Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “Miracle” — Matisyahu (2010)

blgmiracleEight is the number of infinity
One more than what you know how to be
And this is the light of festivity
When your broken heart yearns to be free

Here’s a Hokeyboy Fun Fact: my Hebrew name is also Matisyahu. Hah!

And let’s also be really real for a moment: the pool of “buttkickin'” Chanukkah is exceedingly shallow. That’s probably the Understatement of the Year. There are, sure, some fun songs, some sing-along songs, some cutesy happy funtime songs, even a few hilarious songs, but absolutely no really kickass Hanukah songs to speak of. Could it any less telling that some of the best Jewish songwriters of all time wrote some of the best Christmas songs of all time?

It’s a little off-putting, to say the least. And honestly: I’ve been a Jew for nearly 44 years now, and I haven’t seen a SINGLE. DREIDLE. MADE OUT OF CLAY. EVER.

The song lies.

OK leave it to rap/reggae/whatever-you-call-it artist Matisyahu to knock it straight out of the park with the 2010 track Miracle, one of the catchiest, soulful, and heartfelt holiday songs to come down the pike in a good while. The song has a strong spiritual slant, a yearning for inner peace and understanding, about finding those sweet, simple miracles trapped in the cold concrete well of everyday existential woe. Or something. It just has a great feel, a killer beat, an infection groove, and makes your Festival of Lights just a bit brighter.

Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “White Winter Hymnal” — Fleet Foxes (2008)

FleetFoxes-WhiteWinterHymnal(Single)This is song of beauty and of timeless atmosphere.

Fleet Foxes’s celebrated 2008 song White Winter Hymnal has the rich, swirling atmospherics of memory, all detail twirling like wisps in the corners of our vision and trailing out of focus the moment we try to stare too intently. I picture cold winter mornings, gray skies with scant patches of sunlight bursting through, an attempt to overlay frosty precision onto the chaos of childhood recollection. And then it’s gone, but for a moment there it was. The heart remains bittersweet yet buoyant in its hopefulness. Like waking from a dream you can’t quite remember but from which you found great contentment.

There’s something really beautiful and tenderly evocative of this piece. The meaning of the lyrics eludes me, as it probably should. The feel of this song is rich and satisfying and strangely soothing.

I was following the pack all swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied ’round their throats
To keep their little heads
From falling in the snow
And I turned ’round and there you go
And Michael, you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime…

Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” — Ronnie James Dio, Toni Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright (2008)

51UtPCTjHuL._SL500_AA280_Ahh, Christmas and heavy metal music. Despite what little minds might think, the two go together like your veritable chocolate and peanut butter. In the hands of Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi — two of metal’s founding fathers, architects of the genre if you will — the myths, legends, and spiritual truths of the holiday are transmogrified to exponential levels, into an epic realm of high fantasy and heroic legend. The Gospels by way of a Dungeon Masters Guide! Conan of Cimmeria and Elric of Melniboné teaming up with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!! E. Gary Gygax writing a Chuck White comic!!!

OK I’ll stop now..

I still get a little misty eyed when I think about that day in May 2010 when news of Ronnie James Dio’s passing raced its way through metal fans around the world. Call me crazy but I always thought the diminutive RJD, who wielded a mighty voice that seared like some kind of Cosmic Dragonfire, would somehow laugh at petty concepts like “mortality”. Nonetheless, teamed up with Tony Iommi, who invented metal guitar riffs and has forgotten more than most would-be axeslingers will EVER know, along with the great Rudy Sarzo on bass and the stalwart Simon Wright pounding the drums, the four took on the holiday classic God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and ended up not only bringing us great tidings of joy and one of the greatest heavy metal Christmas songs, but also a giant freakin’ broadsword powered by Cosmic Dragonfire with which we must vanquish demonic hordes bent on mankind’s destruction. On Christmas Eve. With commercial breaks. Or something.

Somewhere between Absolute Truth and Spiritual Truth lies the vast chasm of Mythology. Reality, then, is what you make of it. METAL!

Album Review: “Rock And Roll Over” — Kiss (1976)

blgrockandrolloverKiss’s 1976 LP Rock And Roll Over is one of the most celebrated albums by die-hard Kiss fans, held in high relief as the sweet spot at which everything seems to be in synch: great production values, strong songs, iconic Kissography, and the entire band performing and recording together with minimal intrusion from outside songwriters or session musicians. Plus the celebrated producer Eddie Kramer — who had transformed the raw audio of their landmark live album Alive! into a worldwide phenomenon — was back in the producer’s chair. The production excesses of their previous studio album Destroyer were nowhere to be found; you wouldn’t find lush orchestrations, children’s choirs, binaural audio, or multiple layers of instrumentation anywhere. Rock And Roll Over was nothing less than stripped down, bone-crunching rock and roll music. Nothing more, or less. Oh except for a bit of a country number. More on that in a second.

Well there’s some context for you. I mean, Kiss in 1976 were on the upswing of their popularity bell curve. After the multi-platinum breakthrough of Alive! and the Top-10 smash of Destroyer and its landmark single “Beth”, Kiss was ablaze with popularity. The excesses of merchandising and commercialism hadn’t really kicked into gear yet, so the band was more focused on songwriting, recording, and touring. Rock And Roll Over was their “back to basics” album, trying to combine the rawness of their earlier LPs with the more sophisticated (i.e. “less crappy”) production values that was afforded to them.

As I mentioned earlier, this album is much-loved by die-hards, but if I had to sum up Rock And Roll Over in two words, they’d probably be ‘Slumming It’. I find myself fairly indifferent to this album. They are some really good tunes, maybe a great one, but half of the album is pure filler. The band feels like they’re coasting here, with a collection of mostly generic 3-chord rock tunes about banging chicks and there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, as long as it isn’t the same vibe dressed up in multiple variants throughout most of the album. A cursory glance at the song titles are warning enough: “Makin’ Love”, “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em”, “I Want You”, “Calling Dr. Love”, and so forth.

But as I said, the album is only really half filler; the other half is pretty good. Things start out promisingly enough with “I Want You”, a Paul Stanley number that tantalizes with a soft acoustic opener that suddenly blazes into heavy guitars and alpha-male chest beating and what not. Silly, but the kind of silly stuff that Kiss does well. Sadly, the promise of that song is demolished by the dull, generic, lifeless bloat of “Take Me”, a juvenile piece of laziness even by Kiss standards (And I say that as a fan, of course. Much of the band’s best work is rooted in the greatest of juvenilia!). It’s lyrically idiotic and musically stagnant. You just can’t forgive any song that starts with “Put your hand in my pocket / Grab onto my rocket!” and manages to get even worse from there.

Things rebound a bit with one of Gene Simmons’s most iconic songs, the live favorite “Calling Dr. Love”, and I’ll cop to loving this song. The groove under the back-and-forth chorus is infectious, with pop hooks woven throughout its hard rock exoskeleton. I still prefer the live version off of Alive II for having more muscle to it, but at least we’re back in positive territory here. And much like Paul did in his opening two numbers, Gene follows up a really good tune with a dud; for a song entirely about nailing women in the restroom, “Ladies Room” is limp and dysfunctional. The lyrics are utter rubbish and musically the song really doesn’t go anywhere interesting. Verse/Chorus Verse/Chorus (solo) Chorus (fade out). Yeesh.

