Friday, January 31, 2020

In Which Jenn Can runDisney Photo Dump Again, Hooray!

Despite my better fiscal judgment, I have an WDW Annual Pass once again, and you know what that means, kids - I CAN ACCESS MY PHOTOPASS RACE PHOTOS FOR FREE!

And then I can make you look at them. Wait, no, don't click away! Don't you want to read my commentary??? It's pithy and judiciously deployed, I promise!

For context, if you like that sort of thing:
WDW Half Marathon Recap | WDW Marathon Recap

Arranged in height order.

I spent entirely too long making this. I don't know what it's for.

"How horrible our Christmas will be!"

I'm crouching to keep the blood off the saddle.
Wait, is that a period joke? Anyway this photo is terrible.
No, guys, THIS was the best day ever.

Smoke gets in your eyes. Did I say smoke? I meant the sun.

Remember what I said about the happy almost-tears? Yeah.

Did you know I have double-jointed elbows?

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Skipper Canteen Review

And for the food review portion of my 2020 WDW Marathon trip. You can read all the posts in this report here. Onward!

I have predominantly heard three things about the Skipper Canteen restaurant in Adventureland: it is an 1) underrated 2) delight that 3) gets watered down more and more with each passing year. Eager to check it out before it before it started serving "American cuisine," I easily snagged us an early lunchtime ADR for Friday.

Oh, sorry, there's a fifth thing I always hear about Skipper Canteen: it is one of the only places you can get alcohol in the Magic Kingdom. To which I say two things: 1) at that time I was keep drinking to a minimum because of the race weekend and 2) it was all basic beers and wines anything, so I didn't personally see anything to tempt me. But I can see how if you were really craving a beer that would be good to know.

So the Skipper Canteen, if you're not already aware/informed by context clues, is lightly themed to the Jungle Cruise. Outside of the decor and ambiance, which shared the '30s feel of the ride, our first and most prominent example of this came when our host showed us to the table: the man treated us to a litany of puns the entire way. As an admirer of the format, I was very pleased when we were informed that, for example, we would be sitting at "the backside of stained glass windows."

Sadly, this particular form of ridiculousness did not carry over to our server, but she was nice and helpful all the same. She gave us a quick rundown of the specials, which included Brazilian cheese bread. Seeing as Erika was Brazilian, we had to give it a go.

You may recognize this dish from the Brazil booth at the Food & Wine Festival, where it goes by the traditional name of pao de queijo. At its best, these are fluffy and gooey with cheese and delicious. The Skipper Canteen version was okay, but we got the impression it had been left in the oven just a touch too long. The dish was accompanied by a cream cheese and pesto; Erika said that this was not a Brazilian thing and while we both tried it we preferred without.

Erika was also far more interesting than me (a Diet Coke girl) and selected as her drink the Schweitzer Slush, a passion fruit and apple concoction. She said it was too sweet but she enjoyed the boba balls it came with.

For my entree I selected the curried vegetable crew stew, which I ordered on the strength of the curry alone. Unfortunately the flavors were not as strong as I would've hoped, but it was curry all the same. The coconut rice was sticky and mildly flavored, pairing nicely with the stew. Vegetables included green beans, tomatoes, and zucchini, plus there was fried tofu that could've stood to be a bit crisper but otherwise had a nice flavor. All in all I found it to be a pleasant and healthy choice. The naan was tough, though; don't order this for the naan.

Meanwhile Erika also selected a stew, albeit of the seafood variety, which was our server's recommendation. Alas, I neglected to snap a photo, but she had similar critiques to mine: primarily, it could use a more robust flavor, but it was otherwise tasty.

Ultimately I would return to Skipper Canteen. While the menu does seem to be arranged for less adventurous palates, the Afro-India menu is still more interesting than most. And who can resist the puns?

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: 1/13

And now for my favorite kind of post - the trip report! I'll be covering my 2020 Marathon trip. You can read all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Hello and welcome to the final day of my 2020 Marathon Weekend trip report! Are you here looking to get stressed tf out??? If so, do I have the blog post for you!

Our morning began at 5am. In the still-dark of early morning we rose, showered, dressed, and headed out the door with but one goal in mind: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE.

Luckily there was no real line for bag check/airline check in, and with a Studios bus arriving in a reasonable amount of time we were at the park and through bag security a little after 6:30am. That half hour was spent milling around in a pool of anxious psychic energy as we all waited for the moment of release: BOARDING GROUPS FOR RISE OF THE RESISTANCE.

I asked Erika to go for a boarding group too, since it's a numbers game, and at 7am we went to town touchpad-smashing in the app. But, alas, a mixup! Erika got through first but had forgotten to add me to her boarding group. So I had her in mine, got an error that she already had a group, I was briefly distracted by discovering Erika had accidentally signed up solo, and THEN I got my own boarding group. She was 35... and I was 80.


Not to litter this trip report with every minuscule move we made in an effort to correct this error, so here's a summary: we talked to several Cast Members at several guest services locations throughout the day, and were told on no uncertain terms that once boarding group filled up the day there was no way to make changes. We finally got someone to agree that, if Erika wanted to ride with me (which she did) despite a lack of overlap in boarding group time windows, that would be allowed.

So what we had now was a numbers game. If we wanted to make our Magical Experience bus to the airport, we needed to head out of the park in the area of 1 - 1:30pm. Group 35 would almost certainly make it - but 80? That was a less certain. It was definitely doable, but it all depended on downtime. Based on early morning boarding group movement, I had around two hours worth of buffer time - but precious little more.

But there was nothing to be done about it but wait and see. We set our sights on other rides, and after grabbing our boarding groups headed immediately for Rock 'n Roller Coaster. We went through the line so quickly they weren't even using the preshow rooms. (Incidentally, if we had gone directly to guest services about our boarding group mix-up instead of riding that first, we might've gotten it fixed, since backup groups were still available. Oh well; live and learn.)


I had originally made DAK FastPasses for this day before we found out about the whole boarding group thing, but in the interest of keeping focus I cancelled them all and instead picked up a FP+ for Tower of Terror, which we then rode. Ironically, my boarding group distraction kept me from freaking out in anticipation of the drops. Turns out sometimes anxieties can cancel each other out! Who knew?

Erika's boarding group number was nearing, so we headed over to Galaxy's Edge, snagging a quick breakfast at Ronto Roasters before setting up camp near Rise. We made a last-ditch effort to see if any CMs would let me sneak in with Erika's boarding group, but alas, they would not. Not that it mattered overmuch, since Rise of the Resistance was down.

It remained down for about two hours.

Double drat.

I did enjoy the free-range characters.

I had made us another FP+ for Star Tours, so we did that, and thankfully by the time we got out Rise boarding groups were moving again. But I'd lost just about all my buffer time. I called Disney's Magical Express and convinced them to let me reserve a DME bus 30 minutes later our current one, although they made me agree that if I missed my flight - which was still a solid 2.5+ later - it would not be their fault. Yeah, no, not a problem. (Erika's flight was an hour later than mine already, so fear not, I was not endangering her in any way. I may be a neurotic mess but at least I'm not a total jerk!)

We stopped by guest services at the front of the park where a very nice CM reprinted our DME info even though as it turns out they don't usually do that in-park, and then de-stressed with a lovely photographer who very kindly directed us through some photos in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.

It was only later I discovered I had spent some portion of the day
with my ears on backwards and it will NEVER NOT BOTHER ME.
Do you have your exit buddy?

After that we headed over to Muppets 3D, but I couldn't concentrate; every three minutes or so I was discreetly checking the app for boarding group movement. The groups were creeping along, but agonizingly slowly. Growing frantic, I began surveying Twitter for information - once your boarding group is called, how long is the line usually? How much time did I have, really??? I was doing math wildly in my head, calculating the drop-dead time I had to give up the ghost and leave WITHOUT RIDING RISE OF THE RESISTANCE.

I determined that if I prioritized making our Magical Express bus, I wouldn't make it. But I also knew Uber was a thing that existed, and we were getting so close to boarding group 80. I decided that at 2:15pm, we simply had to abandon our quest.

Boarding group 80 came up at 2:08pm.

Thankfully, even though Erika's boarding group was closed they let her through to ride with me as promised (which is good because I probably would've burst into tears at that point), and after a mere 20 minute wait that included a fortuitous call for parties of two that allowed us to jump some of the line, we were in!

And was it worth it? Oh, hell yeah.

Spoilers ahead, I suppose. To start, I wish I was more of a Star Wars fan; as it stands I respect it and have seen the movies, I'm just not into it, you know? I can only imagine how freakin' amazing it would be if you lived and breathed by those environments and characters. Because as a tepid fan, I STILL found it awesome.

The first portion in the motion simulator shuttle was well done and unexpected, especially the part where you emerged outdoors. The interstitial bit with the storm trooper room and all the First Order CMs was excellent. The CMs organizing people into ride groups were clearly given freedom to role play; I swear I overheard one guy speaking with a mock German accent. Our CM was a petite college girl who was a tad too small and adorable to be convincing, but she did her level best to interrogate us.

Once the doors opened for the second, dark ride portion, the CMs there too were clearly playing characters, and they called our attention to the droid piloting our car before sending us out into the ship. (Ship? Star? Were we on the Death Star*? I honestly don't remember. See what I mean about being a tepid fan?)

* "What's that?" "It's the Death Star." "What does it do?" "IT DOES DEATH."**
** "I shall have the pasta alla arrabiata."

Anyway, I won't do a blow-by-blow description of the ride, but suffice it to say it was impressive. The sets were massive, the details were plentiful, and I always like to see audio-animatronics. Give me a dark ride over a roller coaster any day! My favorite part was probably, you know, keeping it vague, when the one guy does the one thing with the laser and the ceiling. You know? End potential spoilers.

And so the ride ended and we boarded a bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge with satisfaction in the knowledge of a job well done. We grabbed our bags from bell services, got a very comfortable Uber to the airport, and were still there in plenty of time to get through security and pick up dinner before our flights. I mean, sure, in essence I paid $35 to ride Rise of the Resistance, what with the Uber charges and all, but that's not the point. The point is that I set out to ride it and ride it I did. Victory! Victory in our time!

So ends the high-stakes tale of WDW Marathon Weekend 2020. As always, it was full of honor and glory.

Thank you so much for reading this trip report! It's truly my favorite type of post to write. Occasionally I like to bust one out and navel-gaze as I relive race triumphs and nostalgic moments; it's probably a solid 85% of the reason I keep this humble little blog going.

runDisney and WDW are not without their faults, but they both truly bring me tremendous joy. I hope I passed on just a little of that joy as you read.

Tune in here in the coming weeks for a couple bonus tidbits in the form of food reviews. See ya real soon!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: 1/12

And now for my favorite kind of post - the trip report! I'll be covering my 2020 Marathon trip. You can read all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Post-race, I did my usual thing - got a bag from the merch tent to hold all my race snacks, then jumped on a bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. The volunteer running the bus line stopped me briefly so we could discuss how my Sally costume was awesome because The Nightmare Before Christmas is awesome, which, heck yeah!

I was just getting onto the hotel elevator when I got a text message from runDisney - due to the rising temperatures, the course was being modified. Erika got caught in the changes, and tells me she saw tons of people passed out at med tents and even sitting by the side of the course. She had to move a bunch of times for ambulances. So as much as that kinda sucks for the affected runners, I can't say runDisney made the wrong call.

Erika says her phone registered about 1.5 miles lost, but I told her by the time she walked from the staging area to the corrals she probably made up the distance. If your circumstances required that you miss Blizzard Beach, you're still a marathoner in my eyes!

My first order of business upon arriving in my room was obviously an unhurried and very much deserved shower. Then I did something that only runDisney could allow - I consumed a post-marathon dessert on my savanna-view balcony. To paraphrase Richard Dreyfuss mouthpiecing for Tom Stoppard that one time, you catch me at the very point of decadence!

I curled up in bed and busied myself posting race photos to Facebook until Erika arrived, at which point it was time for a nap. An hour and a half or so later we threw on some clothes and were off to Epcot. We made our Frozen FP+ just in time! Not gonna lie to you; lowering myself into the boats post-marathon was some kinda rough on the ol' muscles. >D

After our ride on NotMaelstrom, we backtracked to Spaceship Earth and used our FP+ there. I didn't focus nearly as much as I should have given the upcoming overhaul, but don't worry, by this point I can pretty much close my eyes and ride it in my head. Erika made most of the choices in the "build your future" bit at the end, and I was very pleased to see a largely new combination of animations - even if the camera somehow failed to capture my face, blerg!

I do so like to boomerang around Epcot, so we headed back to World Showcase and the Mexico pavilion. The Choza margarita stand line was still long, but the day before Becky had told me it moves pretty quickly so we took a chance. I was proud to perform my (quite simple) transaction entirely in Spanish!

We had a Mission Space FP+ coming up... to be honest, I wasn't really feeling it. I conferred with Erika and she agreed - rather than follow any set plan, we decided to cancel our FP+ and wander the rest of World Showcase completely free and untethered.

Well, almost. I saw on the MDE app that there was an American Adventure showing at 7pm, and since we had 20 minutes to meander back there I thought it would be a nice loose goal to have. We made it a few minutes in advance and I spent half the show wondering when Lincoln would show up before I realized I was conflating AA with The Hall of Presidents. >D

After a quick pit stop in Les Halles in France for a light dinner, we ducked into the UK pavilion garden for the end of the British Invasion show, the doubled back to Japan so I could get a little celebratory sake from the bar in the back of Mitsukoshi. The lovely bartender there responded graciously to my extremely limited Japanese. Kanpai, y'all!

Glass in my hand, we walked out through Canada and took up positions behind the esplanade to watch Epcot Forever, which is cute but not super impressive; I won't be devastated when the new HarmoniUS show replaces it. We left during the "A Whole New World" bit to beat the crowds to be buses but also because who the hell authorized that as the musical finale?

And so that was our final night in WDW. We headed back to our room, did some packing prep, and headed to bed. One more day awaited us in Hollywood Studios - and oh boy, was THAT a doozy...

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: The 2020 WDW Marathon

And now for my favorite kind of post - the trip report! I'll be covering my 2020 Marathon trip. You can read all the posts in this report here. Onward!

This is the story about how a recurrent IT band issue left me horrifically undertrained for a full 26.2 miles worth of running in high heat and humidity and also I was already tired from running a half marathon the day before and somehow it was AMAZING and I loved it and it was even better than last year???

As the Mad Hatter advises, we shall begin at the beginning: our morning began with a chipper 2am wakeup call, which was super fun as always. Although for once I actually really slept for a couple hours. I'm as anxious as ever so I think perhaps even my psyche is finally tired.

Anyway, Erika and I woke, dressed, and ventured into the night to grab a bus to the start line. One of the nice things about staying at a deluxe resort is that the bus lines are never as bad, and we were able to wander onto a bus at our leisure. I was decked out in my Sally costume, and I prayed to Catherine O'Hara to give me strength.

Per my usual we were at the staging area a good two hours in advance, and amused ourselves with some photography before we were finally permitted to make the long walk to the corrals. I sent Erika off to corral F with a crisp high five before wandering down to corral C for the long wait.

And a long wait it was, indeed. A big deal had been made of the race start being moved up to 5am this year, but at 4:57am we hadn't even had the national anthem yet; something was clearly up. I took an extra porta potty break while the race hosts continued to chatter and stall for time.

It turned out the reason for the delay was that the course traversed much of the same parking lot area currently being used as drop off by the buses. Many have decried this as an obviously bad idea, and I don't necessarily disagree, but I do have an operating theory: I think the reason Disney made the race start 5am instead of the usual 5:30am was because they knew they wouldn't be able to clear the area in time, and they were giving themselves breathing room. By that token, our start time just before 5:30am was actually a win. Or a bunch of the race organizers are idiots; all things are possible.

Moving right along. Corral C came up pretty quickly, and soon I crossed the start line and headed toward... Epcot?

Okay. Listen. I knew that there had been changes to the marathon course. However, for some reason I had it in my head that the changes amounted to fun tweaks; I didn't do a full study of the new map on the principle that it would be a fun distraction if I encountered some surprises here and there.

Well, as it turned out, "here and there" was EVERYWHERE. The course was COMPLETELY different. I spent just about the whole race like "Where am I?????" Some changes were, to my mind, positive, and some were negative, but I certainly got my surprises.

The first few miles of the race include a brief run through Epcot, where I stopped to commune with my best friend Figment before rolling past the Mexico pavilion and back out of the park. (Incidentally, it is CRIMINAL that there was no legit Figment and Dreamfinder photo op here.)

We experienced some parking lot time and some road time, which was predictably a bit boring but so far I was feeling okay; slow, but okay, and miraculously, pain-free! My side and knee were KT-Taped to high heaven but it seemed to be working. You know what else is incredible?

Rim shot!

(Not gonna lie; I stopped almost exclusively for Frozone.)

I've talked before about how around mile 7 is my least favorite part of the marathon, but I was used to be it being right after the Magic Kingdom. This time it came before, but I was too busy being confused by my surroundings to register if this was an improvement. All I can tell you is that by the time I hit Cinderella Castle around mile 10 or so the sun was already up, so just like in the half no glorious nighttime-lit-up castle photo for me. Sigh. There were no appreciable lines for pictures, though, so I stopped for one anyway.

Oh, wait, but before that I stopped for Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland and also my beloved Sam Eagle in Liberty Sqare! JJ was also out and if I'd had to presence of mind I would've asked him to try to take a selfie with me with Sam in the background if we could make it work. Maybe next time?

I'm gonna play catch with my dad!

You are all WEIRDOS.

Back to chronological order. Okay, the course took me out of the Magic Kingdom via the usual backstage way; there were some characters out but nothing I didn't already have or particularly love so I kept on rolling.

Roundabouts here I think we ran past the sewage treatment plant as per usual, because even a new course can't save you from everything. Oh, and I was very surprised to see the Haunted Mansion gravediggers at a very early mile 12 or so.

Can't scare Sally, duh.

I hit mile 13 shortly afterward and my morale actually got a boost. If you think of the marathon as, I don't know, a parabola or whatever, the peak is 13.1, and once you pass that, it's all downhill from there, right? I mean that in the positive sense. Something like that. Anyway, my feet kind hurt and it was hot and muggy and I was slow but I wasn't experiencing any pain and the halfway point was behind me, so: onward!

We had reached another period of long boring roads, but some characters livening things up a bit. I saw a top hat on a duck and thought I was stopping for Scrooge McDuck; it turned out to be Fancy Donald and Daisy but that was okay too, I guess.

I also stopped for the country bears, inexplicably rousted from their usual home in Frontierland. The camera caught me off guard but given the company I think it kinda works...?

Mama, don't whip little Buford - I think you should shoot him instead

Finally we approached the Animal Kingdom; there were a smattering of animals out but NO FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING PERFORMERS????? They are my rock! My must-do! Theory: because DAK was positioned much later in the race this year, the FotLK cast couldn't be out because they had to prepare for a show. Which is unacceptable and I demand we return to the original course immediately.

But back to what I was actually doing at the time. Right. So I entered Disney's Animal Kingdom, used the bathroom, trotted past Everest; you know, the usual (if I recall correctly it was around 9am but I didn't see Everest operating; not sure what that was about). I turn the corner on the way to Dinoland, feeling, y'know, reasonably okay about things for mile 17ish.

And then I see her. It's HER. It's KEVIN!!!!!

No, seriously, I busted out my phone in line expressly so I could send my only in-race tweet, which read as follows: "KEVIN KEVIN KEVIN KEVIN!!!!!!!"

And it was everything I dreamed it would be.

May I take your bird back to camp as my prisoner?

So I grinned my way out of DAK, my feet heavy but my heart light, my Kevin-induced joy propelling me down boring between-park roadways. "Hi Sally!" said a water stop volunteer. It's nice to feel recognized.

On the road I came across a couple denizens of the Adventurer's Club, which had little to no line. "The people who remember the Adventurer's Club," they were saying into their mics, "are much older and slower than this." Well, I already had a photo with them from 2018, but I wasn't about to let them feel unappreciated, so I stopped for a pic.

It turned out to be a very gratifying stop at that, for the second I approached the martini guy lit up. "Look what we have here! It's Sally!" he said. "It's like The Nightmare During the Marathon!"

"The whole thing, really," I couldn't help but reply, and was very pleased with myself when he laughed. "KUNGALOOSH," we all agreed, and I ran back onto the course.

I also I met up with SeƱorita Minnie who was cool but certainly no Kevin.

Then came the much-lauded new addition: Blizzard Beach. Boy was that a disappointment. First of all we got routed around the seemingly endless parking lot, and then once we got into Blizzard Beach barely anything was even happening. The wave pool was running and stuff like that, but there weren't any characters or anything. I'd actually say I prefer Wide World of Sports, where at least there were lots of characters and marching bands and stuff.

Blizzard Beach was hard, but it was about to get harder. For awhile there I had been using the following mantra: "I am comfortable with being uncomfortable." But I was getting awfully uncomfortable. My feet definitely hurt. My muscles were sore. I was shuffling along. Luckily I wasn't in any real pain, but somewhere in the area of miles 21 to 23 I wasn't thrilled with my position in life.

But guys - this year, it happened for me. Y'know how last year, even though I was better trained and all that jazz, I didn't get the miracle boost from running into the Studios? This time, God only knows why, it WORKED. Oh boy did it work. I took one step over the berm into Hollywood Studios and I was instantly almost in happy tears. All my aches vanished. I was full of joy. I. WAS. RUNNING. DISNEY!

And so here on out, despite everything that came before, I had THE BEST TIME. The course was back on track the way I remembered it and I was soaking it all in. Spectators were calling "Go Sally!" left and right; I was slapping fives and groovin.' Hyacinth Hippo says what up.

On the Boardwalk someone happened to yell "Dig deep!" and I immediately began singing my Song of the Training Cycle to myself: "Ya gotta dig a little deeper! For you, it's gonna be tough! Ya gotta dig a little deeper! You ain't dug near far enough!" I'm sure I looked like a crazy person, mouthing nonsense with a crumpled almost-crying-for-happiness face, but what can ya do.

Then we finally hit World Showcase and as always that was MY JAM. The classic Disney music was playing as I surged on. It was still hot and it was still humid and I was still just SO DELIRIOUSLY happy. Oddly enough, I didn't see a single character out - maybe because of the heat advisory they were trying to keep everyone moving? But it didn't matter; I was zooming and in the zone.

Let's see; what could really put the finishing touch on my runner's high? Oh, I don't know - how about if THEY STARTED PLAYING "DIG A LITTLE DEEPER"??? It wasn't quite the ecstasy of my "How Far I'll Go" moment of 2018 but it was darned closed. I added hand gestures to my lip syncing and ran on.

The weird new course swerved us out of World Showcase before Norway, which while not ideal was understandable to accommodate construction. What I did not care for is that no one bothered to carry over the music to the final backstage bit of course. I missed the end of my song. :( Would it have killed them to set up some some additional speakers? Also and more importantly, where the hell was the gospel choir at mile 26???? I demand answers, runDisney!

All this kvetching is to say: I had made it! I had the gas in the tank to plunge for the finish line, and while I crossed under the wire with one of the worst marathon times of my career, I had hit all the heights of happiness I come to runDisney to hit. Somehow, despite my poor (and I mean POOR) training cycle and record heat and humidity, I had SO MUCH FUN. My heart was full from having just run the WDW Marathon - and broken, because it was over.

Clearly I'll see you next year. And the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that, and...

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!