Album Review: “Lick It Up” — Kiss (1983)

blglickitupIn order to shake off the stench of commercial disappointment that accompanied their three previous albums (Unmasked, Music From “The Elder”, Creatures of the Night), Kiss was now at the biggest crossroads of their career. After being increasingly viewed as a dated relic of the 1970s, their album sales continued to suffer. One more flop would most assuredly have been the final nail in the coffin of their career as a band. They were lagging way behind the big hard rock/metal acts of the day, like Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Van Halen, and the like.

Simply put: something had to be done. So in a last-ditch effort to not only be taken seriously as a band but to also draw attention to themselves, they stripped off the makeup and costumes and “came out” in a televised special on MTV in 1983 to promote their latest album Lick It Up.

The stunt ended up working like a charm. While not an all-out smash, Lick It Up was a hit, going Gold immediately, eventually hitting Double Platinum status in North America. Lead guitarist and co-songwriter Vinnie Vincent was now prominently featured as a band member (although he had significantly contributed to the previous album as a songwriter and guitarist), yet (like drummer Eric Carr) he was in essence a hired hand. Kiss was basically Paul and Gene at this point, more so the former than the latter.

I was 12 years old when the album dropped, and I paid it no attention whatsoever. It’s entirely Vinnie Vincent’s fault. I don’t know if it was Hit Parader, Creem, Guitar Player… one of those rock magazines. He started running his mouth off in an interview about how much of a superior player he was to Ace Frehley, and that did not sit right with this massive Ace fan. At all

Plus I wasn’t a big fan of the singles: at the time I thought the title track and “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” were both pretty damn lame. So I never bought the album. Years later I finally gave it a listen-to, when I found out how much Vinnie had contributed to the quality songwriting on Creatures of the Nightas well as a bit on 1992’s Revenge. He might have come-off as a jackass in interviews, but he was a talented songwriter and guitarist, something Kiss really needed at the time.

Lick It Up is a good album. It’s a step down from Creatures, but it not only rescued Kiss from being a 70s relic, it still brought the rock and melodic hooks that the band needed to stay viable on the rock/metal musical landscape. The album has a more “refined” feel than Creatures, not as rich or as heavy. The influence of 80s hair metal is beginning to show here, thinner production values to play up the poppier/more melodic edge of the music. Aldo Nova called, he wants his groove back. Still, this is a far, far, FAR cry from the rounded pop Dynasty or Unmasked. Paul and Gene co-produced the album with Michael James Jackson, focusing on a less metal, more straightforward hard rock sound.

Here’s a quick track-by-track rundown:

Exciter – This is one Kiss’s best album openers and a fantastic out-of-the-gate tune, with cool hooks that lead up to a great chorus. There is some fine fretwork from guest guitarist Rick Derringer as well. One of my favorite KISS tunes.

Not For The Innocent – A really good Gene tune, with a solid beat, great lyrics and a full, rich sound. I don’t think Gene would ever approach this level of quality again until the Revenge album, some nine years later.

Lick It Up – Like it or not, this has become a “signature” tune. My junior high-era garage band covered “Lick It Up”, because it was so freakin’ easy to play. Anyway the song is a bit too poppy, very repetitive with uninspired riffs and a bland solo. Yet there’s still something unexplainably catchy here. This is one of those songs that sounds infinitely better live.

Young And Wasted – Eric Carr once again makes us forget about the long-departed Peter Criss all over again with his drumming. Another really good tune from Gene.

Gimme More – This album track is forgettable, but not awful. The riff is pure early Maiden wannabe, Paul even sounds like he’s aping Paul Di’Anno. Not a bad song, but definitely not memorable either. “Cmon lick my candy cane”…? Oy.

All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose – Absolutely idiotic and mind-numbingly bad. The riff is pretty great though, courtesy of Eric Carr (!)

A Million To One – Fantastic. Paul went back to indulge his pop-rock proclivities and the results are really great. The song still feels fresh and energized over 30 years later.

Sadly, here’s where the album limps to the finish line…

Fits Like A Glove – Gene’s contribution is his weakest effort on the album. Pretty forgettable in a”insert generic rock song here” way.

Dance All Over Your Face – And here’s another forgettable Gene inclusion. I like the groove of the song, but little else.

And On The 8th Day – In a lot of ways I like the musicality of this song, but it’s juvenile in a way that doesn’t make juvenile lyrics so damn fun; it’s almost as if the entire band knew how entirely dopey the subject matter was and plowed through it with a sense of resignation, as opposed to embracing its stupidity with a sense of haughty Rock imperviousness.

So overall there are four songs I really don’t care too much about one way or the other (the last 3 and “All Hell’s Breakin Loose”), two great songs (“Exciter”, “A Million To One”), three really good songs (“Young and Wasted”, “Not For The Innocent”, “Lick It Up”), and one completely average one (“Gimme More”). That gives Lick It Up a good batting average and remains the band’s second best album of their “unmasked” era. This is a decent rock album and a good Kiss record, more well-known for the stripping of the make-up rather than for the music contained therein. Unfortunately, the promise and excitement of both this album and Creatures of the Night would go completely unfulfilled for nearly an entire decade.

Album Review: “Destroyer” — Kiss (1976)

blgdestroyerDestroyer was Kiss’s larger-than-life effort to keep momentum rolling after the multi-platinum success of their landmark 1975 live album Alive!. After releasing three studio albums to middling results, the band bet the farm on an album that endeavored to replicate their “live concert” experience, and successfully at that, even if the amount of actual “live concert” material on that album might be limited to a drum fill on “100,000 Years”. Maybe.

Anyway after that album blew through the stratosphere, the band had some serious heat, and exploited their cache by retaining the services of mega-producer Bob Ezrin, who had helped bring Alice Cooper into super-stardom in the early 1970s. Ezrin broadened the bands sound, resulting in an album that felt nothing like the raw, stripped down, lean-and-mean sound of their first three studio albums. This was a richer, fuller experience. The album featured orchestrations, choirs, layered guitars, binaural audio, a deeper low-end and a more pronounced mid-range. Ezrin brought the band’s music to another level entirely, adding in a layer of sophistication that earlier albums had noticeably lacked.

The resulting album Destroyer ended up as one of the band’s best-selling LPs, a moderate hit when initially released but smashing into platinum (and eventually multi-platinum) status thanks to the powerhouse single “Beth”. This unexpected track went to #7 on the charts and gave the band even broader exposure on the Top 40 / Pop Culture landscape. The album cover became immediately recognizable (the Apocalyptic imagery seemed to mesh well with the band’s burgeoning self-aggrandizing mythos) and instantly iconic, an immutable hallmark of the entire Kiss brand.

So how does the album itself hold up?

I’ll be honest with you: I used to slag on Destroyer. A *lot*. It was always elevated by most as Kiss’s “best” album, or their most “quintessential” or “iconic”. People often point to it as the best Kiss “starter” album if you’re trying to get into the band’s music. I found the deafening hype to be rather aggravating. And the album isn’t this perfect slab of 70s hard rock; there are a few quizzical tracks on the record, either out-and-out filler or just plain bizarre.

And yet over time, I’ve come to really enjoy Destroyer. Removed from the effusiveness of its hype, it remains one of the strongest Kiss albums in their entire catalog. What Bob Ezrin did was expand the band’s musical palette and production potential; a move that, at the time, alienated a few of the band’s earlier, more ‘hardcore’ fans who pooh-pooh’ed the slick, polished, more commercial and audience-embracing shift into Top 40-ville. Phooey on them. While this would be taken to some strange and often terrible extremes in future albums, it worked really well for Destroyer.

There are a host of Kiss concert standards here, with stalwarts like “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth”, and “God Of Thunder”, plus other popular tunes like “King Of The Night Time World” and “Do You Love Me?”. Those six tracks alone are instantly recognizable among fans and somewhat recognizable among casual- or even non-fans. Almost all of them are pretty much great tunes. “Detroit Rock City”, for example, is one of those massively overplayed songs that I still never tire of. Compare that to, say, 1975’s cringe-inducing “Rock And Roll All Nite”, which still makes me climb a tree and weep incessantly. DRC has a drive and intensity and fist-pumping anthemic quality that holds up really well after multiple listens.

“Beth” was the big hit and a massive departure for the band, Peter Criss’s standout moment with the band. It’s maudlin, syrupy, and dripping with all the accoutrements of over-produced mid-70s love ballads. And it’s still a fine song. “God Of Thunder” is also an iconic Gene tune (ironically written by Paul, whose original demo features an entirely different feel and tempo), but on Destroyer it comes off as a slow, limp, meandering track. Now go listen to it on Alive II and see what happens when it comes to life with power and ferocity. The live version completely smokes the studio track.

“Shout It Out Loud” is a classic Kiss tune and an obvious attempt to repeat the anthemic success of “Rock And Roll All Nite”, this time with dueling vocals by Paul and Gene that leads into one of their most harmonically-pleasing choruses to date. It’s a silly song, but a fun one. “Do You Love Me?” is even sillier, just this dopey Paul ode to someone getting to know the “REAL ME” instead of the trappings of Kiss success. Strangely enough though, it works; the larger-than-life production of the song lends the song a credible air of “the Starchild leaving the heavens and coming to Earth with heartfelt earnestness” or some other such nonsense. “King Of The Night Time World” is an OK tune, an uptempo rocker that doesn’t wear out its welcome and does what it’s supposed to do; amplify the self-aggrandizement of the band (specifically Paul) with distorted guitars and thundering drums and all that goes along with it.

This now leads to the three album tracks that don’t seem to gather much attention: “Sweet Pain”, “Flaming Youth”, and “Great Expectations”. Let’s start with the latter; “Great Expectations” is a Gene number that sounds like a cross-pollination Jim Steinman and Richard O’Brien. It wouldn’t have been entirely out-of-place on either Bat Out Of Hell or the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. I think it’s almost a decent album track… at least until that absolutely horrible chorus. The rotten kids choir towards the end of the song really underscores this observation.

“Flaming Youth” is this teen empowerment power pop song from Paul that is probably the biggest departure from anything else he had recorded to date, and probably the first hint that Paul had a really strong ear for good pop melodies. The song itself isn’t much; it’s interesting and has some cool moments, but it’s filler in the end. Finally, “Sweet Pain” is the only real clunker on the album. It probably would have been a decent track on Gene’s 1978 solo album, where it would have stood out nicely (faint praise, indeed), but it’s just not that good. I like some of the guitar work, with lead guitar performed by Dick Wagner instead of Ace Frehley (Frehley’s solo would eventually resurface in the 2012 re-mix of the album).

So even removed from all the hype, Destroyer is still essential Kiss and is easily one of their “big” albums. The big songs and big hits are there, and Ezrin brought the big production values. The band’s musical toolbox was widened and the added sophistication brought to their straightforward rock approach adds to album’s appeal. Kiss would scale commercial heights in the years (and decades) to come, but musically they never got “bigger” than Destroyer. It set the “classic” tone for much of their appeal and approach for nearly the entirety of their career.

Race Review: 2015 Lifetime Miami Marathon (1/25/2015), or: “I wanna make this journey last…”

blgmarathonmedalOK, so sometimes I shouldn’t be so quick to judgment. Or rather, dig deep enough and you’ll find gold in them there hills. Or maybe even, sometimes the stars align and something’s rising or something else is in retrograde and blablabla is in the seventh house and OK I’ll get to my point now:

I ran the 2015 Lifetime Miami Marathon on the morning of my 44th birthday and had the absolute time of my life.

Now this is a shocker of shockers. Let’s be blunt: I’ve made no bones about how I had a perfectly rotten time at the 2014 Miami Half last year, and that assessment mostly stands. It was a terribly hot, miserable, crowded, disorganized experience, but I can only hold the race accountable for everything but the first descriptor.

But last Sunday’s run was absolutely joyous. I mean, it was my birthday, which made me semi-royalty for the day (and not for nothing, but MAN doesn’t all the Facebook love make you feel like a rock sensation on your birthday or what?). Plus, I was going to spend the entirety of the race with a good group of friends, which meant we’d have all the support, good spirits, humor, and celebration throughout every mile. Finally, and perhaps most impressively, the weather was absolutely STUNNING for a South Florida marathon: clear, sunny, breezy, and cold!

Well, Miami-cold, anyhow. It was 54 degrees at race start and while it was in the mid-upper 60s by the end, there wasn’t a single drop of humidity to be found. This, my friends, was the ONLY way I could have ever run Miami again — with optimal weather conditions, because after last year’s heat-stroke-inducing monstrosity of an environment, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to return.

You can blame Helen for this.

Me & Helen on race day!

Me & “Helen” on race day!

Here’s the quick ‘Helen’ explanation: when I joined Friends In Training in September of 2012, my buddy Sarah was the very first person to come up and introduce herself to me. I knew nobody at the time; despite my cheerfully extroverted exterior, I am nothing more than a severe introvert with a bizarre nervous disorder that compels him to talk with everyone! Anyway, because I’m about as nimble with names as a quadriplegic bull-moose juggling flaming tangelos, I ended up calling her ‘Helen’ for a good 6 weeks or so before I got wise.

Eesh. Anyway, over a month ago during a Tuesday night training run at our local park, I let it slip that I wasn’t running Miami this year. Sarah turned to me and promised that if I DID run it, she’d wear a shirt that said ‘Helen’ on it for the entire race. And you know what? That was all the peer pressure I needed. Plus everyone I knew from the group was running as well (both the half and full), and I knew I’d kinda sorta maybe feel a little left out if I didn’t.

Plus it was my birthday… what was I gonna do instead? Another night of drinks, dinner, karaoke, and ridiculous fun at the pub? FEH! I’m doing that next week anyhow…

So long story short: I ran the race. And the weather was perfect. And I loved it — every second of it. There. At this point you can bail or stay with me as I go into even more long-winded detail about all things awesome about the 2015 Lifetime Miami Marathon!


Still with me? Good :)

Pre-Race / Expo

I was up at 4:30 AM the day before the race, waking early so I could easily go to bed early that night. A few hours of mindless videogaming and other early morning indulgences later, Boots and I made our way out. First stop was an always-buttkicking breakfast at the Long Island Cafe, just around the corner from our home. One Polish Omelet later (kielbasa, Swiss cheese, spinach, and garlic? YES PLEASE!) we were off and on our way to the Miami Beach Convention Center, site of the marathon expo. We arrived around a quarter after ten, roughly 15 minutes after opening, so the crowd level was very manageable. Within minutes I had bib in hand, followed shortly thereafter by my race shirt, pins, and swag bag.

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I browsed the vendors but there really wasn’t much that caught my eye, and the stuff that did catch my eye wasn’t available in my size. No big whoop. I had much more fun catching up with my buddies who were there, including Debbie and Terry, Ines, Kristi, and Richard, Mare, and Patricia. We chatted, snapped the requisite photos, and soon after we were gone. I think we might have been there an hour, tops, and most of that was spent noshing on some awesome Venezuelan pastry concoction. All in the name of carbing up! Man that was good stuff…

The rest of the day was spent killing the hours before our early bedtime. After dinner I laid out my clothes for the next day, pinned the bib on, packed all my race gear and fresh clothes, and by 9 PM I was out like a lamp. My alarm was set up for 2:30 AM and a long day was ahead of us.

Race Day


After a quick breakfast of oats and peanut butter, we grabbed our gear (my running stuff, Boots’s photography equipment and cheer poster, and Finish Line beer in a rolling cooler), loaded up the Family Truckster (2009 Nissan Altima), and drove down to Miami. The group photo was scheduled for 5 AM, but we wanted to get there with time to spare (given traffic and road closures). We were parked at American Airlines Arena by 4:30 AM and walked up the main entrance to wait for everyone. FIT members began to arrive in small torrents, and soon we were able to collect everyone for our group photos:


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It was cold out (again, MIAMI cold) but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I was wearing a yellow tech shirt and green compression pants, but I wasn’t feeling altogether that uncomfortable. Others had their Hefty Bags out in full force. Regardless, we spent a lot of time hanging out before the race in front of the arena. I ended up getting a LOT of happy birthday greetings from everyone, which naturally made me feel quite egotistically keen. Jose was in full “runfie” force while Boots was snapping pictures of anyone and everyone, both of which I’ll share with you here:

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After a “quick” trek inside the AAA to use the facilities, it was off to the corral. Getting to the corral was NOT easy. The walkways — if you can call them that — were extremely congested, and directions (and corral markers) weren’t exactly easy to find or follow. But we ended up getting there eventually. All of us decided to start together in H, which was the second-to-last corral in the race, but it wasn’t like we were in some huge hurry anyhow. After we got there it was more pics, and a lot more celebrating too. Everyone there from our group decided to serenade me with the first (of MANY) renditions of “Happy Birthday”. I was blushing. I even managed to discover another runner named “Herbalizer” who was also celebrating her birthday and we grabbed a photo together too. It was almost an hour until we crossed the Start Line, but that was no big deal. We were having a great time. I almost wanted to skip the race and go straight to the Finish Line beer and cake, but that would have been a wee bit counterproductive.

Anyway, as mentioned before our race started at 7 AM as we crossed the Start Line. Per tradition, here’s an overview of the course, courtesy of my Garmin 220 and Google Maps:

2015 Miami Marathon Course

2015 Miami Marathon Course

The course takes us from Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami, over the MacArthur Causeway, and into Miami Beach. We curve a bit southbound on Alton Drive until we’ve looped around onto northbound Ocean Drive, running through the heart of South Beach and then up Washington until we head westbound on Dade Boulevard. A trip over the Venetian Causeway takes us back to downtown Miami, where after 2 miles the half-marathoners run to the Finish Line while the marathoners continue onward. Moving south, we make our way to the scenic neighborhoods lining South Miami Avenue until we find ourselves in beautiful Coconut Grove. The southbound course on Bayshore detours through local neighborhoods and takes us south on Tigertail Avenue until we wind up in the heart of Coconut Grove. We loop around the Grove, down Commodore Plaza, and we’re northbound on Bayshore again. A quick detour down and back on the Rickebacker Causeway in Key Biscayne brings us to Brickell Avenue, and two milers later we wind up at the Finish Line right next to Bayfront Park.

You want a scenic run? You GOT a scenic run!

Although a lot of us started together, a core group of us ran the majority of the race as a unit: besides myself, there was Sarah/Helen, Kristi, Rich, Mark, Stephany, Catty (who was running the half but stayed with us for the entirety of her race), Katarina, and Mike. The gang decided to serenade me with the ‘Happy Birthday’ song at every Mile Marker, which I didn’t discourage (much). I was also wearing this sign on my back:


I kept a record of how many birthday wishes I got from random runners. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

As mentioned before, the weather was just perfection. The temps were low, the breeze was cold, the humidity was non-existent, and the skies were blue, sunny, and cloudless. We ran at a comfortable pace with 4:1 intervals. I had no illusions of making any kind of PR — I just wanted to have a fun run with great company, which is what I got in abundance — and we managed to stay a good 18 miles or so together. I honestly don’t think there was a single bad time for me on that run. I never felt so free, so happy, or so joyous throughout the entirety of a race, ever, like I did that morning.

So let’s go over some of the highlights, shall we?

Here’s one thing you forget before waiting over an hour for your race to start: all that hydration comes home to roost. In other words, it wasn’t a good 30 seconds past the Start Line before EVERYBODY had to pee. Now we were all experienced runners; we’d all, literally and figuratively, been around the block many times. We know never stop at the first group of Porto Potties. Ever. Unless you want to wait for a half hour and change. Our buddy Jose took this to heart and earned the name “Mr. Peabody” by leaping the barricade on the side of the MacArthur Bridge, slowly crouching down with a big smile on his face, and taking care of business. Now THIS was a great moment to celebrate the start of the race. He wound up way ahead of us and PR’ing, so he showed us anyhow!

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By the time we got to Ocean Drive, however, we had already skipped 3 Porto lines and our collective bladders were about to burst like water balloons dropped 10 stories onto a prickly field of wild thornbushes, so we stopped at a public restroom right before the turn onto Washington. It took 10 minutes off our times, due to long lines, limited facilities, and a bemusingly vocal homeless guy who was lecturing everyone — in BOTH the men’s and women’s restrooms — about the biological similarities of the genders vis-a-vis human physiological waste removal apparatuses. I love a good lecture. Someone alert The Great Courses about this guy.

Group pic outside the South Beach restrooms. I'm still inside, probably still enthralled by the lecture series.

Group pic outside the South Beach restrooms — minus your narrator. I’m still inside, probably still enthralled by the lecture series therein.

As we looped around Miami Beach — with a new Happy Birthday serenade at each mile, of course — the weather maintained its glorious facade. I got a lot of Happy Birthday greetings, and thanked everyone while calling out the current tally. Around Dade Boulevard, a group of Orthodox Jewish students were cheering runners on while chanting a somewhat hip-hop version of Am Yisrael Chai (“The people of Israel live!”). Later on, a surf guitar band was playing a wicked rendition of Avenu Shalom Alechem! I’ll tell you, Hebrew School was 30+ years ago for this old schlub and it was never THIS level of fun… most of the time it consisted of Rabbi Baumgard yelling at you for something or another. *shivers*

As we continued west on the Venetian Causeway, heading back to the mainland, I punched up a collaborative Spotify playlist I created specifically for the run and it started playing on my portable Bluetooth speaker. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I truly believe that Europe’s The Final Countdown is The Very Worst Song Ever Recorded in the History of Western Civilization. So naturally, that song had to come up first. Surprisingly, we found it very motivational. So did many around us. Other runners were grooving right along with it.

Along with the Groove came the Filth. Mark had been serenading us with his dirty Hasher songs along the course, some of which were cringe-inducing, others hilarious, but all of them great fun. But then… IT happened. We were crossing the Venetian when Rich, for some reason I don’t quite get, chanted out the classic Army cadence “I don’t know, but I’ve been told…”

Now is where my brain and mouth didn’t quite connect. There’s a filthy response to this line involving Eskimo women gynecology and body temperature. I wanted to respond with that line, but by muting the filthy connotation to “girl parts”. Sadly, I accidentally — I SWEAR, IT WAS ACCIDENTAL — blurted that wordout loud and instead muted the line about it being “mighty cold”. My brain cross wires entirely. FILTH!

You could have heard a pin drop. In my horror I immediately covered my mouth, turned pale as a ghost, and started profusely apologizing to everyone around me… who were too busy laughing in shocked disbelief at my major, MAJOR faux pas. Next time I’m bringing ear muffs and my inside voice. Sorry to anyone who had to experience that moment of sheer behavioral idiocy. I won’t do it again.

I also bumped into my Mickey Miler teammate and new buddy Jackie, who recognized me from behind thanks to the sign. We hugged and chatted briefly, took this awesome pic, and then were on our way:

Mickey Miler buddies! Jackie and I on the Venetian Causeway

Mickey Miler buddies! Jackie and I on the Venetian Causeway

Right around Mile 10 we had crossed the Causeway and were back in the downtown Miami area, with throngs of cheering spectators lining both sides of the course. The nine of us were still together and running steadily and happily! By this time I was noticing that the miles didn’t even feel like all that much. They were just melting away like nothing. I’ve never felt that in a race before — especially a marathon! When the first 10 miles don’t feel like any work at all, you know you’re in for a good race. And even better: right around then we encountered Boots at her buttkickin’ photo station and she grabbed these pics right here:

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So maybe #Hokey44 was a thing for a little while :)

Furthermore, as we turned down North Miami avenue, we even managed to get this most entire awesome group pic as well:

Normally I'm not a fan of human walls on the course, but this... :)

Normally I’m not a fan of human walls on the course, but this… :)

After losing Catty when she made her turn towards the Half Finish, our band of eight continued down the Marathon route. After a brief curve around downtown, skirting the border of Brickell Village — what I would have given for some Perricone’s pasta right then and there — we made the route down scenic and historic South Miami avenue. My Bluetooth speaker was jamming Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Smooth Criminal, and the lot of us were singing the chorus in a high, Michael Jackson-esque falsetto. One amused spectator yelled out, “Hey, whatever it takes to get you through…!”

Schmuck. But I laughed.

I noticed I was experiencing some of the usual soreness in my hams and glutes. I had KT-taped my ankles and calves in preparation, and both were feeling amazing, but the upper leg pain was starting to get a bit more pronounced. To combat this, I was taking Endurolytes roughly every 90 minutes. They did a good job in alleviating the worst of the cramping pain. As a matter of fact, even though I still had some pain, my energy levels never flagged throughout the entirety of the marathon! I never felt burnt out, worn out, or even hit a wall of any kind. My only limiting factor was the physical soreness, not mental weariness or low levels of fuel in the tank. I’ve never experienced that in a Marathon before. Righteous.

The group stayed together until around Mile 18. Rich was having some ankle issues, so when we met up with his wife Mare and children at their beer/jello shot/snack station on Tigertail Avenue, we kicked back for about 3 minutes. After that we were in smaller, separate groups. I spent most of the remaining 8 miles with Kristi, although we overlapped often with Rich, Katarina, and Stephany.

The race itself, meanwhile, was just stunning in its scenic views and shaded streets. The weather was still cooperating; oh it was getting hotter, but it was very breezy and reasonably cool. I’ll go on record and saying the second half of the full is MUCH more interesting than the first half. I’m much more at home in Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne than Miami Beach, so that might have something to do with it.

Then we get to the Rickenbacker: a brief foray up to (but not including) the Powell Bridge, roughly two miles of running with absolutely no shade whatsoever. The sun was bearing down PLENTY strong on us, and my hamstring was so sore at one point I had to take an extended five minute walk interval. BUT I LOVED IT. I’ve lived in South Florida for almost all of my life, and the Rickenbacker is simply the most beautiful view in the area. You have the skyscrapers of Miami, the Port, and the Intracoastal to the north, and the absolutely breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay to the south. Magnificent.

The Rickenbacker, with Biscayne Bay in the background

Kristi and I on the Rickenbacker, with Biscayne Bay in the background

We even got some firefighters to snap this pic of us with the Miami skyline and the Port in the background. This one’s a keeper, folks:

Katarina, Stephany, Rich, myself, and Kristi.

Katarina, Stephany, Rich, myself, and Kristi.

Look at this weather. Look at this day. Perfection. Still about 65 degrees, no humidity, and magnificent out.

After turning around, we ran back up the Rickenbacker and turned north on Brickell, which comprised the final two miles of the race. I was in such high spirits by then, even achy muscles couldn’t keep me down. The view down Brickell on a day like this was fantastic: shaded, scenic, and filled with cheering spectators. I felt so alive and elevated (and still being wished ‘Happy Birthday’ by runners) that it didn’t seem to take any time at all. By the time we made it to the bridge over the Miami River, I punched up Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ on the phone, and Kristi and I moved to finish that last half mile in style.

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We crossed the bridge, turned east, looped past the Intercontinental Hotel, and passing mile 26 we saw it at long last: the Finish Line! Cheering members from FIT were clapping us on, and there was Boots snapping pictures of us. I was sore, tired, in a bit of pain, and in desperate need of a beer… and I’ve never been so happy, so elated, or so fulfilled at the end of the race. We posed dramatically and crossed that Finish Line in wondrous triumph!

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We weren’t running for time at all; it was just a “fun” run… and it utterly was. That said, our net time was 5:28:48 which, as it turns out, makes this my second fastest marathon (beating the third by a whopping nine seconds!) No matter, though, because I was entirely over the moon. I ran a marathon race with friends who celebrated my birthday with me every mile. Mike and Sarah even recorded video of them singing happy birthday to me at the mile markers when we were separated! I mean that’s just the bee’s knees, right?

I also received a grand total of 28 happy birthday greetings from fellow runners, which meant $280 donations to both Team For Kids and Give Kids The World, two very worthwhile charities that I am happy to support. I had to look at this run from a karmic perspective: I was shown so much love, kinship, support, and happiness from friends, family, and fellow runners that there was simply no way I wasn’t paying this forward somehow.

But for now, it was celebration time! First we were knighted with our hard-won marathon medals:

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… and then we headed to the Friends In Training tent, where we celebrated the run with Blue Moons, cake, bagels, cookies, sandwiches, and did I mention Blue Moons? Man did they taste good! There we sat and stretched for a long time, chatting and singing and celebrating together. It wasn’t just about me anymore — it never really was — but rather it was about all of us who did this run together and celebrated our victories accordingly. For some, it was their very first marathon. For others, it was triumphant PR. Even still for others, it was just that joy of reaching the Finish Line without giving up and giving it their very all.

And for me — I had turned 44 years old and spent my birthday morning with some great friends, pushing my body for 26.2 miles, breathing the morning air, basking in the phenomenal weather surrounding us, and enjoying the festive communal spirit that I hope elevated everyone around me as much as it did to me personally.

In other words? Best. Birthday. EVER.

So for the peer pressure alone that got me to do this race? #ThanksHelen :)

Getting the point across...

Getting the point across…

… and equal thanks, mad respect, and heartfelt appreciation to Kristi, Rich, Mark, Catty, Stephany, Katarina, and Mike for making this experience something I’ll remember for a lifetime.


And guess what, Miami Marathon? This is my third go-round with you after two stinkers, but this time you knocked it out of the park. Well done. This was one for the books! If we had books… I think it’s all digital now? Ahh I forget. Here’s the REALLY appropriate video:

#Hokey44 and the Miami Marathon, or: “Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes…”

So let’s just address this straight on, shall we?

Remember last year when I swore I would never, ever, EVER run the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon again?

I mean, like, never ever NEVER ever??



Thanks to the delightful peer pressure from my good friend Sarah (aka “Helen” because for the first 6 weeks or so after I met her, I was convinced her name was ‘Helen’. I’m HORRIBLE with names) I’ll be up bright and early on the morning of January 25th, 2015, located smack dab in downtown Miami on Biscayne Boulevard, running the 2015 Lifetime Miami Marathon.

There are really four things I want to point out about this:

1. Sunday is my 44th birthday! And honestly, what else am I gonna do that day? Spend it eating, drinking, lazy, and… hmmm… what was my point again?

2. I sure am one capriciously fickle dude. But I couldn’t resist the allure of running 26.2 miles with several of my good friends by my side the entire time. PLUS Sarah talked me into it after she said she would do the entire race with the name “HELEN” printed onto her shirt. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

3. Not to be outdone, I’m going to be wearing this laminated sign on my back the entire time:


Apparently I’m trying to make both #Hokey44 and #ThanksHelen “a thing”. So look out for them… somewhere.

4. Check out this awesome weather on race day!


Last year the race started at roughly 74 degrees and was well into the 80s over an hour later, with full humidity and everything. I roasted like a Christmas goose and found myself with the early signs of heat exhaustion around Mile 9. This year looks to be maybe a tad nicer. It’s going to be 53 degrees (Feels Like 48) at race start! No rain, sunny skies, and LOW humidity for this race! Now that my friends is a little slice of perfection right there.

So yeah… Big Birthday Run on Sunday. Returning to Miami. Yay. If you want to track me live on race day, click on over to Race My Race, enter my info (Last name Millheiser – two L’s, E before I — and Bib #: 4438), and you can watch my slow ass move! Huzzah!

Hope we all have a great weekend! Here’s the video:

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Recap Video

Just a quick update, gang. I wanted to share a video that I put together for our Friends In Training run club. I did one last year featuring a song that I’m sure NOBODY is sick of yet, so for this year’s video I decided to go back a few more years and find an equally charming yet inspirational-styled song. Or something. I think it came out pretty goshdarn swell.

Anyway, enjoy!

Race Review: 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon (1/11/2015), or: “And the world shines for me today…”

blgwdwmarlogThe 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon was Day 2 of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge and Day 4 of the Dopey Challenge and Day 1 of the Holy Crap I’m Running A Freakin’ MARATHON Challenge for those who eschew the fancy crap and would prefer to just put their head down and run 26.2 miles because it’s “fun”. Or something. Any way you attempt running a marathon — and this was my third marathon — it’s still a lot of time pounding pavement on tired legs, and that’s assuredly something to celebrate no matter what piece of colorful Disneyfied tin you place around your neck after crossing the Finish Line.

But they are such SWEET lookin’ pieces of colorful Disneyfied tin…

Now as far as your humble narrator is concerned, I was running the Goofy Challenge for the very first time. The day before I ran the 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which meant I was only 1/3rd of my way through this entirely Goofy ordeal. After the Half, Boots and I returned to Port Orleans French Quarter. I was still quite shivery and easily welcomed a hearty breakfast at the Sassagoula Food Court. We made our way back to our room, showered, changed… and then I promptly napped for a good two hours. This nap was so needed, it hardly abides the telling. Afterward I was feeling a little excitable and with some time to kill before our group dinner, so I took an easy stroll around the Port Orleans property (both French Quarter and Riverside).

Nothing like the cool, calm, serenity of Port Orleans to put my frenzied mind at ease. This is my favorite resort on-property, just for strolling the grounds alone:

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After about 90 minutes, I returned back to the room. Boots and I got ready and left to the Contemporary Hotel for our 5PM group dinner at the Contempo Cafe. We managed to get a good assortment of our FIT running folk there; besides myself and Boots, we had Cassandra, Kristi, Kari, Yasmin, Michele, Aaron, Nick, and various family members/entourage in tow. I carbed up with a turkey club and cup of chicken corn chowder. I don’t like to go too crazy the night before a race; the “HUGE! PASTA! DINNER!!” is, to me, a recipe for gastronomical disaster on race day.

Team dinner at the Contempo Cafe

Team dinner at the Contempo Cafe

After dinner we bid everyone adieu and made our way back to our resort. Then it was the usual laying out of race gear, popping sleep meds, and being out by 9PM for a 2:30AM wake-up call…

Race Day

The next morning was routine enough. I woke quickly, ate a peanut butter and jelly bagel (plus mini-CLIF bar) for breakfast, dressed, and we were out the door and over at Epcot by 4AM, after picking up Yasmin over at Port Orleans Riverside. Similarly to the day before, I first hit the Mickey Milers team meet-up at 4:15 AM, where Boots snapped this fetching team photo:


Mickey Milers at the 2015 WDW Marathon

This was followed by our Friends In Training team meet-up at 4:30 AM. Several runners like Cassandra, Rosa, Francesca, Nicole, and Jordan were on the fouth and final leg of their Dopey Challenge. Others, like myself, Kristi, and Yasmin were braving day 2 of the Goofy. And still others were running “just” the Marathon; it was Robyn’s first full. I distinctly remember that feeling two years earlier, when I ran the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon — my first marathon as well. Yet there still was a lot of excitement (and perhaps a tinge of nervousness) in the air. We posed for a ton of self-indulgent pics and then chatted for awhile, killing time until that inevitable 4:45 AM dirge-like march to the corral began.

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Nothing like a good 15 minutes of extra walking before your race. And apropos of nothing, but what is UP with that woman on the microphone about halfway through the corral march? Does she know of ANYTHING ELSE to say other than, “Good morning runners… good morning… have a good morning everyone… good morning… runners, hope you have a good morning… good morning…” It was about 4 minutes of that, non-stop, as you’re passing by her area. It sounded weird, man. Get some new material, lady!

As another aside, my early-morning brain-to-mouth filtering system went kaput for a spell when, as Kristi and I were walking to the corral, I overheard some runners behind me (male runners, this ties in…) talking aloud. The following exchange occurred:

Male Runner #1: “Hey, I forgot, where are we meeting up after the race?”

Me (without a moment’s hesitation): “AT THE NUDIE BAR!!!”

Boisterous laughter followed, from almost everyone around us. Kristi looked bemused but entertained. When I suddenly realized what I had done, I was mortified. This is what constant waking up before 3 in the morning for several days will do to one’s sensibilities…

AHEM anyway, it was another cool early morning in the dark at Disney, although it wasn’t quite as frigid as the previous mornings had been. The Half Marathon started in the low-to-mid 40s, but this morning was about ten degrees warmer. It felt like the low 50s to me, and I (being a South Florida sub-tropical reptile) was freezing. I was wearing CW-X compression tights to keep the lower body warm (and trust me, the stability they provide on a marathon for someone of my size is much needed), but I was only wearing a short-sleeved tech shirt on my torso. Starting in corral K meant nearly 90 minutes of waiting around, which also meant a lot of shiver-time. Bah.

Something like this...

Something like this…

Anyway, enough of my complaining. The race started at 5:30 AM on the dot, and Kristi and I crossed the Start Line at 6:36 to begin our 26.2 mile voyage. We were racing for fun, not time, which meant a slow, easy pace of 3:1 intervals. All we needed and wanted to do was finish. We had nothing to prove. I was embarking on my 3rd marathon (on top of 23 halfs) and Kristi was starting her 9th (with countless halfs behind her as well). So our entire goal was just to do the race and have a great time doing it, period.

Here’s a look at the race course, (say it with me now) courtesy of my Garmin 220 and Google Maps:

As you can see it’s pretty much the standard Disney Marathon course they’ve been running for the past 3 years. The first 8 or so miles are exactly the same as the Half Marathon: you take off running from Epcot on Epcot Center Drive, heading in a westbound manner until you hit World Drive, which takes you north through the Transportation & Ticket Center, past the Contemporary Hotel and to the Magic Kingdom. The MK is the money shot, up Main Street, around Tomorrowland, through the Castle, and across New Orleans Square and Frontierland. Exiting through Frontierland, you putz around in the backstage area until you reach Cone Alley and head south on World Drive. The course deviates as you run a near full-mile on the Richard Petty Driving Experience speedway, followed by an excursion down Bear Island Road to Animal Kingdom.

Through Animal Kingdom, you have the option of taking a free ride on the Expedition: Everest roller coaster. Then it’s out backstage, around the parking lot, and fully out of AK by mile 14. Now you’re heading eastbound on the Osceola Parkway, a roughly 3 mile excursion to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There it’s once around the 400m track, past winding walkways, around the baseball diamond and exiting back onto Osceola, heading westbound. You exit onto World Drive heading north for about a mile until you reach World Drive. Turning east and then south again, you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios (just behind the Tower of Terror). A short bit backstage empties you onto the backlot of New York St., then past the soon-to-be-gone-forever Sorcerer’s Hat, and finally exiting the Studios by running down Hollywood Boulevard.

The marathon concludes with about a mile-and-a-half of running down the breezy walkways and paths connecting the Studios to Epcot via the Swan, Boardwalk, Yacht, and Beach Club resorts. You re-enter Epcot just before Mile 25, and make the final loop around World Showcase and into Future World, moving backstage just after Spaceship Earth for that final 0.2 miles to the Finish Line in the Epcot parking lot.


This is your flagship Disney race, and needless to say there was a lot of scenery, environment, theming, and entertainment going on during the race. Every mile of the race had something to offer: character stops, photo ops, water stations, entertainment, loud cheers from spectators, high-fives, enthusiastic cast members, medical aid tents, towels, chocolate, candy, fruit… if you wanted or needed something to keep you going, you were pretty much covered.

Since Kristi and I were running pretty slowly (by our usual pace standards, anyhow), we took enough time to enjoy our surroundings while still remaining steady. The race up to the Magic Kingdom was cool and pleasant; we even managed to bump into Robyn, Michele, and Aaron on World Drive and cheered each other on before they took off ahead of us. I also found some fellow Mickey Milers by Mile 3 and chatted briefly before proceeding on our merry way.

Boots was waiting for us at the hub, snapped some pics, and we continued through the castle and out of the Magic Kingdom. Here are a few highlights:

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Exiting Magic Kingdom, Cone Alley was its usual slow, congested self. It’s a narrow strip of road to begin with, and combined with wall-to-wall walkers you have to resign yourself to maintaining a slow jog/walk for most of that stretch of the race. Might as well just enjoy it; race etiquette barely exists during this weekend. People walk wherever and however they want, all over the course. It’s a Disney race, so you can either get annoyed by it or learn to accept it. I’m working on the second part.

Things opened up a bit as we passed the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and the golf courses. I even managed to score this pic with Donald and the Goofmeister:

With Donald and the Goofmeister

With Donald and the Goofmeister

Running around the racetrack was always good fun. There were plenty of vintage and antique cars stationed everywhere, along with their cheering owners and a VERY animated replica of old #53, Herbie himself. After leaving the track, a brief trespass over a grass median took us down Bear Island Road for a roughly 3+ mile trek through the wilderness to Animal Kingdom.

The high point of this leg was bumping into my friends Matt and Leon Mark, boyfriend and father (respectively) of my buddy Sarah (from Sparkly Runner). Randomly finding friends in the middle of a marathon is always a welcome surprise. Lots of high-fiving and encouragement to go around. The low point? The Waste Treatment Center. Now I had only run this marathon once before, but I never remembered it smelling that awful. To paraphrase George Carlin, the stank of that area was so powerful it could have knocked a buzzard off a s***wagon. Blecch!

On the plus side, entering Animal Kingdom was a load of fun, as I was able to meet a sweet little piggy named Emmy Lou and a spectacle owl who couldn’t have been less interested:

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We made a pit stop inside the Animal Kingdom to use the in-park facilities and then took a good ten minutes to stretch. I was feeling rather achey; my Achilles tendon, calves, and flexors were feeling sore. I did run a half-marathon the day before, so I chalked it all up to muscle fatigue. We quickly moved on, skipping a ride on Expedition: Everest in favor of just going forward. Around Animal Kingdom we went, exiting into the parking lot where I spotted my friends (and Mickey Miler teammates) Mike and Jennifer cheering racers on. With a quick thumbs-up from Mike and a hug from Jennifer (aka “Sister Muffy” for reasons only she and I will ever understand), we passed Mile 14 and found ourselves heading east on the Osceola Parkway.

The last time I ran this section of the marathon, it was 84 degrees out with no shade. This time, it was still very cool, cloudy, and breezy. In other words, it was a welcome respite. In fact, it was a little too welcome. Two miles into this journey, it started to rain pretty steadily. This was a cold, windy rain, which sure beat the alternative by far. But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t shivering more than a little bit.

No matter, though. The rain let up by the time we made it to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Sadly, the roughly 2.5 miles you spend running through ESPN are easily the worst, most trying, most obnoxious and most annoying portion of the race. It’s a narrow, winding, seemingly endless romp around the property with little to enjoy and lots to aggravate you. By this time my muscle pain was getting more pronounced, but that was the least of my worries. The pathways on which you run are sometimes little more than sidewalks, and the endless wall-of-walkers became that much more aggravating. At one point we were trapped behind a wall of SEVEN walkers, walking abreast, leaving nothing but a sliver of space about 7″ wide to work your way through in hopes of perhaps moving at more than a snail’s pace. The trail loops and curves and bends to the point where you’re beyond exasperated wondering when this portion will end. Not to mention running on the baseball diamond, with a surface that is soft, sometimes uneven, and very crowded.

OK… complaining is done. After exiting ESPN, we took another 6 minutes off to stretch again. My muscles were straining from the agony even more now, and I needed to take care of them as soon as possible. As soon as I felt ready, we moved on, back onto Osceola and north on World Drive heading to Hollywood Studios. I found a huge amount of Second Wind when entering the Studios. This was because (1) we changed up our intervals from 3:1’s to 2:2’s, and my body seemed to really enjoy that interval a lot; not only was I feeling less pain in my legs, we were able to keep up a steady, happy pace, and (2) they were handing out mini-chocolates and they had Mr. Goodbars!! I took three of them, inhaled them all, and burst forth with invigorated energy and confidence! I was back in my happy space!!



As we made our way through the Studios, I noticed that the Sorcerer’s Hat was still there. Rumors of its complete disappearance were unfounded; it’s still on its way out, but we were afforded one last look at the sucker. Meanwhile as we were running down Hollywood Boulevard I thought I heard my name being yelled out. I looked around and there was Jennifer again! She had made her way to the Studios since we last saw her at Animal Kingdom and was waving me to come over. I did and she handed me THIS particular piece of awesomeness:

Cookies. 'nuff said!

Cookies. ’nuff said!

How buttkickin’ was THIS? A COOKIE! I gobbled that sucker down when I got back to the room later, and it was freakin’ delicious. Jennifer is the resident Cookie Supplier for the Mickey Milers team, and she went above and beyond here. Cookie Delivery Service mid-marathon?? We live in amazing times. Is it any wonder I was looking this happy:



Yup I was in a great mood. And as we exited the Studios, we had less than a 5K to go to get to the Finish Line. Righteous! Around here we found our FIT buddies Rosa and Cassandra, and we decided to finish the rest of the race together. This was most awesome. Everyone was in various states of fatigue and/or elation, so it was good to have our little group together. I even managed to pass Mike again on the Epcot Resort walkways.

There was still a light rain coming down, but we were moving at a relaxed pace, dropping down to a 1:1 to accommodate everyone in our group. As we passed by the Boardwalk, Yacht, and Beach Club resorts, we found the pathways in those areas to be VERY slippery, so it wasn’t like we were tearing up the asphalt anyhow. I DID, however, want to punch the spectator who yelled out “WORST PARADE EVER!!!!” as we passed. Dude: I appreciate your support and enthusiasm. But “Worst Parade Ever!!” feels older and more played out than “Where’s The Beef?!!” at this point. It was clever and funny once…. ONCE. We as a culture need to retire this catchphrase, with a 21 gun salute from the Brothers of the Baltimore Gun Club.

OK… that was a strange reference. Moving on…. finally we entered Epcot just around Mile 25, and sure enough there was Boots waiting for us at the mile marker in France. She waved us over and captured these amazing action snapshots:

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After that it was just a quick jog around Epcot as we raced to the Finish Line. Before the race started I was heavily interested in stopping at Mexico for a margarita (with accompanying toast), but by now we were past the 6 hour mark and just wanted to finish… which is exactly what we did. It was a steady jaunt around World Showcase, through Future World, and finally backstage past the gospel choir as we reached Mile 26. With the end in clear sight, we buckled down and crossed the Finish Line with about as much style and aplomb as we could muster.

Once again, neither Rudy nor Carissa called my name out as I finished… BUT they called out Kristi’s! You know… by now I probably WOULD be disappointed if I actually heard them call out, “Matthew Millheiser from Sunrise, Florida!!” because it would kill what is otherwise a mildly amusing running gag about my Finish Line woes. So let’s consider it a blessing.

After finishing, we received our Marathon medal, took some pics, went over to the Goofy tent to receive our Goofy medal (a 10th Anniversary special edition and a spinner, no less!), took some more pics, grabbed our Powerade and snack box, and went to meet our friends by the F flag to stretch, cool down, and engage in excited tales from the road. All I know is that I just wanted a beer. A BIG beer. Badly. And this is exactly what we got, by grabbing a Pilsner draft from the concessions area and hanging out at the picnic benches by the stage, enjoying our well-earned libations!

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Overall I had a generally positive and happy experience running the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon. The weather was agreeable, the organization, facilities, entertainment, and running support options were all spot-on, and I had a good time with great friends. My only suggestion to improve the race would be to eliminate the ESPN leg of the race entirely. That portion of the marathon is slow, crowded, unmemorable, unlikable, kind of obnoxious, and it seems to go on forever. They should go back to their previous marathon course, which took runners a few miles around (and through) Epcot before moving on to the Magic Kingdom. I would love that change to be made, but I doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon. Regardless, this was a positive experience and a fun race. If you’re looking to run a marathon, especially your first, you should make a beeline to this event. I know I did. And I’ll happily run it again… maybe not next year (I’m gunning for Star Wars Weekend in California in 2016) but most assuredly afterward. Anyway… here’s the video:

Race Review: 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon (1/10/2015), or: “Same as it ever was…”

blgwdwhalffeatimThe 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which took place on Saturday, January 10, 2015, represented a lot of things to me: it was my 23rd half marathon, my third time running this particular race, and the first leg of the Goofy Challenge — a two day, 39.3 mile endurance thingamabob during which you run a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.

Re-reading that opening line, I’m probably infusing a TON more significance into the race than it probably deserves. Not that it wasn’t a fun, successful, enjoyable race — it most certainly was, by all accounts — but I also came to the conclusion that I can probably skip this event for the foreseeable future. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and while I’m light-years away from that (or any) particularly hostile emotion, I’m also locked into a governing mindset that if I have to run that course ONE MORE TIME, I might have to start banging my head soundly and forcefully against the wall, because it FEELS SO GOOD when you stop…

Getting ready for my Friday morning 3.1 mile warmup run.

Getting ready for my Friday morning 3.1 mile warmup run.

So let’s dial it back a bit and talk turkey, shall we? Boots and I left our home in Fort Lauderdale on the night of Thursday, January 8th and made the 3-hour trek up to Walt Disney World. I had spent most of the previous week battling a particularly brutal cold/flu thingy that left me mostly incapacitated and entirely glum for its entire duration. Given that most of the symptoms were above the neck — stuffy nose, sinus inflammation, sneezing/coughing — I was cleared to run, and by Thursday most of my symptoms were minimal and manageable. But I hadn’t run (or done ANY physical activity) since New Years Eve, so I was a little apprehensive about running 40 miles in two days.

We checked into our resort at Port Orleans French Quarter and I decided to wake up the next morning at 4:30 and do a shakedown run, a quick 3.1 miles around the resort to shake off the cobwebs and see how my legs felt. It was a nice, cold morning: 46 degrees, but felt like 43 with the breeze and condensation. Thankfully the run went very well. I was able to slip right back into my stride, pace, and cadence without issue, and running alongside the Sassagoula River (with several other runners out at the same time) made for a dark but still pleasantly scenic route.


After grabbing a coffee and muffin from the food court (having to wait until 6:00 AM for the darn place to open), I went back to the room and killed time until Boots awoke. After a shower and change, we headed over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up my registration materials and do the usual merch shopping. After parking and the usual photo ops at the banners and cardboard displays, we worked registration the same way as always. First stop was over at the HP Field House, where I grabbed my race bib and pins from the Goofy Challenge desks. After receiving my materials, I then needed to have my picture taken with my bib so that they could verify my physical identity upon completion of the challenge. This is a change from the plastic wristband they used to make you wear for 2 days (or more), which is fine by me. I’ve got enough aggravation.

Afterward we were jostled into the Jostens Center for part two of our journey: the ceremonial receiving of the race shirts, merch shopping, and vendor browsing. The shirts were fairly nice this year — red for Donald, black for Mickey, and orange for Goofy. As far as merch went, I bought two shirts, a car magnet, and two Run Disney Vinylmations (we managed to score a Mickey and a harder-to-find Minnie), but most of the “cool” stuff had long since been swallowed up when the expo opened on Wednesday. Again, the speculators had gotten the lion’s share of the more collectible, desirable items and had them up on eBay in no time at all. The Run Disney branded Magic Band that retailed for $25? They were already going for $75 online by the time I had arrived at the expo. No thank you. Aroysgevorfn di gelt!

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Afterward it was a jaunt over to the Beach Club Resort, where after we bumped into our friends Mike and Michelle (co-hosts of the Mickey Miles Podcast) we hit up Beaches & Cream for lunch. Some carbing up was in order and our favorite ice cream/burger place on property certainly did the trick. Then it was back to the resort, a quick nap, and an early dinner at the Landscape of Flavors food court at the Art of Animation where we were joined by erstwhile training/running buddy Kristi. After a reasonable dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans, we returned to our room where we killed time watching TV until I passed out some time around 9:00 PM.

Race Day

My cell phone chirped out its usual Samsungy alarm at 2:30 AM. I was a bit groggy from my sleep meds, but I knew the excitement and adrenaline would take care of that in no time. After a quick breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and jelly and a mini CLIF bar, I put on my running attire for the day. It was a COLD one that morning, like it was the day before. At race time it was 45 degrees but felt like 42, which is postively arctic to this Florida iguana. Being particularly sensitive to cold, I made sure I was bundled up as best as I could. My “Aquaman” costume consisted of an orange tech shirt and green cold-running tights, along with black, long-sleeved compression wear underneath the orange shirt. Throw in a pair of gloves and a cap, and I felt like I would be adequately equipped for the weather.

Nothing doing. Until I actually started running the half, I pretty much spent the entire time freezing my tuchas off.

We drove over to Epcot that morning with pretty much no traffic whatsoever, arriving just before 4:00 AM. Our first stop was meeting up with our good buddies Matt and Sarah (she of the inimitable Sparkly Runner blog, a Hokeyblog favorite!). Matt was doing the Goofy Challenge and Sarah was cheering, having recently recovered from a stress fracture in her foot. We chatted for a little bit and posed for this most buttkickin’ picture right here:

Sarah, yours truly, Matt, Boots, and friend

Sarah, yours truly, Matt, Boots, and friend — can you tell how COLD it was??

Our next stop was at the Mickey Milers team meet-up, where I met up with my fellow teammates and caught up with friends I hadn’t seen since our last Disney races (Avengers, Wine & Dine, or the Disneyland Half). Boots graciously took our team pic, which I think came out rather swimmingly:


Finally it was time to meet up with our Friends In Training group, my local buddies with whom I pretty much train constantly throughout the week and on Saturdays. Running that morning were Alan, Kari, Kristi, Yasmin, Rosa, Cassandra, Indira, Francesca, Nicole, Stephany, and John. Many of them were doing the Dopey Challenge and had already completed the 5K and 10K over the previous two days, where apparently it had been even colder. Yikes. I shivered like human icicle I had become while we took many of these awesome action snapshots which I’ll share with you now:

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By 4:45 AM I kissed Boots goodbye and we were off on our way to the corrals. The schlep from the runners staging area to the corrals is a long, crowded, 15-minute walk (depending on where you’re stationed). Kristi and I motored our way over to Corral K, where we sat and froze half to death for nearly an hour until we were called to the plate by the race announcers. At 6:12 AM we crossed the Start Line mat and we were off and running on the 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon!


The Race

As usual, here’s the race course, courtesy of my Garmin 220 watch and Google Maps:

Click to embiggen...

Click to embiggen…

For those of you keeping score, this is the same exact course as it’s been for years (and exactly the same as the Princess course). Out west from Epcot, up north to the Magic Kingdom, through MK, out the backstage area and then south past the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Richard Petty Experience racetrack as we head back to Epcot to finish the 13.1 mile loop.

Kristi and I had agreed to save our legs and energy for the Marathon the next day, so we ran 3:3 run/walk intervals the entire time. Our goal was to run a slow, easy 13 miles with no concern for pace or time, stopping for whichever photo ops that tickled our fancy… which is precisely what we did. We certainly weren’t running for time, which is why we finished in about 3:17.

The race itself was no different than it has been for the past several years. The first big character stop was the Pirates of the Caribbean/Jack Sparrow ship around Mile 2, and from then on there were a host of different characters, music, live entertainment, video screens, and so on. I even managed to meet up with friends in Team Shenanigans at the Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz photo area, and I “crashed” their picture even though Chris invited me to jump in anyhow.

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Even though running easily warms the body up, it took a few miles before I started to feel less like a freakin’ snowman. It was still damn cold out for my blood — but I LOVED it. Since I don’t get to run in sub-60 degree temps all that often, this was a welcome change from the same-old. Simply put, these were optimal running conditions: cold yet sunny. Awesome.

Right past Mile 4, Kristi and I bumped into Rosa, Cassandra, and Francesca, and we ran most of the next 2+ miles together. As we passed the Contemporary Hotel near mile 5, we all were witness to a runner tripping and completely face-planting, and it was entirely her fault. The roads get very narrow, and some runners take it upon themselves to run on the narrow shoulder, in the grass, or even on gravel. NOT a good move. This particular runner wanted to shoot past the crowds and ended up shredding herself on gravel with a face-full of mud! She seemed physically fine, thankfully; she got up and kept going, although I’m sure the embarrassment factor had to be pretty high. But consider that a warning, guys: STAY ON THE COURSE.

Need I even mention the WALL OF WALKERS WALKING SIX ABREAST TAKING UP THE ENTIRE ROAD syndrome? I’m not even going to. I’ll save that for the Marathon review…



As usual, the course then took us into the Magic Kingdom, during which our nifty crew ran up Main Street right towards the twinkling castle itself. Boots was waiting for us in the hub and captured us in all our ridiculous glory. Speaking of ridiculous glory, why not take a look for yourself:

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Clearly we were having a terrible time…

Afterward it was the usual: the usual run past Frontier Land into the backstage area, where the usual Royal Couple (a Disney Princess and cohort) is waiting at the photo op. Then there’s the usual turn down Cone Alley as we headed southbound on the way back to Epcot. At this point conditions were so entirely crowded that running became a problematic exercise (see The Wall pic up above…), so we just kept going with our relaxed pace and intervals. We were in zero danger of being swept and since we wanted to keep it low-impact in preparation for the next day’s marathon, the rest of the race was a piece of cake.

Except for one rather significant detail… I was so freakin’ bored.

Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing in and of the race itself that was boring, dull, unexciting, routine, mundane, drab. It was another successful running of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, with all the music, characters, color and excitement that the magic of Disney, the organizational prowess of Run Disney, and a massively overpriced entry fee can bring. The weather was perfect, running conditions were optimal, and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I couldn’t wait for the darn thing to be over, and it was all because I’ve run this route four times now (six if you include the two marathons, which shares the first 8+ miles with the half marathon). I knew every step, every turn, every expected character stop and video screen and so forth. I found myself becoming less and less interested with the race itself, thinking that I wanted it to be done so I could start mentally and physically preparing for the next day’s marathon. It was probably the wrong attitude to have, but I found myself less and less enchanted by the race. It had become more of a chore.

Of course that still didn’t stop me from getting one of my best race pics ever taken:

Look at that handsome devil go!

Look at that handsome devil go!

I almost look like a real runner there… even Kristi seems pleased! Anyway, we looped back up and around on the ramp leading to Epcot, and by then our interest in the race came back a little bit. There was absolutely zero possibility of steadily running by then anyhow. It seems a HUGE swath of race participants had given up and were content on just walking — many abreast — up and down Epcot Drive on the way back to the Finish Line. It was either run around wall-to-wall walkers or join them in their march back. We did a little of both, since we had plenty of steam left in our afterburners. As we entered Epcot I said quick hellos to Lou and Beci who were cheering for the WDW Radio Running Team, as well as Eddie and Phill from the Mickey Milers Team. Yay teams!

From there it was just that last trip through Epcot: entering from backstage next to Innoventions, around the entrance to World Showcase, back down again past Spaceship Earth, into the backstage area behind the Camera Center where the waiting gospel choir sang for us, and then the final jaunt to the Finish Line. We crossed that mat happily, and no, STILL no call out of my name from Rudy or Carissa. We are 0 for ALWAYS on that particular count. After grabbing our medals, complimentary snack box, and bottle of Powerade, we met up with our crew at the F flag for some pics and camaraderie.

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So in the end, was the 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon worth it? For first timers, beginners, walkers, or those new to Disney races, without question it is. You can’t deny its charm, friendliness, magic, and entertainment value. But for me? I need a break. When something magical becomes routine, routine is quick to become mundane, and that means the entire affair becomes a chore. I had a good time, but the Disney Half has become too familiar for me. Will I ever do this half again? HECK YEAH, of course I will. But not for a few years, I think. There are still plenty of other mountains left to climb. Or something. Here’s the video:

Disney Running Logos for the 2015 WDW Marathon Weekend, or: “I can outrun a .45 when you’re around…”



Well it’s not like you DIDN’T know this was coming, right?

For those of you new to the entire Hokeyblog mishegas, here’s the abbreviated recap: most (but not every) time we here at Hokey Industries Ltd. decide to participate in a Run Disney event, we print up custom race shirts to celebrate the festive fun occasion. And why not? This started when I ran my very first Half Marathon at Disney in January 2012, and it (mostly) continues to this very day. I’m not gonna get all Fiddler On The Roof on you because ECCH!!! but it’s nice to have SOME measure of tradition around these parts.

Anyway, I won’t belabor the point, except to say that we have engaged in one paradigm shift, and it’s a biggie: our team name is no longer “Millheiser RULES!!!” That’s been retired, and not because of some false humility or fear of inimitable self-aggrandizement. I just like Team Hokeyboy better. Maybe in some strange way it strengthens the brand? Something like that.

So after utilizing a Red color scheme for the 2014 Space Coast Marathon, my running buddy Kristi and I decided to shift down the wavelength spectrum and go with Orange this time around. It works perfectly since both of us are doing the Goofy Challenge (a 1/2-Marathon on Saturday and a Full-Marathon on Sunday, 39.3 miles over two days) and orange is Goofy’s color.

On the day of the Half, while Kristi will be donning her Ariel/Little Mermaid running outfit, I will be similarly and nautically attired as none other than Aquaman. I’m DC strong in a Marvel house, just as I was during the 2014 Avengers Half Marathon. My outfit is basically just green running compression pants and this orange baby right here:

Half marathon logo, on back of shirt.

Half marathon logo, on back of shirt.

And for the Full, I’ll be in Goofy colors (possibly ears!) with this one:

Full marathon logo on the back of the shirt

Full marathon logo, on back of the shirt

Simple, but effective. Both are in performance tech fabric (moisture wicking), whereas Boots ordered a version of the Aquaman logo for herself in a cotton tshirt. So we’ll be looking sharp! I hope… anyway, if you see me out there, anywhere, don’t be afraid to come up and say hi! You could end up in a blog and be world famous! Just ask Lenny “The Swab” Tippence, if you can sober him up first. Good luck with that. Here’s the video (Mary’s Danish! Remember them??):

Racing back through 2014, or: “Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream…”

blgfreefallingSo imagine that, 2014 is winding down into its final week. We stand at the cusp of a new year and all I can think to myself is, “Wasn’t it Memorial Day, like, three seconds ago?? Memorial Day 2012, even???”

Time is like this bottomless pit we just keep falling into, except someone’s having fun with our Perception Sensors and keeps changing terminal velocity so as we keep falling faster and faster time seems to speed up with it. Until we go splat. Chilling thought, isn’t it? Or perhaps, not really. As long as you’re falling anyhow, you might as well spread your wings and pretend to fly while you feel all weightless and free.

Which I suppose is one of the reasons why I run. And man oh man, was 2014 a big-time race year for me. To put it in perspective, during the calendar year 2012 (as opposed to, what, the Rolodex year 2012? What a silly descriptor…) I ran six half-marathons. In 2013, I also ran six. This year? I completed ten half marathons… the vast majority of them in the months of January through March (5 races) and October through November (4).

The rest of the year wasn’t too shabby either. The race highlight of my year was the 2014 Space Coast Marathon, an event towards which I dedicated pretty much May through November for training. Lots and lots of training. Endless hours sweating it out on the treadmill, the track, and the streets of South Florida. Only to come to the conclusion that the training ended up being more fulfilling to me than the marathon itself. And I loved that race. I would have loved it more if it were 10 degrees cooler, but hey we can’t have everything. Where would we put it?

Anyway, it’s been a swelltastic running year and I thought I’d share with you some of the highlights from it in the form of this video I threw together. Not to get too pseudo-philosophical or, even worse, trite and horrifically dull, but this entire running/racing experience has been nothing but an ongoing journey for me. And like any good quest, the journey brought me into contact and connection with so many hordes of wonderful, strange, and beautiful people, who have joined me on my quest and allowed me to accompany them on theirs.

So this video is a tribute to all of them, and to all of you reading these words. Thank you. Yes, YOU. The one who’s looking at this sentence right now. You! The one with the face! Rock on, fellow traveler.

So here’s the video, set to the inimitable tones of Stevie Wonder’s “As”… my favorite song off my favorite album Songs In The Key Of Life.

And here was my full race schedule for 2014, with links to their respective reviews (if available):


Walt Disney World 5K (1/9/2014)
Dash From The Past 5K (3/22/2014)
The Color Run (5/10/2014)
Disneyland Family Fun Run (8/29/2014)
Avengers Super Heroes 5K (11/15/2014)
Ft. Lauderdale Jingle Jog (12/21/2014)


Walt Disney World 10K (1/10/2014)
Disneyland 10K (8/30/2014)
Flanigan’s Rockin’ Rib Run (10/26/2014)


Wings For Life World Run (5/4/2014)


Walt Disney World Half Marathon (1/11/2014)
Lifetime Miami Half Marathon (2/2/2014)
Disney Princess Half Marathon (2/23/2014)
Michelob Ultra 13.1 Miami Beach (3/2/2014)
First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon (3/16/2014)
Disneyland Half Marathon (8/31/2014)
BAA Half Marathon (10/12/2014)
Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon (10/25/2014)
Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (11/8/2014)
Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon (11/16/2014) — Personal Record! (2.06.04)


Space Coast Marathon (11/30/2014)Personal Record! (5.10.56)

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.