Peter Criss steps up to the plate with “Baby Driver”, providing lead vocals to a tune he co-wrote with Stan Penridge. This is an uptempo rocker that is easily the most enjoyable song on the album thus far. With a driving beat and some choice Ace licks scattered throughout, the song is a welcome respite from the “Here’s a good song about getting laid / Here’s a terrible song about getting laid” formula set up by Paul and Gene. And speaking of terrible songs by Gene, here comes “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em”, about which the best can be said is pretty much the Ace Frehley solo. Gene’s ode to pumping-it-and-dumping-it is routinely embarrassing.

Paul rebounds with the musically agreeable “Mr. Speed”, a fun little rocker with some strong vocals and a rollicking drive. It’s not a top-tier tune, but for what it does, it does really well and remains one of the album’s more memorable tracks. Gene returns with “See You In Your Dreams”, an entirely mediocre number that manages to distinguish itself with a catchy chorus and the default status of not being as terrible as most of his other album tracks. Gene must not have thought much of the track; he remade it two years later on his 1978 solo LP. Ace’s solo is, again, the highlight of the song. Since Ace didn’t contribute vocals or songwriting to the album, I suppose he was freed up to bring some heat to his guitar solos. For that alone, I suppose we should be thankful.

The best song off the album is “Hard Luck Woman”, an acoustic, country-influenced number that was written by Paul and sung by Peter, and if that doesn’t sound like some kind of gospel-tinged allegory I don’t know what does. Anyway, this is a great number that pretty much does everything right. The story has it that Paul originally wrote it for Rod Stewart, and then wanted to sing it himself but was overruled by the band in favor of Peter. I think it was the right move; while Paul has sung it live on several occasions (and very well, I might add), Peter’s rougher, scratchier vocals fit the song much better. It’s great to hear the band stepping outside of their comfort zone for this track; this level of experimentation might have served the album well. Not only a great song in its own right, “Hard Luck Woman” is a welcome respite from the plodding, repetitive three-chord rock vibe that dominates much of the album. Or ends it, as displayed with the inexorable “Makin’ Love”, a rote, perfunctory, dud of an finale that is part and parcel of all the album’s weaknesses with none of its strengths. Generic, uninspired, utterly lazy rock music.

If it sounds like I’m coming down hard on Rock And Roll Over, it’s only because I really am. In my mind, this is, with the exception of the Gene and Peter 1978 solo albums, the weakest release of their 70s output. You’ve got two bonafide Kiss classics (or near-classics) with “Calling Dr. Love” and “Hard Luck Woman” and a handful of decent tunes with “I Want You”, “Mr. Speed”, and “Baby Driver”. Then you have the mediocrity of… oh let’s just say the rest of the album. Honestly, I’ve been listening to this album for years and even giving it a thorough re-listen for this review, I’ve found it’s readily apparent that “Take Me”, “Ladies Room”, “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em”, “Makin’ Love”, and “See You In Your Dreams” are five of the exact same song. They should have simply made a 10-minute medley of all five as a single album cut. And then left it off the record entirely and released the remaining tracks as an EP or something. Oh well. The Emperor is buck naked, Kiss fans. Rock And Roll Over definitely has its high points, but it is the least essential album of their “classic” period.

Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “Silver Bells” — The Ventures (1965)

venturesNo big write-up on this one, as you already know the song, and if you know the theme to “Hawaii Five-O”, you know The Ventures pretty goshdarn well. We’re talking ’60s instrumental guitar rock at its most influential, and their take on the perennial Christmas classic Silver Bells is an easy addition to your playlist.

Especially if you’re like me and live in a climate where it’s most like to be an 80-degree beach day on December 25th. God how I miss seasons…

Anyway, give their cover of the tune a listen. It brings to mind, at least to my ears, that sort of classic island music feel I grew up with. Something a really talented resort band might be playing while you’re off on one of the smaller islands, snorkeling on Christmas Day, or parasailing on All Saints Day, or firewalking on Chanukah. All good.

Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “Someday At Christmas” — Stevie Wonder (1967)

Someday_at_Christmas_(Stevie_Wonder_album)_cover_artSomeday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart…

There’s something about Stevie Wonder’s voice that gives me just the incredible sense of… I don’t know if peace is the word. Euphoria? No, that’s too strong. I guess it’s a pervasively warm feeling of groovy empathy and melodic happiness. I don’t even think that sums it up very well at all, but if nothing else I think it exemplifies why the music of Stevie Wonder goes so well with Christmas music. It hits you square in The Feels. Every time.

I mean, there’s a really good reason why Songs In The Key Of Life is my favorite album of all time…

Anyway, I’ve always loved the Ron Miller/Bryan Wells holiday song Someday At Christmas and it has been recorded countless times, but Stevie’s 1967 rendition of it is, in my mind, clearly the definitive version. The sentiments expressed therein might edge little bit towards the maudlin side — we’re clearly in Free To Be, You And Me territory here — but Stevie delivers it in a way that makes it believably awesome.

Race Review: 2014 Space Coast Marathon (11/30/2014), or: “Just like the light of a new day, it hit me from out of the blue…”

logoYou know, it always comes down to this eternally ponderous struggle: The Journey vs. the Destination. Wherein lies the biggest payoff?

That’s sort of the theme for today’s race review, and no, the video won’t be by Journey, because we’ve all had enough of that lately. And by “lately” I mean “since 1983″.

Anyway, let’s get down to it and talk about the 2014 Space Coast Marathon, which took place on the clear, breezy morning of November 30, 2014 in the ridiculously beautiful berg of Cocoa, Florida. Held in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the race prides itself on being the oldest marathon in all of Florida. This year marked the 43rd running of the race, which rather interestingly and coincidentally means this race is as old as I am! And let us also file that particular nugget of data into our Who Gives A Flying Flip drawer and move on.

The race is, of course, “space” themed, an ethos that is spread around the entire affair. You’ve got medals fashioned after actual NASA space shuttles, astronaut props, and lots of sci-fi and NASA-themed costumes and decorations. The event offers both a Half and Full Marathon option, allowing runners to test their mettle at both distances. And since the race is traditionally held on the last Sunday in November, it’s a “cooler” time of the year in Florida, which usually means it’s only slightly less smoldering than the surface of Mercury.

Now I’ll definitely be reviewing the pros and cons of the race, what I felt worked well and what needed some serious improvement, but before I do please allow me a bit of self-indulgence. I ran the Full Marathon which, for those of you keeping score, was my second 26.2-mile running event. My first was the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon which didn’t quite go as planned (to put it ever-so-gently). That was a long, dreadfully hot slog which wasn’t helped by an injury that reared its head around Mile 19. After the race I decided to stick to Half Marathons only, or what 9 out of 10 Lambada instructors call “Wussing the hell out”.

They left a spot for me in the front. Jerks.

