Sunday, November 30, 2014

Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon race report (finally!)

Race morning was dry ... a little warm ... and Very, Very Windy. How windy? This windy:

I've raced in some pretty awful weather -- torrential rain, freezing cold, even wind strong enough to make me feel like I was running in place. But I've never raced against the Santa Ana winds... or the duststorm those winds can cause... or had to jump out of the way of a police barrier picked up and tossed by a wind gust.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself here...

We flew down to Disneyland early on the Friday morning, arriving at the Expo about an hour after it opened. We snorted a little derisively at the big line in the packet pickup area. (Team Wil-Sun: "What's the line for?" Volunteer A: "Can't you guess?" Team Wil-Sun: "Is it a line for photos with a characters?" Volunteer A: "No... it's the line for purses." Volunteer B: "You mean, it's the line for ebay sellers!") We got our bibs, our pins, and my necklace, before heading up to the merch area.

Wil and I both had the genius idea that we should go and pick up our pins and pint glasses in the official merch first -- before getting our shirts -- the rationale being that they're not going to run out of shirts.

We were a little confused by the long line of people -- ahh, they must be waiting for a character photo? A helpful castmember said, "This is the line for official merchandise. The end is out in the lobby." We were both a little stunned. Wil asked how long the wait was, and the castmember said, "About 2 hours at this point."


I actually had a moment when I thought, well, okay, we'll wait. Wil was adamant that we were NOT doing that. Which, when I cleared visions of medal pins from my head, I saw was TOTALLY LOGICAL.

Wil reminded me that we've never been to the expo so early before, that we've always gotten the couple of items we want, and that, in a worst-case scenario, we could resort to ebay for the pins we wanted. Even at grossly inflated prices, if we had to wait for 2 hours to buy them, well, it's still possibly worth it.

So we went and picked up our very nice shirts -- black long sleeves AGAIN?!? Dear, sweet runDisney -- THANK YOU for making tech shirts I will be delighted to wear!!!!

We then headed back out of the expo and to our car, which we drove to our hotel, checked in, and started our day for reals.

(We did go back over to the expo a couple of hours later -- the walked right in to the merchandise area, which had been pretty picked over, but were still able to get the medal pins and pint class we buy at every race. And, since we had bought our new annual passes in the meantime, we also got a discount. Nice.)

Race morning, verrrry early, we set out in our gear, nibbling on bagels as we made our way across Downtown Disney. I probably say it in every Disneyland race report, but I LOVE this quiet walk. I always love listening to the chatter, spotting the first-timers (bibs on the back of their shirts is a dead giveaway), and looking at the costumes.

Unsurprisingly, there were some pretty awesome costumes for this race -- people LOVE a super hero theme! Oh, and us? This is us after the race:

Darn it, getting ahead of myself again.

We got in our corral (D) pretty quickly -- they were already calling runners to the corrals when we arrived in the start village. I was intrigued by how they were setting things up -- smaller corrals at the front, larger corrals at the back. We could hear but not really see the announcers, so we decided to just move over to the side and sit down.

the view from Corral D

obligatory pre-race photo
The announcers were chatting about heroes and such, there *may* have been an appearance by a character or two (maybe?), and then the countdown started. May I note here that we have gotten Very Good at timing our mornings for Disneyland races???

the race start
We were told to move up as A and B were both starting together... and because C and D would be starting together.

Tangent: I find the science / art of corrals super interesting -- and I can see that even by having these smaller corrals starting together, they're still (semi-)effectively breaking up the crowds by time. But it made a lot of people chatter in the corrals.

The wheelers left and promptly disappeared (so fast!), then went A & B. The announcers clearly enjoyed calling out all of the costumes... notably "representatives from Stark Industries".

Another tangent: There was a lot of chatter on the social channels complaining about why Iron Man wasn't included in the race imagery -- "because he's the most popular one". Anyone who races knows (or should know?) that "Ironman" as relates to swimming, biking, and running competition is trademarked by the World Triathlon Corporation. Disney may own Marvel now, but they also honored the previous deals.

We had stationed ourselves toward the back of the D corral, so this is how it looked from the start of our wave -- still pretty far back.

the start for corrals C and D

Once we had started -- waving at the announcers and getting a shout-out as we passed -- we ran out along Disneyland Drive for a brief stretch before going backstage at California Adventure and then bang right into the park. 

Full disclosure here: I managed to take ZERO photos while running this race. Between the wind gusts and the dust and MY RIDICULOUS WIG, I just didn't do it. Luckily, costumes definitely make you a target for the Marathonfoto photographers, so we ended up with a ton of photos from this race. 

My favorite stretch in Disneyland used to be Main Street USA... but now my favorite paths are in Cars Land -- especially "Route 66" at night, when all the neon is lit up. 

 We then ran towards Paradise Pier, but turned to run behind Grizzly River Rapids -- the loveliest, quietest stretch of the park. 

Things get pretty fuzzy here. We ran out of California Adventure near Soarin', crossed the plaza, and entered Disneyland somewhere backstage. Then we ran around behind and I *think* we came onstage in Critter Country, following the river around past the Haunted Mansion, and then around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (quite possibly the quietest and loveliest stretch of Disneyland) into Fantasyland.

We ran past King Arthur's Carousel -- which wasn't spinning, but had all 7 dwarves and Snow White sitting on horses and waving. (Those poor characters assigned to the carousel ... I'm glad they don't just keep 'em spinning the whole time!)

The highlight of pretty much every Disneyland race is the chance to run through Cinderella Castle. Sometimes you get lucky and get a good "castle pic"... sometimes not. This time, DEFINITELY!

That picture made us very, very happy. Then, a couple of days after the race, I was riding the bus to work and I noticed that Disney had posted the race video. I always love watching the race videos, remembering the race, always kind-of hoping that we'd get a glimpse of ourselves...

Then, bam.

50-some seconds in, there we were, running through the castle. I let out a little whoop on the bus. Best. Castle. Pic. Ever.

But back to the race... And, no, I have NO IDEA where these next pictures were taken. I mean, that really looks like the Matterhorn, but ?? Staring at the image, it's probably taken on Main Street USA (aren't those trolley tracks?)... but Wil isn't wearing sunglasses... Still, look how happy we are!

Then, as usual, we were out of the parks all too quickly. I *think* we ran through the little tunnel under the main bus entrance before popping out onto Harbor Boulevard just before mile 3. 

Not much to report out here, other than crazy wind, even crazier wind gusts, and most of the mile markers getting blown over. 

By the time we reached the Crystal Cathedral, my wig -- attached to my forehead with spirit gum -- had blown off (though I quickly retrieved it and jammed it in my race belt), we had dodged a police barrier that had been picked up by the wind, and we may have been stopped in our tracks -- along with all the runners around us -- by a particularly violent gust. Pretty crazy. 

I suddenly realized that the sodden waterstop volunteers (voluntEARS?) who were standing in puddles of water were soaked because some of the tables had been blown over. Tables weighed down by hundreds of water cups. Poor little bears. I'm always very grateful (and noisily so) to the volunteers, thanking each group multiple times as I move through the water zones. But I felt so bad for them during this race! 

A couple of miles later and we joined the Santa Ana River Trail. Now, I love the idea of running along the river trail, especially about halfway through the race, when the pack will have strung out quite a bit. Sure, it's not a river, river, but it's a beautifully paved trail. There was a lot of whining after the race from people saying how dumb it was to run along the trail in a windstorm. Sorry, Disney can do a lot of magic, but they actually don't control the weather...

Also, a group of cosplay enthusiasts had stationed themselves along the trail, so it was a really great distraction to see their amazing costumes, get shout outs for being dressed as Ms. Marvel, and high-fiving tons of superheroes. Despite the crazy, dusty, gritty wind, I felt totally energized during this stretch (even if I kept apologizing for taking my wig off!). 

We turned off the river trail and into Angel Stadium right around the mile 8 marker... well, what was left of the marker. A short stretch across the parking lot:

I look as if I've taken someone's scalp...
... and then we headed into the stadium, which was, as always, marvelous. 

Please note that Wil managed to make his "Hulk Face" at almost every photo op.

Once out of the stadium there was a really lovely stretch where we ran past a group of WW2 reenactors in full uniform, complete with some lovingly restored Jeeps and other vehicles. Lots of high fives here as well -- looked amazing!

Things were pretty quiet -- other than the wind gusts -- for the rest of the race. At some point I did get to take candy from strangers ... possibly twice? Hey, getting to eat a few Red Vines is a highlight of any race, okay?

We ran through what I like to think of as "my" underpass, sadly sans cheerleaders this race, and then parallel to I-5 and past the HoJo. (I love the HoJo.) Then back onto park property, through the tunnel, and backstage behind Cars Land again -- the same way we ran at the start, but in the other direction. 

Was a little surprised at how sparse the area was through the parking lot behind the Paradise Pier Hotel -- but I guess that's often a staging area or a finish area? There were several cheer squads and drill teams -- possibly relocated to this spot, given the winds.

The stretch to the finish seemed impossibly narrow -- and the course was a little winding, so it was difficult to see where we would be going. Was absolutely THRILLED to see the finish -- it had been pretty rough out there. But in preparation -- and because I'm vain, I guess -- I decided to put the wig back on while we were still backstage... which, I think you'll agree, was Worth It. 

home stretch!!!

finish line!!!

I love that we got a nice, clean finish line photo (AND that the finish line didn't blow down!!!). But these two photos, because they have a very "paparazzi" look to them:

Phew! Mission accomplished. We smashed the half!

Things we loved about this race: 
- an interesting new course
- the cosplay group and WW2 reenactors along the course
- the valiant volunteers trying to save the mile markers when they were blowing over
- great shirts... and handsome medals

Room for improvement:
- well, if Disney could control the weather (ha ha)...
- more characters (as usual)

I'm not sure we'd necessarily make this race a must-run event... though it is scheduled for our anniversary weekend again in 2015. :)

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon medal

2014 Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Map

Friday, November 7, 2014

Chewie finally gets a medal!!!

This morning, not long after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon expo opened, pictures of the Star Wars Half Marathon medals started showing up on Facebook. Here's one from Sarah Reardon:

My initial response was that the 10K medal is super cool, the Half Marathon medal is pretty cool, and the Rebel Challenge medal is "meh". (Though I have been informed that the Yoda center reverses to Vader... 

But then I looked more closely... 

Good heavens, is that "fur"? Is that... a BANDOLIER???? Sweet Vader... THAT'S THE YAVIN MEDAL!!!! THEY'VE MADE THE MEDAL AS CHEWBACCA'S MISSING MEDAL FROM YAVIN!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, seriously... this is huge.

Not sure what I'm talking about? Think back to the final scene from "Star Wars". The Death Star has been destroyed, and the Rebels return to Yavin for a celebration. Everyone is in the main hall, Princess Leia is all dolled up, and Luke, Han, and Chewie march down the center aisle.

They all look proud, excited, happy. Happy days are here again.

Leia puts a medal on Luke. Leia puts a medal on Han. Then they all turn and face the applauding masses.

Did you see what happened there? Chewbacca... copilot of the Millennium Falcon, re-builder of C3PO, and perennial chess-winner DIDN'T GET A MEDAL.

Now, clearly, I'm not alone in noticing this injustice. There's a whole Internet movement around Chewie and his medal. 

found on


Love this example: a guy named Adywan created "Star Wars Revisited" -- a project where he restored and enhanced EVERY FRAME of the first Star Wars movie… cleaning it up and restoring it without adding random garbage. In his version, Chewie ALSO gets a medal. 6 Pieces of Fan Art That Are Better Than the Original |
6 Pieces of Fan Art That Are Better Than the Original |
And this much simpler, but no less effective piece of fan art on @deviantART:

Chewbacca Finally Gets His Medal by CyberDrone.devian... on @deviantART

Now, apparently, at the MTV Movie Awards in 1997, Carrie Fischer presented Chewbacca with a medal as part of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" (for Carrie Fischer? for Chewie???)

But, clearly .... THAT'S NOT THE RIGHT MEDAL. That's a cheap-ass MTV medal. No one wants that. THIS is the Yavin Medal.

from (And, no, they're sold out. Sadly.)
not bad, runDisney, not bad at all

Now, I was excited about this race. But I'm SO PLEASED by this. So. Very. Pleased.

Are you running one of the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend races? What do you think of the medals?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The "Groupon" Project

One of the biggest, messiest, most difficult tasks in the 101 Tasks in 1001 Days project is #43, "Use or refund all expired 'Groupons'". It wasn't until I dug into this that I realized just how big, messy, difficult, and downright embarrassing this task is.

On the positive side, I've been a lot more choosy with my Groupon (and other deal) purchases… only making a total of 5 purchases so far in 2014.

But on the negative side, boy, have I bought a lot of deals. And boy have I let a bunch expire.

But admitting that I have a problem (ha ha) is clearly the first step… As such I am coming clean with this massive list of all the unused deal offers I had as of October 15. Why October 15 rather than November 4? Because I have been working on clearing some out, and want credit for it! Ha ha ha.

**updated 11/11/14**

Living Social (all expired)
#Where What Notes
1. High Dive $12 voucher ?? can apply to shows? punch cards? Sent note 11/11
2. Fremont Abbey Arts $28 voucher ?? can apply to samba classes?
3. Fern Life Center $62 voucher **in Issaquah - maybe on NYE?**
4. Dakota Art $15 in art supplies **Had a look on 11/7, lots of great choices, but I need to clean out craft supplies first!**

Amazon Local (all expired)
#Where What Notes
5. 6.  Precor $24 x 2 towards TWO 4-hour elliptigo rentals for 2 wait till summer
7. Paint Nite $25 for a class contacted Paint Nite on 11/11 to see how to redeem it

Gilt City (redeemed!)
#Where What Notes
8. Levitas 5 classes redeemed! 3/5 classes taken

River Valley Cheese (pre-paid classes)
#Where What Notes
9. R.V.C. 4 classes booked 2 classes for 11/22; will wait till new year for other 2!

Groupon (available!)
#Where What Notes
10. Mind Unwind painting class for 2 expires 1/16/15; choose photos, book class
11. Bikram Yoga Seattle 10 classes expires 1/13/15; start after Levitas finishes
Photobarn Wood photo ornament x3 redeemed! received super-cute ornaments 11/10
15. Mixturas $30 in food choose a date night!

Groupon (expired)
#Where What Notes
16. Precor $25 toward 4-hour rental
17. Curves $39 toward 20 drop-in sessions **now by the QFC**
18. Downtown Banya $30 toward 3 1-day passes **in EVERETT**
19. Elevated Sports $10 toward AIRobics for 2 who will go with me?
20. WASUP Yoga $35 toward 3 SUP yoga classes wait till summer
21. Surf Ballard $39 toward 2 2-hour rentals wait till summer
Kids Can Design $24.99 x2 to custom charms look into how to redeem these
24. Sweatbox Yoga $29 toward 10-class pass "redeemed" -- gifted to Carrie, who lives in Edmonds and might use it
25. Community Fitness $39 toward 10-class pass Spring?
26. European Rejuvenation $49 in services **in FACTORIA**
27. Queen Sheba $20 toward app, 2 combos, 2 desserts on Broadway
28. Fern Life Center $63 in services **in ISSAQUAH**
Queen of Seattle Paddleboat $19 x 4 towards boat ride wait till summer
33. Pan Africa $25 toward 3-course meal downtown Seattle
34. 35. Fusion Beads $20 x 2 in beadscomplete some stuff first
36. Desert Sun $99 in services go into 45th and Stone location to see about redeeming
37. Bedrock $30 to Mosaic Group Class wait till after they move in December 14
38. Fremont Abbey $25 voucher see if can be applied to samba classes
39. 40. Seattle Architecture Society $7 x 2 towards tours wait for Spring?
41. 42. Uptown Glassworks, Renton $20 x 2 towards glassblowing Groupon credited my account on 11/7
43. 44. Cellar Homebrew $25 x 2 towards cheese class check their schedule - still offer cheese classes?
45. 46. Paint the Town $10 x 2 for painting pottery U-Village
47.48. Body Shop $20 x 2 vouchers clear out toiletries, first
49. Emerald City Trapeze $30 toward 2-hour lesson Springtime
50 Smith Tower $7 towards observation deck visit Springtime
51. Bikram Yoga Seattle $30 voucher must wait at least 6 months after last class
52. 53. Herban Wellness $10 x 2 toward classes keep an eye on their class schedule; nothing looks great through 2014
54. Classy Chassis  $6 towards car wash in Tacoma -- get one next time I'm in town?
55. Emerald City Trapeze $30 toward 2-hour lesson Springtime
56. 57. Sea Kayak Shop $25 x 2 toward kayak trip wait till summer

Yep. That's a LOT of money tied up. Sure, it's over several years, but still. So you can see why I need to go through this list. I am going to keep updating this post with my running total of used, refunded, or otherwise resolved.

As of today, 11/7/14, I'm at 7.5/57. A long way to go, but farther along than I was two weeks ago!

Resolved Groupons

- 7.5 -
0 deals
57 deals

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Get Your Rear in Gear 5K race report

SPOILER ALERT: I achieved one of my goals for 2014... and one of my 101 tasks... with a PR in this race!

My sweet pal Keely organizes a race called Get Your Rear in Gear. She created the event to honor her mom, who passed away 4 years ago at the age of 48 to colon cancer. I have known about the race for years, but never managed to run it.

Thanks to the time change -- and to not staying out TOO late on Saturday night -- I woke up this morning at 7:30. Because the race started at 8:30, I thought, what the heck? Threw on some clothes, grabbed a piece of bread and a bottle of fizzy water, and drove the 30 minutes to Redmond's Marymoor Park.

I arrived with 15 minutes to spare, got signed up, and then sorta realized what I had done -- I guess I now had to run this thing, huh.

I got in the starting chute, got teary-eyed while Keely talked about her mom and why she created this event, and then got ready to run.

before the start

Highlight: after Keely said, "Go!", the DJ played Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back". Classic.

I wasn't feeling super great -- and I certainly wasn't feeling limber or peppy -- but I decided I would just see how it went. I tried to focus on my breathing, and on running easily.

I also distracted myself by listening to other runners.

Mom to young daughter: "We've run this course before -- we just go around the corner and start heading back. I'd say we're more than halfway done."
Daughter to mom, a few seconds later: "Then why does that sign say 1 MILE?"

Ho ho ho.

The course was pretty easy and smooth -- after all, it's all run on paths in Marymoor Park, which probably averages one 5K per weekend during the year.

Not much to report, running wise -- except that I seemed to be passing people pretty regularly, and not being passed.

After mile 2 I started feeling a little queasy (typical!), so I backed off a little... and then started taking brief walk breaks. It was around the 2.5-mile point that I thought, hmm, this seems to be going okay... which then made me feel funny and need to stop and walk. Yeah, that's dumb, I know.

Not long before the final turn, I thought, "No, I won't break 30-minutes. Can't do it." And then, when I made the final turn, thought, "Oh, um, I still have 90 seconds... let's go."

And while I haven't found the official results online yet, my GPS tells me I finished in 29:32. A PR. And a goal. And a task. And a Very Big Surprise.

Of course, the important part is that I donated $40 to the Colon Cancer Coalition, 75% of which will stay in our local community.
Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds from each event go back into the local community to fund colon cancer support, education, prevention, and screening programs. The money is designated by the local volunteer committee to make the biggest impact for their area.
(But, yeah, I'm pretty happy about the new PR... :) )

Another highlight: the "Drummers for Bummers" group (really? really?) was a high school drum line who marched the 5K while playing the drums. Very nice.

Highlight #3: After the finish line, we ran through a giant inflatable colon. That's right, a Giant. Inflatable. Colon.

That's right. Giant. Inflatable. Colon.

Oooh, official results (which look like no one got "chip time" -- but I'm within a few seconds anyway):