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2012 Tower of Terror 10 Miler

This time next week, thousands of runners from all over the world will be at Walt Disney World for the second Tower of Terror 10 Miler.  My very first long-ish race was the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler last year.  Since I wasn’t blogging yet back then, I didn’t do a race report.  So, I thought, better late than never!

Tower of Terror 10 Miler

Tower of Terror 10 Miler

I was so incredibly nervous for this race since it was my first double-digit race.  I had done the training but was still very fearful of the dreaded sweepers.  Disney has a strict 16 minute mile pace requirement, and while that is a generous requirement, I’m pace challenged to say the least.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop for pictures, and even a potty break was questionable.  There were only 4 corrals for the race last year, and I was in C, meaning I would only have a 7 minute lead on the sweepers to start with.  Still, I went into the race completely confident in my ability and in my training.

I arrived at the expo as early as I possibly could.  Like everything at Disney, you must strategize if you are going to get the most out of it.  My plan was to hit the runDisney merchandise booth, get my packets and shirts, and then meander around the rest of the expo to see if there was anything else I was interested in buying.  Because I was staying at a host resort, I was able to take provided transportation to the expo. 

Tower of Terror 10 Miler transportation board at the resort

Tower of Terror 10 Miler transportation board at the resort

Even though I got the earliest bus I could, lines were already longish by the time I got there.  It already resembled disorganized chaos.  However, my plan worked fairly well.  I got all the merchandise I wanted, my dad and I got our packets and shirts (he and I also ran the 5k so I had 2 packets to get), and we even got to see one of Jeff Galloway’s presentations.  All this and we were in and out in about an hour and a half, maybe two.  Not bad!

Race Shirt and Bib

Race Shirt and Bib

The next day was the big day.  For night races, the 5k and the main race are held on the same day, which makes for a long day if doing both.  I wanted to get the most out of the experience so I did both.  Dad and I were up around 3:30, I think, in order to be at the buses by 5.  The pre-race festivities were fun with Farmer Mickey photo opps, a DJ, and fun Halloween decorations.  The race went through the woods of the Wide World of Sports complex.  I thought it was a pretty boring course with very few character photo stops.  After we finished, we got our medals, snack box, etc. and headed for the buses back to the resort.

Dad and I after the 5k

Dad and I after the 5k

The rest of the day was spent resting up for the big night.  I began to get ready around 5 pm and got on a bus at 7. 

Tower of Terror 10 Miler flat me

Tower of Terror 10 Miler flat me

Ready to run!

The pre-race staging area was a big party, and some racers were already drinking.  I’m sure they regretted that later.  I headed straight for the corrals because I wanted to be at the front.  By the time I got into position, it was only about an hour until the start so I made a few friends in my corral and took it easy, trying to relax.  Before I knew it, it was time for the walk down to the start. 

The thing I remember most was the heat and humidity.  My plan was to run a minute and a half and walk a minute all throughout the race.  That’s how I had trained and felt confident I could stay within the pace requirements with this.  However, a mile and a half in, I was finding it hard to breathe.  Not only was it so hot and humid, the course was so crowded, I felt like I couldn’t even get my share of air.  By mile 3 I had abandoned my intervals and ended up walking the rest of the race.  I stayed in front of the sweepers until somewhere between miles 6 and 7.  Luckily for me, mile 7 was the last hard cut off point, and I was just barely behind them so they let me through.  That was too close for comfort, though.  I think they only let about 20 people behind me through.  I didn’t stop for any pictures, and I didn’t even stop to potty.  Considering I walked all but the first 3 miles, it was so hot and humid, and I could barely breathe, I’d say finishing was a win.  I think about 25% of the participants didn’t.  I was so worried they would run out of medals that by the time I got into Hollywood Studios, I kept asking all the volunteers if there were medals left.  Yes, I know that’s silly.  Crowd support was heavy around the hat in the Studios and I almost cried.  Everyone was yelling and cheering, and since I was one of the last finishers with no one else around me, they were all literally cheering for me.  The finish line was right behind the Tower of Terror but by then I was so exhausted I didn’t even notice it.  I wish I had.  It would have made for a great photo. 

Photo my dad took of me at the finish.

Photo my dad took of me at the finish.  Notice I lost my head band somewhere along the way.

All I wanted when I finished was to get back to the room.  I had planned on staying for the after party, getting some food, riding some rides (Tower of Terror, hello!) and maybe getting my medal engraved.  It just didn’t happen.  I was afraid if I didn’t get back to the resort immediately, I would never make it.  That was probably the right call, too, because lots of runners got very sick afterward due to dehydration and heat exhaustion. 

I don’t remember much about the course itself.  For some reason I’ve blocked so much of it out of my memory.  I know I did it.  I know I was there.  However, I’d never be able to prove it by sworn testimony.  I do know that in comparison to the Princess Half Marathon, there were very few character stops and little on course entertainment.  I hope they change this because the theming has the chance to be outstanding.  Some changes runDisney has made for this year’s race based on last year’s event are that they moved it back a week in hopes that the weather would be enough better to at least be manageable and to have LOTS more corrals to help with course crowding. 

Overall, I don’t think I’d ever want to do this race again.  I’m happy to have done it the first time.  The medal is absolutely awesome!  I mean, it has a MOVING elevator, and parts of it glow in the dark!  If I hear reports of the theming reaching its full potential, I MIGHT be persuaded to do it again.  I really wish I could have stayed for the after party.  I REALLY hope I’m in good enough shape after the upcoming Wine and Dine Half Marathon to stay for that one. 

I felt much more human the next day.

I felt much more human the next day.

Did you do the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler?  Are you doing this one? 

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I’m raising money for St. Jude as a charity athlete.  To make a donation, click here.

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Memphis Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

Last Sunday, I attended the Memphis Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party, an annual event for fellow level members and above.  I had really been looking forward to it, and it did not disappoint! 

When we arrived, there was a red carpet to welcome us, which was fun! 

Red Carpet for Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

Red Carpet for Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

We were greeted with our choice of wine or champagne before we ever even entered the museum. 

Welcome glass of wine or champagne

Welcome glass of wine or champagne

That’s my idea of a welcome!  There was live entertainment set up inside the museum as well as on the patio. 

Live Entertainment

Live Entertainment

They also had these neat little lounges arranged all over the place, indoors and out. 

Several lounges were set up all over the party.

Several lounges were set up all over the party.

The atmosphere was really artsy and fun!

The food was insane!  Servers were walking around carrying trays of things.  I had cold shrimp with a lemon vinaigrette, a sausage and rice ball with spicy mustard, and the single best thing of the night, which was crostini with tomato jam, smoked pork, and a verde sauce.  Yum!  Then there were several tables of food set up, too. 

Lots of food!

Lots of food!

Sandwiches, carving stations, potato bites, stuffed mushrooms, fried oysters, shrimp and grits, smoked chicken salad with roasted beets, and grilled veggie skewers were all there and more! 

Grilled veggie skewers

Grilled veggie skewers

Desserts included a watermelon and feta salad, custard bars, and some sort of yogurt soup with blueberries.  It was all so very good!

Drinks were freely flowing as well.  One of the stars was a station serving mint julep snow cones. 

Mint Julep Snow Cones

Mint Julep Snow Cones

These would be so perfect on a hot summer day.  There was also a bourbon bar with about 7 different kinds of bourbon set up. 

Bourbon Bar

Bourbon Bar

I tried a honey bourbon and a blackberry bourbon.  I was so surprised at how different bourbons can be.  I didn’t think I liked it other than in a mint julep (shocker since I went to college in Kentucky) but now I think I’m a bourbon convert.  They had the main bars set up on the patio serving wine, beer, martinis and a couple of specialty cocktails they made for the event.  The one I tried was called a Lazy Sunday Afternoon and featured basil vodka.

They also had corn hole set up on the patio, which we didn’t get a chance to play.  They had a ring toss game set up inside that we did play. 

Ring Toss

Ring Toss

We were given three rings each, and if we were able to toss one of our three rings onto a bottle, we got a Carroll Cloar poster (the summer exhibit at the museum).  I was lucky and won a poster!

This was also the last opportunity to tour the Carroll Cloar exhibit so I had to take one last peek at it.

Carroll Cloar Exhibit

Carroll Cloar Exhibit

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I am a charity athlete raising money for St. Jude.  To make a donation, click here.

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How to Get into a Sold Out Disney Race

runDisney races have become so popular that they often sell out the first day registration opens. 

runDisney

runDisney

Since registration can open up to 8 months before the event, you have to be an uber planner to get in lately.  I love to plan, just not always that far in advance.  With the exception of the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler, all 4 of the other runDisney races I’ve registered for have been more of an afterthought, months after registration opened.  Lucky for me at the time, the races weren’t selling out in a day and I was able to get into the ones I wanted.

My luck ran out when I decided I wanted to run in the Inaugural Minnie 10k being held during Marathon Weekend next year.  

2014 will be the Inaugural Minnie 10k

2014 will be the Inaugural Minnie 10k

I had not initially intended to participate in Marathon Weekend at all.  With a half marathon planned in October, November, and December, my mind and body could not handle January, too.  That all changed when some of my runner friends suggested volunteering.  We could split the room 4 ways and I could fly virtually free on miles, making it a fairly inexpensive trip.  I have to admit, the thought of enjoying a runDisney weekend without any pressure was appealing, as was the different perspective.  I was in!

Of course it wasn’t long until my thoughts turned to running again.  I still was not willing to take on another half, but the Minnie 10k started looking better and better. 

Bling makes everything better.

Bling makes everything better.

Even though it was already sold out, I knew that closer to the event, people would back out, and I’d likely be able to buy a spot from someone else.  The thought totally crossed my mind to do this, but it’s not ideal for several reasons.

  1. It’s against the rules!  runDisney has a policy against bib transfers from one runner to another.  Rumor has it that anyone caught buying or selling a bib in this manner can be banned from runDisney events for life.  I don’t believe I’ve ever actually read this in black and white, and I know I’ve never heard of anyone who actually got banned for this reason.  However, rules are rules, and that’s the rule.  No bib transfers!
  2. Lack of recourse.  These “illegal” bib sales can happen months before the event.  Even if you use PayPal, often the time to file a claim has expired before you would ever know there was a problem.  Unless you happen to be lucky enough to know the person you are buying from, you are trusting a complete stranger to be honest and deliver on their part when it’s time for the expo and bib pick-up.
  3. Wrong name on your bib.  Ok, this may not be a big deal to some, but I bet if you are a guy named John, you don’t want to run wearing a bib with the name Heather on it. 
  4. runDisney can choose to crack down on the rules at any time.  They could easily say only the registrant picks up the packet, meaning you could have paid someone for a bib you can’t even pick up.  Do I think they will do this without warning?  No.  With Disney’s track record for changing things with little or no notice, I don’t think I’d want to chance it, though.  Edit:  runDisney has, in fact, changed the rules, and starting with Avengers weekend at Disneyland in November 2014, they no longer allow packets to be picked up by anyone other than the person registered. 

So, what to do?  The answer is right on the runDisney website.  You can register through various charities and/or travel groups.  Yes, a lot of the charities ask you to raise thousands of dollars, often in exchange for race entry fees, accommodations, even air fare and other amenities.  There are some, though, that just ask you to raise a few hundred dollars in exchange for race fees only.  Then there are the travel groups.  Many require you to book your entire trip with them in order to buy the race entry.  However, there are some that will just let you register for the race, hoping you will book something with them at some point.  At any rate, you do have to dig through the lists to figure out what the requirements are for each one.  I found one travel group that didn’t list what they had available or what the requirements were.  I just had to fill out an interest form online telling them what I wanted.  Within a couple of hours, I got an email back saying they had a Minnie 10k registration available, and for me to call them to get it set up.  I called, still thinking they might at least want me to buy park tickets from them in order to get the registration.  Nope!  I gave them my information, paid only the race entry fee, and got my Active confirmation the next day.  I could hardly believe that I had just successfully, legally, and in my name, obtained an entry for a race that had been sold out for months.  Two of my other friends also registered for other sold out runDisney races using these methods. 

The moral of the story is that you do not have to buy a bib under the table and run in someone else’s name.  Just do a little digging and research and you can either book through a travel group or find a great charity to help support.

Course map for 2014 10k

Course map for 2014 10k

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I am a charity athlete for St. Jude.  To donate, click here.

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Remembering 9/11

It’s hard to imagine that it’s already been 12 years since that terrible day.  I still remember where I was, what I was doing and even what I was wearing.  I walked into work, about 5 minutes late.  My boss called me over to his desk.  Thinking I was about to get reprimanded for being late, I tentatively walked over there.  He pointed to the radio we always kept on in the office.  He asked if I had heard.  I had not.  I listened.  A few moments later, we heard the second tower had been hit.  A little later, we heard about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.  I knew we were under attack, but who?  Why?  We didn’t have access to a TV, only the radio.  All I wanted to do was get to a TV to soak in everything I could learn.  That was the longest working day of my life.

Earlier this week, my friend Jennie, who moved to Ohio last year shared that every year on 9/11 she would take cookies or other treats to the fire station in downtown Memphis as a thank you.  Since she is not here to do that this year, she asked that her friends remember their local fire fighters and police officers and take something to thank them for their service.  I work right across the street from a fire station here in Memphis, so I decided I would do just that.  I got a card, and had everyone in the office sign it, and I baked chocolate chip cookies for them. 

Fresh baked cookies for fire fighters

Fresh baked cookies for fire fighters

I put the cookies on a patriotic plate to deliver to the fire fighters.

I put the cookies on a patriotic plate to deliver to the fire fighters.

A coworker and I delivered them and they were so appreciative! 

A coworker and I delivered the cookies.

A coworker and I delivered the cookies.

Those guys were soooooo much fun, too!  They were cracking jokes, and were just full of energy.

The lawn to the fire station was decorated, too.  They had the FDNY letters on the lawn in stars and stripes. 

The FDNY letters covered the lawn of the fire station right across the street from where I work.

The FDNY letters covered the lawn of the fire station right across the street from where I work.

The flag was flying at half-staff. 

The flag flying at half-staff on 9/11

The flag flying at half-staff on 9/11

They had flags in the ground representing the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives in the tragedy.  They also had a poster with all of their photos.

Poster remembering the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11/01

Poster remembering the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11/01

I’m so glad I did this!  I was hoping to make their day but they ended up making mine!  Thanks for the great idea, Jennie!

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I am raising money for the kids of St. Jude as a charity athlete.  To donate, click here.

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St. Jude Hospital Tour

This past Saturday I got the opportunity to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, right here in Memphis, TN. As most of you know, I love St. Jude, they are my favorite charity, and I do all I can to support them. As you can imagine, I was super excited to get to see the hospital first-hand and learn more about the wonderful things they are doing there.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

First of all, I learned that St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Hospital, was a devout Catholic. As a struggling actor, he once gave his last $7 to the Catholic church and later prayed to St. Jude to help him find his way. His prayer included a promise that he would build a St. Jude shrine. After becoming a successful actor, he kept his word, and the hospital was the shrine he built. One of my friends asked, why Memphis? Well, it was important to Danny Thomas that the hospital not discriminate for any reason. This is even more important because the time period in which the hospital was founded was at the height of the civil rights movement, and sensitivities were very high. Not only was Memphis centrally located, being on the Mississippi River, having a major airport and train station, but he wanted to make a civil rights statement as well.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital.  His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital. His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

I knew that no family is ever asked to pay for anything at St. Jude, but I didn’t know the measures the hospital takes to make sure the family has zero financial burden, even after treatment. See, cancer treatment can cause other health issues, such as hearing, vision, and even dental problems. St. Jude employs all kinds of doctors and nurses so that the family doesn’t have to go outside the hospital for these other issues. They also make many of their own medicines and have pharmacy licenses in 48 states. Once the child is done with treatment at the hospital and is back home, St. Jude can send their medicines to them, also free of charge. They’ve even covered the toll an illness like this can take on the family, a marriage, and the child’s siblings. They have social workers to provide counseling.

Every part of the hospital is designed with children in mind, and not just young children. Counters, desks, and even some ceilings are lowered so the child doesn’t feel so small. Waiting rooms are more like dream play rooms. They have arcades for teenagers and even a lounge area just for teens and their siblings, no parents allowed. They even have a high school prom every year for the teens that had to miss theirs due to their illness.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

I also learned that there are 8 executive chefs in the city of Memphis, and 4 of them work at St. Jude. That means that as a patient and employee of St. Jude, you are going to eat very well. No icky hospital dinners here! Another interesting note about the cafeteria is that Danny Thomas wanted the doctors, nurses, patients and families to all dine together. He didn’t want a separate eating area for the doctors. He wanted the doctors and nurses to be as close to the patients as possible because he felt it would make them better at their jobs.

There is also a pavilion on the campus that is more like a museum of the history of St. Jude and Danny’s life. Here, you’ll find awards such as Emmys and even Danny’s Hollywood Star. They also hold special events here such as the prom I spoke of earlier.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

Danny Thomas's Hollywood Star

Danny Thomas’s Hollywood Star

There are so many things I learned about St. Jude, I could go on and on. I will leave you with this, though. Once a child is finished with chemo, he or she gets a very special No Mo’ Chemo party. Nurses and volunteers sing a song to the tune of the old Oscar Meyer bologna jingle. Here are the lyrics.

Our patients have the cutest S-M-I-L-Es.

Our patients have the sweetest H-E-A-R-Ts.

Oh we love to see you every day

But now’s the time we get to say

Pack up your bags, get out the door.

You don’t need chemo anymore.

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I am raising money as a charity athlete for St. Jude. To donate, click here.

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Labor Day Stew

I am super behind on all the things I want to blog about.  I hope to get you all caught up this week on what I’ve been up to.  Last week was a holiday week (Happy Labor Day!) and I hope everyone enjoyed their short week/long weekend if you got one.  I certainly did, but that also means a busy week of playing catch up! 

I thought I’d share with you how I spent my Labor Day.  I’m not sure about the back story of this or if it’s even really a “thing” but where I grew up, Labor Day Stew was a tradition.  There was a church close to where I lived as a child (where my parents still live) that would sell stew every Labor Day as a fund-raiser.  The men of the church would get up early and start cooking in kettle pots over an open fire.  This was the best stuff ever!  You had to bring your own container to put it in, and my dad would get a big gallon jug of it.  I’m not sure when they stopped doing that, but for years we missed it and craved it.

Then, probably about 15 years ago, we went to Charleston, SC to visit my college friend, Amy, and her husband, Dan.  We went to Disney World right after that and passed through Brunswick, GA.  I picked up a recipe card there for Brunswick Stew.  My dad tried his hand at making it that fall, and it’s been a hit with my family ever since.  He has tweaked the recipe a bit through the years, though I won’t share his changes.  I’m not sure I even know all of the changes.

We picked this recipe up for Brunswick Stew about 15 years ago, and it's now a family fave!

We picked this recipe up for Brunswick Stew about 15 years ago, and it’s now a family fave!

About three or four years ago, my cousin resurrected the Labor Day Stew tradition at her house, using my uncle’s (her father) recipe. 

My cousin set up tables in her garage for the Labor Day Stew.

My cousin set up tables in her garage for the Labor Day Stew.

She and her husband once again cooked it up in a huge cast iron kettle pot over an open flame, a gas one. 

My cousin and her husband cook the stew in a huge cast iron pot over a gas flame.

My cousin and her husband cook the stew in a huge cast iron pot over a gas flame.

Enough stew to feed a small army!

They invited lots of family and friends over, and we had the stew, sandwiches, chips, cookies and brownies.  Often, it’s a little cool on Labor Day but this time it was almost too hot for the stew.  Regardless of the temperature, it’s never too hot for an old tradition. 

More food to go along with the stew

More food to go along with the stew

Do you have any family food traditions?

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