Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The layout factory, where all layouts are simply okay

In an effort to try and get back to some sort of normality I’ve thrown myself into a great scrapbooking effort. Well, in reality I am a little behind (I am still working on Christmas photos – GASP!) and my OCD prevents me from scrapping my marathon photos until I complete older projects.

So I’ve spent a few evenings both at home and at crops trying to catch up and so far this year I haven’t done any layouts that I particularly like. I don’t mind them but they aren’t what I would consider my finest work. But at least the photos are selected, the pages completed and the memory recorded – which is what matters, right?

I am a bit advocate of getting the stories on paper and never mind about the artistic side of it… but still, at some level the pages should at least look nice! I think my latest pages are okay but I know I can do so much better. Is it because I’m sort of rushing, trying to finish these projects so that I can move on the meaty one? Is it because I haven’t bought any new stash in nearly a year and I’m (at some subconscious level) bored with it all? Is it because I’ve discovered that beading takes less time, makes less mess and is a bit easier to fit in a short time? Or is it simply a case of lost mojo and it will soon come back?

Lots of scrappers get scrappers block and it could be that I’m experiencing a mild case, except that I don’t ‘put it aside’ but rather carry on creating sub-standard work on the basis that it MUST be done. Is this good or bad? I don’t actually know – depends on why I scrap at all, I guess!

I shall carry on as I am simply because it suits my personality. I simply must carry on because I value the recording of memories more than the artistic value of an individual page but wouldn’t it be nice if suddenly my mojo decided to return and I could, once again, create moderately attractive pages?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Running back into reality

I did my first run yesterday. Yes, I know it's been two weeks since my last run but my excuse is that it was a marathon so I took some time off!

Anyway, while I was glad to get out there again, it just wasn't the same: it was a bit boring to be doing loops of my local lake, all by myself. Am I doomed to find running boring every time I do it without Disney character stops and running through theme parks? Has the Disney marathon spoiled me?

I have looked into doing some local races to keep the motivation up but somehow a half marathon in Milton Keynes at the end of winter doesn't sound quite so appealing now... if nothing else I will miss those Sharpie signs.

To add insult to injury today I woke up a bit stiff - just like I did when I first started running all those months ago. What's going on?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

2008 WDW marathon photos

Here are some photos I took during the marathon:

It was a dark and foggy start to the race...
I couldn't NOT stop for Snow White, now could I?! I saw her in Epcot just outside Norway.
There were LOTS of people behind me!
But also lots in front! In the hazy distance you can see the monorail track, the Contemporary hotel and I could also just about see the spires of Cinderella's castle in the distance.
Backstage in the Magic Kingdom before coming in through Main Street.

Me in my favorite moment - running down Main Street with the Castle in front!

Ran into Alice while in Fantasyland...

... and then Pooh!

We got the full fanfare as we approached the castle - and a right Royal welcome!

Woody and Jessie (with friend) awaited us in Frontierland.
And a boatload of pirates bade us farewell in backstage Magic Kingdom!

The man (or mouse) himself was cheering on us at the Animal Kingdom

While Buzz and soldier welcomed us to the Disney Hollywood Studios (not MGM anymore!)

I had NEVER seen Kermit in the parks before so I was truly excited to get this great shot!

Jasmine and Aladdin were a sight for sore eyes in World Showcase - I was truly, truly tired by then but less than 2 miles to go!
Nearly there - I can see the finish line from here!

The finish line!

Full marathon report

It’s shortly before 6am on a surprisingly foggy Sunday morning. I’m standing in the middle of a road outside Epcot in Florida, waiting anxiously for the start of the 2008 WDW marathon and am surrounded by thousands of others. I am a bit nervous but also quite excited about this adventure…

Hang on a minute: running a marathon? Me? How did someone so definitely non-sporty like me end up here?

The real story starts a year ago, when I was bored at work and stumbled across an account of someone (can’t remember who!) who had just completed the 2007 WDW marathon. I thought it was pretty cool – not to mention a great way to get a vacation – and when I found out that registration was open for the 2008 event I sent the link to my husband. He is, after all, the sporty one and I said to him “you should do this”. He wrote back “no, you should”.

He was probably not being serious but his reply made me think – why not? After all, I had a year to prepare. So I did some research, found some training plans and decided that I would register for the 2008 marathon. I also found out that there was to be a secret and one-of-a-kind medal given out to finishers so that made me REALLY want to sign up.

I also needed an excuse to get fitter and lose some weight to this seemed the ideal plan. I started my training plan slowly and through the following 12 months progressed from barely being able to run for 2 minutes to running for 30 minutes and covering more and more distance.

Before I knew it I was standing at that starting line outside Epcot and waiting for the fireworks to signal the start of my first marathon. All my persistence and patience during training paid off – which is just as well as I was out running on all kinds of weather, during vacations and even when I didn’t feel like it. It was all worth it when the fireworks went off and the race started! The atmosphere was electric and my earlier nerves gave away to pure excitement.

The weather had given me a few sleepless nights the previous days as rain was forecast but the morning of January 13th was foggy and even a little muggy. I later found out that humidity was at 94% at 6am, the time the race started. But I felt comfortable and quite happy to be running in warmer temperatures after some pretty cold long training runs in the UK. The first few miles went by relatively quickly and before long we’d reached our first park: Epcot. What a feeling to see Spaceship Earth shining in front of me, like a beacon in the fog! We ran under it, then continued down towards World Showcase where we turned left towards Mexico.

It was pretty special to run past this pavilion as this is where I worked for over a year. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on nice memories because before long we were running past Norway, taking a quick left turn (but stopping to have my picture taken with Snow White beforehand!) and we were backstage. Again, this area I know quite well from my cast member days so it was nice to see it and also to see some enthusiastic cast members cheering us on.

After a quick run backstage we went past the security gates and we were… pretty much back where we started! We’d done 4 miles by then and not really progressed much but energy was still high and we I kept going strong. I seem to remember around this point that we approached a hairpin bend towards the Magic Kingdom and it was amazing to see, from the overpass, runners stretching left to right as far as I could see. This was around mile 6 and I was feeling pretty strong still.

We then ran along the long road that takes happy guests to the Magic Kingdom and although it was fairly straight and boring there was a lot going on: besides the guests and volunteers we also had some cheerleading troupes that were VERY energetic for so early in the morning! Every once in a while we would also hear the quiet whoosh of the monorail overhead and perhaps even the toot of the horn. Before we knew it we were in the MK parking lot and running around the race track.

Here a little surprise awaited us: we had a choice of two paths, depending on what music you preferred – country or 80s! I chose 80s and it was fun to run and dance along to some forgotten classics. Soon enough we were at the Transportation and Ticket Center and the crowds were waiting! It was energizing to hear their clapping and cheering and this is the spot where I first saw David and Samuel which was very encouraging! After the TTC we ran on towards the Contemporary Hotel (including a very steep underpass which was not good on tiring legs) and then a quick left where we followed the monorail. We turned right onto a backstage area… and soon enough we were in Main Street!

This was probably one of my favourite parts of the whole race and it was incredible – the crowds, the music, the sight of Cinderella’s castle… I almost wanted to stop running and slow time down to savor the moment. But too soon we were taking a right turn into Tomorrowland, which was nice too I must say but a lot quieter as it was just us runners here. The route took us to the back of the castle and with a fanfare we were welcomed by Princes and Princesses! We ran through the castle, then made a quick right and onto Frontierland and all too soon we were backstage again, where it was quiet and we hit mile 11.

We then ran past the Grand Floridian where a good crowd of people had gathered and carried on toward the Polynesian (where I saw the boys again) but pretty soon we were leaving the crowds behind and were running on back roads. This were the toughest miles on the course for me (14 to 16) because they were pretty boring (nothing to look at but woods and a recycling plant) and at this point I was also feeling the full effects of the heat and humidity. I was very grateful for the many and varied Sharpie signs along the road. What are the Sharpie signs? Well, Sharpie is a race sponsor (makers of pens) and they placed lots of little signs along the road with witty comments like “when something is out of whack, what is whack?” or “if Barbie is supposed to be so popular, why do we have to buy her friends?”. These helped distract the mind and were generally quite thought-provoking (or at least provided humor relief).

Just as I thought I was too bored to continue we got close to the Animal Kingdom – our next park. We approached it from backstage, where cast members stood with various parrots and turtles and gave us a cheerful welcome. Pretty soon we were inside the park and as this one was open to guests, it was SUCH a change because it was bustling in there! I have only been to AK once so I didn’t recognize much (I believe we ran through Asia) so I was trying to take it all in: the costumes, the richly detailed buildings and Mt Everest in the background. There were also lots of guests around, most probably quite annoyed at having their visit restricted due to the runners so it was fun to watch them.

Too soon we were exiting the park and running across the parking lot where I saw my boys again. After this we ran over to one of the most challenging sections of the race: the 19 – 21 mile stretch of straight road that faces the sun and then just turns around and you have to cover some of the distance again. Adding insult to injury is that this point also includes two overpasses in quick succession. At this point it was very hot, very humid and it made the going tough. I had to slow way down if I was to complete the race. In reality I didn’t actually find it as hard as I thought and although it WAS hot I was managing fine. I did see a lot of other people really struggling in this section though.

Just before we approached the Disney Studios we had to run along a banked curve and that was tough on my ankles but at least this section had a bit of shade. Once this was over we were in the Studios. I haven’t been in this park for a long time so I was very disorientated for a while but at least this meant occupied my mind for a while. It was nice to see the park again though, and as it also had paying guests, it was also fun to see them be mildly annoyed at the runners!

As we left the Studios just before mile 24 I saw my boys again and it gave me a boost. I was really, really tired by now, my knee was starting to hurt but I know that I only had around 2 miles left to go so I kept going. We ran next to a canal that joins the Studios with the Boardwalk and it was almost pleasant but I was definitely doing more walking than running at this point. Still, it was great to know that the remaining miles would be run with lots to see.

After the Boardwalk we carried on towards the Yacht and Beach club (and I would have loved to jump in that pool!) and after a very cruel downhill run we were backstage in Epcot again! We entered the park near the UK and turned right towards France. Now, I do love World Showcase and I love being there but at this point I was SO tired that I just wanted to stop. But I decided to enjoy the moment (after all, I was in the park for free!) and take in the sights. I had originally planned to save some energy and run the last lap around WS but I just had no legs left for that. Instead I picked up my walking pace a little and counted down the countries as I walked past them.

The crowds were amazing at this point though and all the cast members and volunteers were so encouraging, even though they would have been doing this for hours! I felt very emotional as I went past the Fountain of Nations and then Spaceship Earth, where we made a right turn out towards backstage… and suddenly I saw the biggest gospel choir I’ve ever seen! It was such a surprise as I hadn’t heard them until I was practically on top of them and I nearly cried as I knew the end was near!

I turned a corner and could actually SEE the finish line so I gathered what little strength I had and ran to the end where I was greeted by Chip, Dale, Donald and others I’ve forgotten.

It was an amazing feeling to finish and then I was quickly ushered to various places: get my chip off, get my blanket, and then get my coveted medal. I had finished!

I have to say that I found the race very well organized and incredibly fun to do – the efforts of volunteers and cast members should not go unmentioned as they definitely add to the atmosphere. But also the runners themselves were a source of enthusiasm and camaraderie and I never felt alone or that I wouldn’t finish because I had all the support I could need. It certainly was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to do it – even if you don’t think of yourself as a marathoner! If you train properly and have the right dedication, you too could earn a Mickey medal.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

VERY quick update from sunny Florida...

It seems like it was a while ago... actually, hang on a minute. It was a while ago! Nearly a week ago, last Sunday the 13th of January I stood on that starting line at the WDW marathon and can now proudly say that not only did I start but I completed it, got my medal and didn't die in the process!

So okay, it took a bit longer than planned (I haven't checked the official time but it was around 6 hours 45 min) but I did take around 20 photos around the course because I kept bumping into old friends: Pooh, Alice, Snow White, Aladdin, Buzz and Mickey among others. It was also a very, very humid day (again, don't know the official number but I was pretty warm at 6am, before I did any running!) and once the sun came out it was not only humid but hot. So I had to slow way down if I wanted to finish alive.

The day after the marathon we drove to Cape Canaveral and have spent the last few days enjoying the wonders of Ft Lauderdale and Ft Myers Beach - and I haven't had access to the internet! I have a quick chance now but probably won't write a full update until I get back - and I'll make sure I include some of those great photos!

So I'll be back then. Thanks for all your support and stay tuned!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

In my head...

Tomorrow we fly to Orlando and then a few days after that I will be in my first marathon. I have so many thoughts about all of this that I need to write them down:

  • I am so full of nervous energy it’s bizarre: I guess it’s because I’m in the taper and haven’t been running much
  • Am I nervous? I guess I am a little but I am so confident that I will finish that the confidence takes over.
  • Perhaps I’m being overconfident… and then a little worry starts to seep in
  • I can’t think of a better place to run 42km, really. If I’ve managed quite long runs around pretty boring places in terrible weather conditions I’m sure I should be able to finish Disney
  • What about the rain? It is the one weather variable that I hate to run in, and all of a sudden I have to worry about it because most forecasts call for rain on Sunday. Damn it.
  • Will I be able to walk afterwards? What about the next morning? And the next? And a week after?
  • We finished packing last night and it was a bit hectic and disorganized so now I have that feeling that I’ve forgotten something REALLY important. All my running stuff is there so what could that be?
  • I hope work emails don’t pile up while I’m away…
  • I can’t wait for that moment when the fireworks go off and the race starts! I am looking forward to running around Epcot and then heading off towards the Magic Kingdom at dawn. Sure, it will be lunchtime before I actually get back to Epcot but who cares, right?
  • I hope I don’t get hurt or injured… or too wet.
  • I bet that Mickey medal is awesome; I can’t wait to get my own.
  • I’m also really looking forward to Samuel’s 200 yard race. I’m sure he’ll have a great time – even more if Mickey shows up!
  • I know that I’ll be going stir crazy in a couple of days just waiting for the race… or maybe I won’t because I’ll be in Florida by then.
  • I really hope I get a good night’s sleep the night before the race. But something tells me I won’t.
  • I hope that all goes well with immigration at the airport. They always seem to pick on me and it’s never nice after a long flight with a toddler.
  • What is that thing that I have forgotten? Why do I feel that I’ve forgotten something?
  • I’m also really looking forward to the vacation part of it all, once the race is over and we head off to Ft Lauderdale. I hope the weather is nice.
  • I hope I don’t cry when I have to get on the airplane to get back to the UK. I really hate to leave and not know when I’ll be back. I always leave a piece of my heart in Florida.
  • I can’t wait to be a marathoner – what an incredible thing to be. I will be so proud of myself because I set a goal and did it!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Just like we dreamed it...

As my four readers know, I have a ‘thing’ for Disney theme park music. There is something happy, cheerful and yes, cheesy about these songs and I find myself always searching out recordings so that I can add them to my MP3 player and feel like I’m in a Disney park even though I’m at work.

Another reason I like these songs is because, unlike the more mainstream scores and soundtracks, theme park music is a little bit more obscure. In the old days (read: pre-Internet) one would have to travel to the theme park in question to purchase the music for it. Sometimes it wasn’t even available to purchase for years!

These days it’s a little easier to find these CDs with the help of Internet sites and of course, eBay. Disney has also started releasing more and more of their park music so it is getting a little easier to own these songs but I feel that these songs still remain relatively obscure and of interest mainly to Disney geeks like me.

So we’ve established I have lots and lots of CDs with Disney theme park music and most of these songs are in my MP3 player, which plays them shuffled. So whenever I listen to the music I get pleasant surprises with songs I’d forgotten I had, or I suddenly re-discover an old favourite. Other times I suddenly listen, really listen, to the lyrics and find them enchanting in a way I’d never really noticed before or a particular arrangement suddenly becomes memorable for whatever reason. The end result is that I’m always discovering ‘new’ Disney music, even though sometimes I’ve owned that track for years!

The most recent example is “Just like we dreamed it” which is one of my newest purchases. It is parade music for Disneyland Paris and although I liked it straight away, I listened to it closely during one of my long runs and the lyrics were so magical:

Come a little closer
Turn another page in the story of what's waiting for you
Step into the wonder...
Of everything you've pictured, as it comes into view
Just like we...just like we... Just like we dreamed it!

Once upon a time used to be long, long ago
Used to be far, far away
Look how far we've come today

Once upon a time is suddenly right here and now
Right before our eyes
This happy ending's just beginning and much to my surprise

It's just like we dreamed it
As far as I can see
It's just like we dreamed it
As good as good can be
And I know it's so much better
'Cause we dreamed it up together
Just like we dreamed it, to life, magically

Happily ever now I'll know how far dreams can go
Nothing's too far, far away
'Cause we've got faith that makes our day
In my heart I know anything's possible here, anything at all
Whatever we believe in happens, no matter big or small

I've imagined being here like this so many times before

Reaching out to take your hand as the butterflies in me soar
Dancing with you under the Sun and underneath every star
We've made a wish and believed and believed ...
And voilĂ ! Here we are!

Original Lyrics © Disney.

I guess this spoke to me because I’ve been training so hard for the WDW marathon and I’ve of course imagined it so many times before, believed and believed and all of a sudden here it is! Other runners will probably have Eye of the Tiger (Survivor) or something similar in their music players to give them an extra boost.

I think I will be cheesy and definitely include “Just like we dreamed it” in my playlist.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

You've got a friend in me

In ten days I, along with 15,000 of my closest friends, will be running through all four WDW parks and hopefully have the time of our lives. It’s incredible to note that I’ve been waiting for this date to come for over a year now and it’s so close…

Recently my mind went back to those days in January 2007 when I decided that I wanted to do this, and started ploughing through the Internet hoping to find information on training and on the race itself. I found lots of accounts of people that have done the Disney marathon before, lots and lots of training plans and of course lots of advice for beginners.

I also found the Disney Running forum.

Now, I am a big forum user and regularly check in with UK Scrappers so I am well aware of the friendship and support that can be found on a friendly online forum. In the year that I’ve been visiting Disney Running I have constantly been amazed at how generous and kind people are, always offering support, advice and kind words. It is a great place to ask any question as there are lots of experienced runners in the forum and some seem to know everything there is to know about running at Disney.

There was a time in the summer when my confidence was flagging, when the training was getting tough and when I felt I wasn’t being supported by anyone in this endeavour. But that is when the kind folks over at Disney Running would make me feel stronger, better and definitely not alone.

I sometimes wonder if I would have made it this far without them! These are people that I’ve never met and probably would have never heard of if it wasn’t for the forum, yet I feel like I know so many of them - I feel their pain and I rejoice in their triumphs. It’s amazing what the Internet has made possible and I am very happy that I found these guys.

During the dark days there were a handful of people that thought I would never make it and would soon quit. But there were about a thousand others, all members of Disney Running that were right behind me and kept the pixie dust coming. I have to thank them for the incredible support I’ve received and I hope that, in ten days’ time, I can shake their hands and thank them in person for all their help.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Gadget shopped

Even though I work in a “technical” field (and I love new technologies) I am usually quite slow on the uptake when it comes to gadgets. I knew all about the iPod and MP3 players well before I ever got my first one. It took me years to get Sky and I still have yet to install Vista on my home PC. I also tend to hang on to my old mobile phones for far too long.

For a couple of months now I’ve been meaning to pop into my mobile provider’s shop to review my tariff because I haven’t done it in at least a year (and probably longer) and these things move all over the place. I needed to make sure that I couldn’t be on a better tariff, as I’m such a low user anyway. Well, I had to wait for that visit because the shopping center was of course mental with Christmas shoppers.

Finally yesterday, when it was all very quiet (probably because it was New Year’s Day and everyone else was still in bed, hung-over) I noticed the shop was empty and I popped in. I quickly established that I was still on the best tariff but it was high time I upgraded my phone. I could do it for free so I thought: why not?

A very friendly shop assistant showed me the options. Now, I always have had Nokia phones so I’m kind of biased and of course saw those first. In all honesty none of the phones she showed me looked that exciting until… she showed me a weird white one: the O2 cocoon.

A mobile for me can be quite basic and still be good – I don’t need much. In fact, sometimes phones can be a bit overcomplicated and I certainly didn’t want that. But this one looked fun, funky and different. Plus I could have it for free! So before I knew it, I was the proud owner of a funky new phone that can take pictures, carry music and of course make and receive calls and texts. It also has a very, very cool external LCD screen that is extremely hard to explain but quite funky to look at!

I took it home and other than charging it up, I haven’t really used it much. It does come with a CD that I’m supposed to install in my PC but haven’t done it yet – shame as that also has the manual on PDF! There is a booklet included with the phone but it’s more of a sales brochure (why? I’ve already got the phone at this point!) than an instruction manual. The phone in general seems fairly easy and while some things are definitely stumping me (where the £$%& do I change the ringer volume? Why can’t my contacts on the SIM card be read by default?) in general I’ve managed to get by without instructions.

So I’ve got a new phone now. I also recently got a new MP3 player to upgrade my old RIO – which I love. I’ve also inherited an old Samsung MP3 player and of course I have my camera… how did I come to own so many bits of kit? I thought that someday "in the future" we would all just need one piece of kit to do different jobs!

I’ve got to go now and try to work out how to get this new phone to ring a bit louder otherwise I’ll never hear it in my hanbag!

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