggage if you don’t want to deal with wet belongings. Mistake # 3.

We finally made it to the airport to check in and I had a nice chat with the Jet Blue customer service lady about all the snow and heading to Walt Disney World for a holiday.  All was going well until she started to check our luggage.   After sending my bag down the conveyor and through the little trap door, the service rep picked up the second piece of luggage and said “I didn’t see the yellow Disney tag on the last one, oh well”.  I didn’t think much of this comment until later.  How could she not see a neon yellow luggage tag hanging off the handle of my bag or have not made the connection from our conversation?  If using Walt Disney World’s Magical Express luggage tags ALWAYS specifically and blatantly point them out to your airport service rep before handing them your bags, instead of thinking they are smart enough to make the connection from your conversation or are actually paying attention and can see them.  Mistake # 4.

For those of you who don’t know, Walt Disney World has this wonderful system called Magical Express that will pick you and your luggage up at the airport for free if you are staying at one of their hotels.  About a month before your trip they will mail you bright yellow luggage tags with bar codes on them that need to be affixed to your luggage before it’s checked at the airport.  Then Magical Express luggage services will pick up your luggage for you when it gets to Orlando and deliver it to your hotel room a few hours after landing.  I love this service.  ** If you are Canadian and have not already crossed the border you will need to collect your luggage in Orlando to take it through customs but can then hand it back over to the Disney Magical Express luggage people.**

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We finally made it to Orlando, checked into our room and headed to Magic Kingdom Park for some late night fun.  We returned to our room at 2:30 am to find no luggage.  After I called luggage services, three of our four bags were delivered to our room about an hour later.  Can you guess which one was missing?  Yep, mine.  The one the sales rep said “oh well” about after she obviously realized she had not processed something properly for it.

I won’t bore you with all the details but my bag finally showed up (about 36 hours later) after MANY calls to Jet Blue and Disney luggage services.

You might think this was the end of our luggage drama for the trip but unfortunately not.

For this holiday we decided to book a split stay at two resorts.  On the morning of moving day we rolled our luggage to the front desk and checked out of Pop Century Resort and asked luggage services there to transfer our bags to Art of Animation Resort for us.  We walked over to the new resort and checked in but it was only 9am and obviously our room was not ready.  We didn’t want to hang on to our small carry-on bags, that we still had with us, until our room was ready so we checked these bags with luggage services at Art of Animation Resort to hang on to until we came back from Animal Kingdom Park.

We had a fun day getting wet on Kali River Rapids and returned to Art of Animation Resort just before dinner to put on dry clothes.  We collected our carry-on bags and asked about our luggage.  We were told it would be in our room.  Off we headed to our room only to find our luggage was not there.  I made more calls to luggage services and it finally showed up.  We were in a hurry to change and head out again so did not look closely at our luggage when it arrived.  Mistake # 5.

The last night of our holiday we were all sleeping when suddenly in the wee hours of the morning there was a knock on our door.  Luggage services was trying to deliver someone else’s luggage to us.  It really made me wonder where my luggage had been when it was missing.  Aside from that disturbing thought, if you don’t want to be disturbed in the middle of the night make sure to put the do not disturb sign on your door.  Mistake # 6.

After having been woken up at whatever time that was, we all slept in and then had to hurry to check out and catch our bus back to the airport.  We packed all our bags and headed out the door only to find that during the transfer from one resort to the other the wheel on the old piece of luggage that was slightly bent was now totally missing so the bag had to be carried.  There was no time to complain to anyone or wait for a bell hop to bring us a trolley to load it on.  Refer back to Mistake # 5 – inspect your luggage when you receive it from anyone so you can complain then if something is wrong.

Thankfully there were no issues with our luggage on the return flight home.

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes but also remember, as I did, to find the humour in the unexpected and don’t let it spoil your trip.

We had a wonderful time and even with all our luggage issues will not hesitate to do it all again; after I purchase two more new pieces of luggage and next time I’ll be sure to pack two emergency changes of clothes in my carry-on instead of one.

