50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #2 – Ride the Rides

Seven Dwarves Mine Train

Amanda and I in the back on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train – Hi Ho!

To accomplish Crazy Thing #2 – I had to ride an insane roller coaster without throwing up on Amanda Cowell.

For those who don’t know me well, you may not know that I have a long and storied history with motion sickness. I have been car sick for my entire life and proudly get to claim the shotgun seat whenever we go geocaching or in any car ride. The back seat is deadly. Sitting backwards on a bus, sometimes even sideways, can also do me in. I have thrown up kayaking in the ocean, on a sailboat, and even in a stunt plane when I was writing a magazine article on Air Combat Canada. For that particular incident there is video evidence – from three different camera vantage points. The plane I was in had just done several loops and corkscrews. Motion sickness stops me from participating in and enjoying parts of my life and I want it to stop. Therefore, it is crazy of me to go to two theme parks (Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando), and ride high speed ridiculous rides that go upside down and corkscrew, and not throw up on my friend Amanda Cowell. When I told her this would be one of my crazy things, she was totally supportive of me – particularly the part about not throwing up on her.

First we tested my stomach at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. I already knew from experience that rides like The Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railway wouldn’t bother me at all and they were a good way to get me warmed up for what was to come later. I love those rides and I would do them again and again.

Space Mountain –  I was a bit more leery about but I did fine. The guy behind us,

Amanda, Me, and a dead guy

Amanda, Me, and a dead guy

however, looks like the ride actually killed him. I was pretty shocked when we got the pictures back.

Oh, and not a crazy ride but it was freezing cold at night and Amanda convinced me Splash Mountain would be a really good thing to do. Not! She told me they turn the water down when it gets cold… you’re floating in it… how can they ‘turn it down’???? She also told me it was Magical Disney Water and that I wouldn’t get wet… Not! If someone tells you about Magical Disney Water and how you don’t get wet… don’t believe them!!!!! Note in the picture the lack of people on the ride! The guy at the back is probably saying, “Look at me! I’m still dry!”

Me and Amanda - is that Magical Disney Water?

Me and Amanda – is that Magical Disney Water?

Later in our trip, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I was surprised by the ride that almost got me. Star Tours, a 3D motion-simulated space flight based on Star Wars, actually made my stomach do a couple of flips and my head was spinning at the end. I don’t have much of a problem in 3D movies so this was a surprise.

Let me just mention here that Amanda planned the Disney portion of our trip and she was amazing. She had pages and pages of trivia facts, all of our reservations and fast passes organized, and all I had to do was follow her and show up. I intentionally didn’t read up on rides so they would be a surprise.

Aerosmith

OK, now things are starting to get serious!

After Star Wars, things started to get a bit more serious in the ride department. After I had some serious doubts, I agreed to go on the Rock N’ Rollercoaster – a slightly, actually seriously cheesy ride featuring the music of Aerosmith. I’ve never been a huge Aerosmith fan but the soundtrack actually added to the ride. The super painful-to-watch video ahead of time with the band was agonizing but thankfully doesn’t last long. The idea of the ride is you’re racing in a stretch limo through the streets of Los Angeles, trying to get to an Aerosmith concert…. whatever!

Reading up on the ride afterwards I discovered that in the beginning it launches you from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. I believe this whole heartedly. Most of the ride is in the dark so you don’t know when turns or drops are coming. Apparently Los Angeles has some very steep hills and tight corners on their roads. I also discovered that Aerosmith fans who want to see the video (really?) but are too scared to do the ride will bail out in the “Chicken Exit” right before the boarding platform. Amanda never mentioned a Chicken Exit!!!!! The end result, however, is I survived and was able to walk off the ride without assistance.

Tower of Terror

For the Tower of Terror I used my biceps of steel!

During our day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the sound of sporadic screaming filled the air from one particular direction. The screams originated at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I knew exactly what was coming with this ride. I seriously considered not doing it because the sense of falling is one of my all-time worst fears. Therefore I am testing it several times in the course of my 50 Crazy Things. Therefore, the Chicken Exit was not an option.

Essentially this ride takes you into a Twilight Zone episode with a runaway elevator. The elevator randomly climbs, drops random numbers of floors, and opens onto the park or stars, or you never know what is coming. It’s never the same ride twice. Once was enough for me. I sat on the right hand side of the elevator and I was extremely grateful I had spent so much time weightlifting in recent months. I gripped the side hand bar and the bar between Amanda and I and NOTHING was going to lift me out of that seat! After the ride my right arm was almost numb and I could hardly move it. In researching the ride after, I discovered that the elevator falls faster than a freefall because it is motor assisted – lovely! Again, I survived, and contributed a great deal to that screaming noise that falls over the park like a chilling rain. Would I ride it again? Yup!

