Friday, February 26, 2016

Childhood Sports

Today I was able to enjoy a little blast from the past, as I watched the alumni from the Detroit Red Wings play the alumni from the Colorado Avalanche in an outdoor game at Coors Field. As each player from both teams was introduced, I realized that I recognized almost every single player - from both teams!

It was simple to explain why: those players were all selected from the heyday of the Red Wings - Avalanche rivalry, from 1996-2002. Instead of the other outdoor game in which the Red Wings participated, where Wings players from many different eras were involved, this game was all about 20 years ago. I grinned at every Red Wings player introduction, and sneered at every Avalanche player introduction.

I was reminded of how my father often brings up his Detroit Tiger teams from the 1960s and 1970s.  Even though they only won one World Series championship in that time, he can name games, players, and important plays from that time as if it happened yesterday.

Now I'm starting to realize how valuable those childhood teams are for adults. While the Red Wings aren't a deep-into-the-playoffs team this season, I'll still enjoy the ride thanks to the lasting memories of those great teams. Those legacy teams keep us childhood fans going even in the lean years. (That can make it very difficult if there have never been any championship teams. Like the Lions.)

I'm sure that, if you're a sports fan, you have very similar memories. I was glad to be reminded of those great memories this weekend with the outdoor NHL game. If that was the NHL's intent, it certainly did its job!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Marbruary Doldrums

It's that time of the year! For me, at least.

I've realized this year that this has started to become an annual event for me, regardless of what I have been doing before, during, and after this time.

The Marbruary Doldrums.

This feeling usually begins right after my 4-day February break from school. It is a glorious weekend, where we are given Friday and Monday off of school. The promise of that weekend is what gets me through the first six weeks of school after Christmas break has wrapped up.

However, I had a few other things that also were carrying me over: my amazing Disneyland weekend, and the publishing of my very first article in a real magazine. I was definitely riding a high for quite a while.

But, like the past two years, I hit a wall after that weekend. I struggle to wake up in the mornings. I get really touchy about pretty much everything that my friends post on Facebook. ("Stop being so dang cheerful.") I think about moving back to Michigan. I actually browse job sites. I think about writing full time and teaching piano lessons on the side.

It was a big revelation when I realized this behavior was a repeating pattern in my life. It does make sense, though; it feels like I've been in school for ages, yet there's still so many weeks to go. It doesn't seem like the kids are keeping up those routines and helpful hints that you've been giving them through the year and are failing more than succeeding. Music rehearsals are more like cat wrangling. I am not running the huge mileage I was earlier in the year and am gaining weight again. Parents are informing you that their children aren't going to be able to sing for that big song you've been practicing since the start of the semester. And your senior choir members, while they probably are intending to keep the rehearsal light, are insulting your crappy accompanying skills as you try to get them ready for Holy Week singing.

Here's the thing: this happens all year long! It's not like anything is new at this point in the year. But it just seems like it all is piling up when the weather doesn't know what to do and the nearest holidays (Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day) are some of the absolute worst holidays of the year.

So how do I get out of my yearly Marbruary Doldrums? Considering this is a new trend, I'm still trying to figure it out.

Easter will be a big help, considering it's so early. After tomorrow, we'll have three Lenten services down with three to go. That's always a big hurdle to conquer.

In March, my Bolder Boulder 10K training will officially begin, so I can get back on a committed running schedule with a goal in mind. And the weather has been pretty fantastic lately, which means more outdoor runs with minimal sidewalk slipperiness.

After enjoying the West Coast Disney park, I'm getting incredibly excited to return "home" to Walt Disney World in Florida. Even though we're still about 100 days out, I've been creating plans, making YouTube playlists, and getting my parents amped up for this big trip. (They're getting a package in a couple of days...try to keep it secret!) It's probably too much, too early, but hey, it keeps me from getting sour!

And, after two years of being visitor-free, I am having a guest! My brother is moving to California and is coming through Denver as he heads west. We both hope he'll be able to spend more than just a night here, and I'm excited that I'll actually have someone with which to enjoy some of Denver's nicest sights.

Getting out of the Doldrums takes time, but it always happens. Something takes place that puts me right back in the right frame of mind; making me see that I'm right where I should be, doing the job I should be doing, with the right group of people around me.

It's just up to me to not dwell in those Doldrums for too long. A pity party is no way to deal with this time of the year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Monday

Click here to view my Sunday post!

My final day in Disneyland dawned nice and cool. I packed up all my luggage in my rental car (Ruby, if you remember) and checked out of my hotel. I left Ruby in the hotel's parking lot, and I was unsure whether or not I'd get in trouble for leaving her there past my checkout time. (Spoiler alert: I didn't get into trouble. And I also didn't have to pay for parking my whole trip!)

It was really nice to wake up after the sun came up, I gotta say. I ate the hotel's continental breakfast and headed to the parks.

California Adventure was having some early-entry for Disneyland's hotel guests, but they let everyone come into the park, as long as you didn't go outside Buena Vista Street. Luckily, I was hoping for a little more time to check out that area, and while Disneyland wasn't open for another 30 minutes, I checked out the stores.

Disney kitchen items are my kryptonite. While I usually can resist Disney-brand merchandise thanks to the insane prices, the kitchen stuff gets me the closest to breaking out my wallet.

Just strolling by, having a chat with Alice and
the Mad Hatter. NBD.
 When 8:00 rolled around, I headed back to Disneyland and made my way inside. I was only there to knock out my final attractions, so I didn't have to do any running to a popular destination like I had on my first few days. Instead, I headed to Fantasyland and the Matterhorn. I'd heard so many bad things about the Matterhorn and its new seats, and I guess I just had to realize how bad it was for myself. And it was so, so bad. You're low to the ground, so you feel every jarring bump. And it's not the smoothest ride in the world to begin with. 

After that ride (which I'll never do again), I hit some more Fantasyland attractions, since it wasn't that busy in the park. I went on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (which probably would have been more entertaining if I knew the story), Alice in Wonderland (very fun), and the Storybook Canalboats (tiny miniatures of movie settings - cute!). I also went over and did the Finding Nemo Submarines, which used to be themed around 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the subs are still themed to that. I enjoyed the ride, though it's pretty claustraphobic.

I was ready to see the show Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, but that required me to go to the very front of the park. Luckily, all the vehicles of Main Street U.S.A. were running, and everyone was taking them to get to the Hub. I was the only one silly enough to head back to Town Square at 9:00, which meant I had an entire double-decker omnibus to myself! I positioned myself on the second level squarely in the front, and just pretended like I was in a parade. I even tried a parade wave, but quickly stopped after I realized I looked stupid. (The ride was still awesome, though.)

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln was a very nice show, and I sat right up front so I could see all the mechanics of that audio-animatronic at work. I mean, he even stands up out of his chair!

My final ride vehicle was the horse-drawn trolley, and although I didn't have the entire trolley to myself, it was still a relaxing trip back up toward the Hub.

Before I did anything else, I stopped for a snack. I was close to Maurice's Treats, so I decided on a cheddar garlic twist. And, oh man, it was incredible! I hadn't even planned on eating it when I was doing my planning, but it was definitely one of my favorite treats of my whole trip.

I ate the delicious twist while I walked around Mickey's Toontown, a land I hadn't hit yet. It's a cute play area, with lots of things perfect for kids. I did do the ultra-short tour around Chip and Dale's treehouse, and also saw one of the last areas that feature anything dealing with Ch-Ch-Ch-Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers with Gadget's Go-Coaster.

When my twist was finally done, I rode on Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin, which didn't show Judge Doom at all, but instead had the Weasels as the main bad guys. (They still had Dip, though!)

I finally made it up to Critter Country and walked around the area. I had no intention of riding anything here, since Splash Mountain and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh are attractions I've done a lot in he Magic Kingdom. But it was a cute little area.

Another snack I needed to try was the bacon-wrapped asparagus from the Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland. That was also a very tasty snack! I ate those little treats as I walked around Tarzan's Treehouse. That was a very nice attraction, though I prefer the Swiss Family Treehouse.

The Jungle Cruise is still closed for refurbishment, but the skippers (with their crazy improv skills) were holding "Skipper Skool" outside the attraction every hour. They got guests to read the usual lines from the attraction while they acted out the animals and other normal items from the attraction. I got there too late to be able to participate, but it was fun to watch the skippers - they're crazy!

My snacks required a little dessert, so I went to the famous Golden Horseshoe Saloon and had some mint chocolate chip ice cream up in the balcony while I listened to one of their live shows.

Another closed attraction is the Disneyland Railroad, but on the upside, they were allowing guests to look at the trains up close. Usually you couldn't be right up against the engines, but since they weren't running, people could go right up and touch them.

I was able to talk to an engineer and I asked about what the plans would be for the Railroad now that Star Wars Land was coming into play. They mentioned some refurb in the back of the park, and they would be reopening the Railroad in a year or so. I wasn't going to be around in a year, so I feigned excitement. It was still cool to get the intel!

I walked around quite a bit, and Disneyland had gotten very busy in the late morning/early afternoon hours. I still had one more show to see: Mickey and the Magical Map, which was in the Fantasyland Theater waaaay in the back of the park. It's a very large theater, so I didn't have any trouble scoring a seat. I'm sure the area gets very hot and stuffy in the summer months, but today it was the perfect temperature.

The performance was great! It featured movies that aren't usually shown in other shows, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Lilo and Stitch, The Princess and the Frog, and The Jungle Book. But it did it in a very creative way! I won't spoil the plot here, but I'm sure there's a video of the show if you're curious.

I did manage to catch the tail end of another show, the Fairytale Theater's showing of Rapunzel, which was told by not only Rapunzel and Flynn, but two other guys who dressed up as all the other characters. I liked this performance, because it threw in a lot of improvisation, and the humor was a little more highbrow than most normal Disney shows. They also do performances of Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, but I'm glad I caught my favorite current movie in a performance!

My late lunch before I left was going to be at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney, and the fastest way to get there was by using the Disneyland Monorail, which took off from Tomorrowland. But I got caught in a trap before I made it to the station. A very cute trap. A trap that looked like BB-8 but was filled with lemonade and that pretty much everyone was buying. I think the queue for the BB-8 drink was longer than some of the attraction queues at that time of the day! But I finally caved and bought one. The lemonade was very tart, so I mixed in some water to level it out. But I was excited to have my very own BB-8!!

The Monorail got me to Downtown Disney with no trouble on this day. I'm not sure what had happened on Friday, but there weren't any issues today.

The Earl of Sandwich is a fantastic sandwich shop, so if you ever get the chance to eat at one, do it. I love the Italian, and that is what I ordered again. The guy who took my payment complimented me on my BB-8 drink, which was really nice. We had a very nice, goofy conversation about taking the BB-8 to the gym to show it off.

I didn't eat my sandwich at the Earl of Sandwich, instead opting to use my last hour of Disneyland freedom in Disneyland. So I hopped on the Monorail again and finished the Grand Circle Tour in Tomorrowland. I then walked over to Frontierland, found a nice spot that overlooked the Rivers of America, ate my amazing sandwich, and did one of my favorite activities: people-watching. Some people hate waiting. I don't hate it if there are people to watch. Then it's just fascinating!

I slowly sauntered down the Hub and Main Street U.S.A. just in time to catch the very beginning of the Soundsational Parade. That's the best part of the parade, so I watched as the amazing drumline paraded by. I figured that would be a good way to end my trip, so that's when I took my leave.

And just like that, my Disneyland vacation was done! It was a surreal experience, because I have been so familiarized with Walt Disney World that anything else just seems odd. But I loved the parks, loved the running, and loved everything!  It is something I will enjoy doing again.

...But this time, I'll be doing it with other people! My parents invited me to visit Walt Disney World with them as their personal guides, and I'm so excited to be able to head back. I'll be sure to give you updates, though they probably won't be as extensive as these have been.

Thanks for reading, and I'll See Ya Real Soon!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Sunday

Click here to view my previous article on the Star Wars Half Marathon!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday...

My real Sunday didn't begin until around 2pm, when I woke up from my Half Marathon recovery nap and was very hungry. I got dressed and headed out to Disneyland, where I knew exactly where I was going to eat.

I'd kept things carb-friendly for the most part on this trip to help me in my running, but now that my running was done, my big post-race meal was all about the taste. I made a beeline straight for the Cafe Orleans restaurant in New Orleans Square, where I had heard about some delicious foods that were required eating at Disneyland.

While Saturday had been a very "Southern California Locals" crowd, the Sunday crowd I encountered was more my style: Tourists. And there were a lot of them! Sunday was definitely the busiest park day during my weekend, but luckily for me, I really didn't have a lot planned for the day.

Because it was so crowded, Disneyland was opening up a lot more of their ride vehicles that run down Main Street USA. I saw the double-decker bus (omnibus) and the horse-drawn trolley, but they were all full by the time I got there. However, on the other side of Town Square was a cute little fire engine! I went over there and rode on that with several other ladies that had done the half marathon! The driver mentioned that the fire engine was Walt's favorite vehicle in which to ride - the very vehicle I was in!

My trip to Cafe Orleans took me right past the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, which had an insanely long line that just kept wrapping around itself! People were confused as to why that queue was so long, but the answer was easy: the Haunted Mansion was closed, and so was the Jungle Cruise. Where were those people supposed to go?

I had to wait about 20 minutes for a table at Cafe Orleans, which didn't bother me. I wandered around my new favorite land and enjoyed the relative quiet of the area, compared to the madness of Frontierland and Adventureland. I also took in some live jazz at the outdoor seating of the French Market. My sister had told me that my 10-month-old niece squealed in delight at the live music I sent her way, so I made sure to send her video of the jazz performers!

When I was seated at Cafe Orleans, I barely looked at the menu. I ordered the pommes frites (French fries with parmesan, garlic, and parsley with a DELICIOUS dipping sauce) and the Monte Cristo sandwich (a ham/turkey/swiss sandwich which is then deep-fried and covered in powdered sugar). I would probably order the pommes frites on any regular day, but this was the only day I would have felt comfortable ordering the Monte Cristo. It was amazing, but so filling! I wondered early on why there was powdered sugar on this entree, but it's very clear that the sandwich needs something sweet to offset the massive amounts of salty goodness.

Cafe Orleans also offers Mickey beignets, but after allowing my family and friends to decide on my dessert, they suggested I eat something sweet over in Tomorrowland. So I made my way across the busy park (stopping to tour the Columbia sailing ship, which wasn't going around the Rivers of America for a while) to the Galactic Grill and ordered the Star Wars-themed "Darth by Chocolate," which was a chocolate parfait. At first I was discouraged by the small size, but then I ate it and realized that there's more to it than I thought! It ended up being the perfect sized dessert.

I set myself up at a table, put my jacket on a chair, and did FaceTime with my parents. It was my chance to tell them all about my races and what I'd been up to that weekend. It's been a while since they were in Disneyland, and they were curious how close California Adventure was. So I got up and walked out of the park and into California Adventure, which I was planning to do, anyway! It was fun showing off the parks to them.

We hung up once I reached Paradise Pier, and I was going to spend the rest of the night at the second park. My first thought? "I'm chilly! Where's my jacket...?" Oh. I'd left my jacket hanging on a chair in Tomorrowland!

Luckily, as I just mentioned, it was easy to walk back to Disneyland. The bigger question was, where was my jacket now? Was it still at the table? Or was it at the front of the park in Lost and Found?

I decided to try Tomorrowland first, since it was only 1/2 an hour since I'd left. The jacket wasn't on the chair, but I talked to a cast member, who directed me to one of the custodians of the area that had the jacket in the back! Problem solved.

So, back in California Adventure, I headed over to Radiator Springs and was able to witness the transition into night, just like in the Cars movie. They blared "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)" by The Coasters and all the neon came a little at a time. It was so cute! The area is definitely better in the nighttime than it was in the day. If the queue for Radiator Springs Racers hadn't been so crazy long, I would have ridden it at night.

I knew I had to do the Monster's, Inc. dark ride, so I waited 20 minutes in line to see it. It was very cute! And what was even better was when I exited the attraction, the Mad T Party was taking place right outside!

The Mad T Party is an evening party that's open to all park guests in one corner of California Adventure. Honestly, it hadn't even been on my radar of things to see, but I was glad I stumbled into it. It's more like a dance club than anything else, so it's more dance and techno music pumping through. But they also have a live band that features two lead vocalists: Alice and the Mad Hatter. I caught them in the middle of their act, and enjoyed what I saw. There were some really obsessed fans, though! It was clear I'd found where the locals had been hiding.

When they went on a break, I went across Hollywood Land and did another round at the Animation Academy, drawing Minnie Mouse this time. It wasn't as good as my Tigger, but I was still pleased.

Water art done by a
cast member!
I headed over to Paradise Pier and did a twirl on the Silly Symphony Swings as the final part of my "must-do" attractions at California Adventure. I'm a sucker for swings, and you have to go up one flight of stairs to get to the swings. Plus it's right next to California Screamin', and we go over the lagoon, too! It's not much, but I loved it.

My final thing to do at California Adventure was to finally see the nighttime show, World of Color. I still had 1 1/2 hours to kill. The closest attraction near me, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, only had a 5 minute wait, so I got in the queue. The cast member at the entrance congratulated me on my Rebel Challenge accomplishment (I was wearing my medal), which was very nice of him to do! He said he was one of the people volunteering, and waking up so early was really hard. I had to agree!

After my ride in the attraction, I picked a spot to sit for World of Color and put my feet up. Because I hadn't gotten to the park until later in the day, the best spots (that area that I loved so much yesterday that was empty but had a great view) were already taken up with people that had gotten Fastpasses for that spot, or had done a dinner reservation with a special viewing spot. I had to wait across the path right in front of The Little Mermaid. I was in the front of that section, but I had tree cover that really prevented me from seeing the full show. But honestly, that was okay with me.

I spent the hour that I waited for the show to start on the phone with my older brother, and we mostly talked about Star Wars, among other things. But it made the time fly.

World of Color was very nice - I had heard the whole show before and had seen snippets here and there, so there wasn't anything really surprising. But it does hit right in the feels at some points - especially when it shows family videos of trips to Disneyland from the 50s through now. I was glad that I was finally able to see it in person.

California Adventure closed at 10:00, but Disneyland was actually open until midnight. With that in mind, I made my way across the esplanade, hoping to knock off a few more attractions on my Disnyland must-do list. The first one I wanted to do was it's a small world, which was at the back end of the park.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see that Paint the Night was just ending, but it was going in the opposite direction that it had been going when I saw it on Friday! Instead of coming from the castle down Main Street USA, it was instead starting at Main Street USA and heading towards the castle. As I came in, the final float - the one with Sorcerer Mickey with the giant gyroscope light show behind him - was going around Town Square and heading down Main Street USA.

At this point, a light dawned in my head. I had heard from a few podcasters that one of the best things to do after a parade is to get right behind the rope at the end and follow the parade down its route! And since I was heading in that direction anyway, I might as well take advantage of the situation!

I was only one person, so it was very easy for me to maneuver through the crowd that had already gathered behind the final float. I dodged strollers, parents, slow-moving hand-holding couples, kids, and more. By the time the float had made it to the Hub, I was positioned at the perfect point: there was a group of college-age girls to my right, a grandma-mother-son trio in between me and the girl group, and a few single stragglers to my left. This group that was right behind the float was an amazing group of which to be a part, because we just danced and sang the whole way down! The loop for the song is about 4 minutes, but every time it started up again we got more excited than the time before.

The parade exited right at the it's a small world attraction, so I immediately hopped on the short queue (all of it is outdoor, which is crazy, in my opinion) and toured around. It was still the "holiday" version, so the normal theme tune was mixed with "Jingle Bells." It was cute, and I was able to see some of the Disney tags they put in this version that aren't present in the one at Walt Disney World.

Fantasyland was much lighter than it's usual craziness, so I ended up going on the Pinocchio ride as well. Man, that movie is crazy. I don't need to watch it again if I don't have to.

I was craving soft-serve ice cream at this point, but the only place I knew in Disneyland that had ice cream was the normal stuff at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. I did nothing I never usually do: I bought a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I took it to the Hub and ate it on a bench right by the "Partners" statue, enjoying the relative quiet of the area as people left the park. Once my food was done, I also exited the park, excited for the fact that the next day, I could actually sleep in!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Star Wars Half Marathon

View Disneyland Recap from Saturday

It took me a while to get to sleep the night before, since there were fireworks and people walking outside my hotel room. I had a great air conditioning unit that ran at all times, but that white noise wasn't enough. I ended up going onto YouTube and finding a 10-hour box fan video, which I put on both my phone by my head and on my computer by the door. Only after that did I fall asleep.

I set my alarm for later than the day before, since I knew that I didn't have to be there right at 4. I ended up waking up on Sunday at 3:45.

I skipped the staging area and headed straight for the corrals. This time, for some unknown reason, I was placed into Corral D, which was a benefit to me. Instead of starting out in the middle of a bunch of slow walkers, I would be starting in a group of slow runners instead.

I also headed straight for the corrals so that I would start in the front of the pack, instead of the middle. I wouldn't have to swerve around hundreds of people to start the race, either, and establish a pace early into the run.

I took my Mylar blanket with me from the 10K, and I was grateful that I had. I was wearing Goodwill pants and an old zip-up sweatshirt, but the blanket kept out the chill of the morning.

Since I was near the front of Corral D (near the entrance to the Grand Californian), I could hear the audio from the Start line while waiting, which made things move a bit faster. I even heard the start of the wheelchair racers!

I was near a few girls who were starting up a conversation with some strangers nearby. I didn't hear the very beginning of their conversation, but they were talking about the 16-minute roundup, and how in a previous race someone was giving out incorrect pacing and they were picking up people who were still under the 16-minute pace. It kind of freaked me out! But then I realized that these girls were walkers - they walked the whole thing, so they just made sure they stayed in front of the pace balloon and didn't get picked up. Why they were in Corral D was beyond me, but their conversation was enough to scare me.

Finally, my corral started moving forward. I shed my Mylar blanket off to the side and started getting mentally ready. This was going to be a long one - my last long run showed me it would take around 3 hours for me to do 13.1 miles, depending on the conditions, my fellow runners, and my own endurance. But I wasn't feeling any side effects from all my running and walking over the past few days, so I knew I was ready to go.

I was right up at the starting line when Rudy got us going, and that really was great. There were not a lot of people in front of me, and an even larger empty space for the front runners in Corral D. In no time, I was at the pacing I wanted to be, and didn't feel impatient or crowded.

The first four miles were in the parks, and the route was only slightly different from the 10K of the previous day. The character meet-ups were the same, and the music was the same. The sunrise was hidden by translucent clouds, but I was glad that I had remembered to keep my sunglasses on my head for the start of the race. (Actually, I had totally forgotten they were there - I'm amazed they stayed right where they were considering all of the movement I was doing!)

After Mile 4, we headed out of the backstage area of California Adventure and back into the real world. They had shut down several roads around Anaheim, and the main road for much of the race was Harbor Boulevard (where my hotel was located). Over 3 miles of the course was on Harbor Blvd, and it was actually split so that the southbound runners were on the left side, and the northbound runners (i.e. people almost done and on mile 11 and 12) were on our right. They would be turning left to get back into the resort, and this prevented any crossing over.

As I was getting onto Harbor Blvd, I was surprised to see people coming back the other way. Seeing how few of them there were - and how well they were running - I knew that I was looking at people from Corrals A and B. Many of them were in it for the run, but I did notice two gentlemen completely dressed in the Slave Leia outfit...and they were running a great pace!

Meanwhile, us slow-goers were moseying down the road. There were plenty of water stations to be found, even though it wasn't hot at all. (I tend to warm up for the first third of the race, and then the sweat causes the wind to go right through me and make me cold.) The Powerade was first (in Powerade cups) followed by white cups with water. Sometimes I took it, and sometimes I didn't. There weren't that many bathrooms set up outside Disneyland, but I did use the bathroom once in Adventureland, and another time where there were some porta-potties and a very little line. I'd heard horror stories about the lines for bathrooms being longer than character lines, but I didn't find that to be true in this instance.

Eventually we passed Mile 6, which meant I was now at the point in the race where I had finished yesterday...but I still had 7 miles to go. Seven. Miles. I pushed on.

We came upon several areas where cheerleaders and bands from some high schools in the area were performing. That was a great boost, because they were very cheerful and very enthusiastic. Some of the bands did Star Wars music (I heard "The Imperial March" and the song from the Cantina), and some just did their normal repertoire.

There were lots of people just cheering on the side of the road, too, mostly friends or family of runners in the race. Most of them cheered for everyone, which was nice. I saw some fun signs, too, like "Worst Parade Ever" and "You're Beginning to Regret The Decision You Made 6 Months Ago."

There were two areas that had cosplayers and official members of some of the Star Wars costume groups, like the 501st Legion, the Mandalorian Mercs, and the Rebel Legion. I could have gotten pictures, but I was focused on my time. Some other Star Wars fans were out with some awesome custom-made vehicles. I saw a car tricked out like an X-Wing, and another to look like R2-D2. There was even a DeLorean!

Around Mile 8 I started to notice something: my feet were really starting to hurt. This was my first indication the whole weekend that I had done a lot of walking and running over the past three days. And that was with five miles left! Fortunately, that was my only source of pain for the whole race. I pushed on.

At Mile 8 we also got a Clif Bar product. I was sure it was going to be one of those dense bars that you can buy for hikes, but I was pleased to see it was a Clif Gel. I took the first one I saw, which ended up being vanilla flavored, and it was delicious! I had brought two gels of my own to use on the course, but this was better than anything I'd brought. It honestly tasted like vanilla pudding! I really regret that I only took one; I really could have consumed two or three more of those.

There were some spots where spectators had food for the runners, but since this wasn't official stuff, and I wasn't sure what they'd put in the food, I steered clear. I did run past a cheering section that I had heard of before, and they were giving away Red Vines. I didn't take those, but not because I was wary - it's because I hate Red Vines. (#Twizzlers)

We went into the town of Garden Grove, and actually ran on their Main Street, which should have been cute, if not for the brick on we were running. Thanks to that, Main Street was the most terrifying stretch of land we raced on outside of Disneyland!

There was one lonely Bible-thumping lady that we passed at one of the intersections. I'm not sure if she was chiding all of us since we were running a race on a Sunday morning, or just some of us that she deemed sinners, but she was telling us that we shouldn't be running the race straight to hell. I didn't catch the rest of her speech, but I did hear a guy close by shout, "JESUS SUCKS!" Definitely not my favorite part of the race. It did make a good analogy to my students later that week, however. They were just as shocked at the shout as I was.

Near Mile 10, we suddenly got a dose of fog that rolled in. It wasn't terribly thick, but it was surprising. I really hadn't been expecting fog or overcast conditions, and it did make it chillier than I would have liked.

At long last, we made it back to the northbound side of Harbor Boulevard! It was a welcome sight. They'd actually reopened the other side of the road, which showed us we were probably going a bit slower. I didn't worry, though; I knew I had less than three miles left!

We had two major turns after Harbor: Katella Avenue (by the Anaheim Convention Center) and West Street. Katella was beautiful, and lined with palm trees. This was the point in the day where the fog lifted, and revealed a beautiful blue sky. I couldn't have timed it better if I'd tried!

Once we got on West, I was getting excited and nervous. What if I tripped and fell with less than a mile left? What if I accidentally stepped on someone's shoe or leg and twisted something? I was so close! I was more cautious in the final mile than I had been in the first 12, because I wasn't going to let anything - or anyone - blow my chance at finishing.

The spectator crowds thickened, and my anticipation grew. I passed a camera crew with a guy wearing a Star Trek (?!) crew shirt interviewing runners, though I didn't stay long enough to find out where they were from or why he was in a Trek shirt in a Wars race.

We finished the race in the same spot as the 10K, but got there via the street instead of through Downtown Disney. And this time, that area was loaded with people. Clearly this was the premier race of the weekend, and it brought a lot of local runners and spectators to the scene. I made sure to finish with my arms up in triumph, a "Woo!" coming from my lips as I stepped over the timer. It felt so good. And my time was 3 hours, 3 minutes.

Look familiar? It's supposed to look like the medals that
Luke, Han, and Chewie (yes, Chewie!) got at the end of
A New Hope
(I checked later - I finished around 700th place out of 1300 finishers - I was surprised I was right in the middle of the pack. Better yet - two podcasters I listen to also did the race, and I looked up their times. I ran 20-25 minutes faster than both of them!)

The end of the race was almost identical to the 10K, with one major difference: after I received the gold Half Marathon medal, I was directed to a side exit, where a lady with a computer plugged in my bib number to confirm I'd finished the 10K the day before. When she gave me the okay, I went past her to receive my third medal: the Rebel Challenge medal. They put that silver medal around my neck, and immediately grabbed it to look closer. To my delight, the center icon spun! (That was actually the first thing I said after the race: "It spins!")

I felt like a high school athlete again, with my medals clanking against my chest. (They were heavy! Much heavier than the medals I got in high school for track.) I held them down for the most part, because I didn't want to seem like a giant jerk announcing to the world that I had two medals. (I let the visual proof of the two medals do the talking for me.)

I got my water, my Mylar blanket (which I kept), my banana, and my snackbox, and retreated to the Friends and Family Reunion area, which was much more crowded this time along. They actually had a live band on the stage for a little bit, before going back to a DJ for a while. Because it was so crowded, and I was so exhausted, I didn't stay in that area for long. My final destination was my hotel room, and I was so looking forward to getting back.

But first...breakfast! My hotel's breakfast lasted till 10:30, and I got back with plenty of time. I got some congratulations by some other hotel guests as I sat and ate my eggs and potatoes, and that was a great feeling. Then I took two large donuts back to my room, because I had deserved them.

I didn't fall asleep immediately, instead deciding to soak my feet. I turned on the NFL playoff game in the bedroom, wheeled the ergonomic desk chair into the bathroom, brought my Chromebook in there as well, and wrote this article as my feet received some well-deserved treatment. (I also ate those donuts - they were some of the best donuts I'd ever tasted.)

I wasn't going to make the parks a huge priority until later in the day, so after I freshened up, I shut off all the lights and went to bed.

It felt wonderful.

Click here to view my Sunday touring!