My Disney Parks Moms Panel Experience

Everyone who knows me knows that for many years now I have been trying to make it onto the Disney Parks Moms Panel and every year I’ve been shut down in Round 1; that is until this year.

Early in September, Disney Parks Moms Panel puts out the call to apply to be on the panel for the next year.  In the first round you have to pick your specialty, which for me is always Walt Disney World Resort, but includes such others as Disney Cruise Line or Disney Vacation Club. You need to answer a series of questions. Some are short and factual and others are essay style but all have a maximum number of characters allowed for your answers.  The number of characters is often an odd figure and I have fun trying to understand the significance of these numbers.

Every year I fret over my answers and spend many hours debating and changing them.  This year I was away at a work conference and didn’t have as much time to dedicate to my answers as I have in the past and actually had to submit my answers from my iPad mini.  The process is challenging enough without the added issue of sporadic internet and such a small screen to work on so when I hit submit and realized my iPad had autocorrected a word to something I didn’t want I felt my heart sink.  It was going to be another year of me not making it past Round 1.

With the realization my dream would be on hold for another year I watched and waiting along with everyone else and commiserated with others on the Facebook pages who were in the same situation.  The wait to hear seemed like an eternity but I kept telling myself the longer the selection panel took the longer I was still in the running.

On the day we were to hear who made it to Round 2 I tried to stay away from social media so as not to feel more upset with myself over not catching my mistake than I already did when I saw all my friends make it through.

Imagine my surprise when I received the email saying I made it to Round 2.  Shock can’t begin to explain how I felt. After the shock wore off I started to wonder what I did different this year that I hadn’t in the past and the only thing I could come up with was writing from the heart without second guessing myself or worrying about what the selection committee was looking for. Trying to be what I thought they wanted hadn’t gotten me anywhere before, so why continue.  With this piece of information I decided to do the same thing for the next round.  I would be myself.  I’m not a flowery writer.  With my experience in the legal field I tend to stick to the facts with my own personal experience on things added in and that is how I would continue to answer the questions.

Round 2 was more questions along with a video about what sets Walt Disney World Resort apart from other vacations.  The questions didn’t give me anxiety but the video was giving me heart palpitations.  I’ve never done any videos before and neither had anyone in my family to be able to help me.  I wrote up a basic script of the main points I wanted to include and set my iPhone to video.  I did one take sitting in my favorite chair in my Minnie onesie pj’s with my ears on and my family all told me I looked like some crazy freak.  My next idea was to video on my front porch with all my carved Disney inspired pumpkins around me but my daughter refused to stand out there and video where anyone could see her.

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Finally I settled on just standing in my backyard in the cold and wind that has settled over the area.  I was lucky I finished when I did because within hours it was snowing.  It took four takes to get one video that was satisfactory.  I won’t say I was happy with it but I wasn’t going to torture myself with dozens of takes when I knew I would never be thrilled with a video of myself. It wasn’t very creative but 71 seconds is not a long time to show your personality and still get your point across.  It was done and what would be would be.

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It was time to wait again.  I must commend Gary Buchanan, leader of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, on keeping all the hopeful panelists engaged, during the waiting periods.  He would post brain teasers and hints on what was to come and I loved them all.  It made the waiting fun.

I can’t adequately explain how I was feeling about my prospects of making it to Round 3. The realist in me knew it was a long shot, the optimist in me held on to hope and through it all I was thankful to have made it this far in the process when I’d never been given the opportunity before.

I was at work when I received the email about Round 3 and I was not sure I read it correctly.  I actually asked one of my staff to come in to my office and read the email to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I was moving on to Round 3.  I had tears in my eyes and was in a state of disbelief.  I called my husband to let him know and he later told me that he could barely understand what I was saying because I talked so fast and was so hyper.

The notification email said we would receive another email from Karen so we could provide her with our contact information for her to call us and set up an appointment for a telephone interview with Gary Buchanan.  I waited more than a day watching others say they had received their emails and spoken to Karen and had interviews set up for 2 days hence and I still had not received my initial email.  I was starting to panic. Maybe it really was a mistake. Self-doubt was creeping in.  Finally I received my email which indicated this was a second email as the first one was returned undelivered. I was happy this was real. I was on truly going on to Round 3.

All was booked for an early 8am telephone interview.  It dawned cold and nasty that morning.  A snow storm had blown in overnight and I had to contend with shoveling my driveway and salting my steps to get to work where I was planning on taking the call in peace and quiet.   The call came in and within the first few seconds I made a foolish mistake.  I spoke as I always did, with honestly, so instead of starting saying it was a great morning I admitted it was a miserable cold morning. Probably not the best first impression.  The call went by so fast I hardly remember what we talked about.

As the call was wrapping up Gary asked if I had received the email he had just sent. I opened my email and said I had so Gary promptly said you have 45 minutes to answer the question time starts now and hung up.  Wow, what a twist.  Although I wasn’t totally surprised by it, I still was not expecting only 45 minutes.  I did my best and hit submit with only about 2 minutes to spare.

It was time to wait yet again.

One of the things that was different in the application process this year was that they were going to be specifically looking for Portuguese and French speaking panelists.  We heard through social media that these people would be having interviews with someone from Disney’s International Departments in their language.  I was glad to see that the panel was expanding to include a more diverse group.

The panel has traditionally included at least one Canadian and I was hoping to be that person but during the waiting period it was leaked that the panel was looking for someone who spoke French to be the Canadian on the panel.  I must confess I found this very hard to deal with since I do not speak French.  I spent many hours wondering if this meant there was no hope for me.  There were a number of other Canadians who were debating this as well.  If the selection committee was only looking for one Canadian and that person needed to speak French then why did they bother interviewing the strictly English speaking Canadians? I held out hope until the bitter end that they would be selecting more than one Canadian.

When the emails finally came out letting us know if we made it or not it was no great surprise after seeing all the language debate on social media that I did not make the panel.  This still didn’t make it any easier to deal with the pain of not being selected.  Part of me felt defeated but the eternal optimist within me reared its head and told me there is always next year and I’d never made it this far before so I was thankful for the experience.  I will never give up on this dream and I hope that next year will finally be my year.

In the mean time I will continue to help friends, family and even friends of friends plan their vacations.

Whether I ever make the panel or not Walt Disney World Resort will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

WDW Radio Dinner Inside the Great Movie Ride

Our first trip to WDW without the kids since they were born was for the 2013 Tower of Terror Race weekend. As luck would have it WDW Radio was hosting a dinner inside The Great Movie Ride on the Friday night and as soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to attend. How often do you get a chance to wander around inside the ride and get an up close and personal look at all the displays?

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All the attendees met up in Animation Courtyard to await our host, Lou Mongello. It was interesting talking to all the other people in line to see where they were from. Of those I spoke with I think we were amongst those who had travelled the farthest to get there.

If didn’t take long to be ushered to the front door of the Chinese Theatre where we met our “Producer” guide for the evening. He was truly a character and very entertaining.

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We entered the theatre and watched the short film before the doors opened up and we started the walk along the ride route. It was wonderful to be able to stop and take pictures when you wanted to instead of rushing to snap them before the ride passed out of range. The lighting was still dim and a few pictures where hard to get due to the screens they had in front of some of the scenes but it was still so much better than the ride for picture taking.

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As we entered the gangster scene we were greeted by two actors who played their parts perfectly and an old time piano player. This is also where dinner was served, for some; for others they continued along and took seats at the tables in the western scene where there was another actress and some musicians playing banjos.

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Dinner was buffet style with a decent array of items to choose from including salads, veggies and a choice of meats. Everything I tried was tasty but the whipped potatoes in particular were wonderful as was the lemonade.  Although I’m a bit of a foodie I still appreciate the classics, when done correctly.

We were given plenty of time to eat, mingle with the other guests and check things out before off we were whisked away to another genre. Next came the tribute to scary movies section where Wayne snapped a picture of me and it looks like Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) has her gun to my head.

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We progressed along to our last stop in the land of OZ, where desert was served; a wonderful array of tasty tiny treats. While we were sampling the goodies Glinda arrived to add to the atmosphere and entertainment. Unfortunately I did not manage to get a photo with her as she was very popular and had quite a crowd to contend with.

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If you ever get a chance to attend an event inside the Great Movie Ride I would highly recommend it and I thank the WDW Radio team for arranging the event for us. It was a wonderful way to kick off our weekend.

A Most Empowering Day!

Well after months of training “sort of” it was finally here, the Tower of Terror 10 mile race weekend (race day was October 5, 2013) and I was so looking forward to it.

I said training “sort of” because I started out training a lot but then I joined roller derby and my runs seemed to get fewer and farther in between.  My longest training run to date had been just less than 8 miles and here I was heading off to run 10.  It was a daunting thought but I was up for the challenge or at least I hoped so.

This was also going to be the first trip to Walt Disney World Resort (“WDW”) for my husband and I without the kids. It was a novel experience planning it without first considering what the kids wanted.  We could finally do some of those adults only things we’d talked about.

As luck would have it that weekend WDW Radio was hosting an event with dinner inside the Great Movie Ride, but that is a story for another day.   1gangsters

My husband is a bit of a daredevil and has bungee jumped before but I am terrified of heights and would never consider such an adventure.  Well, somehow I talked myself into conquering my fear of heights and going parasailing. It was one of those things my husband had always wanted to do so I signed us up as part of my anniversary present to him.

The day we were to parasail dawned clear and bright and with it my fears returned with vengeance.  Could I really do this?  Could I allow myself to go 400 feet up in the air and watch my feet dangle with nothing below me but Bay Lake?

Wayne was determined, he was going with or without me so off we went and checked in at our scheduled time.  I was so scared at this point but knew I could back out up until the last possible moment on the boat.  I allowed myself to be put in the harness and listened to all the instructions.  It was suddenly go time and it all happened so fast I didn’t have time to think about chickening out.  We were attached to the parasail which was already deployed out behind the boat and up we were going.

It was surreal.  I still get chills thinking about it.  We were on the deck of the boat and literally 10 seconds later we were 400 feet up in the air.  The ascent was fast, but not shockingly so, and it was so smooth.   I admit I was hanging on pretty tightly at first but I managed to relax somewhat as time went on.  Looking around and seeing Magic Kingdom Park from that point of view made all the nerves worthwhile.  It was an experience I will never forget.  Unfortunately our GoPro camera died that day so we didn’t get any pictures from up in the air of the amazing view.  IMG_6689

I’m not sure I would have gone up had it not been for Wayne and his support that day.  However, having done it once now, I would gladly do it again.   To anyone who is thinking about parasailing at WDW I would highly recommend it.  The staff at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre were professional and amazing.  They seemed to realize the more time they gave me to think about it the bigger the chance I would back out.

Parasailing day also happened to be race day.  We had decided early on that after parasailing we would take it easy so I wasn’t exhausted before the race even started but there was just no way I could be that close to Magic Kingdom Park and not go in to ride at least a few rides.  One of the rides we decided to tackle was Big Thunder Mountain.  For me this was another scary proposition.  I am not a fan of roller coasters, but again I mustered up my courage and plunged head first into an abandoned mine on a runaway train car.  When it was done I was pleasantly surprised.  It had not been that bad after all.

As race time approached I put on my running costume, Minnie Mouse.  For the third time that day I was getting nervous about doing something I’d never done before.  10 miles is not exactly a short race.  While I realize it’s certainly not a marathon, it’s nothing to look down your nose at either.  Having never done a runDisney race before, or any race with more than 100 participants, I did not know what to expect and decided to head to the staging area early.  This was probably the only thing I would do differently next time.  I did not need as much time to get organized as I allowed myself.   Hopping on the bus and heading to the staging area was an experience all its own. I never expected to see 80% or more of the runners dressed in costumes.  A few crazies like me but not almost everyone. Me before the race

The build up to the race was great, with all the music and fireworks.  Based on race times I submitted for previous 10km races I’d run I was placed in corral D which rather surprised me but I was happy to not be in the last corrals and have to worry about keeping ahead of the balloon ladies.   I was not expecting this to be a fast race for me for a few reasons:  1. I’d never run this far before; 2. I knew I was going to stop and take a lot of pictures along the way;  and 3. I’d never run in such heat. It was still 27°C with high humidity at 10pm when the race started.

The race started out well and I was pretty happy with my pacing. The character stops for pictures were almost perfectly timed for when I needed to slow down and take a break.   me and stitch2

By about mile six I was starting to fade and the heat was getting to me but I was drinking lots to stay hydrated. I think this was the point in the race where we were on a dirt/gravel path headed into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  The lights had gone out on part of this path and it was rather difficult to see.  A rock got wedged up in the sole of my shoe and I had to get out of the way of other runners so I could stop and remove it, all in the dark.   me and kript keepers2

At mile eight I hit “the wall”.  I thought about quitting but knew I would hate myself if I did so I pushed on.  My husband who was getting status updates on my time told me later that he was starting to worry a little as he watched my interval times get slower.

Somewhere around mile nine we were entering Hollywood Studios and I knew the end was near so I caught a second, third or maybe even fourth wind at that point.  I ran around a corner by the back lot and there was Wayne cheering me on.  I was so happy to see him I almost cried.  I remember thinking I must really be getting close to being done and around the next corner must be the end, but it wasn’t.  There were still more photo ops to stop for before the finish line. me and lotso2

It seemed like the run through Hollywood Studios would never end but alas it finally did.  My time was 2 hours 20 minutes.  I accepted my medal and box of snacks and made my way to bag pick up while eating my banana.  Never had a banana tasted so good to me.

I did it.  I had run my first runDisney race and my first 10 mile race.  I was exhausted and a little sore but overall happy with my performance based on the conditions and my now very apparent lack of training.

Actually I was thrilled with myself.   I was 41 and not even a full 10 months earlier I ran for the very first time after leading a rather sedentary life for quite a number of years.  I was pretty damn proud of myself.

After the race I met up with Wayne and we headed to the Toy Story Midway Mania ride.  It is one of my favorites and the lines are usually long so I had to take advantage of the chance at a short line.  The line was not short (or fast) enough for Wayne.  Imagine if you will, an enclosed building with 100’s if not 1,000’s of sweaty racers who were either in line or had recently been in line.  Me, being one of those sweaty racers hardly noticed the “aroma” present as we waiting in line but Wayne, who has a super sensitive nose and who did not run was quite literally gagging every time we entered a confined hallway and there was movement making the scent waft around us. He could not get out of there fast enough.  I must admit at 1am after having run 10 miles I found his discomfort rather amusing.

We didn’t stick around long at the after party as it had been a very long eventful day.  Back in our room as exhausted as I was I just could not sleep.  I was so exhilarated with everything I had done and accomplished.

I’d conquered by fear of heights and parasailed.  I’d set aside my fear of roller coasters and ridden Big Thunder Mountain and I’d not given up and run my first ever 10 mile race.    It was the most empowering day I think I’d ever had.  I felt like I could take on the world.  I can’t sufficiently put into words just how emotional I was that night and what all I was feeling but suffice it to say I was amazed at myself.

I sincerely hope a trend started that day and I can continue to face my fears that have been holding me back and continue to enjoy all that life has to offer.

How I put my jealousy to good use.

1st race 4

It was about this time last year after being sick and feeling run down that I decided I was going to try and get healthy and exercise more, so off I went to the gym and started to run on the treadmill.

Why did I pick running as my exercise of choice when I had a whole gym worth of equipment at my disposal?

Well to be honest, I was jealous of all the runDisney race posts and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, etc. from all my friends after they had run various and multiple races at Walt Disney World and Disneyland last January. They were all having so much fun and I was wishing I was right there with them. I wanted to run through the parks and get my picture taken with the characters too.

Reading all these posts, I came across a number that talked about the Galloway method of training so I looked it up. Now this was a training program that I thought I could do. Never having run before the prospect to getting on a treadmill and running for a half hour or more straight intimidated me and I felt set me up for failure, but a program that mixed running with walking I could manage.

After a few weeks of running I was actually starting to enjoy it and felt impressed with my progress. I could do this; I could be a runner, so why not sign up for a race, which is exactly what I did.

My first race was in April. Living in Canada I know spring races can be cold but I was not expecting -2°C with biting winds in which to run my first 10 km race. I was the third last racer on the course but I finished in an hour and 10 minutes which for me was a win. I figure most of the more casual/recreational runners were smart and stayed home instead of racing in those temps.

With a 10 km race under my belt I decided I could tackle a 10 mile race in October. This gave me 5 months to train but more importantly (to me anyway) it gave me an excuse to go to back to Walt Disney World. I went home and immediately registered for my first runDisney event, the Tower of Terror 10 miler.

Once registered it was just the motivation I needed to keep running and not give up and go back to my sedentary ways. Training for a 10 mile race was about as difficult as I imagined it was going to be and finding time for my long runs did create a challenge some weeks but I did it. I’ll post later about my Tower of Terror 10 mile race experience.

Running is now a part of my life although at the moment I haven’t run in a while due to a MCL injury sustained playing roller derby but I truly miss it and that is something a year ago I never would have imagined I would ever say.

Running has been a great experience for me, or more accurately a great many experiences. I’ve run a number of races now and learned a lot about myself along the way. I am so thankful for what running has brought me: strength, stamina, friends and memories, all of which I would not have obtained without it.

My Disney Addiction

ME & Minnie

My “Disney addiction”, as some have called it, started when I was five years old.

After two years of battling cancer my baby brother, Robbie, finally succumbed to his brain tumour.  A few months later my parents felt it would be a good time to get away from the stresses of real life so we all headed to Walt Disney World (WDW).  It was a wonderful, magical experience for me and where I felt happy for the first time since Robbie’s death.   I learned to smile and laugh again on that trip as I made my parents nauseous spinning my cup as fast as possible on the Mad Tea Party ride.

One of the few pictures I have of Robbie smiling was of him in his walker with a pink stuffed elephant.  At the tender age of five I equated that elephant with Dumbo and absolutely had to go on that ride as well.  Both of these rides are now a must do on every trip I take to WDW.

Since that first visit I was hooked and have gone back to WDW so many times I’ve lost count.  As a kid I travelled each summer with my grandparents and they would ask me where I wanted to go.  The answer was always the same, WDW.  Being Canadian it is no quick trip to drive to Orlando and back so I didn’t manage to convince them every year but more times than not I was successful.

I remember one particularly boisterous trip when I was sixteen.  My mother agreed to drive 4 giggling, teenage girls to Florida for a week and we absolutely had to visit WDW.  All the other girls had never been before so it was fun acting as a sort of tour guide around Magic Kingdom.  I thank my mother for her courage to brave that trip even when everyone thought she was crazy; including the border guard who took one look in our van on the return trip and decided there was no way he was searching through our mass (or more accurately mess) of stuff.

I now have two kids of my own and will never forget that look of wonder in their eyes as they walked down Main Street for the first time and saw Cinderella Castle. My husband was equally excited since he never had the good fortune to visit when he was a child.

All these cherished memories and so many more that were created at WDW with my family are the biggest reasons I keep returning.   Things and people come and go but memories stay with you forever; and there is no better place for making memories than at Walt Disney World.