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest – Amanda’s grin comes from knowing what comes next…

In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was one of my favourite parks, the big thrill ride was definitely Expedition Everest. Again, I considered bailing out when I read the warnings on the signs. But I didn’t fly across the continent to bail out on anything, so on I went. I loved the story of the ride, which is searching for the Yeti in the Himalayas. Amanda had a particularly huge grin on her face when we were in the line-up. Looking back I should have been more suspicious of this. When we got to the front and she specifically asked that we be in the front of the car, I should have been REALLY suspicious. But no, I had this Disney glow that made me trust her completely. So we get on, and it’s a train like Big Thunder Mountain or the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. No big deal, right? NOT! On spots I expected it to go super fast it crept along, barely moving, and then shot ahead when I didn’t expect it. Then, we came to the top of a hill and saw that the track was broken off and twisted. It just ended. We hung there for a moment, and I remember saying to Amanda, “Oh no, I know where this is going!” She just smiled. Then we shot through the whole bloody ride backwards!

If you have a short memory read the first paragraph of this blog post again – the part that talks about how I never ever ride backwards! To make it worse, I watched as the track actually rotated, so the path we took next was not the path we had originally taken! I discovered after that Expedition Everest only reaches the tame speeds of 50 mph – that’s like 1,000 mph when you’re moving backwards! Again, I survived. Would I do it again… absolutely!

This concludes the Disney portion of this blog post. Next up we’ll see if my Crazy Thing is accomplished!

Welcome to Universal Orlando!

When we arrived at Universal, before we even went in the gate we saw a movie sign that advertised 50 Shades of Grey in IMAX 3D – that would have seriously made me ill!

But, I digress. I’d like you to meet my new friend… Bonine! All the blogs I read for coaster riders with weak stomachs recommended Bonine and my friend Sara Campbell was nice enough to pick some up for me on a trip to the US. I didn’t get a chance to do a drug trial ahead of time so I had to just pray, for both my and Amanda’s sakes, that it worked. I considered recommending she have one of those rain ponchos on just in case but I didn’t – no chicken exit here! I planned to do rides like the Hulk, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, the Mummy, etc., so they could fulfill my Crazy Thing criteria but I enjoyed the two Harry Potter parks so much I stayed in the world of Hogsmeade and Daigon Alley while Amanda went and rode as a solo rider. Her report on returning was that these rides were more than even she expected. Good instincts Vesta!

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Amanda looks terrified, I look deranged, we both thought it was so awesome we jumped back on and rode again!

It turns out that one of the rides in Hogsmeade more than met my criteria. First off, though, we raced onto Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. After winding our way through Hogwarts (brilliant line distraction!), we got on and thoroughly enjoyed this unique roller coaster / 3D combination ride. It was so awesome we raced off it and ran around and joined the single rider line to do it again. Would I do it again?… duh!

Next we did The Flight of the Hippogriff. This was a great little roller coaster but ridiculously short – and you know it’s short if I noticed it! Would I do it again? Probably, if the line wasn’t too long.

Finally, we did the big one – The Dragon Challenge. I knew if I did this one I didn’t have to do any more and I could happily go have lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Going through the line-up was a bit of a fog for me. I vaguely remembered some of the cool things, like the Tri-Wizard Cup, when I looked at some of the Youtube videos of the ride, but really, my head was spinning before I got to the loading platform.

The deal with this ride is that it’s two dragons – a red Chinese Fireball and a blue Hungarian Horntail. You pick one or the other, and they leave at the same time, almost colliding in places. It’s the first roller coaster I’ve ridden that is suspended from the track instead of riding in a car on the track. It does loops and corkscrews, and it’s freaking scary. I maybe shouldn’t have watched it before we got in line. When we got to the loading platform I was pretty close to vomiting already. Amanda let me pick which one I wanted and I chose the blue Hungarian Horntail – I thought blue might be a bit calmer and it turns out it is! The staff person on the platform saw my “I’m celebrating a birthday” button and let us pick where we wanted to sit. I just said, “Not the front!” I think he was disappointed.

