WIAW #47: Allergy Free Mickey Treats

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about my weekend in Florida, I got to try a new Disney restaurant as well as brunching at an old favorite, and indulged in Mickey treats galore throughout a day in the Magic Kingdom. This WIAW is all about my eats from midday Saturday through the same time Sunday. You can check out my past posts on eating gluten free at Disney World during the 2015 and 2016 marathon weekends, and at Disneyland during the Dumbo Double Dare here on the blog. You might recognize some of these allergy free Mickey treats if you do…

 

Disney Food Collage

 

 

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A Whirlwind Weekend in Florida

I’m back from a whirlwind weekend in Florida, where I spent a day with Mickey Mouse, enjoyed my favorite allergy free Mickey treats, and got to experience another kind of family vacation for the first time. The trip was last minute. I didn’t expect to be back in Disney so soon after January’s 10k and half marathon. But with multiple birthdays and anniversaries in my boyfriend’s family, a day in the Magic Kingdom was planned to celebrate and we couldn’t pass up the chance at that. 

 

Disney's Boardwalk

 

 

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February Recap

The shortest month of this Leap Year has come and gone. Even with the extra day it felt like it flew by faster than January, but also like it went on forever because of everything I fit into 29 days. Maybe also because the wacky weather gave us multiple seasons in mere days. No blizzards, but we went from polar vortex to teasingly springlike and back to somewhere in the middle just in the last week. So what did I do while this was going on? Read on in this February recap to find out!

 

Central Park in snow

 

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Running A Disney Half Marathon in Florida or California

Wrapping up my recap of the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, where I ran the 10k and half marathon races, I figured today is the perfect time to talk about the differences between running a Disney half marathon in Florida or California. I’ve now run two half marathons in Florida and one in California, and a 10k in each. By no means am I an expert – there are many runners who make it their mission to run all the Disney races, and I have no intention of doing that, because my wallet can’t take it! But having run at the marquee race weekend at each location in the past year, there are a lot of things I can share that any runner debating between the two should think about.

 

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2015

 

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2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

As promised in yesterday’s 10K race recap, today is all about my second stab at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I ran this race last year as my second half marathon ever, and my first distance race after coming back from a hip injury that kept me from running for three months during the prior summer. I was nervous and excited as I approached the starting line of this race in 2015. While I experienced both of those emotions this year in some measure, my general feeling was far away from where it had been. What a difference a year can make.

 

Cinderella Castle

 

 

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2016 Walt Disney World 10K Race Recap

I’m back from my whirlwind long weekend in Florida, where I ran the Walt Disney World 10K and Half Marathon and had lots of fun playing in the theme parks and eating all the delicious allergy free treats in sight! You can read about my adventures the first time around last year fueling up, running the half marathon, and enjoying the experience. Today’s post is my Walt Disney World 10K race recap, and an overview of the rest of the first two days. Check back for my recap of this year’s half marathon tomorrow!

 

Cinderella Castle

 

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California Here I Come

I can’t believe it’s the first day of September already. As I mentioned yesterday, I am determined to hang on to summer as long as I can. The weather here in New England is complying with my wish. It’s going to be in the mid- to high-80s all week, and pretty humid – so warm that when I head to Southern California on Thursday I may be heading into temperatures just slightly cooler than in Connecticut (although not by much!) I just whipped up a batch of my No Bake Peanut Butter Berry Bars because the oven is not coming on around here for a little while.

 

No Bake Peanut Butter Berry Bars with ice cream

A bar with some strawberry ice cream to cool off

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Running Disney: Final Musings on My Half Marathon

I’ve already written about my experiences exploring the Expo, running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, and eating gluten-free around the World. But there are still a few thoughts left to share.

 

Don't worry, you can run much faster than the Caterpillar in the Main Street Electrical Parade

Don’t worry, you can run much faster than the Caterpillar in the Main Street Electrical Parade

The main thing is the magic of running a Disney race. I’d heard stories from fellow runners whose twin loves of running and Disney are so great that I didn’t really trust their view out of rose-colored glasses, and from those who came away disappointed because of the frustration of racing alongside too many first-timers. As for me, the extremely early wake-up call was not much fun, and my early arrival meant an extra hour out waiting in the cold, but otherwise my race morning was smoother than expected. As long as you provide a proof of time that puts you in the top corrals, it’s easy to avoid the congestion. I’d imagine it was worse further back, but if you’re faster than me (a solid 9-10 minute miler) unless you stopped to wait on a long photo line you’d avoid the traffic.

 

Photo ops with your shiny medal can take place after the race

Photo ops with your shiny medal can take place after the race

Speaking of those photos – yes, many of the lines were long. Disney races do cost a pretty penny, and part of the experience many people feel they are paying for is the chance to get some pictures with characters along the route. I decided only to stop at the castle and where lines were short. Luckily for me, starting in Corral D and running steadily for the first 4-5 miles at a <10:00/mile pace, when I made it into the Magic Kingdom the only crowded part was running up Main Street, U.S.A. Otherwise, the bathrooms were mercifully empty in Tomorrowland for a quick stop, and running through the castle archway, when I pulled to the left for an official photo, there were NO LINES. As in, five photographers, and only two runners in front of them, with race directors pointing out the quickest path to the nearest photographer to make it a one-minute photo stop. Of course, along the stretch of highway from Miles 7-10, the character lines were long because even the faster runners chose this point to take a short break – so I kept on running.

 

In Epcot, the photo area in front of Spaceship Earth was crystal clear with directions as well, I just think most of the runners in the first corrals who were finishing around the time I did felt the same way as me – a stop at Mile 12 was not worth breaking the finishing momentum. And MarathonFoto is very pricey, but most runners were pulling out their own cameras for character stops (as I did around Mile 7) and since MarathonFoto is the race photographer for literally every New York Road Runners race, I’m accustomed to ridiculous prices and had planned to buy one special photo (my castle shot) and let my memories suffice for the rest of the race.

 

This eagle's eyes watched over runners from the roadside during the race

This eagle’s eyes watched over runners from the roadside during the race

Otherwise, Disney’s attention to detail made this race experience so much fun. There was entertainment at the starting area and for the corrals, and shooting off fireworks as each corral was released was a nice touch. The long walk from the buses to the corrals was unfortunate, but whenever a race starts anywhere in Central Park that is not smack in the middle, my walk is more than a mile so I’m used to it. The NYC Half last year had all runners enter at 59th Street, and then walk up to start near 72nd, so I had a two-mile trek before I started there as well. Disney organized the starting area very well and manned the corrals conspicuously, so cast members didn’t let slower runners try and sneak into earlier corrals. And the music playing and cast members cheering along every mile of the course made even the boring stretches of highway go by quickly, which was particularly good for the first few miles when it was still pitch-black outside.

 

 

Cheering on fellow runners during Sunday's marathon

Cheering on fellow runners during Sunday’s marathon

Entertainment and people amped me up and kept me going. It wasn’t just Disney characters and cast members; the Reedy Creek Fire Department came out with their truck and all the crews to cheer about Mile 8, and friends and family members of the runners were grouped at various points rather than just the finish line. I’ve volunteered for the New York City Marathon before, so I know that the cheering sections are somewhat similarly dispersed; in New York there are more crowds in certain areas, and the same is true at Disney. But the highway doesn’t have views of the five boroughs where the crowds are lacking, and they more than make up for it with the music, characters, and signs.

 

The finish line was fantastic. Hearing my name called out over the speakers was great, and the assortment of refreshments offered a much wider variety than I’m used to. Most NYRR races offer a bagel and either an apple, orange, or banana, so I take the bottle of water and the apple or banana if I’m lucky, and go. At Disney, there were boxes of carby treats that I obviously couldn’t eat, but in addition to bananas there were fruit snacks and other goodies. There were also tents for self-treatment and for $1/minute massages, with packets of Advil and Tylenol, and a giant reunion area for family and friends, helpful for my parents to find me. I remember desperately trying to call them after the NYC Half with my frozen fingers unable to handle my phone as I searched for them near the Wall Street subway station – this was much better!

 

Finally, the overall experience of the weekend was marked by the feeling of accomplishment I had throughout. Runners are encouraged to wear their medals in the parks and around the resorts, and cast members, fellow runners, and regular Disney guests were all quick to offer me congratulations on the race. This felt particularly sweet because it took me a long time to think of myself as a runner. When I first laced up my sneakers, just about two years ago, I was loath to call myself by that name, feeling I didn’t deserve it until I could run at least a 10k. Even then I didn’t quite feel worthy of it. But the whole weekend, I kept thinking that even two years ago, I never imagined I could run a half marathon. And now I’ve run two and have a third coming up! I run for myself, and not to meet a certain time goal or to keep up with anyone else, but it is wonderful to feel that accomplishment acknowledged just for a day or two. And having run for Team JDRF and raised money for juvenile diabetes for this race, I felt the recognition was also for the cause – achieving both goals was doubly wonderful.

 

Where else do you get to see an elephant by the pool and in the majesty of his natural habitat the same day as your half marathon?

Where else do you get to see an elephant in the majesty of his natural habitat…

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…and by the pool, the same day as your half marathon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My family and friends find it funny that I loved running Disney so much. Actually, I’m the sort of person who, according to statistical analysis, is supposed to loathe Disney. I love quiet and natural beauty, I hate crowds and I’m pretty claustrophobic, I prefer good books read in cozy libraries to clubbing at the hippest haunts. I read David McCullough and Joseph Ellis for fun, and keep up with financial independence writers, whereas Disney has a reputation for being corporate, expensive, anti-intellectual, and so on and so forth. But for some reason, the magic still reels me in. Watching the Wishes fireworks, hearing the voice of Jiminy Cricket telling the audience to believe that wishes do and can come true, I’m filled with the same hope and optimism I felt as a child. So running up toward the Magic Kingdom, I felt like a real runner, and someone who had everything to run towards and to keep moving forward for. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

 

I've got an extra Minnie's Bakery Rice Krispies Treat, a shiny medal, and a pair of Mickey kicks to keep me going until the next race!

I’ve got an extra Minnie’s Bakery Rice Krispies Treat, a shiny medal, and a pair of Mickey kicks to keep me going until the next race!

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

 

Running Disney: Fueling Me Gluten-Free

Whether fueling up for the race to come, or tucking in to a celebratory feast, food is essential for the health and happiness of all runners (and really, all humans)! As a gluten-free runner with several other allergies, I’m used to making my own pre-race meals so there’s no risk of illness or allergic reaction before I even toe the starting line. But lucky for me, Disney is so wonderful with allergies, I didn’t need to worry during my Walt Disney World Half Marathon trip. First, Disney sent me lists of gluten-free and nut-free foods available at certain restaurants in the parks and hotels prior to my trip so I could peruse and plan. Then, when I made each dining reservation, there was a place to note any allergies to give the chef a heads up. And each eating experience over the course of my trip far surpassed my expectations.

 

Gluten-free Udi's dinner roll with salted butter

Gluten-free Udi’s dinner roll with salted butter

For a pre-race dinner on Friday night, my family and I arrived at The Wave of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort the early side because of the timing of the race the next morning, but since many other runners had the same idea, the dining room was already bustling! Because there were allergies noted on our reservation, the chef came over to speak with our table and she let me know which menu items were appropriate. I chose the seasonal sustainable grilled fish, a swordfish with roasted potatoes, onions, and butternut squash – a delicious dish. An extra perk was the basket of gluten-free rolls sent out along with the regular rolls. Usually, I kick back while family and friends indulge in the carby precursor to dinner, but having my own rolls on which to slather the sea-salted butter was great! Though warm, they were a bit crumbly, but just having the option was unusual and wonderful.

 

 

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

After the half marathon, I wolfed down a banana and a bottle of water, then headed back to my hotel with my family to shower and get ready for a celebration brunch. We were staying at an Epcot-area resort, convenient for both the finish line of the race and for eating at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club Resort. Just like the prior evening, the chef came over to our table. He would have been happy to walk me through the breakfast buffet options, but I was sold the minute he mentioned gluten-free Mickey waffles! I ordered those with scrambled eggs and fruit on the side. Served warm with maple syrup and powdered sugar, this was easily the culinary highlight of my trip because I got to eat one of my favorite childhood comfort foods and feel like a kid again while basking in the glow of my recently run 13.1!

 

Gardens Kiosk

Gardens Kiosk

 

That wasn’t the end of the fantastic food. Dining in the Disney parks was just as allergy-friendly. Eating lunch one afternoon in the Animal Kingdom at Restaurantosaurus, the waitress at the counter had the manager come out to take our party’s order. The manager brought a binder that was full of substitute foods for all sorts of allergies, from Amy’s macaroni and cheese to Tofutti ice cream. I had a simple grilled chicken and cheese sandwich on a gluten-free bun with apple slices as a side instead of fries. I was too full for dessert, but I was tempted when we walked by the Gardens Kiosk, a special allergy-free dessert booth with a variety of Enjoy Life, Babycakes, and Lundberg Farms treats.

 

 

 

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but my family is. For dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, the chef kindly made me a plate of simple grilled mahi mahi and vegetables and a side of gluten-free white corn tortillas. If you’re gluten-free, this would actually be a great choice overall, as most menu items with the exception of flour tortillas were already GF, including the tortilla chips and all the sauces. I’m a bit more limited because the orange and avocado allergies obviously cut out guacamole, but for someone who is just gluten-free and loves Mexican food, I’d recommend either here or the sister Cantina and San Angel Inn.

 

 

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

I was completely spoiled for choice with desserts. I had cherry vanilla ice cream at Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club resort, and candy cane ice cream at the soda fountain at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. At the Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom and Seashore Sweets on the Boardwalk, I even found Minnie’s Bakery Rice Krispies Treats that were certified gluten-free! (They did contain milk and soy, as the ears were covered in milk chocolate. I asked one of the chefs at dinner one evening to confirm that the sprinkles and jimmies used at Disney were gluten-free.)

 

 

 

 

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

My family ate several meals at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel and at Downtown Disney restaurants. Todd English’s Bluezoo, Fulton’s Crab House, and Wolfgang Puck were all wonderful options for a seafood lover like myself. All the waitstaff were extremely friendly and asked about allergies when we were first seated. The shrimp and warm mixed greens, roasted salmon, and sautéed corvina with brussels sprouts I had at each establishment were all melt-in-your-mouth delicious. However, I was a bit surprised that none of them offered any gluten-free grain substitutes (even though they’re all on Disney property, they are not operated by Disney, and so they do not carry the same items). I was completely fine with it, since I usually don’t eat any grains or baked goods that I haven’t made myself, but something to consider if you, like me, found it a special treat on a race-cation to be so catered to!

 

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting...

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting…

To sum up, fueling for a run at Disney on a gluten-free, nut-free, orange-free, and avocado-free diet was easy and fun. The chefs and other staff at all Disney restaurants, whether ice cream stands, counter-service luncheonettes at the parks, or signature dining rooms at the resorts, were friendly and accommodating. I was amazed at the sheer variety of substitute foods and menu alterations available, even coming from Manhattan. Of course, the prices for food at Disney are high, but one great surprise was that those substitutions did not cost a penny extra, whereas in Manhattan, asking for gluten-free toast instead of rye will set you back an extra dollar or two, and vegetables instead of fries up to $5! And those prices were actually comparable to Manhattan eateries for the most part (a gut-wrenching thought to those of us who reside there, and a warning shock to anyone from more reasonable America). Some people think of Disney as a turkey leg, chocolate fudge brownie sundae, healthy athlete’s nightmare, but I found instead that it was simply a place where they would make any guest anything they wanted – as in the rest of life, it was up to you how you wanted to eat and treat your body!

 

 

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© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Running Disney: Half Marathon Race Recap

The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is a bona fide bonanza. There is no other way to describe it. While I’m used to races with a few thousand runners for a regular charity 4- or 5-miler in Central Park, and my inaugural half marathon had more than 20,000 participants, the sheer number of runners who show up to participate in the four races over the course of this marathon weekend was astounding. The Pluto 5k on Thursday, Minnie Mouse 10k on Friday, Donald Duck Half Marathon on Saturday, and Mickey Mouse Marathon on Sunday are just the tip of the iceberg. Some runners take on the Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, running both the half and full marathons, and the truly hardcore go for the Dopey Challenge, which includes all 48.6 miles across all four races. I’m just happy I can run a half marathon!

Ushering in the parade

Ushering in the parade

 

Since my main event was the half marathon, I was able to visit the theme parks with my family on Friday. Friday evening we got to see the Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom, which I’ve always loved, and the Wishes fireworks. Fireworks are my favorite!

 

 

 

 

After the fireworks, we got on the bus back to our hotel, near Disney’s Boardwalk and Epcot. I found myself sitting next to and across from several fellow runners, who had all caught the nighttime festivities and were heading back to try and get a couple of hours of sleep. They had all run the race before, and two of them were running the Dopey Challenge – all of them warned me that the alarm clock’s early bell would be tolling long before I was ready! This turned out to be true. I was up at 3:30am to be on a bus to the start at 4am, and I don’t think I got more than two hours of sleep. There was too much excitement coursing through my veins, both nerves and adrenaline keeping me awake. It didn’t matter much – when we got to the staging area, there was music playing and characters were milling around, and all the other runners were very friendly and ready to keep each other alert and ready to race! I stopped by the Team JDRF tent to say hello to a few other runners who were running and fundraising, and then began to make my way to the starting corrals.

The starting line around 4:45am

The starting line around 4:45am

It got a little nerve-wracking about 4:30am, as I walked to Corral D. There were 16 corrals in addition to the elites at the front, and the walk up to near the front where D was located was almost 2 miles from the drop-off point. When I got there, I realized I was a little too early – very few of my fellow runners were there yet! I had submitted a half marathon proof of time from last year of 2:10, and a target time of 2:00, so even though this was my first Disney half marathon, I was in an upper corral, whereas most of the other first-timers were farther back. Apparently, all the other half marathoners in the upper corrals knew the drill with Disney races and planned to get there closer to the starting time of 5:30am. Everything worked out okay, although the temperatures were quite cold for Central Florida and I had to work hard to keep warm, stretching and doing some light jogging. I was glad I had worn a long-sleeved fleece and leggings over my shorts and tank top – I threw the leggings into the donation pile prior to starting as planned, but I ended up keeping the fleece with me the whole race, as the temperature hovered around 45 degrees the entire time. Finally, it was time to start. They let each corral begin and walked the next corral right up to the start, then held the runners so that corrals were released at precise 2-minute intervals. This was a little frustrating as we waited, but it was worth it when the fireworks went off for each and every corral!

Miles 1-3 were relatively uneventful. I started off a bit faster than planned because of the cold. I usually try to keep the first few miles slow and steady, but I ended up running a 9:32 pace for a 29:37 5k split (I know this because I signed up for runDisney tracking alerts, and they texted me the times so I could see after the race – my Fitbit Zip is so not that fancy!) Around mile 2, a bright spot in the darkness on the side of World Drive turned out to be the pirate ship float from the previous evening’s Electrical Parade, with music blasting. It was that kind of fun Disney touch that made this race special. Although the highway running up to the Magic Kingdom is relatively barren, there were all sorts of entertainment setups alongside the course to keep things interesting, and thousands of Disney cast members cheering the runners on.

Cinderella Castle lights up the sky

Cinderella Castle lights up the sky

Mile 4 brought us to the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom sign. Here is where my energy finally revved up and I shook off the major shivers! There were some characters here for photo ops, but I had decided before the race that I was only going to stop in the Magic Kingdom and afterwards so as not to lose momentum too early, and also to only pause for photos if there were no/short lines, because waiting around in the cold would probably have hurt! So I kept on running, went down a small slope under a tunnel and when I came up we were right outside Space Mountain and rounding a corner, heading through the turnstiles and charging up Main Street, U.S.A! This was probably one of the most exhilarating running moments I’ve ever had. Throngs of family, friends, and other onlookers stood on the sidewalks cheering all the runners on, and Cinderella Castle glittered up ahead, lighting the path through the darkness.

 

 

After a hard right into Tomorrowland, I took a left back through Fantasyland and went through the castle. At the base, I took a beat, pausing for a photo. Just couldn’t resist that sparkling backdrop! Afterwards, the course continued through Frontierland and Adventureland, and Mile 6 marked the exit from the Magic Kingdom. My pace grew to 10:16 for a 10k split of 1:03:47, reflecting the stops I made on Main Street and at the castle. They were worth every minute.

Just Dick van Dyke and a couple of Poppins Penguins

Just Dick van Dyke and a couple of Poppins Penguins

 

The sun began to rise during Mile 7, and by Mile 8 the sky was fairly bright. The Grand Floridian was beautiful in the dawn’s early light, and while I was starting to feel the cold a bit more and my knee was a little sore, I found a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the rest of the run.

 

 

 

 

Miles 9 and 10 felt a bit slow, although my pace of 10:19 and 15k split of 1:36:07 was not far off my usual steady jog on a long run. It was probably because the scenery on this part of the route is the least entertaining, although Disney does try hard to make the highway exciting. There were characters at the golf course, Mickey and Goofy in golf clothes looking adorable, as well as Aladdin and Genie and a few others along the way, but the lines were at least a dozen people long. Mile 11 was the most difficult, as there was a slow and steady climb up and around an overpass. This course was very flat with the exception of a few underpasses and overpasses, so even though I’m used to running much steeper hills at home, to have one come in after miles of flat terrain was tough. In addition, the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel pyramid was in sight starting at Mile 9, but I knew it was roughly four miles away sitting next to Epcot, so the view (while gorgeous) felt like a bit of a trick!

By Mile 12, I was heading into the Epcot parking lot, just a few hundred yards from where we had started. I headed into the park and charged past Spaceship Earth, my pace picking up considerably for the final push. Instead of heading into the World Showcase, the course looped around  and brought runners back toward the exit from Future World into the parking lot, where the finish line was located. I crossed the finish line just before 8am, clocking in at 2:14:33 with an overall pace of 10:16. I placed 4,654/22,081 finishers and 1,581/12,379 women. I was elated and exhausted all at once. During my celebratory brunch at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club resort, and spending time in the parks afterwards, I felt like a princess when cast members and fellow runners alike shouted congratulations. It was an incredible race.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios after the race

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios after the race

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.