They left a spot for me in the front. Jerks.

Thankfully my running buddy Kristi helped talk me out of being such a great sissy and I registered for the Space Coast Marathon last February. That gave me a good nine months to really train for it. Oh sure, I was running 5Ks, 10Ks, and Halfs like they were going out of fashion, but training for a marathon is a Canoe for another Boat Show. That takes long hours of training, building up stamina, reinforcing your infrastructure to handle the system stress, watching your heart rate and VO2max and learning how to fuel and hydrate properly and all that really important garbage. If anyone’s curious about that process and my entire six month training regimen, you can read all about it here, here, and here.

I’ll make a super-long story blissfully short and simply say that I felt I trained the right way: a slow, steady, incremental build of mileage and lots and lots of long runs, including three 20+ mile runs in 8 weeks leading up to the race.

I felt I was ready.

Now let’s talk about the race, starting with none other than…

The Expo

The race expo was held at the Radisson Resort in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, the day before the race. Boots and I left sunny Fort Lauderdale that morning and after 2.5 hours of driving we arrived around 1:30 PM. Kristi had texted me just as we arrived, warning me that the place was absolute pandemonium. She wasn’t kidding, either. It was elbow-to-elbow packed with runners, making navigating the area rather problematic.

Here’s a quick look at the festivities:

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I was able to procure my bib and timing chip rather quickly, which was nice, because the line for the race shirt was four rows deep and completely unorganized. Nobody knew where to line up or which way to turn or even where specific sizes were being distributed at the volunteer tables. It was absolute chaos. Even worse, I was in line for nearly half an hour before I got to the front, at which point I was informed that they were completely out of my size (Men’s XXL). They were even out of Men’s XL as well (I fit into both, but I prefer a looser fit on tech shirts). Now here’s a serious gripe: was there any possible way someone could have informed us of this before or even during we were waiting in lineLooking at Facebook posts on the event website later on that evening, I was far from alone. They ran out of many other sizes, both Men’s and Women’s.

I emailed the organization and was assured that my shirt would be delivered to me within 30 days. I wasn’t too miffed about not receiving a shirt that very day; listen, crap happens, there are screw-ups and last minute FUBARs and all that. But given that registrations opened last February and sold out almost immediately (the Half, anyhow; the Full had a few spots open for months afterward), they knew exactly how many shirts they needed of each size for a long, LONG time. According to an email I received from the Event Manager, the men’s and women’s orders were reversed, as well as ensuing shipping delays and errors. So I’m not miffed about the shirt issue.

Let me tell you: sometimes a LITTLE bit goes a LONG way...

Let me tell you: sometimes a LITTLE bit goes a LONG way…

But the Expo logistics and coordination… that needs to be desperately improved for next year. There were way too many people in too small a space that I didn’t even bother visiting any of the vendors. There simply wasn’t any room to walk anywhere without annoyance and obstruction.

But I can definitely say this: I TOTALLY dug the complimentary Moon Pie!

After the Expo we went to check into our accommodations at the Comfort Inn (quick review: very clean, very comfortable, very 1950s) and met up with 75% of the Warrior Divas (Kristi, Ines, and Sandra) to check out the world famous 24-hour Ron Jon superstore next door and grab some snacks and decaf wonderment at Starbucks. The whole area was pure kitsch but damn if it wasn’t more than a little bit of fun and a great way to kill time before dinner.

Speaking of which, we met up with the rest of the FIT crew at Kelsey’s, an Italian restaurant next to the Radisson. The food was surprisingly good and the company even better. Afterward we bid everyone adieu, made our way back to the room, got the gear together and set our alarms for 3:15 the following morning.

Some scenes from the rest of the day:

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By then it was time to take my favorite palindromic sleepy-time aid and I was out by 9 PM… which then leads us directly into

Race Day

As usual, the dulcet Samsungy tones from my Galaxy S5 wrenched me from the arms of Morpheus and I had enough adrenaline coursing through my veins to hit the ground running. I scarfed down a bagel with cream cheese and few Chips Ahoy cookies to get that last bit of carbohydrates in, and quickly donned my race gear. Technically I was running as a Starfleet Officer. I was originally supposed to be a ’60s-era Klingon, a theme I quickly abandoned when I realized that there had to be some actual costume planning involved. Ain’t no one got time for that. So Kristi and I decided we were going to be Starfleet redshirts, albeit she in Communications and me in Engineering, lest anyone think we were going to wind up massacred in some landing party incident. I had a Starfleet pin which I ended up attaching to my Camelbak. And THAT, as they say, is a running costume, Hokeyboy style. Minimalism in theory and practice.

Boots and I caught up with Ines, Kristi, Sandra, and Mark in the lobby and we took the 4:15 shuttle over to the Start Area in Cocoa Village. Plenty of activity buzzing in the area, not the least of which was around one of the few non-porto-potty bathrooms open to runners. The line was off the chain. I had to use the facilities, and spotted a very short men’s room line. And for all appearances it should have been, if there hadn’t been only two stalls, and one gracious dude hadn’t decided to park himself in there for a good 20 minutes. Thanks buddy!

The plan was to make our way to the JumboTron near the Start Line for a 5:30 AM picture, but our group quickly got separated and barely anyone showed up for the photo op. In the midst of looking for people, I happened to bump into this Tall Drink o’ Water right here:

Camelbak Compadres!

Camelbak Compadres!

That’s right, this was a random encounter with my buddy Paula from Eat:Watch:Run. This was our first actual real meeting, although we technically met two years ago at the 2012 Disney Tower of Terror race, where she photobombed my Start Line selfie. A few days later I randomly came across her blog while looking for other race reviews, and commented on hers. She in turn read mine, and promptly outed herself as the photobomber in my pic. What are the odds? We chatted for a bit and then I quickly bid adieu, trying to find the group for our photo shots. Anyway, Paula’s fun people for sure; do yourself a huge favor and check out her blog if you’re into running, or food, or bunnies, or smart writing.

We finally managed to scrounge together what we could find of our buddies, and snapped a bunch of pics together. Eventually it was time to hit the Start Area, where Rich, Kristi, and I lined up somewhere around the 5:00-hour pacers. My dream was to do a 4:45, but I would have been happy with a 4:59:59. I just wanted to sub a 5-hour marathon. That was the goal.

Here are some pics of the Start Area:

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The Half Marathon group took off at 6:00 AM. We full marathon types had a scheduled take-off at 6:30. Pre-flight fueling consisted of a Honey Stinger cookie at around 6:15. After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, the countdown started with actual NASA audio and countdown footage projected on the screen. We were go for launch and at 6:30 we had lift-off. The 2014 Space Coast Marathon was underway.

As usual, I already had to pee again…

The Race

Let’s take a look at the race course, as always courtesy of Google Maps and my Garmin:

Bick to encliggen.

Bick to encliggen.

The course was a basic figure eight; two out-and-back courses, each about a half-marathon in distance, with the Cocoa Village Start/Finish Area right in the center. The entirety of the course is adjacent to the Indian River, providing a host beautiful views along the shore and clear, cool breezes aplenty.The marathon initially took us winding north on Indian River Drive, with the first turn-around of the day located past Indian Trail between miles 6 and 7. We then proceeded back down Indian River Drive, passing the Start Line around the midway point of the marathon. We then proceeded another 6 miles and change southbound on Rockledge Drive, with a turn-around at Mile 20 in the Oakledge Park neighborhood. At that point it was just a clear southbound drive until we reached the Finish Line at Riverfront Park.

I thought the course was flat, scenic, mostly (but not entirely) shaded and rather lovely, to be honest. Some of the views were rather spectacular. I didn’t catch any myself, but others were remarking about all the dolphins they spotted leaping about in the Indian River. Many of the homes along the shoreline were particularly beautiful, featuring remarkably well-manicured lawns, gardens, and other such architectural/landscape wonders to behold. And other parts of the run were… fairly mundane. Look it can’t all be 26.2 miles of Howard Roarke’ian wonderment. For what it was worth, the signal-to-noise ratio of this race was really substantial. There was much to appreciate on the course.

Here’s our Marathon crew as we were just starting the race:

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On the other hand, an out-and-back course is usually pretty fine for a half-marathon. Even a double-out-and-back is agreeable at that distance. But a double-out-and-back for 26.2 miles can get pretty, pretty demoralizing out there. There wasn’t a whole lot of variation of scenery and topography, along with the prescient knowledge that everything you pass once, you’re gonna by pass again on the way back. That’s just the nature of the business, and we all knew it going in. But it didn’t make the mental game any easier, that’s for sure.

But enough whining. Let’s get to the good stuff! Rich, Kristi, and I took off at a moderate, long-run pace with 4:1 intervals that we planned on sticking with for the entirety of the run. Temperature wise it was very pleasant, but not as cool as I really hoped it would be. It was definitely a clear, comfortable morning, right about 63ish degrees at the Start. However, with minimal cloud cover temperatures rose fairly quickly. It was 75 degrees by race end, but thankfully with blissfully minimal humidity.

What made the race much more fun was when we were quickly joined by our buddies Mark and Sheri, and the five of us stayed together for a good 16 miles of the race! By Mile 3 we had established a solid running pace and had a great vibe going, which meant it was the perfect time for me to activate my iFrogz Tadpole wireless speaker and hit the tunes. And what was the first song that came up? Here’s a hint:

I can't believe it, myself...

I can’t believe it, myself…

A few weeks ago, Kristi and began devising an Ultimate! Heroic! Space! Movie! TV!-themed playlist for the run, and this tune was a natural fit. Once those sweet, soothing Yacht Rocky tones started booming out, the five of us started singing out together. By the time we got to the chorus, I think we had about two dozen runners singing out loud in unison along with Joey Scarbury. More than a few people were singing out the George Costanza Answering Machine Message variant. No matter. This became one of those Great Running Moments I’ll always remember and cherish, because I’m utterly cheeseball like that.

Here’s where I’m also going to give a ginormous shout-out for all the crowd support out there. I’m not talking about just from the race volunteers — I’ll get to them in a minute — but I’m talking about the entire Space Coast-area community, who were out there cheering for us by the boatloads. Many of them in full costume, including one rather not-unattractive blonde in full-on Barbara Eden Jeannie attire. I never saw so many male runners nearly collide into each other. But there were also people out on their lawns with signs, hoses, BOOZE (more on that in a minute), dogs (LOTS of excited puppies!), all of them cheering us on. It was a staggering amount of community support, and every last bit of that was welcome.

By around Mile 10 we were still feeling strong. Up until then none of it really felt like much effort at all, and we were ahead of the 5:00-hour pace group. But it was quickly getting warmer, and we were feeling it. Rich, Kristi, and I stopped for a porto break around Mile 11 and we lost Mark and Sheri for a bit. We caught up with them later on, thankfully, but I was a bit bummed when my speaker lost juice at around the 2 hour point… right in the middle of C.W. McCall’s epic heroic masterpiece Convoy. Bah phooey!

We passed the halfway mark at around the 2:30 mark, which meant we were still on pace for a 5-hour marathon, but we had to maintain pace. It was rather surreal to pass the Start Line for a second time as we started the second out-and-back of the course. The early morning darkness really didn’t provide a good view of Cocoa Village, which I now discovered to be a rather quaint, charming, scenic area. But no time for love, Dr. Jones! Keep running!

Here are a pair of cool mid-race shots:

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By now it was easily established that Kristi was setting the pace for our group, so the rest of us followed her lead. The girl simply never flagged and remained consistently energetic throughout. Sadly we lost Sheri around Mile 16ish; her presence was deeply missed, but we soldiered on (she definitely finished strong, so no worries!). We were now heading south down Rockledge Drive, and this leg of the race was a bit more fun in a lot of ways. How so you may ask? Well for starters:

1) One homeowner set up a Blue Moon shooter station on his driveway! He was offering free shots of Blue Moon ale to all runners, and we simply had to partake. Kristi, Rich, Mark, and I grabbed a small cup and toasted to our awesome team of Red Shirts, downed the shot, and moved on. It was awesome! He even had pretzel sticks for the taking, although I’m not a pretzel guy by any stretch of the imagination.

2) Another homeowner had nearly a full bar setup for anyone who wanted a mid-race cocktail. Now what could go better at, say, Mile 18 of a 26 mile journey than a nice, spicy, tummy-disruptive Bloody Mary, right?? OK maybe not for me, but hell if I were so inclined I probably would have loved a cocktail break. In retrospect, maybe it might have helped? Perhaps? Hmm…

3) And then there was This Creepy House With The Woman In The Window Right Here

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OK what the effing eff?? This was all kinds of freakishly terrifying. And awesome. If she moved, the race would have been over for me right then and there.

At this point let me take a moment to absolutely praise the quality of the hydration and aid stations. Quite frankly, I’ve never been on a race so well staffed. There were 25 (!) hydration stations on the course, with plenty of volunteers ready to hand out cups of water and Gatorade. They were also regularly handing out Gu gels every 3 or 4 miles. Space Coast had you covered from start to finish with hydration and fuel. I wore my Camelbak with 50 ounces of water and had plenty of CLIF Blocks, but I took advantage of the abundance of Gatorade and Gu whenever I could, while splashing cold water on my head, face, and arms at regular intervals.

And to whomever it was at around Mile 20 with the big tube of ice water filled with complimentary towels for runners? You’re doing GOD’S work! Whichever God you believe in! Or don’t! All good!

My energy levels were pretty even throughout the entirety of the race, but I can’t say the same for my muscle aches and cramps. I dropped back from the group right around mile 23.5. I was feeling real soreness in my hips but especially in my left hamstring. After one of our walk intervals ended, the group picked back up to running and I continued walking for another minute. I was in a LOT of pain. I couldn’t run for more than 45 seconds without feeling it, so I decided to take an extended 5 minute walk break and loosen it out for a spell. When I started running again it felt better but I couldn’t really stay running for more than 2-3 minutes before needing another 2-3 minutes of walking. I was pretty bummed out by this, knowing that my 5-hour goal was shot.

But I was also philosophical about it, too. I usually hit the Wall anytime around mile 18-20, but that day I had made it to 23.5 in some fairly warm weather. Not that the knowledge of that exactly cheered me up — I “may” have been swearing up a storm at myself for awhile — but the logical side of my brain knew that I had still done well for myself.

A funny happened around the time I hit…

The Last Mile!

Some bloated, out-of-shape dillweed (not a runner) on the side of the road was talking loudly into his cellphone, in a voice I’m pretty sure half the population of Ceti Alpha V could hear. I wasn’t paying much attention to him until I heard him say:

“WHAT? NO NO, NOT MANY PEOPLE LEFT, JUST A BUNCH OF WALKERS AND ALSO-RANS…”

Ho boy. This is when your tall, goofball, friendly neighborhood Hokeyboy loses hit cool. I yelled back:

“HEY A**HOLE YOU EVER TRY RUNNING A MARATHON IN THIS HEAT? NO? THEN SHUT THE F*** UP!”

Yeah. NOT the most mature of outbursts. Not by a long shot. But MAN it felt good. He looked up from his phone with a look of utter bemusement. I extended him the standard middle-finger salute. He glared at me. I continued on my way.

Never diss a runner during a race. Never crap on anyone because they’re walking. You’re dealing with people who regularly get up at 2 in the morning and physically punish their bodies. For hours. FOR FUN!

But I will say this: that D-bag gave me all the motivation I needed to pick up my feet and finish that damn race. I wasn’t exactly setting any land speed records at that point, but I was freakin’ moving. I hit mile 26 and made my way into the Riverfront Park walkway. Boots caught me and captured a few awesome running snapshots. She could tell by the look on my face that I was hurting, but I was determined to cross that Finish Line as strong as I could. I also managed to high-five my friends Marcela and Vivian who were cheering me on, and as I turned the corner and saw that Finish Line I gave it my all… which really wasn’t much, but I managed to cross that Finish without looking like 45 pounds of lumpy potato salad in a 20 pound bag.

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Total time: 5.10.56. That would make this race a PR, even if it didn’t feel like one. But I was still 18 minutes faster than my last marathon, so I’ll take it. Bear in mind, I was nowhere NEAR this mature about it at the time. I was utterly hyper-critical and near despondent, as I always am when I’m at my self-competitive worst. I started with the whole, “I didn’t train in the South Florida heat, humidity, and swill all summer long and sacrificed my Friday nights for early morning long runs, just for a 5.10 marathon!!” I quickly got over it. If I hadn’t trained that hard, I would have done much, much worse. It took awhile, but I was good with it.

Rich and Kristi finished at 5:01, and Mark at 5:05, which meant that Rich, Mark, and I had all PR’ed. Kristi was a bit let-down that she was 2 minutes off her PR, but what she got in return were a legion of new admiring fans. She basically led our expedition, kept us going, and brought three dopey red-shirted dudes into PRville. I think the three of us were, in return, more than a little bit grateful:

Celebrating our fearless leader!

Celebrating our fearless leader!

After receiving my medal and awesome new official race towel, only two words were ringing true to me: PIZZA and BEER. We walked over to the pizza stand where they were distributing complimentary slices of cheese and pepperoni from pizza boxes to all runners. I waited patiently for my turn and then asked the volunteer how many slices I could “legally” take with me.

He handed me an entire box of pepperoni pizza. God’s work, once again.

We staked out a spot where we could sit in shade, and then it was time for beer. At the beer line I managed to bump into Robert and Phill from the Mickey Milers Running Team, two members who I knew well from online but had never met face-to-face before. It was a fine how-do-you-do indeed. We chatted for a little bit, then I double-fisted two beers and headed back to our encampment to join in on our group feast. Afterward we met up with the rest of our FIT buddies and posed for a ton of pics, many of which I’ll gladly share with you now:

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So overall, I walked away from the 2014 Space Coast Marathon with a pretty positive feeling. Sure the Expo was a mess, and I’m still not entirely crazy about a Double-Out-And-Back course. I also think the Full Marathon runners should go first, and THEN the half runners. We’re simply out there much longer, so the less time in the sun, the better. But I have nothing, nothing but praise for the volunteers, the hydration stations, the community support, the scenic views along the Indian River (with a knockout sunrise), the costumes, the festive Finish Area, the overall feeling of camaraderie, and the experience I had spending all those miles with Rich, Kristi, Mark, and Sheri, having an utterly memorable and totally fun time running together. This is pretty much why we do what we do. That and the bling, pizza, and beer. Oh, and a beach towel. Righteous.

So to go back to the original question I posited at the start of this WAY overlong race review: forget about it — ’twas entirely rhetorical. It’s never the Destination. Every single time, it’s the Journey that makes the sky blue, the grass green, and fried chicken taste so good. So while here’s to a new PR and a now two-timer marathoner, here’s also to a most buttkickin’ journey along the way! And of course, here’s the video (not like it was any kind of surprise or anything):

Race Review: 2014 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (11/8/2014), or: “Look around, leaves are brown, there’s a patch of snow on the ground…”

This race review was originally published here at the amazing Sparkly Runner blog. If you enjoy Hokeyblog, go give my amazing friend Sarah’s blog a lookover. She’s incredibly forthright and entertaining, and really cool people too. She’s the real deal, Hokeyfolk!

784070-1001-0001sThere was this magical moment of clarity that occurred as I turned eastbound onto the Osceola Parkway, brushing away the little demons of stinkin’-thinkin’ who were trying to convince me that I’d be battling hypothermia by the end of the night, during which only one thought permeated the little gray cells of my celebrated noggin: How in the wide, wide world of sports am I ever going to review this race?

Let us draw a measure of frankness when it comes to the 2014 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon: this review is probably not the review you’d want to read if you were looking for the definitive… nay, quintessential recap of what is widely considered to be Run Disney’s fan-favorite race event. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a night race during a much cooler time of the year for Florida. The half-marathon course is unique to this race (the WDW Half and Princess Half are essentially the exact same course) and takes you through three Disney theme parks. And it takes place during the start of the holiday season, so you get to see some awesome decorations along the way. But let’s not forget the biggest lure — after the race, there’s a private after-party at Epcot for runners (and their guests, but you have to pay extra for them) showcasing the Food & Wine Festival, one of THE most essential (and beloved) of all Disney events.

So you have a Run Disney race! In cool weather! Costumes! Music! Happiness! Holidays! Medals! Rudy and Carissa! Jeff Galloway! Food! BOOZE! What is not to love??

Enter Mother Nature and her most ironic sense of humor…

Let’s dial it back a bit to the sweet, sunny morning of Saturday, November 8th, 2014. Boots and I drove up from our home in Fort Lauderdale the previous night, checking into All Star Sports around 11 PM. It was a cool, clear night, and I’m thinking, “Man if this holds, we’re gonna have some perfect running weather!” Mm-hmm. After settling in, unpacking, and constructing the traditional hotel room fort, we passed out in anticipation of the following morning’s carb-load.