For the rest of the ride, I can honestly say I had an out of body experience. I closed my eyes for the whole thing, and just stayed in a very zen-like, almost meditative state. It was sooo weird! I could hear screaming all around me and at one point I actually had the capacity to think, “I wonder if we’re upside down right now?” Maybe this approach was a version of the Chicken Exit, but I’m still counting it as a win. I was able to get off the ride under my own power. I staggered a bit going down the ramp, and I didn’t throw up on Amanda, or anyone! Win! Unfortunately, neither of us thought to take a survivor selfie. This is one of the few rides where they don’t take your picture, which totally pisses me off! Would I ride it again? Not sure.

My after research tells me that the Chinese Fireball dragon reaches a top speed of 60 mph, and the Hungarian Horntail dragon reaches a top speed of 55 mph. Both rides feature five inversions. I had to actually watch the Youtube videos to see what I went through.

Rip Saw Falls

On Dudley DooRite’s RipSaw Falls – No Magical Disney Water here!

For a little payback I still had a fresh rain poncho in my bag and Amanda and I decided to catch one last ride – Dudley Doo Rite’s Ripsaw Falls – before going out to a nice dinner at Emeril’s. Magical Universal Water? She got much more wet than I did, although my toes were squishy with water.

Crazy Thing #2 Complete!

I have discovered a few things in this quest to limit my stomach from running my life. First is thinking about the ride (ie the Dragon Challenge) is possibly worse than the ride itself. Also, just do it… what’s a little vomit? And finally, if you want to know about any ride ahead of time just google it. There are lots of people riding rides with Go-Pro cameras who are posting excellent videos of the experience. Finally, have fun, and find someone awesome like Amanda to have fun with!

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50 Crazy Things – Crazy Thing #1 – Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon

YKA Ready for takeoff!

With Amanda at the Kamloops Airport (YKA) ready to leave on our adventure!

Here it is. My 50 Crazy Things in My 50th year has begun. I, very much a non-Disney Princess, ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disneyworld on February 22, 2014 – just two days before my 49th birthday. When I thought of it, it was the craziest thing I could think of doing. I was in a bit of a funk, annoyed that I was going to turn 50 next year and feeling like I’m not what I imagined 50 to look or feel like. I feel like I’m in my 30’s, in the prime of my life, like I have everything ahead of me. I needed to get out of the rut I was building around myself, the habits that were easy, making my life smaller

Oh yeah, Princess Vesta is real!

Oh yeah, Princess Vesta is real!

and smaller instead of growing bigger. When I told one of my library patrons, who is in her sixties, what I was doing she said I should do 50 Crazy Things in My 50th year to celebrate and hit that number head on instead of cowering from it. So, here I am. I am doing 50 crazy things that will help me get over fears and self-imposed limitations that keep me from living life 100 per cent. Some seem really easy and some are really hard, but all of them are designed to get me back in the game.

 It all started when…

Pinterest - Am I really going to run a marathon?

Amanda surprised me be decorating our window with images from the insane Pinterest board we used to plan the trip. I loved it!

All of this thinking started in the spring of 2014. I was drinking wine and surfing Pinterest, never a good combo, and I started coming across running costumes for races. I started randomly sending the Disney ones to my friend, Amanda, who loves Disney and had never run a step in her adult life. Long story short, she finally started talking to me again and then said, sure, let’s go for it.

We registered, a bit of a miracle there as it sold out in six hours, and then we started making plans that culminated in not only the run, but 5 days away from home, 3 days in Walt Disney World and one in Universal Orlando. I realized I hadn’t been to the United States in probably twenty years, and I hadn’t even been on a plan in six years. This trip was long overdue for me, even if it was to just shake things up a bit.

We had a great time staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, in an Ariel Room as a tribute to the fact that I was running as Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Amanda was running as Rapunzel.

Run wise – it sucked! I’ve felt much better during other half marathons – the time change, humidity, and crowds did me in, and the hip and foot injuries I had didn’t help. Aside from that, though, this was an extraordinary experience for me.

Why was this crazy?

Running out of the castle.

Ariel and Rapunzel coming out of Cinderella’s Castle – who gets to do that????

Although I used to travel when I was younger, I haven’t done anything different for a really long time. I hadn’t been on an airplane in about six years, and I hadn’t been to the states in about twenty years. This was the furthest east (in North America) and the furthest south I’ve ever been. I can’t remember the last time I did something that was just for me. The biggest thing was I said I wanted to do something… and I did it! This is me reclaiming my adventuresome spirit. I know my plans have inspired other people to try new things and step out of their comfort zones.

Huge thanks to Amanda Cowell for taking up the challenge, running her first half marathon, and planning the Disney part of our trip perfectly. I know it was an adventure for her too.

Check out our gallery for more pictures from our Disney adventure.

Oh yeah, we rocked it!

Oh yeah, we rocked it!

Registering for the Disney Princess Half Marathon (or 50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year)

After much stress and a ridiculous amount of trauma, my friend Amanda and I have registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon which means we will be running through Epcot and Disney World on February 22, 2015 – two days before my 49th birthday.

forget the glass slipper

Now, much in that first sentence is significant. First, the trauma of registration. I’ll reveal our tips for surviving this unbelievably stressful activity at the bottom of this post. After the horrors of the registration process, however, running 21 Km (13.1 Miles) dressed as a Disney princess at 5:30 in the morning Florida time will be a piece of (birthday) cake!

What’s most remarkable about that sentence, though, is the phrase “Disney Princess” combined with “two days before my 49th birthday.”

Forty-nine is an age I’ve been backpedalling toward for the last couple of years because it is the day I start my 50th year, and I don’t feel nearly 50. I don’t feel, look, or act like an almost 50 year old would feel, look or act. I was dreading it and even cowering from it. It feels like I’m careening down a waterfall, bouncing off rocks along the sides, falling into a boiling pool with 50 painted on the bottom by some evil 25 year old. No matter how I cower or hide, it will still find me whether I admit it or not. My life doesn’t look like it should, or like any of us thinks it should at this point (ie relationships, established career, house, blah blah blah!).

So one night, while drinking wine and surfing Pinterest (bad combination! Nothing good can come of this!), I started to see Disney Princess running costumes. I thought these were hilarious so I started bombarding my friend Amanda with all of these running and Disney pins I was finding. She, a non-runner but Disneyholic, was completely baffled at why I was sending her these things. In my late night wine induced state I told her that I was going to run the 2015 Disney Princess Half Marathon two days before my 49th birthday – in Florida – in costume – and she was going to run it with me. After two days of radio silence I finally heard from her again.

Amanda: “You know I don’t run, don’t you?”

Me: “I run really slow, and you’ve got lots of time to train. Really we could walk it at a quick pace.”

Two more days of radio silence followed before she, much to my shock and surprise, jumped on board. Fast forward to months later, we are both obsessing about details and actually registered to run the Disney Princess half marathon.

Now, when anyone meets me, Disney and Princess are NOT the first things they think of. This is why it’s so great. I’m not just getting out of my comfort zone, I’m leaping out of it in full princess regalia and stomping on it with both feet! Working at the library, one of my favourite patrons came in and when I told her what I was planning to do and how I was dreading 50, she, who is in her sixties, declared, “You know what you need to do? You need to do 50 crazy things in your 50th year! Don’t cower from it, hurl yourself at it!” I picture myself like paint splatter being flung off a brush and onto a canvas that is my life. Hmmmm. She did get me thinking.

At that time I was also in the process of making a dress and some skirts from upcycled t-shirts (more on those in a future post). I realized at about this time that these pieces of clothing I was making had no labels. There were no sizes. They were fitted to me and that was the only label they would have – fitted to my size right now. I had an ‘aha’ moment then – 50 is a label. When I look at clothing, a 12 in some brands is not the 12 in other brands. Those are just labels that someone stuck on them. What if the same was true for me? What if 50 was a label I, and others, created years ago that has nothing to do with who I am now? What if I got rid of it like I do itchy and irritating clothing labels? It didn’t hurt that I saw shortly after that Sandra Bullock is turning 50 this summer. Suddenly it didn’t look tooooo bad! If she could do it, maybe I could too.

Thus, my plan to do 50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year was born and I will launch that year on February 22nd by running the Disney Princess Half Marathon, in costume, with Amanda and 26,000 other princesses. For the other 49 things I have a list, but it isn’t complete yet. My main rule is it will not involve jumping out of, off of, or onto anything (regardless of the paint splatter image)!

Amanda and I are now busy planning the details of our trip – good thing we both LOVE planning – I’m sure we’ll need a 12-step group when we get home and have nothing left to plan.

disney princess batman

Vesta and Amanda’s Tips for registering for a Run Disney run:

These events sell out fast and they are notorious for computer crashes and other terrifying obstacles to registration. Since the obstacles don’t seem to be going away, here are some tips for getting through the registration process with at least some of your sanity intact. Amanda and I were VERY prepared. We also took very helpful information from a number of blogs and postings from other runners.

  1.  Pee before the registration starts. Seriously! You’ll be stressed out, possibly over caffeinated, lacking in sleep and you could be sitting there for awhile!
  2. If you are running with someone else, swap registration information (Active.com log in info, name, address, birthdate, shirt size, name and contact info of next of kin, event that you’re signing up for, all credit card info including that number on the back, and also what commemorative souvenirs they want to purchase). Then if one can’t get through the other one might. ****This was EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR US! When we went to register I would get to the part where I submitted my credit card info and then the site would crash, I’d get an internal server error, and it would boot me out and lose all my info. It was happening to both of us but eventually it was Amanda who got me registered. It took 45 minutes but we were both in.
  3. If you have a previous race time you want to use get you into a better corral you could swap that info too but don’t worry about it if it’s going to slow down your registration. You can always send that info in after.
  4. Canadians (and other non-American residents) – don’t forget the exchange rate. The rate you see online will often be lower than the one the credit cards use so make sure you have enough available to cover all the costs. These are expensive races.
  5. Be prepared, we were ready with computers rebooted and the speakerphone on before registration started. Regarding the speaker phones, this leads me to another point. Wear a headset if the other person (ie me) is prone to swearing when they get stressed. Amanda needed that headset big time, and since I already accidentally taught her six year old son how to swear when he was visiting me in the library, she was well prepared for this possibly happening again… and it did! There were many f-bombs dropped in the name of Disney that morning!
  6. Limit distractions. Occupy the rest of your family so you won’t have any distractions. Again, this is her thing, I don’t have those kinds of distractions.
  7. Be patient! If the site crashes keep hitting refresh and trying again. I was watching the Run Disney Facebook page at the same time and people were giving up because they couldn’t get through. 30,000 other people were trying to get through as well! It took a little over six hours for the event to sell out.
  8. Try a different browser. I discovered part way through my nightmare that Google Chrome users were not crashing as much as those of us on Internet Explorer. One of the things that worked for me and Amanda was that we were in different towns, with different internet service providers, and she was on a Mac and I was on a PC. I had to humbly admit that her Mac kicked sand in the face of my admittedly cheap PC.
  9. Have an Active.com membership and remember your user name and password. Many of the problems seem to stem from Active.com, who Disney uses to process their registrations. I’ve heard other nightmares about the Chicago Marathon and other big events who use Active. Some people were able to bypass the Active membership by signing in as a guest, and a lot of people seemed to have good luck that way. I wouldn’t count on that though. It’s best if you have your account info and you can always sign in as a guest later if it doesn’t work.
  10. If you can, try a test run. The Disney Star Wars Half Marathon registration was about a month before ours. Now, we probably contributed to their problems because they were also crashing (sorry!) but we both tried registering for that event up to the point where we had to put our credit card info in, and then got out. This was just so we knew what the registration process looked like. Another way to do that is look at the events that haven’t sold out yet. I went through the process for registering for Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge during the Disney World Marathon weekend. I’m definitely not going to run a half marathon one day and a full the next, but neither are a lot of people so it hadn’t filled up yet. I got through the process AND discovered that Active.com charges a processing fee that Amanda and I didn’t know about, so we knew ahead of time to up our registration budget by about $20 (don’t even get me started on how they can charge that for a site that crashes like it does).
  11. Pay attention to social media. Part way through the registration process Run Disney posted a different link to try registering through on their Facebook page as it appeared Active was having ‘issues’ and they were trying to resolve them. This is a live feed of what people are experiencing and it’s very valuable. I didn’t look at the Twitter feed but I’m pretty sure it was similar.
  12. If you don’t get in, there are other ways to register. Amanda and I both had this in the back of our minds that it was an option. There are still spots available if you go through one of the Run Disney travel providers or if you raise money for one of the many great charities that participate and that’s a win-win for everyone.

After we registered Amanda (the extrovert) was energized and ready to rip through her day. I (the introvert) stared at the ceiling and waited for the world to stop spinning, which took most of the day.

 

Some of the many blogs we found helpful for the registration process:

http://www.glistenwhileyourun.com/2014/03/rundisney-registration-tips.html

http://www.werundisney.com/2013/04/tips-for-registering-for-major-race.html

http://makermothermarathonrunner.com/2014/04/15/tips-for-registering-for-the-2015-walt-disney-world-marathon-weekend/

 

Now I’m off to get my life handled before the race starts and before I turn 49!

eat my pixie dust