Hi gang! At long last, that magical hour is upon us, as we launch the first installment of our four-part, in-depth discussion of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend — Hokeyblog’s third consecutive year attending this celebrated race event! Yessiree Bob, we have got a bushel of stuff to dive into — race reviews, dining reviews, resort and park recaps, pics, and of course my patented celebrity stalking reports. Plus overpriced yet awesome new shoes. And the spending of entirely too much cash on tchotchkes the likes of which would make a Key West “What’s got 2 thumbs and pooped today? THIS GUY!” t-shirt vendor blush.
I… sense I went too far with that last metaphor.
WELL… moving on. Boots and I flew out of Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday night, August 27th and six hours later we arrived at LAX. It was a long, uncomfortable flight, but I still can’t say enough good things about Virgin America; except to say, I preferred the cheeky animation of their previous flight safety video, and not the hideous rap-dance-singing monstrosity of their new one. At least the cookies were good. Anyway, after landing we hopped a shuttle to the LAX Hilton where we met our friend Ann and stayed overnight. For an airport hotel, you could do a WHOLE lot worse than the LAX Hilton. That place was clean, comfortable, and had the most comfortable bed I think I’ve ever slept in. We’re talking full-on Rainsford’s last sentiment in “The Most Dangerous Game” awesomeness.
The next morning we had breakfast at the legendary Pann’s diner, where they DIDN’T film the fateful Pumpkin/Hunny Bunny scene from Pulp Fiction but it sure as heck looked just like it (they apparently filmed that classic scene at another location in Hawthorne). Everything about this joint screamed old-school Tarantino-esque diner. Would anyone be surprised if a group of colorful sociopaths were sitting at an adjacent stall discussing the existential overtones of “The White Shadow” or “Welcome Back, Kotter” before a well-planned diamond heist? I think not.
After the requisite eggs, pancakes, breakfast meats, and coffee, we hit the road to make it to our pit stop for the next five days: the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. Traffic was pretty light and we were there in no time. After making a brief stop to pick up groceries at a local supermarket, the girls went to return the rental car while I checked us into the resort. Since it was just after 10AM and our room wasn’t quite ready yet, we elected to have Bell Service hold our bags. Otherwise, check-in was very smooth. There wasn’t much of a line, and they even assured us that they’d send me a text once the room was ready for check-in (they had already given us our keys, so once they texted us with the room number we could go straight up). Since I had a little time to kill while waiting for the girls to return, I waltzed around the property and commenced in the time-honored tradition of taking obnoxious selfies all over the place, because I simply can’t get enough of myself, apparently.
Thankfully, I also grabbed some shots of the resort as well that weren’t sullied by my mortifying mug, so here they are:
Beautiful day, wasn’t it? Listen after a long hot summer of training in the muggy South Florida swill, the warm, sunny, humidity-deficient California air felt like paradise to me. Oh, it was plenty hot, but it was a GOOD, dry, invigorating hot. I’ll take that any day of the week over my usual sub-tropical woes!
I was mucking about the property when Boots called me to let me know she and Ann had returned. I met them by the front of the Disneyland Hotel, at which point we decided that we might as well hit the Expo, given that we certainly had time to kill. The Race Expo is held at the Disneyland Hotel conference area, which was all of a 30 second walk away. As we made our way down into the parking garage — the first step of the bib pickup process — one thought instantly came to mind. “This is flowing SO much easier than it did last year.” That ain’t no joke, either. Check out my write up of last year’s Expo to see what a clusterfork of epic proportions that was. Granted this was around the 11:30 AM mark, but there were no insane crowds, no long lines, no cursing, stress, insane wait times or anything of the like. There seemed to be more a managed crowd control and flow process in place this year, and it made the registration process pretty quick and painless.
One noticeable difference was the lack of a New Balance shoe line. This year Run Disney decided to implement a virtual queue in which you would submit your information online — name, bib number, desired shoe type, size, and quantity — and would be texted or emailed back with a return time. Now I’ve never — EVER — been into these limited edition shoes before. Never ever.
Until I saw the Goofy ones…
Long story short, I wound up with a return time scheduled for 4:10 PM to try on a pair of size 12.5 Goofys. More on this later.
Back to the bib pickup! Boots and Ann were both doing the 5K and scooted off to that line while I went to get my Dumbo Double Dare bib. It took about a minute to pick up that bib, along with my red Coast To Coast wristband (I’d receive my green Dumbo Double Dare wristband after completing the 10K on Saturday), and the 5K line was pretty sparse as well. It was right around this moment when I suddenly heard my name being called out. I looked around and saw the unmistakable face on my buddy Jennifer, smiling in my direction. Jennifer and I became friends on Facebook when we both joined the Mickey Milers Running Team and found we had a mutual interest in cheeseball 1970s/80s movie musicals, Looney Tunes, and cookies. You know how sometimes you meet someone who you only know online and they look NOTHING like their pics? Jennifer was the complete opposite of that; she was TOTALLY recognizable. Unreal. We chatted for a bit and posed for a pic, promising to meet up again later that weekend (which we did, more on that later).
The Expo continued upstairs in the main conference room, where we grabbed our race shirts and perused the vendor goodies. The race shirts this year were pretty spiffy looking. The 5K was a gray cotton tee featuring Stitch, whereas the 10K was a tech shirt in navy blue featuring the Stitch/Tiki motif. That was a fairly impressive looking shirt, whereas the Half Marathon shirt was comparatively plain, featuring a lime green tech shirt with a simple design. The kicker was the Dumbo shirt, an aqua-blue winner featuring my favorite little pachyderm. Overall it was a mostly fine looking group of wearable race swag. OK the Half shirt could have been a little more impressive, but overall no complaints.
Right around 12:15 PM we got the text that our room was ready, so after taking this REALLY dorky shot right here…
… we headed upstairs to our room. Just like last year, we were on the 7th floor of the Fantasy Tower, overlooking the Finish Line and the Family Reunion Area. After our bags were delivered to the room and the process of unpacking had been completed, we decided for forego the obvious course of action and just head down to the pool for some serious R&R. I’ll make no bones about it: hanging out around the Disneyland Hotel pool was probably the best part of our vacation. I’ve seen the theme parks, I’ve visited all the stores and attractions, but for my money there’s no better time to be had catching some rays and cooling off in the pool area while enjoying several frosty Hangar 24 Orange Wheat Ales.
After about 2+ hours (and more than a few wheat ales) down at the pool, we were quite refreshed and relaxed, but matters of state needed to be addressed. Particularly, my 4:10 return time to check out the New Balance Shoes was fast at hand. We went upstairs, showered, changed, and walked back down to the Expo. I was a little bit early and was able to briefly chat and take a picture with the inimitable Jeff Galloway, the Run Disney training consultant. I had seen Jeff around at earlier Run Disney events and had finally met him earlier this year at a local running store, but I wanted to say hi again and grab another picture… which I did here:
This would not be my last interaction with Jeff Galloway over the course of the weekend. More on that later…
We walked over to the expected cacophony and bedlam of the New Balance area, but it was surprisingly very ordered and controlled. It was busy of course, with dozens of people browsing and trying on various shoes, but it didn’t seem anything like what I expected it to be, which would be something akin to Dresden, two minutes post-bombing. I checked in at the appointment line, and after a few minutes was helped by a young salesperson who brought out the Goofy shoes and I immediately knew I was hooked on the suckers. After trying them on and walking about in them, I knew they were a good fit. Oh sure, I’d never actually RUN in them, but they made for a great pair of walking shoes for the majority of the weekend. Boots tried on a pair of Minnie-branded shoes and loved them, so we walked out with both pairs (and a rather not un-hefty New Balance bill to go with it). Worth every penny though. We got a lot of mileage out of them over the next few days.
Overall I had a VERY positive feeling from the Expo, especially in respect to last year’s first day debacle. Everything was well-managed, well-controlled, and there was PLENTY of merchandise available for all those who wanted some. I bought a few extra tees — two race shirts and one cotton Dumbo “I did it!” shirt — but was surprised at the abundance of merchandise available by 5PM that afternoon. I would have liked to see a little more variety in the number of vendors available and in the merchandise they were selling; I wanted to pick up some Honey Stingers but none were to be found anywhere, and the running sunglasses selection was strictly of the big-label (read: $$$$$) variety. Still, it was a massive improvement over 2013, and for that Run Disney should be commended.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and hanging with friends. Boots, Ann, and I went down to Uva Bar in Downtown Disney for some pre-dinner cocktails. We met a friend of Ann’s there, and while we were chatting away looking at the menu, Boots and I discovered the wonder of this magnificent concoction: the Chilly-Chata.
The Chilly-Chata is composed of homemade horchata, Rumchata, Fireball whisky, and Captain Morgan’s… with a touch of whipped cream and cinnamon on top. Words cannot even… this thing was pure liquid paradise. One wasn’t enough, and by the end of the second one we were definitely ready for dinner. We met my buddy Jeffrey over at Tortilla Jo’s. Jeff and I went to grade school though high school together and had also both run the 2014 Walt Disney World Half Marathon earlier this year.
Tortilla Jo’s was reasonably decent Mexican food of the generic Tex-Mex sort. The atmosphere inside was fun, lively, and definitely LOUD, but that’s OK. We were all walking the 5K the next morning so there was no pressing need to eat quickly and rush back to try to get as much sleep as we could. That explains why were so loose and liberal with the Chilly-Chatas earlier that evening! Meanwhile we helped ourselves to a few beers with out table-prepared guacamole and chatted away excitedly over tacos, enchiladas, and burritos of various styles and flavors.
After dining we bid Jeff adieu and headed back to our room to get ready for the next morning. As this was both Ann’s and Boots’s first Run Disney event, I went through the basic run-through of what to do in preparation, which basically boils down to “When you pin your bib to the front of your shirt, make sure you don’t push too far in and pin it to the back of your shirt as well.” I’ve done this WAY too many times to even mention, except that it provides a reasonable comic beat, which makes it very much abide the telling. Anyway before we turned in for the night, Boots arranged this final swag shot of all our running and race-related loot for the day:
A more pointless display of aroysgevorfn di gelt, I can’t even… (Google it). Contained therein are the New Balance shoes (the orange Goofys and the pink Minnies), race shirts, “I did it!” shirts, bibs, commemorative pins, race guide, and god knows what else. I think we spent enough to fund polishing all the teak fixtures on the Run Disney executives’ fleet of yachts. Worth it.
Thus ended our Day One of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. The next morning’s 5K was calling our name that night, a low-pressure walk through the park (literally), so there was no nervousness and lots of excitement. Anyway, our Arrival and Expo Day was fun and chock-full of excitement — meeting up with new friends, catching up with old ones, reconnecting with a running legend, discovering fantastic new cocktails, and spending gobs of money on tchotchkes. A typical Run Disney day, to be sure. But so much fun and greatness awaited us over the next few days.
- Click here for my review of the 2014 Disneyland 5K.
- Click here for my review of the 2014 Disneyland 10K.
- Click here for my review of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon.
So stayed tuned for those updates. Until then… the video: