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Orlando: January 12, 2013

Our day started around 3:30am with the Disney World Half Marathon.

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After the race, Maggie and I wanted to head back to the hotel.  We completely missed the resort buses near the finish line, and walked over to Epcot to take the monorail back.  We walked to where we thought the monorail entrance was, only to find it was the exit.  After walking back around, we realized that we actually needed to go through the Epcot bag check in order to get on the monorail.  There was no line when we had first passed by, but in that 5-10 minutes a very long line had formed.

We were hungry by the time we got back to the Contemporary and stopped at the Contempo Cafe for Mickey Waffles.  It was a tasty post-race treat!

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Pat met us at the cafe, and then headed to Hollywood Studios while Maggie and I showered and took an hour-long nap.  We eventually pulled ourselves together and headed out to meet Pat at the park.  My feet were aching but I did not want to miss out on the Tower of Terror.

We only had a few hours at Hollywood Studios due to early dinner reservations back at the California Grill, on the top floor of our hotel.

We picked up a Fast Pass for Tower of Terror and jumped in the Single Rider line for the Rock n’ Roller coaster.  I sat in the very back and the ride was more intense than I had remembered.

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By the time we got out, we were had just 5 minutes to wait until we could ride Tower of Terror!  This was the ride I missed the most over the past year.

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We got some water and Pat and I split a banana.  We missed The Little Mermaid show last year, so it was on our short to-do list.  We hadn’t missed much.  My guess is that this show was introduced in the 1990s and had not been updated since then.  It was a good show, but was definitely outdated compared to newer shows like the Lion King and Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom.

After the show we realized we either had time for the Muppet Show or one more ride on Tower of Terror.  Since we had already ridden ToT once, we walked quickly to the Muppet Show.  It turned out we were just in time for the next show, with no wait!

We got out of the Muppet Show and decided we had just enough time to use our last Fast Pass on Tower of Terror.  We were cutting it close on time, but it was worth it for one more ride.

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I led a quick walk out to our bus, and it was a good thing I did – I ran a bit to make sure the bus would wait for us.

I was especially excited for our pre-race dinner because we were going to be meeting up with a friend of mine from high school and her boyfriend!

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I loved the views from the California Grill.  We had a great view of Magic Kingdom and the Grand Floridian.

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I had put a flag on our reservation ahead of time that I would be eating vegan.  When I first asked our server what I could eat, he told me I could order anything on the menu and they would make a vegan version of it.  I also told him that I wasn’t allergic to dairy, that I just do not eat animal products – I didn’t want the kitchen to worry about being extra careful due to a potential allergy.

I ordered the only vegetarian item on the menu – the pumpkin-fig ravioli.  The server came back and said that they could not make that vegan and asked me to please choose something else.  All of the other dishes were meat-based.  I asked him what he suggested I order, and he began to suggest various types of meat.  Apparently he did not understand what vegan means!  I explained that I did not eat meat either, and he said he would be right back.

When the server came back he said, “Don’t worry, the chef will make you a surprise!”  I did worry a bit.  I thought, please don’t make it mushroom base.  This is what I got:

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Not all mushrooms!  The flatbread pizza was very good.  So was the rice, which I think was butternut squash.  I ate a bit around the mushrooms.  The salad looked dry (no dressing), so I skipped that.  I like a good salad, but I need dressing.  It was expensive for what it was, but still a good meal.

After dinner we headed out to a balcony to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks at 8pm.  They even played the Wishes music at the hotel.  I’ve said it before, but I seriously wish every day could end with fireworks.

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Back in our room, I iced my feet in our tub.  It was painfully cold, but my feet did feel some pain relief after soaking them.  I was nervous about the marathon the next day, mostly because my feet were already in so much pain.  I was wondering what I was thinking to have signed up for the Goofy Challenge.  I went to bed a little bit later than I had planned, but was probably asleep a little after 9:30pm.  I was not looking forward to another 3:30am alarm!

Orlando: January 11, 2013

We traveled to Disney World after work the evening of January 10th.  Our flight was delayed about 15 minutes, and we got into Orlando very late.  The Disney Magical Express was convenient.  I knew I was in good, organized hands as soon as I saw the Disney desk.  I didn’t have the paper tickets we needed, but they were able to print us a new set.

The lines were divided based on the resort you were going to.  We didn’t have to wait very long to board the bus to the Contemporary, but we did have to wait a long time until the bus took off.  They were playing old school Disney cartoons, so at least we had some entertainment while we waited.

On the drive there, they played a video about Walt Disney World, which made me giddy with excitement to be going back to the parks.  We stopped at the Wilderness Lodge and then we were the next stop.  Apparently I missed the online check-in, but our check-in process was quick and painless.  My only disappointment was that I did not realize we were staying in an extra “wing” of the Contemporary – not the part of the building that the monorail goes through.  We got settled in and went right to bed!

The next morning Maggie and I headed straight to the expo, while Pat went to Animal Kingdom, where we would meet him after the expo.

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We got there just after the expo opened.  It felt like there were crowds of people already, but we were able to get right in.  It sounds like there were long lines to wait in later in the day.  Since we were picking up Goofy Challenge packets, we got to go to a different room than everyone else, and there was no one in line for our race numbers.  It was quick!

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We then headed next door to pick up our shirts and check out the expo.

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We didn’t spend as much time at the expo this year.  I couldn’t find my running belt at home when I was packing, so I knew I wanted to buy a Spi Belt.  I picked out a red and white belt to have a touch of Minnie.  Maggie was looking for the free yogurt, but they had run out and didn’t get anymore before we left.  We walked by a few other samples and then made our way out, picking up a couple of pretzels to snack on for breakfast.  Carb-loading?  They were delicious.

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We took a few pictures, I signed up for race tracking, and we were off to Animal Kingdom!  There was no bus directly to the park, so we took a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, and then took a second bus to Animal Kingdom the park.

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I was so happy the Christmas tree was still up!  I love Animal Kingdom.  Beautiful scenery and playful animals everywhere.

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We headed straight to Expedition Everest to get a Fast Pass and meet up with Pat.  We were hoping to get a quick ride in, but the roller coaster actually shut down while Pat was on it.  He got stuck for awhile, and when he was finally getting let off of it, they closed the ride down.  So, we went straight to lunch.  It was already after 11am!

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We ate at Yak and Yeti last year and loved it, so we went back.  I ordered the same thing as last year – sweet n’ sour tofu.  Maggie and Pat had the lettuce cups.  Disney does tofu well.  Our server acted like she was impressed that we were running the Goofy Challenge, but let it slip that she had run Boston.  I was probably more in awe of that!

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Luckily Expedition Everest was open after we ate!  Yay!  We walked right on with our Fast Passes.

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As a side note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of this ride without beautiful clouds behind it.  Also, look closely at the cloud just to the right of the mountain.  Does it look slightly like Mickey ears?  I am now convinced the Disney creates its own clouds.  After facing the Yeti we headed to the Pangani Trail.  This was something we had missed out on last year.

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We saw more Disney magic.  It seems like so many animals are awake and playing at any given time.

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Except Pumba – he was sleeping.

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It was a fun trail!  I can’t believe we missed this last time.

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The best part was the gorillas.  There was a mom, a dad and a 3-year old that acted like a toddler.  The baby gorilla ran up to the dad and he ran away!

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The 3-year-old gorilla was so adorable.  He was doing somersaults and climbing trees.  At one point he climbed a tree and you could see the branch he was on slowly bending backward until he fell all the way back to the ground.

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After walking the trail, we met up with two of our cousins to watch Nemo the Musical.  It was fun to see them at Disney too!

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After the show we went for another quick ride on Mount Everest via the Single Rider line.  The Single Rider line is an amazing thing.  I can’t believe how few people use it.  Pat and I even got to ride together because we got paired with two other people who were on their own but waited in the normal line!

We wanted to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari before leaving.  It was close to 5pm and the sun seemed to already be setting.  I was worried in the beginning that a lot of animals had already left for the day, but we still got to see quite a few.

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It was a fun day!  There was a lot of walking, though.  After our day at the park, we met up with our cousins again for dinner at Boma.  I was so excited to try this restaurant.  We ate at Jiko last year and loved it, but were curious about the buffet across the hall.

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I was so impressed with the buffet.  I am trying to make the transition to vegan, and had called ahead to share my dietary restrictions.  When I checked in, they told me that the chef would come out and walk me around the buffet.  And he did!  The chef was awesome.  He told me what I could eat on the buffet, and told me what else he could make a vegan version of for me.  I put together a plate of what I could already eat while waiting for the rest.  I had a half marathon to run the next day, so I was loading up!