The Carb Load

And what a carb-load it was! At 9:45 AM we were entering the Jambo House lobby at Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we met the Sparkly Runner herself, boyfriend Matthew, and her Dad and his girlfriend for a massively awesome chow-down at Boma. We hadn’t seen Sarah and Matthew since the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend the previous January, so it was good to see some familiar friendly faces and catch up. And of course the food was exquisite! I’ve blogged about Boma and speak of it often and with rapt eagerness. It’s pretty much one of the best dining options available on-property, and the variety (and quality) of breakfast/brunch items available made for a pretty awesome time with some good friends. If you’re running a night race at Disney, you can’t do much better than carbing up here.

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The Cool Kids at Boma!

The Merch Hunt

After bidding our awesome buddies adieu and *ahem* waddling contentedly out of Boma, we drove over to ESPN Wide World of Sports to hit the Expo. If you’ve ever attended the Expo at a Walt Disney World race, you pretty much know what to expect from the routine: park your car, go to the Field House to pick up your bib, go to the Josten’s Center to get your race shirt and browse the merchandise, listen to speakers, stand in line forever just to get a free banana or 1/15th scale Clif bar, try to capture a pic with Jeff Galloway, register yourself for runner tracking if you haven’t done so already, grab a cupcake, and slither back from whence you came. Simple right?

Actually, it was mostly simple and routine. We started with the requisite Pics in Front of the Run Disney-branded Displays…

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After that it was a matter of grabbing my bib and registration packet at the Field House with minimal wait…

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Besides the race bib, the packet contained a coaster, $10 gift card for the Food & Wine festival, the commemorative race pin, a green wrist-band for my entrance into the after party, a somewhat flimsy coaster, and the race guide. Missing from the packet was Boots’s ticket for the party, for which we had pre-paid and ordered back in March. We asked a Run Disney volunteer, who told us that the After Party tickets were to be distributed at the Josten’s Center. OK then. With that we were off on our way, outside and down the path heading towards the Josten’s Center. It was during this sojourn that we were suddenly accosted by a tiny Latin American woman, who jumped in front of us with a “NONE! SHALL! PASS!” swagger. I immediately recognized my FIT buddy Rosa, who along with her husband Luis, was running the Wine & Dine as well. We were also joined by other FIT buds Cassandra, Sandra, and Julie, and we agreed to meet up at the Gear Check station at 8:45 that night, afterward posing for this awesome picture:

Rosa's son Danny thought all these nutty grown-ups were "real cool", if you "sense my meaning".

Rosa’s son Danny thought all these nutty grown-ups were “real cool”, if you “sense my meaning”.

The Josten’s Center was bustling with the usual excitement: shirt pickup, vendors, speakers, the works. I grabbed my race shirt and picked up a sharp looking tech shirt at the Official Merchandise area, but that was it. None of the other merch really screamed out to me, I guess. Anyhow I was saving my shekels for the Avengers race the following week. I went to a Run Disney volunteer to ask where I could pick up Boots’s After Party ticket… and was promptly told I had to pick it up at the Field House… from where we had just left.

OK I knew that someone had to know the proper answer, so I kept pestering other Information Desk volunteers until someone suggested I go to the Welcome Center, which we did, and after some headaches over “confirmation numbers”, we were able to pick up her party ticket. What an ordeal.

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Next up we get to the portion of the day that I can’t find any better descriptor than…

Bummin’ Around

After picking up some cupcakes from the Yum-Yum Food Truck (two Chocolate Peanut Butter, one Carrot Cake, one Drunken Pumpkin) we made our way back to the resort for a quick nap and to rest our legs for the upcoming race. The nap was most welcome, and I woke up fairly refreshed. By 5:30 PM I needed some dinner, so we walked over to the Food Court where I tried the not-at-all-bad London broil with stuffing and mashed potatoes. I also managed to catch this awesome pose with a psycho-tennis Donald Duck, which is worth it just for my expression alone:

Sometimes I tend to go a little quackers...

Sometimes I tend to go a little quackers…

After that it was time to change and get everything ready for the race. The weather report called for temperatures starting in the mid-60s and dropping to the mid-50s over the course of the night, and a near 100% chance of rain. Exactly how MUCH rain was still the big question. It could have been anything from light sprinkles to a torrential monsoon. I decided to go with full compression gear, long-sleeve shirt and tights, to keep me warm and mostly dry (I wore my Mickey Milers team jersey over the compression shirt). After pinning my bib on, getting fully dressed and filling up my gear check bag with a fresh pair of clothes, towels, deodorant, a Hefty bag, and my race gear, Boots and I hit the road and made our way over to Epcot to board the shuttle to ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Pre-Race Festivities

After parking at Epcot, it was a quick walk over to the shuttle boarding area. The line was pretty long but we were up and boarded in about 10 minutes. The drive to ESPN Wide World of Sports, on the other hand, took nearly half an hour. The traffic on Victory Way was just a mountain of Ugh. But we had little choice, except to sit there with barely any air conditioning and sing along to 80’s “classics” on the stereo system. I may or may not have sung Michael Sembello’s Maniac in a high falsetto. Take that for whatever you think it means.

Bus Selfie!

Bus Selfie! (Is that Crackhead Bob behind us?)

But we arrived at ESPN WWoS eventually, and after making our way through security I walked over to the Mickey Milers team meet-up, where, for the third time in a row, I was a few minutes late and missed the team picture. Ye gods, I was a bit chafed, but it was still nice catching up with everyone. After chatting it up with some buddies and snapping some pics, Boots and I walked over to Gear Check, checked my bag in, and met up with our FIT entourage of Cassandra, Rosa, Francesca, Kari, Sandra, and Julie. More chatting, more pics, a last-minute Porto-Potty pit stop, and we were off to our corrals. I kissed Boots goodbye, as she was leaving to catch the Jay & Silent Bob show at the Improv. Francesca and I walked over to corral E and waited for the show to begin.

And here’s where the fun REALLY starts.

Up until now, the weather had been pretty moderate and dry. We’re talking about 66 degrees, maybe, with reasonable humidity and a breeze. I was actually feeling a bit warm in my compression gear, wondering whether or not I had perhaps made a tactical mistake in putting on all that get-up, getting nervous that I might actually end up overheating during the race.

Nothing doing.

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Fifteen minutes before the race began, it started to rain. A light rain, perhaps even a steady drizzle, but rain nonetheless. Not a drop of precipitation had fallen from the heavens for weeks before this race, and minutes before it commenced, the skies opened up and unleashed torrents of havoc. And slowly, steadily, over the course of the night, it continued to rain, harder and harder over time. It was never anything like a severe shower, a monsoon, or even a thunderstorm… but it was a steady, continuous rain. A COLD steady continuous rain. Temperatures began to drop almost immediately. By the time we crossed the Start Line — roughly about 10:12 PM — it was in the upper 50s, breezy, and very, very wet.

There’s a reason why this race had been thereafter dubbed…

The 2014 Disney Splash and Dash Half Marathon

Let’s take a look at the course, courtesy of my Garmin 220 and Google Maps:

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

A quick perusal of the course shows why this is such a celebrated run. After leaving the ESPN Wide World of Sports, you head west down Osceola Parkway, then looping through Animal Kingdom. After leaving Animal Kingdom, it’s a return east down Osceola until you reach World Drive. A turn to the north takes you to Buena Vista Drive and into Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a few miles. Finally as you exit the Studios, the course takes you down a pathway past the Epcot resorts (Swan and Dolphin and Boardwalk), turning towards Epcot as you run adjacent to the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. The last mile of the race takes you through Epcot and to the Finish Line in the Epcot parking lot.

… provided that you don’t DROWN first.

At this point I’m entirely obliged (and a bit dismayed) to reiterate that a qualified review of this race in comparison to other Disney race experiences is problematic, at best. I can probably do my best “This Is What the Race Would Have Been Like If Hadn’t Been Raining So Much…” summary, which looks a little like this:

If it hadn’t been raining so much, there would have been much more entertainment on the course. Right around Mile 1 I saw the Country Bears lined up for a photo op, and later on I caught the Green Army Men and the usual Captain Jack Sparrow with pirate ship out and about. But during the long stretches of nothing on the Osceola Parkway, there was almost nothing out there other than water stops. No bands, no DJs, no music, no video screens — it was a big stretch of empty. We even passed by some backdrops for photos that were entirely unlit and devoid of characters. This, of course, could NOT be helped, as it would have presented massive safety and electrical issues. So make no mistake, you can hardly fault Run Disney for inclement weather! Furthermore, there were photo ops in the parks, but they were limited to a bare handful of characters, and mostly under overhangs, patios, anywhere out of the rain. Usually without any kind of backdrop. Again, this was disappointing but could not be helped by Run Disney.

I did manage to capture a pic with this fine Pooch!

I did manage to capture a pic with this fine Pooch!

If it hadn’t been raining so much, there would have been more photographers on the course. MarathonFoto are some of the most egregious price-gougers around when it comes to your race photos, but I usually end up buying them if I can find a few good pics. But their freelance photographers are out there for several hours at a time, usually with thousands of dollars of their own equipment, and one can hardly expect them to risk damaging their livelihoods by having their cameras and lenses destroyed. As a result of this, most of the photographers were loosely scattered in the parks and at the Finish Line. On the bright side, I got more Finish Line pics than ever before.

If it hadn’t been raining so much, there would have been much more visibility on the course. Of course, this being a night race, you’re not going to be able have those sweeping views afforded by the daytime. But with the consistent rain, your vision and concentration are almost entirely focused on where your feet are landing, avoiding puddles, while staying ever more vigilant on other runners who were running slower than normally. Furthermore, the reduced visibility often messed with your sense of direction. As I was running through Animal Kingdom, I was wondering when I was going to pass Expedition Everest. It wasn’t until I was passing the Finding Nemo building that I realized I already had. Rats!

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And speaking of avoiding puddles…

If it hadn’t been raining so much, there would have been much better footing on the course. I can’t stress this enough, as it was by far the biggest obstacle of the night. From the very get-go, the roads were extremely slippery. Remember that the rain had started literally minutes before the race began, and as a result all of the oil embedded in the roads was brought immediately to the surface. This meant that while the ensuing slipperiness of the surface area would eventually wash away from the rain, this would take several hours to accomplish. I saw three runners slip and fall hard during the race, but I also saw several more recovering from such spills. This meant that, for the entirety of the race, you had to be entirely mindful of your foot-strike and running form. This became even more difficult on certain banked roads, like the one off the Osceola Parkway leading into Animal Kingdom. It was pitched like a motor speedway, which meant you were not only running on a very slippery surface, but also on a highly uneven one. Some of the paved areas in the parks as well as the resorts were also extremely slippery, and required extra caution.

And let’s talk about those puddles! This was also a pretty big issue. There were many substantial puddles littering the course, which meant you had to stay consistently aware of what you were running into at all times, as well aware of runners swerving or leaping to avoid them. I have to praise Run Disney for assembling a few volunteers who were out there warning runners to stay to the side of the roads and pathways when large puddles were ahead. This was pro-active thinking, and successful thinking at that. I’m grateful that I wore my Hoka Stinson Tarmacs, as the extra elevation helped me navigate those puddles much more successfully — although not entirely so. Cold squishy feet during a run is not the most fun feeling in the world.

Sloshing through Hollywood Studios

Sloshing through Hollywood Studios

Finally, if it hadn’t been raining so much, it wouldn’t have felt so gosh-darn cold on the course! Listen, I get it; I’m a South Florida iguana. If it gets below 65 degrees I consider it to something along those lines of another Ice Age. Still, not only do I love running in cooler temperatures, I pretty much worship it. However once you’re soaking wet with a bunch of miles ahead of you, that 56 degrees starts to feel a little (wait for the hyperbole… wait for it!) hypothermic. Your body naturally warms itself up as you’re expending energy, especially while running, but you can never really shake that feeling of shivering cold; ESPECIALLY while on a walk break. Again, Acts of God and the Weather Fairies can’t be controlled by Run Disney, but I’d be remiss to left any of this out of my review.

I also have to say I was grateful to myself for packing the compression gear. It kept me fairly warm and mostly dry throughout the entire run. That extra layer helped immensely when it came to keeping this reptile from going into hibernation. My only exposed areas were the shins, hands, and head. Keeping my legs and torso warm and dry made all the difference in the world. Trust me, I do NOT have the body-type to wear any kind of form-fitting spandex with any kind of pride, but I’ll go ahead and look plenty goofy it means staying comfortable throughout a race.

Well! Those were all the bummers, but do you know what? I still had a good time during the run! I knew, given the weather conditions and adverse course environment, that I wasn’t going to approximate anything remotely close to a good race pace. And that was cool. I was out there to run and have a good time, and that’s exactly what I did. Rainy or not, slippery or not, it’s always still great fun running through the parks, high-fiving characters and cast members, and enjoying the views when you have them. The Osborne Lights in Hollywood Studios were absolutely a beaut, although I noticed few people stopping to admire and photograph them (due to the weather, no doubt). Also, the “Laser Tunnel Corridor” thing by the Finish Line was one of the coolest parts to run through, giving you a bit of “last-minute emotional oomph” as you round the corner to finish your race.

And hats off to all the race volunteers who stuck it out in the cold, wind, and rain to serve water and Powerade and cheer the runners on. I thanked each and every one of them that I could. Good show, folks.

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Wet, frozen victory!

I crossed the finish line with a race time of 2:17:49, a time with which I was particularly surprised. Given everything I laid out in the paragraphs above, I felt I ran much slower and steadier than I normally do, and consequently wasn’t concerned or preoccupied with time. I figured I’d be somewhere around the 2:25 to 2:30 mark, which I’d have been fine with. All things being equal, I was pretty pleased with coming in under 2:20. I didn’t even check my Garmin until a few minutes afterward; I was just happy to have finished, period.

