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I wanted to take some time to give my thoughts on the experience looking back at things a couple of weeks later. The Dopey Challenge was a Beast of a challenge and took some time to recover from and properly reflect on.
RunDisney: The organization is world class. The races are not cheap by any means. The challenge cost over $500 to do, but you get what you pay for. The challenge comes with 6 shirts and you get 6 pieces of bling for finishing. Everything is well designed and of the highest quality. The races are so well organized between the logistics and entertainment. Everything was like clockwork. There were plentiful and well stocked aid stations full of energetic volunteers. The best was crossing the finish and having free reign to grab whatever water or powerade you wanted as well as having prepared snack boxes available for ALL the races. The boxes and tortilla chips, protein bars, sport drink mix, goldfish, and several other treats. There was music to pump you up everywhere including a lot of music from the movies I grew up on which I spent the week after humming to myself. Having photo opportunities with the characters was great even though I didn't take advantage. They even did a good job of varying the courses despite having basically the same start and finish for all 4 races.
GoPro: I bought a GoPro Hero 3+ during a Black Friday sale. I knew I had more ambitious running plans and wanted to become better about documenting it. I knew I'd definitely want photos or more from the Disney experience. I went in with barely testing out the camera. I did enough to learn how to use the camera and get my head strap and chest mounts to fit properly. I had not recorded more than a minute of video and that was done on the treadmill. I was just winging it when I got there. I learned some things and got enough footage to feel good about it. The camera takes much better video and photos than I could have ever imagined. I now need to teach myself how to edit the videos.
Taking a "Runcation": Taking a full vacation along with the running made everything that much more difficult. We were getting up at 3AM for the races and then still hitting the parks afterwards. We hit all the things we wanted to see and do and ate way more junk than we had any business eating. It was brutal. We were in Florida for a week and probably logged a good 60-70 miles walking on top of the 48.6 miles of running. To say I was spent by the time I got home was an understatement. I'm glad I took an extra day off work just to collect myself. It took a good week to get back to a normal schedule.
Disney: We decided early on that we would stay on resort to simplify things. It may have cost a little more but made everything much simpler later on. It was so nice just being able to go on the Disneyworld Website and having everything at your fingertips. I was able to get a package with the room, park tickets, and even a meal plan all baked into 1 price that I had until 60 days before arrival to pay off. The other perk of staying onsite was having the Disney Express do pick up and drop off for the airport. If we had arrived earlier in the day they would of even collected our luggage at the airport and brought it to our room for us. Leaving we dropped off our bags with the service guys and didn't have to worry about it until we collected out luggage at Midway. Disney offers several meal plans, but we went with the regular one which included 1 sit down restaurant, 1 cafeteria style meal, and 1 snack per day. Snacks could be coffee, fruit, bottle of water, cupcake, Mickey ice cream bar, etc. All the lunches and dinners came with dessert. If fully utilized it can be a great value. We found that it was just too much food for us. We wound up not using a few of the cafeteria style meals. It also didn't help that Vijay couldn't comprehend how meals worked and instead grabbed stuff that counted as snacks at meal time. We were almost never hungry for snacks so we didn't miss them, but you can get bags of candy or other treats to bring home with you on the last day for unused snacks. You can't take home unused meals. We'd probably skip the meal plan next time, but it gave us the change to try a lot of places and dishes and not worry about price.
My Birthday: So my birthday happened during the trip. I was a little distracted by having to do the whole marathon thing, but still managed to have a good time. Once we got to the park I got a button announcing to the world that it was my birthday. I heard congratulations and happy birthday everywhere all day long. We had our best meals on this day as well. For lunch I had snagged fast passes for the hottest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom - Be Our Guest. The restaurant was modeled to look like the interior of the castle from Beauty and the Beast. You walk in and order from touchscreens made to look like scrolls and then find seats. Servers roll around carts and bring the food to you using the RFID tag in the MagicBand to find you. I had a croque monsieur which was basically a grilled ham and cheese, but this one tasted spectacular. For dessert I had a chocolate sponge cupcake with "grey stuff" frosting. I didn't need to ask the dishes, it was delicious. Dinner was over at the Polynesian where we ate at 'Ohana. It was Hawaiian inspired food served family style. There was so much and it was so good. I need to figure out how to make the big skewers of meat like they do because they were amazing. I also got lei'd for my birthday. I would eat at this place again in a heartbeat. It would probably be better if I wasn't so exhausted.
Conclusion: Would I run the Dopey Challenge again? I think I would. It's not something I would do every year, but it was a great experience. I got to push myself to new levels running and see what I was really made of. I also got to be a big kid and have all sorts of fun. Who didn't grow up watching Disney movies? I kind of want to earn their coast to coast challenge now which is running at least a half marathon at both Disneyworld and Disneyland. It's not in the picture for this year, but next year I'd love to run the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in January at Disneyland and then hit the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Disneyworld in November. There's even a marathon in Anaheim the weekend before Star Wars so that if I got in the weekend before I could knock California off the marathon list. It's unfortunate that after the one and only Disneyland Marathon they signed a non-compete agreement with the LA Marathon. The property there isn't quite as big as in Florida so the logistics are harder as well. M-I_C - see you real soon, K-E-Y - Why? Because we like you - M-O-U-S-E