It’s Good To be King! Excalibur 10 Miler Recap

This is a story about taking a chance on a first year race. 

A little background:
While attending the Space Coast Marathon expo last December, we stopped by the Excalibur 10 Miler table. DisneyBride put our names down on a mailing list that included a drawing for a race entry.  The race concept looked unique, and they had a crown on display. The organizers were going to give finishers crowns, not medals.  

We are on the road driving to Walt Disney World after the Space Coast Marathon and SURPRISE! I get tagged in a Facebook post telling me I won!

I really didn’t think anyone ever won expo sweepstakes. But sure enough, I checked my email and I had received a code for a free race entry.

In the short time we've been running, DisneyBride and I have become increasingly pickier about signing up for races.  The scrutiny only intensifies if travel is required.  

There were two options for registration:  the 10 Miler or a relay, two runners each completing 5 miles.  I registered for the 10 Miler, but shortly afterwards I put the idea of actually attending aside.

The race shirt looked pretty cool...

... but as the date approached,  I started hoping that I would be able to find a friend who was running to pick up my packet for me.
This is where I admit that I have a bias against first year races. I have heard of too many races running out of water, not having on course support, or just being completely disorganized. Even new runDisney races - with all those resources at their disposal - have numerous issues come up with their new events.  Plus, it just didn’t make sense to drive 5 hours each way for a 10 mile race.

The week leading up to the race, DisneyBride tells me we have some local running friends doing this event, and suggests I join them. Splitting travel costs five ways suddenly makes the trip a lot more economical. After a small amount of convincing, I agree to go and it is decided that I will drive.  Unfortunately, I can only fit five adults in my vehicle, and my four travel companions were all registered for the race, while DisneyBride had not signed up.  So she was staying home for the weekend.  

Yes, she gave me a lot of good-natured ribbing about sending me away for the weekend with four women. But, I decided that this perfectly flat course may be the perfect distance to use for my proof of time for runDisney.  I don’t want to be placed in the last corral for the 2015 Dopey Challenge.

Race Weekend, March 1, 2014: 
I wake up Saturday morning and pack the Jeep with the items for my race.  I meet my weekend company at the pre-arranged location and head out for Viera, FL. After a stop for lunch and gas, we arrived in Melbourne in the early afternoon and headed straight to Running Zone to get our packets. We quickly had our shirts and bibs.

Packet pick-up was well organized and the staff was very efficient. The store also had a small area set-up for photos

It was a really nice detail. Running Zone even had Tervis Tumblers with the Excalibur 10 Miler logo patch. I love my Tervis Tumblers, so I purchased one. 
Following the expo, I headed to check-in to my hotel. I was staying across the street from beach, and while it was too cold (for me) to swim, I enjoyed a few moments walking along the shore. 

Race Weekend, March 2, 2014:

I was not staying at the same hotel as the rest of my travel party. So race morning I checked out and headed to their hotel. The host hotel had a shuttle to take runners to the starting area. Yep, that’s right, a 1st year race with shuttles to the start.  This race is already winning me over and it hasn't begun yet. The race volunteers helping to get runners on the bus were decked out in period costumes. Sorry, I was still asleep and didn’t take any pictures of that part.

The shuttle took us to Viera High School. The starting area was full of costumed volunteers, photo op locations, and knights from Medieval Times.  Plus there was plenty of seating for runners. They even had a DJ to get everyone ready for the race.

About 20 minutes before gun time, the organizers started sending people to the start line. This is where the race really started to shine. A few steps from the starting line, in an open field they separated the runners by our allegiances. (Note: when registering, you selected a side to compete with, Maroon or Blue. Kind of like when you choose a knight at Medieval Times.) After we were separated by allegiance and lined up by pace, the entertainment started.
First up was the National Anthem. Far too many sporting events skip this and I think it is a mistake. The gentleman that sang the Anthem did a wonderful job. Then the Knights appeared. 
Following the introduction of our respective Knights, they started to battle. Swinging swords and axes, they battled furiously for their runners. 

It was very entertaining. How many races have you participated in where people start battling to the death before the race even started. With the battle ending in a draw- it was up to us runners to fight (run) for honor and of course, victory. Off to the race course to continue the battle!  CHARGE!!!

