Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Expedition Everest Challenge: Part One

This was definitely a race of firsts for me! My first obstacle race, my first scavenger hunt, my first team race, and my first race completely through Animal Kingdom but it was also my second runDisney race. I signed my boyfriend and I up back in January for the Expedition Everest Challenge 2012 at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I signed us up as a team: Team TravelRunEat of course! I started planning out everything and so did he! I planned our outfits (more on them later) and he planned us staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge! Love that!
So the big weekend finally arrived! It seemed like it took forever to get here. Who knew the distance from January 21 of May 5 could be so long?!? We left on the Friday before the race on Saturday might. We had a very full weekend planned! First a stop in St. Augustine for a concert with The Fray and then off to Disney on Saturday morning!
We arrived at ESPN Wide World of Sports complex to pick up our team packet for the Expedition Everest Challenge. We got in line to pick up our team packets and received the envelope with our race bibs with our team name on it and information about the race. We then proceeded to hop in line for a few pictures with the different little props that they had set up for race weekend. And of course I had to do some shopping! The Expedition Everest women's tech shirt was too cute!

Next we headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to check in for our weekend stay. We made the reservations through runDisney (407-WDW-iRun) so they gave us a good rate for a deluxe resort and also were ready with any information about what we needed to know involving the race. I absolutely love this hotel and the first thing we did was wander around and look. It is simply spectacular! If you have never stayed here before, this is definitely one to check out. And a great hotel to stick with the "theme" of the Expedition Everest Challenge at Animal Kingdom!

So the race was going to start at 10 o'clock that night. It was May 5th. it was Cinco de Mayo and it was also Derby Day! So we had a few parties to hit up first before we hit the racecourse!
Off we went to Epcot through the international gateway attached to the Boardwalk Hotel and on into Mexico. We had been wanting to try the tequila bar inside of the Mexican pavillion, La Cava del Tequila. We stood in line only to find out that we couldn't order food from the bar. So I managed to grab us a quick table and we were able to order their trio of appetizers - guacamole, queso, salsa, and chips! Yum! We also tried a couple of their margaritas and one of their nice tequilas. I'll post more on that later!
La Cava del Tequila
We walked around for a little bit after and then headed over to the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk for the Kentucky Derby. We were able to grab a table there and promptly ordered two mint juleps. We watched the race and I cheered for my horse "I'll Have Another." And guess what?? He won!!! I've never had a Derby horse win. Too bad I didn't place any bets on him but then he probably wouldn't have won!
We returned to our hotel with a little more than an hour to get ready and rested for our race. We had to catch the bus over to Animal Kingdom and decided to do that by 8 o'clock that night. We got all checked in and checked our bag then wandered over to the main stage because I could hear Carissa and knew she was announcing the race and I really wanted to meet her! We got in line for a few pictures. Then I headed over to say hi to Carissa (follow her @CarissaAnneB on Twitter!) in between her announcing prior to the race. It is always so fun to meet the people you follow on Twitter and that write the blogs that you read!
Team TravelRunEat
Carissa & Me

Finally it was time for the race! We were in wave 3. I could've sworn I saw that the race started at 10 o'clock that night but they started people going before then. I was so glad we were already there! This is my second runDisney race. The first one was Wine and Dine last year, and I drove myself to that race and had to catch a bus to the start. This time we used Disney transportation the entire time thanks to staying at one of the race resorts. I highly recommend this! It makes for a much less stressful situation and it's just easy! Disney knows what they're doing!!
Photo from runDisney
 One of the other wonderful things about runDisney races is that they start with fireworks! Each and every wave is released with a fireworks show. It doesn't get any better than that! So we were off running through the Animal Kingdom parking lot headed towards the Animal Kingdom park. It was a little crowded but not too bad. It did get a little bottlenecked going into the actual park. There were a lot of walkers! I would have preferred if they lined us up in the waves by time or speed of running because it didn't seem like they did that. Unless all these people just suddenly decided they were going to walk this whole thing! Now don't get me wrong, I use the Galloway Run Walk Run method but these people were going very slow and they were kind of in the way. With the tightness of the paths that we were running it would've helped to have walkers out of the way or at least following some sort of running etiquette and not walking right in the middle of the course pathway!
Photo from runDisney
 The Animal Kingdom park is absolutely beautiful at night. I had seen part of it when I ran through for the Wine and Dine half marathon in October but this time we ran through the entire park. Along the way we were to encounter three obstacles. They were pretty evenly spaced. The first one we encountered was bales of hay to jump over. The next one was tires that we had to run through. I tried to run but then ended up just walking so I wouldn't hurt myself! The last obstacle came right before the end of the 5K race. It involved crawling underneath ropes kind of like you see in those boot camp military videos! The good thing was they had artificial grass laid out underneath so at least we weren't crawling through the dirt! We finished the race and somehow it registered our time. I don't recall going over any timing mats, but it was pretty accurate so there must've been something we ran over or through!
Working on our clues...

Now it was time for this scavenger hunt. We got our first clue and also a cute little flashlight/Sharpie combination so we could actually see and then answer each clue. I read the first one but didn't really understand it so I passed it off to Josh who figured it out almost immediately. Running and using my brain at the same time don't really mix! Now comes the really interesting part. Our first clue was handed to us at the end of the 5K and outside the park in the parking lot area. Our next clue said "Camp Minnie Mickey" and then "Donald Duck." Well I knew where Camp Minnie Mickey was. It's back inside Animal Kingdom! But there were people still being released in waves for the 5K race who were headed in the exact same direction we needed to go. It wasn't real clear what we were supposed to do. The only thing I could figure was we had to get in with the 5K runners and just join them until it was time to turn off to Camp Minnie Mickey. So that's exactly what we did! Talk about a tight fit!! Luckily, there were people at the Camp Minnie Mickey turn off yelling "5K this way" and "scavenger hunt that way."
Then it was time for more chaos. Have you ever felt like a salmon swimming upstream? Well that's how we felt except we felt like we were going to get run over too! We were running in and people were running out. There were no marks on the ground, no arrows, no cones to separate us, so we were dodging people and they were dodging us. It could've been very dangerous and may have been for some of the guests. A simple fix for next year would be to separate the path into two lanes, use tape to put an arrow on the ground showing which direction you could run into Camp Minnie Mickey, use cones to separate the path and then have an arrow showing the direction to run out. This would have made it flow much more easily and safely.
Once we arrived to Camp Minnie Mickey we had to find a sign that said Donald Duck. Thankfully we were able to figure out what that meant, but there were several people who kept showing up at the wrong sign because they didn't understand what it said on their clue card!
Now I know what you're thinking! Would you please show us these clues you keep talking about. That is going to be in a whole other post! Trust me, you're going to want details on the clues if you're going to do the Expedition Everest Challenge next year! They were not easy and if your brain doesn't work with running very well like mine, they're even harder. I definitely recommend the team approach.
So after we solved clue two, which actually I did figure out how to solve, we moved onto clue three which was located in Africa. Once we solved clue three, we ran to Asia for clue number four. It was then time for our final clue. This one literally stopped us dead in our tracks!! We actually had to get help solving this one from a runDisney cast member! Then it was off to the finish line where Carissa announced us in. That was the coolest ever!

Once we crossed the finish line, we grabbed some yummy snacks -  Dasani water, PowerAde and Clif bars. Another reason I love runDisney races ~ they're sponsored by Coke and other yummy people! The after party was in full swing by the time we reached it. We went to get our bag from the bag check which was kind of like organized chaos. The Wine and Dine half marathon bag check was a lot better organized. This bag check was also hidden! We had to ask three cast members before we actually found it! After we left the bag area we noticed that the sign was well off the pathway making it difficult to see in the crowd. Maybe that was another part of the scavenger hunt! Next we went to go get the traditional BLING pictures taken. They came out super cute!
Team TravelRunEat & our new bling!
We then headed straight for Expedition Everest! We had to ride the ride that was the namesake for the race. This had to be the coolest experience on a Disney ride ever. In fact, it might just be the main reason why you should definitely run the Expedition Everest Challenge next year! Riding Expedition Everest in the dark of night! It seems faster, wilder, funner than ever before! Too bad our pictures that they take during the ride didn't come out. Next, we decided to go to the Kali River Rapids. This was also very cool and quite beautiful at night. But since we got completely drenched, it was a little cold! I was absolutely freezing after riding this! I was very tempted to buy one of the cute Mickey jungle towels hanging at the little cart right outside the river rapid exit!! But instead we decided to head to the buses and back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was a very fun day and an extremely fun night. Our race times weren't half bad either. If we hadn't gotten stopped by that last clue, we might've even had a better overall time!
TravelRunEat 1338 - 5k time - 31:42 Scavenger Hunt - 23:11 Overall -  54:53

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you had a great time, but I have to admit I'm jealous you were in wave 3! We had to wait till wave 8, so there were some very interesting logistics running thru the park :) all in all, had a GREAT time.