Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Marathon Weekend 2013 - Sunday - Full Marathon

Well this cold has been kicking my butt but I really wanted to get around to finishing my blogging about the WDW marathon weekend.   Anyway, once again it started way too early.  The alarm went off at a bright and shining 2:45 am.   While the first two early mornings I manged to sneak out without waking up Joelle, this third morning luck was not on my side.  She manged to wake up enough to wish me good luck, roll over and head back to sleep.

Again, too fricking early.  Up at 2:45 am.

Once again I decided to drive to the start but I ended up leaving a bit later than the day before.  Still traffic wasn't really an issue and I got a parking spot right next to the entrance of the waiting area.  Once inside I gathered up with the rest of Team Allears.   Instead of waiting around we learned our lesson from the day before.  A few of us decided to head out quickly after the team picture.   Eddie and I headed to our corral and while we got there early, I preferred that to getting there right before the race started.  Of all the parts of marathon weekend, I really do enjoy hanging in the corral watching the fireworks and listening to the music.  In fact, one of my best memories from a RunDisney race was Tower of Terror weekend hanging in the corral dancing with my TAE buds.   I even got a great shot of my friend Jamison dancing.  Someone remind me to get that up on youtube....

Me and Eddie hanging out waiting for the start

Much like the day before, it was darn humid for the start of the race.  The good thing is it felt a bit cooler, maybe high 50s rather than 60s.   From the day before I had a few choices to make.  I could go for a flat race (same pace) the entire way through.  Or I could preload a bit of speed and get through as much of the course before the sun came up.  Not sure if it was the best choice but I decided to to do the latter.  Ended up basically going out at the same pace that I did the half marathon in.  Until the sun came up, I felt great.  The first six miles went by really fast, faster than the day before.  The magic kingdom was beautiful and in fact I liked it better than the previous year just because it was dark when I ran through it.  I love running through the parks when it's dark (probably the reason that the Wine and Dine 1/2 is my favorite race).

After pulling out of the Magic Kingdom you have a few miles to run down along the back of the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Hotel.  I ended up hanging with a group of high school track runners.  They were really nice and we got to chatting for a bit.  Finally they decided enough with this slow pace and took off.  I could tell that this race wasn't much of a challenge for them.   

I think mile 9 or so we headed into the Richard Petty Speedway.   This was a new part of the course and a welcome addition.   The humidity was so bad that you couldn't even seen all the way across the speedway as there was a layer of fog in the center.  We probably ran close to a mile around it and they had a bunch of old cars lined up as well.   

After the speedway you run a few miles on the back road near the water treatment plant.   By now the sun was starting to come up and it was getting light out.  I still felt pretty good and ended up joining a group of Galloway pacers.   They were having a blast.  Probably 30 people or so and they were just joking having a good time.   I think I lost them when heading into the Animal Kingdom at mile 12.   

Of all the parks, this park was probably the most disappointing.  Not sure why, it just wasn't that much fun to run through.   We came in through the back, ran through Asia, then Dinoland and back out through the parking lot.  I'd say this is when I started to struggle the most.  The pace started to seem a bit difficult and I was really looking forward to seeing Joelle and the TAE cheer squad at mile 15.

Like last year, my wife was hanging with the Colorado Sisters (and Bryan) at mile 15.  I knew that by about now the sun would be up (came up over the horizon around mile 13).   I decided to give her , a towel, a shirt, pair of socks, my hat and my sunglasses.  To keep myself entertained, pretty much from mile 13 to 15 all I could do is rehearse in my mind the order that I wanted her to give me stuff when I saw her.  I came up and was like, "Towel, then shirt, then hat!".   Pretty much dried off, switched shirts.  Maybe I hung out for 2 minutes max.  

Feeling good at Mile 15 (only cause my wife gave me a new shirt)

After then the race sort of turned into a blur.  It started getting hot.  I was pretty much okay until mile 19 and the my body started acting up.   Let's just say my system was not working as it should.  I knew I would slow down for the rest of the race but I slowed down a bit more than I had hoped.   I made it through the Wide World of Sports (we were in there for like 4 miles).   Then headed up to Disney Hollywood Studios.   I ran by the chocolate stand but by now there was no way I could eat it.   Finally we got to Epcot, one of my favorite parts of the course.  Too quickly after that it was all over.

Compared to the year before, I felt 100 times better.   Got some food and water down.  After getting my checked bag and drying off a bit I took a visit to the massage tent.  Normally after this I go back into Epcot and have some lunch but I knew we still had a Magic Kingdom meet along with dinner and then a desert party.  Decided to jump in the car and grab some food back at the hotel.  At the last minute I took a detour and stopped by a McDonalds and wolfed down a 20 piece mcnugget.  Normally I try and eat like a vegetarian but I knew that my body wanted chicken.

Peter Pan proclaimed Daniel won the goofy.  It must be true.

After food, a brief nap we headed over to the MK for a quick meet before dining at Be Our Guest.  We ended up riding Pirates and then went and did a quick photo op with Peter Pan.  Peter proclaimed Dan the winner of the goofy, which he totally was. ;)

A bunch of us headed over to Be Our Guest where I got to dine with my Nerd Herd buds, Sara, Julie and Christine.   Totally fun.  Then Lee, Laura and myself headed over to get a picture with Goofy.  It's sort of become a tradition for us that whenever we finish a race, we get picture with the character that sponsored the race with our medals on.  We did it for Tink and also the DL 1/2 I believe.

Goofy was thanking Lee, Laura and myself for running in his race.  He decided to just fly...

The night finished up with a lovely evening watching Illuminations, again this time seated with the infamous Nerd Herd.  I had expected to feel a lot more tired at this point but really I felt pretty good.   Joelle and I took a nice stroll out the front of the park and headed back to the TTC with Jan Pepe to our car.  It was a great ending to a very very long day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lap 8 - Andrea Oakley

Date: Saturday, January 26th, 9:00 PM
Temp: 41 degrees
Total Time: 1:35 minutes

So we tried to do this back in December but I sort of bailed on it.  The idea was to do one of my laps of Sanitas during a full moon at night.   I think it was cold that night and I was sort of peaking out with my training for the Goofy at the time.  I just didn't have much in my legs.  Anyway, Andrea looked at the calendar and went ahead and scheduled a repeat attempt for January (thanks again for picking up the ball on this).  Since the marathon two weeks ago I had come down with a really nasty cold.  This week has been really nasty for running as I couldn't seem to get rid of this cough.   Today especially not only has the cough really been getting me down but also I seemed to have almost no energy.  Woke up at 9:00 am and by noon I felt exhausted.  

Spent most of the day hanging with friends but was a bit worried about my energy level for the late night run. Ended up picking up Kate and Michael and met up with the rest of the runners (Andrea, Rebecca, Laura and Lindsay).  

On a side note, Michael and I had decided to once again go without sugar for a month.  Rebecca was in our original bet back in November but I hadn't seen her in a few weeks.  Once she heard that we were back on the no-sugar bandwagon, she agreed to join as well.  It's nice to have friends willing to give up cookie dough for each other. ;)  Anyway, the bet is 50 bucks and ends the same weekend as the Princess 1/2.

The crew getting ready to head up

When we started out, we had just finished getting a little bit of a drizzle here in Boulder.  Oddly even with the drizzle it wasn't that cold.   I'd say I even overdressed a bit.  The smell of the fresh rain still hung in the air and already I was feeling better.   

This picture screams instagram filter

We took our time with the ascent.  I started off using my headlamp but quickly I ended up turning it off.  The moon had just enough light that most of the time I was fine without it.   Some of us had been up to the top of Sanitas before.   Others it was their first time.  I was glad they picked tonight to do it as it was a beautiful night.  In fact, I so prefer running at night I'm not sure I want to do it again during the daylight. ;)

Relaxing a bit at the top before heading back down.  

Once we got the top we sat around looking at the view for a bit.  I tried to snap a few pictures but the lighting conditions were not cooperating with my Iphone.  

Wow..I guess that reflective gear on my jacket really works....

A few of us were getting cold so we decided to start heading back down.  Instead of going down the front side, we decided to head down the backside.   While the start of that trail was a bit more sketchy, eventually it opens up into the Sanitas valley trail which is a really nice downhill where I normally run my hill repeats with Fast Forward.

Boulder at night

There are places around the country right now that have a few feet of snow, it's below freezing.  Here in Boulder it's rather pleasant out, no snow on the ground and we are blessed with such a gorgeous view.  I'm not sure there is anywhere else I'd rather live.  

Finally able to open it up running down the backside.  

Once we got down to the valley trail we all opened it up a bit and coasted the last mile back down to the parking lot.  There we were treated to libations and hot cocoa from Andrea.  I was about to partake when my good friend reminded me that hot cocoa has sugar in it and that would have cost me my 50 bucks.  Michael, thinking quick on his feat mentioned that we were allowed sugar in our post-workout recovery drinks.  We let him get away with it since especially he had already completed a 6 hour bike ride  earlier today and was replenishing his fuel supplies.  

Thanks Andrea for the post workout refreshments 

Yay!  We don't have to do it a second time...

After the run driving home I realized that I while I felt crappy all week, this is the best I've felt physically all week.  I think I'm finally recovering from both the cold and the Goofy.  Tomorrow my goal is to get in the pool and try adding some swimming to my workout routine.  

All in all probably the most leisurely but also most enjoyable lap of Sanitas that I've done.  I can't wait to do it again in the future and this summer it might have to become a regular outing.  Thanks again to all my great friends who came out last night to join me, not to mention all my friends that helped and supported my journey with Team Allears.  I still have four laps of Sanitas to go (one with Laura, a triple lap with Michael) and I'm hoping it doesn't end there.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Fitness Goals and Races

So taking a break a bit from the marathon weekend recap and I just wanted to talk about goals.   I believe goals are really important to improving one self.  It's not to say that someone that doesn't have goals can't get fitter, lose weight or improve but I feel like goals (and stating them publicly) can really get over a hump or a plateau.

I think the key to setting successful goals (for myself at least) is to make sure that they are achievable and have actionable steps I can take along the way.

Goal #1 - Lose weight
One of my goals is that I'd like to improve my speed while running.  While there are numerous ways of doing this, one way is to lose weight.  I'd like to get down to a racing weight of around 150 lbs.  I'm sitting at 163 right now and the lowest I've been is 157.   I've been sitting around the 160-165 range for over a year and for my height I know I should be less than I am now.  I think eventually I'd like to get under 150 but I'll set 150 as my goal for now.  There is a lot of variety that talks about weight loss and speed but the general consensus is that you can run 20 seconds per mile faster per 10 pounds you lose.  My target date is the Fruita half marathon in April.

Steps that I will take to achieve this:
1.  Once again cutting out sugar.  Mike K and I have recommitted to no sugar for the next 30 days.
2.  Eat smaller portions.
3.  Eat more salads.

Before (2008) weight was 210ish.  After (2013) weight is 165

Goal #2 - Run more often at or above my race pace.  Concentrate on effort and speed over distance
While I do have some longer races coming up (see below) I'm going to try and not focus on distance in my training.  Instead I want to focus on running faster for shorter periods of times.  I do have a few key workouts that I will do that are longer for the Fruita half in April, that won't be my focus.

Steps I will take to achieve this:
1. Work on my Yasso 800s.  It's a workout that I've never done before but I think it will help focus me on speed.
2.  Try to incorporate some sort of discomfort in all of my workouts from Feb 15th on (up until Feb 15th, I'm really trying to just recover physically and mentally).  This doesn't have to be speed every time.  It can be hills or tempo as well but really get used to running with more discomfort that I'm used to.  No more fluff workouts, I don't need them right now.
3.  Cut back the mileage a bit to help with mental fatigue.
4.  Keep attending track nights.

Goal #3 - Race more 5k/10ks
My big A race of the latter part of the year is going to be the Disneyland 10k in Sept.  I'm not super comfortable racing at this distance so I need to practice some beforehand.

Steps I will take to achieve this:
1.  Once my rest period is over from the Marathon, find a 5k to sign up for.
2.  Race at least two 10ks before Sept.

Goal #4 - Do a sprint triathlon before the end of the year:
I figure it's time to try out a triathlon   It will be fun and I think doing something other than just running will be good for me.

Steps I will take to achieve this:
1.  Work on my bike so it's ready to ride.
2.  Take at least one swimming lesson here in the spring.
3.  Once I figure out what tri I want to do (I need to decide on one before March 31st) come up with a training plan and stick with it.

So those are my goals, I thought I'd mention which races I have coming up.

Princess 1/2 Marathon - Feb 24th. - This is not an A race by any means.  I'm meeting some friends down there and will most likely run with them.  If anything I may decide to race the last 5k just for fun.

Me after the Princess 1/2 last year

Fruita Desert Rats Trailrunning Festival - April 21st - This is my next big race of the season.  We have been working on our hills and talking about some really great key workouts to get in before this race.  I have high hopes of performing well this weekend.   I will have about two solid month to train for it once I've recovered enough from the Goofy.  My good friends Michael and Andrea are running it with me plus I believe several others (like Karen).   Should be good times all around.  I loved this race last year and am looking forward to it again this year.  I would consider this a B race for me if not an A race.

Sunrise before the 1/2 last year in Fruita

Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare - August 31st, Sept 1st - Normally this weekend is the Disneyland half marathon but this year they added a 10k onto Saturday.  If you run both it's like a mini-Goofy but they call it the Double Dumbo Dare.  My wife Joelle wanted to run the 10k otherwise I would have skipped it this year.    I decided that I'm planning on racing the 10k as my A race for the year.  Then the next day I'll run the half but at a more enjoyable pace.  The double dumbo dare sold out in a record few hours today when it opened up.  Just the 10k sold out a few hours later and the half is already at 75%.

This is how happy I want to be after the Disneyland 10k

Not sure what other races I'll end up running but those are at least the next few coming up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Marathon Weekend 2013 - Saturday - 1/2 Marathon

Okay, let me just say I love Disney races (duh, I'm sure you figured this out by now).  But, one of the things I really really really don't love is how early you need to get up in order to go to these races.  Because you run through several of the theme parks and they only have so many roads (and over 25k racers) for logistics the races have to start early.  Also they are a bit limited in their staging areas so not only do you have to show up early, you have to walk a bit to get to your corrals.  I think that is the one thing that I'd tell anyone that wants to try running a Disney race, just plan on getting up early, really early.   Basically my morning looked like this:

2:30 - Alarm goes off
3:15 - Drive to the start to avoid traffic (you can also take a bus, they leave from 3:00 to 4:00 am from Disney resorts).
4:15  - Team AllEars Photo and Meetup
5:35 - Corral A Start

So this trip I actually decided to drive instead of taking a Disney bus like they suggest.  I liked it quite a bit better.  My car was right outside where all the runners gathered so after the race I could head back to my car and quickly change into comfortable clothes and such without having to really bag check a lot stuff.  Once I got there my running team was already starting to gather.  The temp. that morning I think was around 61 degrees at 4:00 am.  It was going to be a hot day.  At the expo the day before I had asked to move up from corral C to corral A.  It's not that I was planning on running really fast, but I figured if I could start a bit earlier, I'd finish before it got really hot out.  In retrospect I think it was a great idea and I'd do it again if I had to.  Not only did I start earlier, I also avoided some of the crowding of the course that lots of other runners experienced. =(

Once we had gathered and taken our team picture, after talking for a few minutes, we headed to the corrals. We tried to stay together but eventually Brian Camphouse and I split off to try and make it to Corral A.  We knew we were cutting it close as the national anthem was playing as we walked up to our corral.   After about 10 more minutes of waiting, they sent us off in our waves.   One of the cooler things is for each wave the have a huge send off with fireworks.  Pretty exciting way to start a race.

Heading into the staging area

Jorge, Eddie and myself pre-race

Knowing I had a marathon the next day, and I had done some park touring already I had planned to take the course pretty conservative.  I was thinking I was going to do around a 2:15-2:25 half time.   I'd walk parts, take pictures and just enjoy it.

Once I started running, it was a bit of a different story.  I was worried about the heat and humidity and honestly I just plain felt good.  I also think my predicted time above was based on a level of fitness that was just no longer realistic.  I picked up the pace and was running at just over a 9 minute pace, predicting to finish the race in just over 2 hours.  While my cardio felt totally fine (heart rate was actually really low) I was a bit worried about my legs so I decided to start stopping for characters.  It was actually a lot of fun!

Jack and Sally - Don't get to see them very often!

As I was running I got to see our faboulous Team AllCheers squad all over the course.  They were setup at Mile 1 and 11, Mile 6 in the magic kingdom and a few other places as well.  Let me tell you it was really a morale booster (especially during the marathon) to have them cheering for us.

Around mile 6 you head through the Magic Kingdom, down Main Street, around through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and then through the castle.  My good friend Brandon was stationed just through the castle waiting for his wife and good friend Paul to come through.  I just barely caught him yelling my name so I stopped and had him take a quick picture.

Just ran through the castle
After the Magic Kingdom the course gets a bit more difficult.  You run out the back of the theme park and then down near the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian hotel and then down World Dr.  The road really narrows and can get pretty congested.   This is sort of when I save up any sort of mental fortitude to just pound through it.  I think the first few times I ran this course I dreaded this part but I've gotten to really enjoy it lately.

The Green Army Men at the top of the overpass

After World Drive you head up this overpass onto Epcot Center Dr.  I think it is right around mile 10.5.  If it's your first half marathon and especially if you don't run with a lot of hills, this can really suck.  It's long and actually fairly steep.  The Disney folks do a good job and put the Green Army Men on this hill to shout encouraging things as you run up it.

Race #1 down!  26.2 to go

After that hill it's pretty much downhill from there.  There is one more overpass but just over 2 miles to go.   Not to mention at the end of it you get to run through Epcot and they even have a actual Gospel choir singing for you at mile 13 right before the finish.  

I ended up finishing in around 2:07 I think.  I was a bit worried that it might have been too fast but honestly I felt pretty good and I just wanted to stay out of the heat.  After I finished up I quickly got a massage from the massage tent, changed and headed into Epcot as per my now normal ritual.  I ended up grabbing fast pass for Soarin' and had some breakfast at Sunshine Seasons.  A few other of my running friends finished up and joined me for breakfast and we all went on Soarin' together.  I went back in the park and cheered on the runners for a bit before heading back to my hotel for an ice bath and nap.  

Brr, it's cold in here, there must be some Toro's in the atmosphere...

My wonderful wife Joelle was heading out to the parks with our friends Shane and Steve that day but she was a sweetie and went and got a bunch of ice for my ice bath.  I think I was a bit of a wimp and didn't have the water cold enough to start with and so she ended up dumping more and more ice in the tub (much to her cackles of glee).   After the ice bath I ended up getting in about an hour nap before heading out to our main team meet. 

Waking up a bit late from my nap, I quickly headed out the door to the team meet over at the Dolphin.   The main team meet is where we announced the total that we have fund raised as a team for Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  This year, we ended up making an all time high of 78k from a team of around 100 people.  It was pretty amazing.  I wasn't sure if we would beat the previous year's total or not.  Thank you to everyone that helped us get to this goal, especially to everyone that donated to make me run out Mt Sanitas (I still have a few Sanitas laps to do over the next few weeks).   

After finishing up the meet, some of the team (Go Nerd Herd!) was headed into Epcot for a few beers and some snacks.  Myself I was avoiding the alcohol until after the full but I know I needed some more calories before the full the next day.  We ended up getting pretzels in America and then hung out in Germany trying to stay off our feet.  

Go nerd herd!

A few of us decided to do the single rider for the new test track before heading out to get sleep.  After all I'd be up at 2:30 am again the next morning for the marathon....

Friday, January 18, 2013

Marathon Weekend 2013 - Friday - WDW Marathon Meetup and Wild Africa Trek

So Friday morning was another really early day.  Earlier in the week a few of Team AllEars had stalked the RunDisney twitter account and got accepted into the WDW Marathon Meetup with Jeff Galloway.  It is a marketing/social media event that RunDisney does for all of their races.  Basically certain prominent bloggers get invited with the media and then RunDisney does a first come first serve for the rest.  They invite about 100 people.   We were asked to show up at Disney Hollywood Studios at 6:30 am.   Once they got us checked in they gave us special 20th anniversary marathon t-shirts.  Four of my running team were invited to be there, myself, Eddie McCoy, Christine Griffin and Heather Melito-Dezan.  The sun was still down so the park was almost completely dark.

The crowd for the marathon meetup

After checking in and talking to Joe Taricani from the Marathon show for a bit, we got to line up and get pictures with Mickey, Donald and Goofy in their RunDisney costumes.  Also there were a few other running celebrities around to mingle with including Jeff Galloway, Desiree Davila (Olympic Marathoner), and a 7 time winner of the WDW marathon, Adriano Bastos. After pictures and such, they divided us into two groups.  A 9 minute pace group and a 12.5 minute pace group. Then we set off on our run.    

Me and Runner Mickey racing

We ran about 2.4 miles around Hollywood Studios.  I wasn't wearing my Garmin but I was told that we were running much faster than a 9 minute pace.  Ended up stopping in the middle to get a picture outside of Toy Story Mania with Woody and Buzz.  Then we ended up finishing the race in Light's Motor Action.

Christine Griffin's boy band idol, Joey Fatone

By now it was about 9:00 am and they had some water, juice, coffee and tea set out.  Also they had the food truck from the Wide World of Sports there as well.  While it was nice that they fed us, the food that they served was not the best.  We then sat down and they started bringing up the speakers.  At this point I'd say it was half good information, half their sponsors getting to talk.  I felt like especially since it was free, that was fine as there was some good info.  Joey Fatone (from N'sync) came out and actually spoke for a while.  His wife usually runs the Goofy but she injured herself so he decided to run it for her.  It was actually a really cute story.   I was never a N'sync fan and I didn't watch dancing with the stars but Joey was really entertaining to listen to.  

I'm not going to go through everyone that came suffice to say that there were two other notable standouts.  First, Drew Carey ended up coming up to speak.  Normally he runs the marathon but this year he had injured himself so he couldn't do it.   He ended up telling a really funny story about the Price is Right that was a bit dirty.  It felt like the Disney people running the event were trying to usher him off the stage but he kept on telling the joke.  He's a really funny guy and I'd love to see him in person doing standup one day.

Lastly they had a panel of running legends including Bart Yasso, Jeff Galloway and 4 others.  This part of the meetup had the most "meat" in it for me as a runner.  Unfortunately we were running out of time so by the time they all introduced themselves we only had about 20 minutes of questions with them.  

Drew Carey

Since this meetup was fairly last minute for me we had scheduled the Animal Kingdom Wild Africa Trek at 10:20.   So as soon as the meetup was over, I ran over, grabbed my goodie bag that they provided to us which was very generous.  It had a brand new Ifitness belt, some H20 products, a one day park hopper pass usable that weekend and a few other goodies.  I then raced to my car and headed over to the Animal Kingdom.

Shane, Steve, Richenda and Joelle were already checked in an waiting for the Wild Africa Trek.  I won't go into details of the trek (there are numerous blogs about the trek) but I did want to quickly weigh in on it. It's a paid 3 hour trek where you get to go backstage of the Animal Kingdom and get some up close look at the animals.   They had rope bridges that we had to cross as well as some really neet roped-in experiences where you can hang out and look down at alligators and hippos.  Then you board a special bus and get to go out on the Savanna.  

Me on one of the bridges at the Wild Africa Trek.  I was scared of the alligators below.

After cruising around for a bit on the savanna, you stop at their hut and they serve you a little snack (actually it felt like a full meal and was quite delicious).  You got to hang for about 45 minutes out here in a nice relaxed setting.

Grubbing out on the savanna at the Wild Africa Trek.  Yummy!

All in all I felt like the Wild Africa Trek is expensive, but I'm glad I did it.  I probably would not ever do it again on my own volition but like most tours at Disney, I think they are worth doing at least once.  You really did get some up close experiences with animals that you normally wouldn't be able to.  Standing on a rope bridge over alligators is also another experience that I'm not sure you'd be able to ever do anywhere else.

After the Wild Africa Trek I stopped off at the Dawa Bar and got a mojito.  This is turning into a tradition for me.  While the drinks aren't quite as good as at La Cava, I'm now a huge fan of stopping here when I'm in the Animal Kingdom and want to relax a bit.  I highly suggest it.  After getting my mojito and getting my wife a iced chai, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower.

Shane and I toasting the lovely mojitos at the Dawa Bar (I love this place)

After showering, we headed out to the Mickey Miles Podcast meet.  It was over at the Beach Club and I am so happy they are doing so well.  I expected a turnout for the meet, but I didn't expect as many people that actually showed up. They are on episode 33 or so and if you are planning on ever running a Disney race, I suggest taking a listen.   I was really happy to meet Steve Bernhardt, one of the co-hosts.  He turned me onto the idea of walking from Port Orleans French Quarter to the corrals for the marathon.  Also he has this pretty awesome website called sockgeek.com that has pretty much any type of running sock you might want.  We hung out there with a bunch of our friends for a while but eventually left and headed over to Sunshine Seasons for dinner.

At Sunshine Seasons we met up with two of my most favorite people that I've met doing RunDisney races, Lee Zimmerman and Laura Gilbreath.  I met Lee and Laura a few years ago but it really was at the Tinkerbell half marathon last year that we got to spend some quality time with them.  They hosted some of the meetups there and ended up spending some good quality time with them throughout the weekend.   Since then whenever we go to a RunDisney race we try and fit in at least one dinner with them.  In fact, we had a wonderful meal at Kouzzinna last November for my birthday.   Lee and Laura were also the two people (along with Michelle) that peer pressured me into doing the Princess Half Marathon this Feb.  After a lovely dinner we strolled out of Epcot and headed back to our hotel for an early night's sleep.  

Next up - Disney World 1/2 Marathon

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Marathon Weekend 2013 - Interlude - Victoria and Alberts Food Porn

So I had a few people ask me about the Chef's Table experience at Victoria and Alberts.  First, I had heard about this dinner back when WDW today had an episode on it.  Not only were they talking about it, but they had a vegan guest on, Emily Westhoeff from Babycakes in DTD.  Being that both Ellie and I are mostly vegatarian, I got really excited from their review to check it out.  We knew it was expensive, but it's sort of one of those once in a lifetime experiences.  V&A only have one seating per night and it's only available 5 nights a week.  It usually books 190 days out on the dot.  I tried to get it for my birthday when I was down there in November, but was put on the wait list.  Liz's friend Paula just happened to get it for two days before the 1/2 marathon.

The inside of V&A

We were told to be there at 5:00 PM sharp.   The doors to V&A were locked when we showed up.  Soon after they let us into the restaurant.  They walked us through the main dining room, through the kitchen and back to the chef's table.   

Chef Scott Hummell

Once we were seated, we were introduced to our two waiters that were ours completely for the night.   After going around the room, verifying our allergy/preferences and seeing who was drinking wine, Chef Scott Hummell came back to our table.  He went over our menus with us and we all had a nice champagne toast with the Chef as well.   

The Table

They quickly told us to pace ourselves, that it would be a 5 hour dinner and there would be 10 courses.  It actually ended up being more like 14 courses with bread and chocolate.   If we wanted to ever take a break and walk around, just let them know and they would escort us through the kitchen (we always had to have an escort as it was a bit dangerous with all the hot liquids and pans).  

View of the Kitchen

Not only was it great food, but also we had a amazing view of the kitchen.   They even encouraged us to talk to the Chef's while they were working if we had any questions.  One of the cooks was having a pretty hard day and he was the one closest to us.  It must be hard for them to be on-stage the entire night.  I think he was pitting and removing stems off of cherries for over 2 hours.

First Course - Amuse Bouche - Costa Rican Hearts of Palm Jar

The first course they brought out for us was a Heart of Palm salad served in these little caviar jars.  Joelle wasn't sure if she'd like it but once she tasted it she thought it was amazing.  They even served it with these little mother of pearl spoons.  I guess that's pretty common for caviar so that nothing taints the taste.  They just let us use them for this course as well.  

1st Bread Course - Baguette with Salted Butter

Next up with a house baguette with salted butter.   One of the more plain courses of the night, the butter was incredibly rich.   

2nd Course - Roasted Beet Carpaccio with Miniature Greens

I'm not a huge fan of beets myself, but the sauce they marinaded them in was delicious.

3rd Course - Cold Smoked Cauliflower with Fuji Apple and Curry Dressing

So here they had a nice presentation for us.  They had a plate with holes in it where they had dry ice below.  They poured the fuji apple curry sauce over the plate, and it set off the fog from the dry ice.  It had a great fragrance overall.  

4th Course - Vegetable Ravioli with Tomato Parmesan Broth

One of my favorite dishes was the vegetable ravioli.  The sauce was light and had just enough flavor without being overpowering.  The Ravioli was perfectly cooked and was filled with different types of squash.

2nd Bread Course - Black Truffle Bread with Truffle Butter

Talk about richness.   If you look closely we even threw some white truffles on the bread that we had shaved up.  After eating this piece of bread I was a bit truffled out.

5th Course - Housemade Gnocchi with Pearl Vegetables

The broth that they had cooked the gnocchi in was a parmesan butter sauce.  Seriously I could have died and been buried with a casket of this sauce.  I really really really wanted to lick my plate clean.

 6th Course - Red Cabbage Tart with Forelle and Asian Pears

I'd say that this was the most disappointing dish of the meal.   The pastry dough was perfect but the red cabbage I think could have used a bit more flavor.  The sauce was really supposed to compliment it but I remember thinking that it was an odd combination of flavors.

3rd Bread Course 

I can't remember what type of bread it was exactly except that it had a really hard outer crust.  They also served it with a specific type of butter, but I can't remember that as well.  

7th Course - Potato Cannelloni with Arugula and Spinach

So this is the one place where Joelle was pretty disappointed.  They asked us what we liked and didn't like before we started the meal.  I had mentioned that I'm not fond of mushrooms, and she mentioned that she wasn't fond of mashed potatoes.  They ended up making the potato cannelloni right on top of mashed potatos.  While they were delicious, she felt like that the dish was pretty much ruined because of that.

8th Course - Cheese Plate (Sottocenere al Tartufo, Parmigiano Reggiano, Colston Bassett Stilton, Gouda Reypenaer XO)

Ahh, yes the cheese plate.  So I don't really like blue cheese either but I was determined to try the Stilton.  Confirmed that once again, even if it's high quality, I am not a blue cheese lover.  The rest was delicious and it was served with a 100 year old balsamic vinegar.  

Fancy Coffee Pressure Pot

I had been weaning myself off caffeine in order to get ready for the race.   I decided that I couldn't pass on the coffee so I ordered a cup.  They brought this really amazing pressure pot to brew the coffee with.  Really intricate and some of the best coffee I've ever had.  

9th Course - Blood Orange Timbale with Array of Fruits on a Raspberry Veil

I think in general I liked this dish except for the raspberry veil that it all sat on.  It was basically a raspberry fruit roll up but a bit less firm.   I think the texture just didn't go with the rest of the dish.  

10th Course - Peruvian Chocolate Cylinder with Elder Flower Sauce, Chocolate and Navan Bubble

Now this was my favorite desert course.   In the upper left-hand corner you can see what appears to be a spoon with a brown object on it.   It was a chocolate egg that was being served in brandy.   You just popped it into your mouth and it exploded into chocolaty goodness.  The golden sauce you see is a 24 carrot gold infused elder flower sauce that was quite good.  On the left-hand side of the plate were what they called caramel caviar.  I think I could eat a complete bowl of those.  

11th Course - F_ckton of Housemade Chocolates

Then as a surprise of most everyone, they brought several plate of housemade chocolates.  By now we were all completely stuffed.   Included in these were several chocolate covered cherries that they soak in brandy for 2  years.   What we didn't eat they boxed up and sent them home with us.  

We were stuffed!

In conclusion, it was an amazing meal.  It took over 5 hours and I won't even get into what it cost but I felt like it's something that everyone that is either a Disney fan or someone that enjoys fine dining should try at least once.