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My favorite thing on this plate was the watermelon rind salad.  I’ve never had anything like it before.  It had an interesting sweet taste.  I also had some avocado and citrus salad and greens with a mango vinaigrette.  My special salad plate was quickly brought out.

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My favorite was the eggplant salad in the right-hand corner.  There was more watermelon rinds, spinach with quinoa and tomato and artichoke salad.  I loved everything, but the eggplant was the only item where I finished the plate clean.  Eating vegan would be so easy with a personal chef every night!  He also brought out two types of hummus and a special chip.  I almost finished both bowls of hummus.

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I apparently forgot to take a picture of my main course.  It was so delicious, I dug right in!  It was rice, a tomato curry type dish, and tofu.  Just perfect.  I was so stuffed at this point, though, and ended up packing up most of the tofu.  But I am never too full for a little dessert.

The rest of my group got to choose from lots of little cakes on the buffet, so I asked if there were any options I could eat.  They treated me very well:

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Sorbet and fresh berries!  We were a very full and happy group.

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It was awesome catching up with our cousins over a meal with plenty of carbs and protein for the next day.  They were also very nice to give us a ride back to our hotel in their rental car, which meant we got to go to bed even earlier.  Thank you, Kim and Jason!

Race #16: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

The half marathon was the first part of the Goofy Challenge.  It was a weird feeling to go into this race knowing that it would be just one-third the total distance for the weekend.  Running the half marathon first also put the distance in a different perspective.  It almost felt like no big deal when I knew I would be running a full marathon the very next day.  When did that happen?

We spent the day before the half at Animal Kingdom.  I wore my running shoes because I knew it would be a lot of walking, but we may have over-done it just a bit.  By the end of the day my feet were hurting from so much walking, and that made me a little nervous for the races.

We had an early dinner at Boma the night before the race, an African buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I loaded up on delicious hummus, tofu and rice.  Then it was early to bed!

We decided to stay at the Contemporary Resort this trip, which would put us on the monorail and give us easy access to Epcot both race mornings.  We got up around 3:15am, to head to the monorail at 3:45 am.  I ate my breakfast of a peanut and butter jelly sandwich and drank a bottle of water on our way to the race start.  The monorail definitely made the trip to Epcot much easier.

We stopped for a real bathroom at the monorail station in Epcot before heading to the start line.  We thought this would let us avoid the port-o-potties this year.  The walk to the start line took longer than it did for the marathon last year.  We were walking at a snail’s pace.  By the time we made it to the corrals, I was in need of another bathroom stop.

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We were in Corral G this year, thanks to our estimated marathon finish of 5:30.  I had printed proof of faster half marathon results in case we wanted to change corrals at the expo, but we decided with our run/walking and stopping for pictures, it might be okay that we were so far back.

Even though we left on the monorail at 4:00am, it was after 5:00am by the time we made it to Corral G.  They were already singing the national anthem!  There were fireworks around 5:30am.  They weren’t just at the start line – there was a great display right behind us too!

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It took a long time for us to eventually make our way to the start line.  I loved the energy from the crowd, and could not wait to get started.

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Around 6:15am, we were on our way!  The beginning of the race was so congested, I think it was even worse than last year.  Our plan was to run 5/5 intervals, to make sure that we didn’t push ourselves too hard before the marathon.  Although part of the time we were “running” I could have power walked just as fast.

  • Mile 1:  13:01
  • Mile 2:  12:19

It was the beginning of the third mile that we saw the first characters.  It was the same pirate ship from last year.  Once again, I couldn’t believe how much Jack Sparrow looked like Johnny Depp.

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The character lines were much longer this year, and seemed to be moving much more slowly.  There was no sense of urgency from many of the runners taking pictures!

  • Mile 3:  18:30
  • Mile 4:  22:48

We stopped for two characters in the fourth mile.  We waited 3-4 minutes for Chip n’ Dale and about 5-6 minutes for the Nightmare Before Christmas scene.

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We started to worry a little bit after these early stops.  We wanted to take our time and stop for characters, but we were already behind the 16 minute pace requirement.  I knew we wouldn’t actually get swept because there were so many people behind us, but we wanted to honestly meet the time requirement to feel that we earned our Goofy medals.  So we started to run a little bit more and sped up the pace.

  • Mile 5:  11:25

The sixth mile took us through the Magic Kingdom.  Running down Main Street will always be my favorite part of these runs.  There are so many people cheering in the crowds and the energy is so high.

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I could not believe how many people chose to walk through that leg of the race!  We did our best to keep running and weaving through the crowds.  When we came up on the Cinderella castle, we decided to stop for a picture with a royal Daisy and Donald, and lost another 5-6 minutes.

  • Mile 6:  20:45

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Once we made it past the castle, we knew we had some serious time to make up.  We ran the next couple of miles with very few walk breaks and skipped over a few characters to save time.  The one I wish we had gotten was Jessie from Toy Story.  We thought we could get a picture with her during the marathon the next day, but she was not out when we passed by.

  • Mile 7:  10:46
  • Mile 8:  11:08

When we saw that we were quickly making up time, we lightened up a bit and paused for a few quick pictures over the next couple of miles.

  • Mile 9:  12:21
  • Mile 10:  12:26
  • Mile 11:  12:24

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I don’t remember what mile it was, but the Toy Story soldiers were out again this year, encouraging runners to keep running up a hill.

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We knew we were fine on time, but there weren’t many character during the final miles, so we kept up with our run/walking through the end.

  • Mile 12:  11:51
  • Mile 13:  12:10
  • Mile 13.0 – 13.57:  10:00 pace
  • Total:  3:07:38 (13:50 pace)

Epcot was a blur to me for both races.  I must have been so focused on just finishing.  It looks like I was still running happy though!

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I knew from last year, once we turned the corner to leave Epcot, we were so close to the finish line.  We didn’t sprint, but kept a steady pace for the last half mile.  One-third of the Goofy Challenge was complete!

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We picked up our medals and immediately got some ice before picking up our snack box.  We didn’t realize there were buses right there to take us back to our hotel, so we hobbled back to Epcot for the monorail.

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Overall, I was happy with this race.  We had run a little more and a little faster than we planned, but it turned out we were fine.  Our split at the 10k mark was a 16:33 minute pace; by 15k we had it down to 15:08 and by the end, our official pace was 14:18.

We showered, napped for an hour, and then headed back out to the parks, to Hollywood Studios.  Wearing our medals, of course.  Maybe it wasn’t the best idea for recovery before the next day, but we were there to have fun too!

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I am a Goofy Challenge finisher!

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It was difficult and painful, but also so much fun.  I can’t believe what we accomplished.  I will be back with a recap of my latest races, including the Disney races and our Disney trip!

Orlando Day 8: Pre-Marathon

We decided to give our poor legs a break the Saturday before the marathon.  After a full seven days of touring the parks, I think we earned a break before race day.

We slept in, to prepare ourselves for the 3am wake-up call the next morning.  A friend who used to work with us had moved to Orlando, so we made plans with her to get brunch at the Grand Floridian.  She picked us up at our hotel, which was a nice treat after taking Disney transportation all week.

The Grand Floridian was beautiful.  I would love to stay there on another trip some day.

Brunch was delicious.  I’m pretty sure I had pancakes with banana, loading up on carbs and potassium before the big race.  The strawberry orange juice was a nice treat, too!

After brunch, our friend dropped us off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where we needed to pick up our race packets.

The race expo was huge!  But Disney was well organized, and it didn’t take long for us to pick up our packets.

I was so excited walking through the expo.  I couldn’t believe we were going to run a full marathon the next day.  There were so many vendors at the expo.

In all the excitement, I actually made 2 purchases.  Which is unusual for me.  First, I bought a pouch to wear around my waist.  I didn’t want something bulky to hold water bottles, but I bought a pouch that would fit my cell phone, ID card/credit card, and a few packets of Gu.  I wasn’t planning to buy one, but Maggie was going to get one, and they were offering a better price for two.  I’m so glad we got them; I would have gone crazy trying to carry everything myself the whole 26.2 miles.

I also bought a Stick.  It is very similar to a foam roller, but it felt like it got into my muscles a little tougher.  And it felt really good to roll out my muscles at the expo.  My IT band was still acting up, and I knew I would want the stick after our run.  I still use my foam roller to, but the Stick travels much lighter.  I’m happy to now have both.

After the expo we took a bus back to our hotel.  We hung out for a little bit before dinner.  We were planning to head to Downtown Disney to eat dinner with a friend of mine from high school who had also moved to Orlando.  We met up with her at Portobello.

We ate an extremely early dinner at this Italian restaurant.  I think it was 4:00 or 4:30pm.  We dressed up a little bit for dinner.

I was incredibly nervous about the marathon by this point.  I was nervous about whether I would make it the whole way, or if I would have to walk the whole time.  I was also really excited.

We walked around Downtown Disney after dinner and got some hot chocolate.  It was a cold night, though, and we had an early morning ahead of us, so we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.

I think we were at least in bed by 8:00 or 9:00.  I don’t remember what time I finally fell asleep, but I slept surprisingly well, considering my nerves.

I had nothing to be nervous about.  The race was an amazing experience.  You can read about it here.  I can’t wait to go back next year for Goofy!

Orlando Day 7: Hollywood Studios

This was our final day touring the parks before we ran our marathon.  It was sad to be ending our days in the park, but excited that we still had the weekend at Walt Disney World.

We got to the park early, and got to be first in line for a picture with Donald and Daisy.

Next up, we booked it over to the Hollywood Tower of Terror.  We got a Fast Pass and jumped in line for a quick ride.  I was addicted at this point.

We watched the Beauty and the Beast show, which was basically the whole story, music and all, in 30 minutes.  And then we went to the Indiana Jones show.  We were in the very back row, but we still had a great view of the special effects.

We also went to the Lights, Motors, Actions show.  Lots of fire in all of these shows!  I was really impressed with the stunts in this one though.

We had to get Fast Passes to ride Toy Story Mania.  It was similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Magic Kingdom, but more fun, with different kinds of games in each room you passed by.

We ate dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby.  The food was very good, but it was probably my least favorite dining experience at Disney.  The environment was supposed to be like the classic Brown Derby restaurant, but it wasn’t anything spectacular like other Disney theme restaurants.

After dinner, we had to go ride the Hollywood Tower of Terror a few more times 🙂  I love that ride!  When we go back next year, we will probably go to Hollywood Studios just to ride the elevator a few times in a row.

It was another early evening for us, with only 2 more days until the marathon!

Orlando Day 6: Hollywood Studios

I was a little bit nervous about Hollywood Studios because it came with a challenge.  I had been mentally preparing myself all week to take on the Hollywood Tower of Terror.

It’s a ride I skipped when I was younger because I was too scared, and I was determined to ride it at least once.  We picked up Fast Passes for the ride, but I wasn’t quite ready to go on it right away.

Instead, we went on the Rock n’ Roller Coaster.  It’s an indoor, looping roller coaster.  To be honest, it wasn’t quite as thrilling as I expected it to be.  It was still fun, but it’s not as scary going upside down when you don’t know which way is up!

Next, we went on the Studio Backlot Tour.  They take you through various stunts and a behind-the-scenes tour.  It was entertaining.

We also went on the Great Movie Ride.  I’m pretty sure I remembered this one from when I was little too.  You ride in cars with a tour guide and they interact with scenes from different movies.  Our first tour guide was a little annoying, so I wasn’t too sad when a gangster scared her off and took control of our car!

We finally rode Tower of Terror.  I was literally terrified to get on the ride.  I was especially alarmed when we got on the elevator and I realized the only restraint was a band that went across your lap.  There was nothing to come down over your head!  I read later that Disney does that on purpose – so you lift up in your seat a little when the elevator drops.  It adds to your terror.

The elevator attendants were probably some of the best cast members as far as staying in character.  It seemed like a fun job.  We got in our elevator, and we were off, winding through the hotel.  The next thing I knew, we were on our way up.  Then the doors opened in front of us, and we could see out across the park.  And then we dropped.  Over and over again.  I was terrified, but it was so much fun.

When we got off the ride, I was shaking.  And then I asked if we could ride it again!

One of our last rides for the day was the Star Wars ride.  It was a motion simulator ride, and it made me feel a little sick, but it was still pretty fun.

This was day six at Disney, and we knew we were planning to come back to Hollywood Studios the next day.  So we left a little early and headed to Downtown Disney to explore a bit and find some dinner.

While we were at the parks, Maggie and I found ourselves pulled into the pin trading.  We had to check out the pin station at Downtown Disney and see if the cast members there had any pins we wanted to trade for.

We also wandered around the Lego store.  I was amazed by all the Disney Lego creations in and around the store.

It was a nice, early night.  With only 3 days left until our first marathon, we needed to get some rest!