Both sides charged the center of the field to head for the starting line. The race had pacers with signs to help people align by paces before starting. I was very happy to see that runners were very honest about their paces and lined up accordingly. One note for the organizers: perhaps next year hold runners at the starting line for an extra moment to allow everyone to get set.
I started off by following the 10:00Min/Mile pace group. The pace groups were not Galloway Run/Walk pacers so they just run straight though. I was doing my run/walk intervals, so I spent the first 3-4 miles bouncing from just in front of the group to just behind the group. I found the pacer to be dead-on for the pace. Somewhere between mile 3-4, I decided I better slow down a little if I was going to keep my pace. Remember, I am trying to get a new proof of time for runDisney races.

Within a half mile or so, I could see the 10:30 pacer coming up behind me. I decided to follow her to the finish. Once again, bouncing from just in front to just behind. It was great having a consistent pacer to follow and stuck with the pacer to the finish. My pace ended up being 10:31, and I imagine that her pace was probably dead perfect.  Thanks You pace-leaders! I managed a new PR for a 10 mile race, shaving more than 6 minutes off my last 10 mile race.

About the course:

The course itself was well laid out with plenty of volunteers. The course was divided into 4 lands (Avalon, Nottingham, Wales, and Cadbury), each identified by a flag upon your arrival. 

Perhaps in future years, each of the lands will feature some theming to go along with each of the "lands".  At any location where a runner may even think that the course may change, volunteers (many in costume) were ready to provide direction. The water stops were arranged approximately every 2 miles and were manned by volunteers in medieval costumes.

The Finish:

Approaching Camelot (Finish Line at Viera HS's track), you could hear fans cheering in the stands and faster runners were already out showing off their crowns and motivating people to the finish line. Making the final turn onto the track for the sprint to the finish, you get a glimpse of the 'castle'. An announcer called out and welcomed each runner as they crossed the finish line. Just past the line, eager volunteers placed crowns upon the heads of finishers.
Seconds after being crowned, I was presented a cool wet towel for my head. It was starting to get hot outside and the towel felt great. Water and Gatorade were also easily accessible at the finish line.

Here I am post-race with my four lovely travel companions for the weekend.   They are all runDisney aficionados as well, so we had a lot of fun comparing notes on our other races.

Apparently for the race organizers, a well laid out course, amazing pacers, and cool finisher crowns aren't enough.  This race experience gets even better!

On to "Thy Feast"!

I was completely blown away approaching the festival area.  Costumed characters everywhere, Excalibur in the stone, awaiting removal by a worthy hero.  Thrones worthy of a King or Queen.  Jesters and Maidens to entertain.  And - THE FEAST!

For any of you hoping to organize a new race, here's how to hit a home run!  As I approached the food area, I expected to find some bagels, bananas, and Muscle Milk (saw the van upon my arrival).    Yes they had the usual post-race fare, but much much more: grilled chicken, danish, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, rice and beans, and ICE COLD coke and diet coke.  The food was amazing. 

You may ask yourself, what about those who finished near the end, did they get food?  YES, I was in the festival area until about 3 hours were on the clock and they still had plenty of EVERYTHING. 
Another really nice touch that many people might not have appreciated:  the awards ceremony started late enough that I was able to get some food, eat the food, and then watch.  It's not often that I actually get to see people receive their awards.  I am sure that the speedy runners don't like to wait around, but it was nice to be able to cheer for them. 

This is a race that I hope happens again next year.  It is a race I will not hesitate to run!  I only have one complaint.  Admittedly- it is petty, and shows my post-race laziness.  There was no water in the festival area.  A water fountain was located near the restrooms, but cups weren't available.  

Seriously, this is my biggest complaint of the race- I had to drink more ICE COLD Diet Coke instead of water.  Oh poor DisneyGroom!

Really glad I took a chance on a first year race.  This story had a happy ending after all.  Can't wait to see what the Excalibur 10 Miler organizers come up with next year.  I may need to make the trip and defend my crown. 

- You can call me "King @Disney_Groom"

MyRaceRagz Review & Giveaway {CLOSED}

This Giveaway has closed.  
Check our most recent postings for other great giveaways.

I got the chance to review My Race Ragz gear.

You can select from one of their existing designs OR create your our custom Dri Fit shirt.

There are tanks, singlets, short sleeve, and long sleeve options for men and women.

You also have over 700 pre-made designs for your shirt.


You can design your own and get creative with the font and image effects.  That's what I did - see below.

The front of my shirt says:

Some would say I'm

But really I'm just

getting my
money's worth

from my race fee.

This is the back.






I even added the Running Happily Ever After blog logo to the back of my shirt.

In case you don't know what the acronyms mean:
DFL = Dead F*ing Last
DNF = Did Not Finish
DNS = Did Not Start

Here I am wearing the finished shirt.

What do you think?

I think my design really personifies my racing philosophy. 
I've been struggling to improve, but still I often finish DFL.  My silver lining is this: I'll take my DFL over a DNF or DNS any day.

This shirt was really fun to design - and I got it within a week of placing the order.

Now you want to win your own shirt I bet.

P.S. If you don't win, but you still want to place an order,
use this code on the My Race Ragz site:  15ForMe and receive 15% off!

Terms of the Giveaway

1) No Purchase Necessary.
2) Giveaway begins Sunday March 23, 2014 and Wednesday March 26, 2014 at midnight. Winner will be announced on the Facebook page and this blog post.  He or she will be notified Thursday, March 27, 2014.
3) Must be 18 years or older to enter. Must be a U.S. resident. 
4) One (1) winner will be selected. the winner will receive one (1) My Race Ragz shirt.  Retail value: varies - but typically between $28.00 and $40.00

5) Void where prohibited.

Disclosure of Material Connection: No financial compensation was received. We received one custom shirt from My Race Ragz in exchange for this review and promotional giveaway. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will be good for our readers. All opinions stated on this blog are our own. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Does this Glass Slipper come in a men's 13?

Does this Glass Slipper come in a men's 13?

If you missed the first part of my 2014 runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend recap, you can read it here

Day 3: Saturday's Enchanted 10K and mmm...S'mores

The Enchanted10K was an inaugural event and also the first leg of the runDisney Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge.  After our 'homelessness' drama of the previous day, it was such a relief to be back in a hotel room  near Walt Disney World. It made getting to the race so much easier that morning. 

I ran the Enchanted 10K with DisneyBride.  Of the many runDisney races we had both done, we had only run un-timed  events (5Ks) side-by-side.  Running a timed Disney race together opened my eyes to a few things I have not experienced before.  More on this below.  

RunDisney must have listened to the criticism from runners that the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend's Inaugural 10K lacked entertainment.  This 10K was on the same course, but they added a group of kite fliers, another character, and more music to the first three miles - plus several more characters through EPCOT.

I would occasionally run ahead of DisneyBride to get in line for photos.  The one photo I was really looking forward to was Sports Goofy at the Boardwalk.  I didn't stop for him during Marathon Weekend and I really wish I had.  This time I got my photo. 

I would like to take a second and pat myself on the back. DisneyBride and I got across the finish line in front of the balloon ladies and we are still married.  I have a tendency to push her a little too hard on runs, much to her annoyance. But apparently, I was on my "A Game" that morning. 

To the Back of the Pack Runners, I have an even deeper respect for all of you and how tough it can be.  Let me explain:

1) I was constantly looking over my shoulders for the balloon ladies.  It is amazing how obsessed and concerned I was.  I am by no means fast, however, I have never had to worry about seeing them.  So, to those of you who do have that worry, I don't know how you do it. 

2) I know I am guilty of the things I am about to talk about.  I definitely won't be doing this any more.  I understand people are trying to be supportive and encouraging, but the constant "You look good" or "You're going to make it" come across quite patronizing.  It made me wonder how bad we looked that we constantly got these comments.  I know these spectators and fellow runners meant to be encouraging, but it just didn't come across that way.  I will have to try to come up with new things to use to cheer runners on.  

It really was a fun morning. It seems like we bumped into half the blogosphere either pre-race or on the course that morning, and that was awesome.  We even managed to run the last portion and cross the finish line with fellow bloggers, Patty of Margarita Miles and the Mouse and Julie of Run Walk Fastpass Repeat.


Saturday evening we headed to The Wilderness Lodge to meet up with the Racing the Dream Facebook group.  They had organized a gathering featuring the most delicious of all campfire desserts: s'mores!  I had a few.  

Many more than any adult should.  This was a lot of fun and I'm going to add the Chip and Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long to our Must Do List. 

Day 4: Sunday's Princess Half Marathon and I think I love everything on Sanaa's menu

The Princess Half Marathon is the final leg of the Glass Slipper Challenge.  This race I ran solo, with DisneyBride as my support crew. 

It is quite a scene being so outnumbered race morning. 

Why are all these Princesses chasing me???

It was VERY humid.  As you can see from almost all my pics I am drenched and my glasses are constantly fogged up.  Just before my now infamous Buzz Lightyear character stop, I paused on Main Street for a photo.  The random stranger who took this pic may just have taken the best Main Street photo of me yet.  Thank You!

I ALWAYS ALWAYS stop for Buzz. 

Everyone on the course this year was extremely upbeat, from what I saw.  Given the temperature and humidity that was pretty amazing.  I was even more impressed by the sportsmanship I witnessed.  Twice I was near a runner who tripped. Within split seconds, dozens of people stopped to help. 

I was sad running through Tomorrow Land in Magic Kingdom knowing that Push, the Talking Trash Can would never be seen again.  But I soldiered on, and ran through the coolest part of the half marathon course- Cinderella's Castle.  To the random stranger who took my castle photo: Thanks...  I guess the top half of the castle isn't that important...  ha ha

During my 2013 Princess Half Marathon race, I didn't stop at the Wedding Pavilion.  So I was glad to see the 'wanna-be' Disney Grooms were out again this year.  Let me dispel all the myths here and now: I am the real @Disney_Groom, all others are just posers.  

It was fun watching them interact with all the female runners. 

Just after the faux grooms, I ran into DisneyBride for the second time, right in front of the Polynesian Resort near Mile 8.  She completely surprised me by getting me some fresh bacon from Captain Cooks.  She also took my favorite race photo ever.  

The look on my face is priceless.  I will note that the bacon was excellent - salty and still crispy.  I highly recommend bacon as a mid-race pick-me-up. 

During the last half of the race I took the opportunity to stop for a couple of characters I have skipped in the past: Captain Jack Sparrow and Fairy Godmother.   

They always seem to have such long waits, but this race when I went through, the line was non-existent and I had a zero wait.  I think the humidity left runners just wanting to get across the finish line.  A win for me.

I collected my bling and got a photo with Ariel. 

If you've been reading our blog awhile, you may recall the 2013 Princess Half Marathon was our first 1/2 marathon.  DisneyBride and I had gone from Couch to 1/2 Marathon in less than five months.  That was a rough event for us both.  

Wow. What a difference a year makes!  I crossed the finish line with a better time, many more photo stops, and I felt great.  I know I look tired in this photo, but really I was just STARVING!  And we had a great celebratory meal planned!  

Following the race, after we showered, changed, and checked out of our room, we headed to Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Kidani Village for lunch.  Dining here was a first for us.  The food offering were African and Indian influenced - and everything was delicious, especially the butter chicken.  Yep. BUTTER. I earned it.  I will definitely try to find the butter chicken on property again. 

This is DisneyBride's vegetarian entree.  I tried some of each dish and it was really good too.  But not as good as the butter chicken.  There are no pictures of it because I ate it ALL!

With our bellies full, we got on the road headed north and back to reality.  But reality isn't as awesome as a runDisney weekend.  I keep hoping that one day I will pull into my office parking lot and find a DJ playing dance tunes to get me amped up.

So here is the fruit of months of training.  Ten runDisney medals
Six from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Dopey Challenge (recaps here) and four from Princess Half Marathon Weekend.   

Not sure what our next Disney race will be, but I know I'll be back for Dopey Challenge.  In the meantime, we've got big plans for this year and also planning for next. 

Stay tuned for DisneyBride's recap from Princess weekend.


DisneyGroom's Princess Half Marathon Weekend Recap: Days 1 & 2

Things have been pretty busy at the Running Happily Ever After household for both of us - with work, community activities, and of course - training and more races.  So I apologize for this post coming out a few weeks after the event.

Day 1: Thursday - Fit for a Princess Health and Fitness Expo and Disbroads meetup 

We set out from Tallahassee around 8am and arrived at Walt Disney World around noon.  As has become our custom, we go straight to the expo before doing anything else. 

Knowing the expo had been open a few hours already, and anticipating the Black Friday atmosphere that often plagues this area, we made a bee line for the runDisney merchandise booth to grab a few items.  We always grab a pin or two and a medal for DisneyBride's Mickey Vinylmation.  I got the new shirt that reads "My favorite Disney Princess is my Wife". DisneyBride approves.

With our purchases in hand, we headed to get our packets and race shirts.  This year it was a breeze.  No lines, and within a few minutes I had managed to get my Glass Slipper and 5K bibs, plus my Glass Slipper Shirts.  I did have to return to the Josten's Center building to get my 5K shirt, but this was not a big deal.

DisneyBride also quickly got her bib and shirts for the 5K and 10K.  Next, we spent some time checking out the vendors.  We made a special stop at Apera Bags and chatted with the CEO.  More on this to come in a future post. 

If you attended in years 2013 and 2014, you know that the expo was far less crowded this year.  The 2013 expo was held at Coronado Springs, you can check out our post from last year to see the difference.  Being back in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex this time made things SO much easier to navigate. 

Loaded like a pack mule (if you read my post: How To Survince Princess Weekend: A Guide for Men, then here is proof I was telling the truth), I headed out to get us checked into our hotel.  Actually this time it wasn't that bad.  But of course, we went back the next day...

This is where our least favorite part of the weekend comes in.  We booked the Clarion Inn by Downtown Disney through Priceline.  Upon arrival, the hotel claimed that weather issues kept guests from traveling home and that they were still occupying their rooms... OUR room.  They sent us to a sister property- more than 10 miles away.  We had no choice but to make the long trek to our new hotel.  The hotel was very nice, however, the property was entirely too far away from Walt Disney World and our weekend events, including the races.

We ate dinner Thursday night at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. It came highly recommended to me by a colleague.  DisneyBride and I both really enjoy Ethiopian food so this is going to be a welcome addition to our dining rotation while in Orlando.

We ended the evening at the Disbroads meet-up.  It was really nice getting to meet social media friends that I only know from Facebook and Twitter.  The Disbroads had  arranged a gathering at The Wave Lounge in the Contemporary Resort.  It was already in full swing when we arrived, and we were made to feel welcome right away.  They had a pretty impressive array of door prizes, including all sorts of bags and baskets full of stuff runners love.  Unfortunately, we did not win anything in the raffle. To quote Patty: #SadTrombone   We still had a fun time, there were many sample size items of runner goodies and of course the best part was chatting with other runDisney peeps.  Nice way to end the first day and a relaxing event to ease into a super action packed weekend.

Day 2: Friday- Cinderella's Royal Family 5K, Expo Round 2,  a Jolly Breakfast with Mary Poppins, and oh yeah... we don't have a hotel room!

I am beginning to notice that it gets easier to wake myself and DisneyBride up early for Disney races.  We needed that extra time though, as the drive to the race was entirely too long due to our hotel snafu.  People always seem to be concerned with driving to runDisney events, but if you leave when the resort buses do, it's not bad. 

Like we usually do with Disney 5Ks, we ran this race together.  The theme was Cinderella's Royal Family 5K.  The Fairy Godmother and Cinderella did the send off for the runners that morning.

The course did not seem to be as packed as during WDW Marathon Weekend.  (The Dopey Factor was noticeably absent.) Even the character stops seemed less crowded to me.  Perhaps that was just me, as DisneyBride disagrees.  We still managed to grab a couple of great photos.   It was really nice to see some characters we don't often see.

To runDisney, a comment:  It is cruel to put so many kegs right next to the water stop.  Please consider providing beer at the aid stations during the 5K.  Better yet, provide beer at all aid stations regardless of the distance.

I am obviously not alone in my thinking - as I saw numerous runners on the course taking photos with the kegs and 'jokingly' trying to tap them.  (DisneyBride is rolling her eyes at the thought of beer at 6am.) 

And so, the first medal of Princess Half Marathon weekend was earned.

Following the race we headed back to the Expo.  Race shirt sizing is always a gamble - and this time we found that the 5K shirts ran far too small.  We headed to try and swap shirts at the shirt exchange.  People have complained about shirt exchange in the past, but I found the process to be quite quick and painless.  Important to note: They will only exchange 5K shirts AFTER the race has occurred. 

Walking past the runDisney booth, we spotted Barbara Galloway.  We've met her several times at the expos and also in Tallahassee through the Galloway group, and my retreat last March.  We took a few minutes to talk and catch up.  Mrs. Galloway is a wonderful lady and she always remembers us.  She and DisneyBride immediately start chatting away like long lost friends.

Within a few minutes, Jeff arrived and we took a few minutes to catch up with him as well.  We also took the opportunity to buy one of Jeff's new books, Trail Running.  DisneyBride and I both really enjoy trails and off-road running. 

Mrs. Galloway decided to photo-bomb us at the last minute!

(Note: We normally would not still be in our race outfits.  But as we are so far from our hotel, we don't have a chance to shower and change until later.  At least we now had our 5K race shirts to change into.  We hadn't thought to bring anything that morning, and we were so grateful for something clean to wear.)

Following the expo we headed to breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian Resort.  Neither of us had eaten here before.  The characters were fun and very interactive.  We got tons of photos with Alice and Pooh also.  But these are our favorite characters at this breakfast.

Mary Poppins even gave me permission to have an extra spoon full of sugar since I was running so much.  Special props to the Mad Hatter.  He really seemed to take pride in his role as host, and he was very entertaining.

Photos don't lie and we appear dead tired. 

The hotel we were moved to was over near Universal Studios.   As if runDisney races didn't require an early enough wakeup, we had to leave an extra 30 minutes earlier that morning due to the distance.  It was taking its toll and during breakfast, DisneyBride almost took a nosedive into her Mickey waffles.  We are both good about not drinking soda and we don't drink coffee. But this time, it was unavoidable.  Copious amounts of Diet Coke followed.

Fortunately, I was able to convince our original hotel to honor our reservations this time. (Hanging around the registration desk in sweaty costumes didn't hurt.) This was good news, but it turned into a huge hassle checking out of the hotel we were already in and then moving back to where we should have been in the first place.  Due to our breakfast reservation, we had missed checkout.  We flew across the city of Orlando in record time, and had about 12 minutes to shower, pack up the room and check out late.

There would be no napping that afternoon though, as we couldn't check into our original hotel until after 4:30pm.  And that's IF they had a room open up.  We were on vacation, but exhausted and homeless. (At least temporarily.)

Getting to the 5K Friday morning took far too long and that was just the first of three race days. Dealing with this hotel snafu may have sealed the deal that during race weekends we will try to stay on property.  After all the back and forth and headaches, and lack of a room,  it really wasn't worth saving a few bucks.  Back to your regularly scheduled recap.

That afternoon we attended the #runnerslove meetup hosted by Kristy of Kristy Runs Kato and Meg of Runaway Royalty.   Everyone got prizes in duplicate and triplicate and we made many new runner friends.  The meetup took place at the beach at the Polynesian Resort.  This is actually one of our favorite places on property. I don't use this phrase often - but I can honestly say it here:  a good time was had by all.   It kept threatening to rain, and it did at the end, but we were very glad we went.

 DisneyBride wants to especially apologize to everyone she met that day, particularly at the meet-up for her zombie-like state.  We were without a hotel room at this point and also nap-deprived.

Our day ended with a light dinner from the nearby Whole Foods and a brief stop at Downtown Disney to pick up a last minute costume accessory.  We finally got to bed after being up for 21 hours straight.  Whew!

Next up... my Glass Slipper Challenge!


(If you like the light up vest DisneyBride was wearing for the 5K, check out her review and giveaway here.)