I needed that vacation. Real bad. Now that I'm home, covered in kitties on my own couch, I'm glad to be here. Reality isn't so bad. But damn it was good to get away for a week. I'm back from Florida in one piece. Survived my solo flights, the sunshine and 39.3 miles of the Goofy Challenge. I even brought back a tan along with my sweet ass race medals.
Seriously. LOOK AT THOSE THINGS. They are amazing. Every bit as amazing as one would imagine race medals would be from the most magical place on earth. Now, the REAL question is, are they worth the $350 race registration? Um. Well. That's debatable. For me, the $350 race registration was worth the entire experience I had in Florida, but as for the races themselves -- they're only fun if you make them fun. Otherwise they're crowded and kind of boring (aside from the mile or so you spend in the actual parks). But don't worry, my race pal, Krista, and I got our money's worth. More on that later.
I spent my first full day in Orlando relaxing by the pool. IN THE SUNSHINE AND WARMTH. It was fantastic. I saw exactly two chameleons that day, which, let's be honest, made the entire trip worth it. CHAMELEONS! ADORABLE! I can't say enough about my friends Mike and Cat, who gave me free range of their apartment while they were gone for the weekend, including the glorious pool and Mike's Nissan XTerra. I sunbathed, enjoyed the sunset on the balcony, painted my nails, caught up on some television. It was just like being at home, only I was in FLORIDA. So, I won, naturally.
I spent the weekend at the Pop Century Resort with my favorite name twin, Krista (obviously). Our room was in the 70s- and 80s-themed area of the resort, which means we were surrounded by awesome for three days. Like, Roger Rabbit and Pac-Man awesome. We called ourselves Team Krista for all of the obvious reasons, and I'm so glad I got to share the entire experience with her. We each made the trip to Florida solo after we both had the proverbial rug pulled from under us in life. But damn, if we didn't enjoy ourselves anyway.
Saturday and Sunday were race days. The 2:30 a.m. wake-up call each race required was just as awful as you might imagine. We had to be on a shuttle to Epcot by 3:30 a.m.. The races both started at 5:30 a.m. By 2:33 a.m. each morning I cursed myself for getting myself into such a situation. But alas, there I was. The race starts were a spectacle of music and fireworks and crowds and Disney characters and both Krista and I wondering what the hell we were doing.
The Donald Duck Half Marathon was outrageous. Twenty-seven thousand runners over the span of 13.1 miles. It was ridiculously crowded. We muddled through it as best we could and put on our happy faces. I was spent by the end. So much dodging and stopping and starting and sunshine. I'd be lying if I said the entire experience didn't leave me dreading the marathon the next day. Thankfully, a delicious brunch perked us right up, and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing by the pool and secretly wishing the marathon wasn't on deck.
On Sunday, the Walt Disney World Marathon happened, and will go down as the actual goofiest marathon ever run. Once we endured the start line spectacle once again, and dragged ourselves through the first half, we decided it was time to throw everything to the wind and enjoy ourselves. From that point on we stopped at nearly every photo-opp spot to snap pictures with the Disney characters. We danced along to the music blasting throughout the course. We laughed with other runners. Whined about the beating sun. Counted down the never-ending miles.
AND THEN WE RODE A ROLLERCOASTER.
Oh yes. Yes, we did.
Somewhere in and around mile 18 we were weaving our way through Disney's Animal Kingdom. By that time the parks were open to the public. As we passed the Expedition Everest rollercoaster ride, another runner came running up behind us, excited, asking if we rode the rollercoaster.
"Uh. No?" we replied, as we continued running. Could we even do that?
"YOU HAVE TO GO. JUST GET IN LINE. IT'S ONLY A 5-MINUTE WAIT," she said, laughing.
I looked at Krista. She looked at me. And we bolted. Right off the marathon course. We giggled like children who were sneaking out of the house passed curfew, and ran into line, tucking our race bibs under our shirts. We had no idea if we were allowed to do it. Still don't, actually. Before long, we were on the rollercoaster, still laughing hysterically at ourselves. There we were, mile 18 of a marathon, and we just snuck onto a rollercoaster.
IT WAS AMAZING.
That set the tone for the rest of the race. Sure, by the final miles, the heat and the wear and tear on our legs were starting to take their toll, BUT WE RODE A ROLLERCOASTER SO IT DIDN'T MATTER. Everything up to that point was null and void, as far as we were concerned. It kept giant grins on our faces the rest of the race.
Finishing the race felt like heaving a huge weight off my shoulders. No more running, no more heat, no more crowds, and the coveted medals were mine. ALL MINE. Man, it felt fantastic to be done. Team Krista had done good.
The rest of my trip was spent with Mike and Cat. We made our way to New Smyrna Beach on Monday and laid on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, soaking up the sun and the absolute awesome that is Florida and beaches and vacation. Holy shit, it felt good to lay there listening to the waves. FROM THE OCEAN. I was at the ocean. A place I hadn't been in years.
Last June, when I started planning this vacation, it was supposed to be something entirely different. A trip with a boyfriend and some mutual friends. I was excited then. After a breakup, a job loss, additional drama and a general disinterest in even going, I almost bailed on the entire trip. I am so ridiculously happy I changed my mind. I may not be where I want to be in life, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to take every opportunity I can to enjoy every minute of what I do have. I had a blast. It relaxed my mind and filled me with memories.
Goofy Challenge: accepted and accomplished.