Which takes us to the…

Post-Race and After Party

There were a few notable occurrences that came after crossing the Finish Line. I walked over to receive my medal from the volunteers, and believe you me, it was a nice one; a spinning medal celebrating the 5th running of the race. A volunteer placed it around my neck, and I made my way over toward the exit chute. About 30 seconds later, another runner came up and tapped my shoulder. Apparently the spinning portion of the medal had popped out of its hinge and fell without me knowing it. I thanked him and went back to the volunteers to exchange my medal for a non-broken one, which they did without any hesitation. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident There were dozens of reports all over social media about broken medals and how/if you could replace or repair them. If you’re reading this blog and received a broken medal, contact Run Disney to find out how to get a replacement.

Brr!

Brr!

Anyway, after gathering the requisite Powerade, banana, and snack box, it was time to pick up my gear bag so I could change into some dry clothes. Bear in mind it was still cold, wet, and windy out, we were no longer running, our body temperatures were lowered, and as such the cold felt that much more pronounced. My heart sunk a bit as I saw the line for gear pickup. I spent about 20 minutes and change in the Mc-Q gear line, and I had to keep stretching and moving to keep my body warm and my muscles from locking up. I spent the time chatting away with several runners, many of whom were also planning on doing the Avengers race the following weekend (and the Space Coast Marathon at the end of the month).

On the plus side, after receiving my gear I was able to whip out my Drink Voucher and exchange it for a FREE BEER! You’d think an ice cold beer would be the last thing a runner would want after a wet, freezing run…

Canned, but I'll take it.

Canned, but I’ll take it.

You’d be so very, very wrong.

Finally, all that was left was to hit the Change Tent, dry off, and change into some warm clothes. The Men’s Tent was really crowded but I was able to stake out a corner with just enough room to get things done. Run Disney placed the tents on a grass hill, which meant a cold, wet floor of grass. Yecch. Thankfully I still had my mylar blanket that they had given to runners at the Finish Line, so I laid it out on the ground and used it as a mat. It still took awhile due to limited space and mobility, but a warm towel and clean dry clothes (plus a smidgeon of deodorant) never felt so good before.

Boots’s show had run very late, so she wasn’t able to make it to the After Party. Sadly, the weather wasn’t entirely cooperating either, as a lot of people were tired and wet and cold, and many runners wound up skipping it entirely. I made my way into Epcot, walked right up and into Spaceship Earth, sat down in my time machine and just answered texts, emails, and Facebook messages for awhile. I then met Matthew and Sarah by the Camera Center and we hung for a little bit. After bidding both of them adieu (see you cool kids in January!) I grabbed a bite over at the Puerto Rico booth (which was rather unimpressive; I’ve had better tostones at a gas station!), after which I realized I’d be much better off back in our hotel room, showered, warm, and cozy in bed. It was well past 2:30 AM at this point, so I walked back out of Epcot and boarded a shuttle that took me directly to the All Star Sports resort.

Final Thoughts

Again, you can’t really take my review of the 2014 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon as any kind definitive look at the event as a whole. If this were my first time at a Run Disney race, I’d probably be a little disappointed, not knowing how much fun and how extremely entertaining they can be under normal conditions. As it stands, I still enjoyed my time running the race, but I DEFINITELY want a do-over, as I felt the weather precluded me from having the FULL Wine & Dine experience. So I’m saying it now: I will be returning to run it in 2015. Who’s with me? While you’re debating such an endeavor in your celebrated little noggins, enjoy the video:

Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs: “Last Man At The Party” — Jethro Tull (2003)

blgjethtullxmasWell the Holiday Season is in full swing, isn’t it? People are still digesting their Thanksgiving dinners nearly a week later, legions of American consumers with peace and love and good cheer in their hearts are butchering their fellow citizens like pigs at the slaughter at Black Friday events all over the country, and DVRs are being programmed by the thousands to record the usual litany of holiday specials and Christmas movies.

And you know what, for my money Christmas isn’t Christmas without watching the 1942 classic The Man Who Came To Dinner with Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, and the absolutely incomparable Monty Woolley. I’m totally serious about this. If you’ve never seen The Man Who Came To Dinner, check Turner Classic Movies or Netflix or wherever you watch/stream/steal movies from and see it this holiday season. If you don’t love it I’ll buy you a drink. If you do love it, I’ll buy you a drink! Just watch the damn thing…

Anyway, that’s so not why we’re here today. As per our annual Hokeyblog tradition, we present a host of Buttkickin’ Holiday Songs guaranteed to set your Christmas / Hanukkah / Festivus / Winter Solstice / Whatever season on fire with some great tunes and good cheer. And since last year we started our tradition with this artist, I figured I’d do the same by featuring the incomparable Jethro Tull and their 2003 Christmas album tune Last Man At The Party. This song is just dripping with holiday festivity, from the stumbling drunks to happy cousins and wine and curried goat, setting a scene of a very tailored Christmas party but one to which perhaps anyone can relate.

It’s also upbeat, melodic, and great fun, with Ian Anderson’s signature flute underlying the tune, accompanied by bells, acoustic guitars, mandolins, and possibly a concertina or two. This is holiday music with a strong rustic feel; you can feel the warmth of the home fires brushing your cheeks. Fun stuff, indeed.

So make yourselves jolly under mistletoe, holly and ivy.
Get to it – and be in good cheer!
And when it’s all over… pigs gone to clover –
Will the last man at the party wish me a happy New Year?

My next great running adventure, or: “When the mind is willing, it gets downright perilous….”

blgshazambarrelWell no rest for the wickedly awesome, they say…

November has been an incredibly busy month for the staff here at Hokeyblog. We’ve just come off two weeks of back-to-back half marathons at Disney parks on TWO COASTS, and if my carefully-curated budget spreadsheet is any indication, I should pretty much be wearing a barrel and selling pencils on a street-corner. In 1934. Probably animated while being goofed on by some anthropomorphic quadruped with a snarky catchphrase and extremely dated theme-song. I need to stop the Merrie Melody allusions right around now.

I get sidetracked entirely too easily.

Anyway there’s still more to go this month; the Space Coast Marathon is a week from Sunday (11/30/2014) and that’s THE Main Event of my season. The very one I’ve been training for since last May. And now all my training is done, we’re in full tapering mode right now and looking for the next big challenge.

blgalaskabearAnd that next big challenge is taking me as far away as I can get while still remaining on North American terra firma… that’s right, I’m now registered for Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon, taking place in scenic Anchorage, Alaska on June 20, 2015.

Alaska!

Midnight sun! Bears! Salmon! Glaciers! Eskimos! And also other things!

I really can’t wait for this race. I’ll be going there with our buttkickin’ local running club, Friends In Training. We always have a travel race every year. In 2013 I joined them in Washington, DC for the Rock N Roll USA event, while I missed this year’s trip to Big Sur for a host of reasons. So this year I’m definitely embarking on this newest adventure.

And it’ll be a challenge. We’re talking lots of hills and over 7 miles of trail running! I can’t wait to tackle this particular beast. So if you’re thinking of (or planning on) tackling it as well, let me know and we’ll become marathon buddies and you might end up in a race review! Which is about as exclusive as joining the National Geographic Society, but at least there will be considerably less subscription card clutter in your life. Or something. Here’s the video: