Wine and Dine Half Expo Review: Changes galore

Thinking I’m so cool at my first Wine and Dine Half in 2012
I did my first Wine and Dine half in 2012 and have gone back every year since.  That year I had just gotten into running and was intrigued by the Disney races.  My in-laws had never been to Disney, so my husband and I decided to bring them down with us.  We stayed at All Star Music in a cute suite, and I got to see RunDisney in all its flash and glory, which obviously got me hooked.

This was back when you could register for RunDisney races a few weeks in advance, rather than getting on the computer right when the regi

This year
stration opened, praying that you’d get in.  I think my husband and I both registered for the 5k about a week before the race, which would be my husband’s first ever race and start his slow pull into running.  A lot of changes have happened since that year.  Overall, RunDisney became really popular, making registration stressful and forcing people to register nearly a year in advance.  This definitely could be a turn off to people, and it seems that race demand is in decline. RunDisney has already moved next year’s marathon registration back to April, versus the February it was this past year.  That’s helpful, particularly if you don’t allow for transfers, deferrals, or refunds, and makes it nicer if you want to try to make a more “last-minute” trip to do a race.


The Wine and Dine Weekend has also changed, now offering a challenge for completing the 10k and half.  When I started running it in 2012, it was the 5k on Saturday morning with the half marathon that night, finishing with a party at Epcot, where runners could stay until three or four AM.  There was something really neat about starting a race at 10 pm and running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot at night, but that has changed.  Now the race weekend extends over three days, with the 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday, and the half Sunday afternoon, with the party that night, which can be difficult to take off of work for another day if you are an out-of-towner.   This change, to me, has decreased the uniqueness of the Wine and Dine, and I think the fact that registration was still available going into race weekend shows that I am not the only person who feels that way.  However, I digress.

I brought up change because the expo underwent many changes for this race weekend, which were obvious from the start.  My husband went down early this year, and he texted me from the expo, telling me how different it was.  I didn’t really know what he meant until I got there.  First of all, the buses drop you off in a different spot, likely due to construction, but it seemed substantially closer than the old locations.  You used to walk a fair amount just to get into the ESPN complex.  Now it wasn’t so bad.  The first stop to get your bib was in the same building, but here’s where the changes started. When you walked in, going one way would take you to bib pick up, the other way would take you to a merchandise location.  There was always an area to get the coveted RunDisney race merchandise near bib pick up, but now it was in a different room.  As we walked to the race merchandise, my husband warned me how different it would be.  I couldn’t even fathom it when we walked in.

You used to be crammed into little areas with people pushing each other just to get to items.  I’ve seen people yelling, throwing things, and breaking things in order to get stuff.  Usually this behavior was more around Princess weekend, but I’ve seen aggressive shoppers during other weekends as well.  It was always drama filled.

This year the merchandise was basically in its own level of the arena, in a sprawling area where people could easily navigate and pick out the items they wanted.  There was a section of generic RunDisney stuff, an area for men and women apparel for each race, and miscellaneous drinkware, with the preorder stuff along the back wall.  I couldn’t believe it!  It used to be very stressful to get your merchandise, and this was so peaceful and laid back.  I was able to look at everything and really see it, instead of being jostled over items that were the most wanted.  People were milling around rather than rushing to get things.  I don’t know if the fact that RunDisney didn’t release any race merchandise previews helped, but it was a totally different atmosphere.  My husband had been there right when it opened Thursday, and we were both there right when it opened Friday.  There was no overcrowding or issues at all.  I also feel like they are doing a better job with ordering enough stuff.  There were a few things that sold out, but some of the more popular items were still available at the end of the weekend, such as jackets, Tervis mugs, and other race shirts.  I know this is a smaller race, but I was still so surprised by the positive changes.

After the merchandise and bib pick up, we still had to go to the other building to get the shirts.  They still have it at the back of the arena, forcing you to walk through the vendors to get there.  It’s good marketing, but still is a bit of a pain to have to go over there.  There wasn’t any race merchandise in this building like there normally is, so everything was much more spread out in there and made it easier to walk around and browse the various stalls.  We quickly picked up my shirt and shopped, before stopping for a drink to get the RunDisney cups that you can get when you purchase a beverage.  This time they were clear with glitter, and we’ve gotten a number of different colors over the years.  We were able to enjoy our drinks outside, people watching and musing over how much easier this expo had been than previous years.

So, while I discussed some changes that may not have been for the best at the beginning of my post, I do have to say that the changes made to the expo this time around are very positive.  Kudos to RunDisney for addressing a problem that has been building up for awhile now.  I hope that they use this system for marathon weekend.  I’ll report back for that one and let you know how that expo goes in two months!


Chicago Marathon Reflection…

When I found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon last December, I was so excited.  My mind instantly began racing (no pun intended), imagining the excitement of such a big race and the huge marathon PR I could get on such a big stage.  It was going to be epic.

However, life doesn’t always seem to go as planned.  I ended up getting a new job at a new school over the summer, while taking three online graduate classes during July and August.  My summer consisted of being stressed over interviews, writing grad papers for 4-5 hours pretty much daily, and really just trying to get my life together, which is not an easy task for an OCD planner like myself. 

Let’s just say my running took a hit over the summer.  I was running, but other life demands took their toll on me.  I also started noticing some knee pain in August.  Never debilitating, but just enough to cut back on some runs and to be a nuisance.  Then mid-August hit and I started my new teaching job, and with it, a whole new world of stress.  It’s good stress, because I really do love my new school and students, but stress nonetheless.  So while I tried to fit in runs during the beginning of the year teacher exhaustion period, I wasn’t always successful in doing so.

Then, of course, I got sick mid-September.  It wasn’t like the flu or anything.  I was never completely knocked down, though I did spend one Saturday sleeping for about twelve hours.  As I got bronchitis right before my last marathon, I became very paranoid.  I cut back on my running, missing my last long run before my taper and really not running much in the two weeks leading into Chicago.

Thus, I knew I was definitely undertrained as I lined up race day.  I stood in the F corral, eyeing the 3:55 pacers, my adjusted goal time that I had set over the summer when I knew that I couldn’t meet my original enourmous dream time.  I texted my husband, talking about running with them, but kind of knowing that it was not going to happen.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew it.  Plus, it was already 56 degrees, with temperatures predicted to approach 80.  I am NOT a warm weather runner, so that was weighing on my mind a bit.

The first few miles flew and I wasn’t far off of my goal pace.  However, I could already feel my legs at the 5k mark.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my low 9:00  paces.  I texted my husband around the 8k mark, telling him I wasn’t going to be able to maintain, and he encouraged me to slow a bit.   This is where my knee started to complain, and I added walk breaks through water stations.  By mile 8 I was hurting and my mind was overwhelmed by the amount of remaining miles.

I hadn’t realized how bad a hit my endurance had taken when I was sick and not really running, but I was feeling it heavily early on in the race.  My knee was angry about the pounding, likely having enjoyed its rest period while I was sick, and it expressed itself early on with pain.  Then the pain travelled up to my hips, and my shins began cramping.  My legs weren’t ready. 

It was mentally hard to run this race.  There were times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish.  I’ve never felt that much pain so early in a marathon, and I was worried that it was going to get to the point that I would need to stop, that my body was going to give out on me.  It was that unknowing, and constant reminder with discomfort and pain shooting through my legs and hips on each step, that made my race an inner turmoil for me.  I wasn’t sure how far I was going to make it, and that was killing me.

One great thing about the Chicago Marathon is the crowd support, and I truly believe that is a major reason I was able to finish.  As I passed the halfway mark and the temperatures began to climb, I noticed a lot more people start walking.  This race was impacting a lot of people, not just me, and that was a little reassuring.  I guess misery loves company, right?  But it was also during this time that I began to rely on the crowd cheering to help me through.  I purposely wore one of my Sparkle Athletic skirts, a super shiny one, to draw attention, and I achieved my goal.  Lots of people called to me that they liked my outfit, and that helped me continue on.

People lined the streets throughout the race, which was quite amazing to see.  Not only did they cheer, but the supplied things like candy, drinks, food, and even tissues!  All of these things were greatly appreciated.  My favorite was the people who gave out freezie pops.  I can’t even tell you how amazing that was.  It was sunny at this point and super hot.  I had salt caked to my face from the sweat (ew, right?).  Then all of a sudden someone handed me a red freezie, and my life got a million times better.  I don’t know if these spectators realize how great their actions were, their cheering or their supplies, but I know that they definitely helped me finish a difficult race and I am forever thankful.

I almost cried when I crossed the finish line.  I had really wondered if I would make it at times, and it was a relief when I hit mile 26 and I was able to pick up the pace on the turn and finish somewhat strong.  It was easily one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I plan on not making the same mistakes twice.  I learned a lot from this race.  I am running the Disney marathon in January, which I am now looking at as almost a redemption race, and I plan on throwing everything I can at this race.

I have gotten a coach for this race.  I’m looking forward to getting a training plan that runs much higher mileage, because I realized that my best marathon was off of a training cycle that had a number of 55-60 mile weeks, while this time I was around 40.  I also am hoping the guidance and accountability of a coach will help keep me consistent, finding time to make these runs work as I settle into my third month at my school and I feel that I have finally fallen into more of a routine there.

I have also started physical therapy.  I had my first appointment, and started a rehab program to help with my knee pain.  I’m obviously facing some muscle weaknesses and imbalance because I think my soreness from my first PT appointment might have been worse than my post marathon soreness.  I need to make cross training and strength a bigger part of my training plan.  I also need to stretch more as I was told my legs were pretty tight.

Hopefully with these steps, I can redeem myself in Disney.  I am still dreaming of a marathon PR, which would be right around four hours.  I’d be thrilled to break four.  I think if everything comes together, and if my PT goes well, I might be able to do it.  It’s a huge jump, but I’m going to throw everything I have at this goal.  I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I did with Chicago.  This is going to become a priority now that my life seems to be calming down and I’m ready to take it on.