Over the last week, my daughters and I made our annual pilgrimage to Disney for a vacation or as we know it the Disney Adventure race.
Adventure racing at Disney will stress your team like no other activity.
A typical day starts with a run shortly after 5am and then an optional swim in the pool of your choice. After speeding through your very own transition area, there is a quick stop at the closest aid station for refueling i.e.the breakfast of champions – Coke, Sprite, eggs, bacon, sausage, and Mickey head shaped waffle – covered in syrup. (maybe if you are Michael Phelps). LOL
Teams then dart off to different areas on the Disney properties using various form of transportation: Monorail, tram, buses, boats, or cars where their goal is to overcome as many obstacles at that particular venue as possible in the least amount of time. And, to make each obstacle all the more challenging, Disney's single track trails have many twist and turns leading to the desired obstacle that each race team must endure along the way.
A special note on aid stations, all venues come with an ample number of aid stations. Many filled with the top of line energy foods: Deep fried chicken, fries, pizza, and ice cream.
Racing at Disney is not without its rules.
First, no team member maybe left behind. If a team member becomes too fatigued to continue, he or she must be either carried or hauled by the other team members. More than once I observed other teams carrying or pushing their exhausted team members. From my perspective, it was hard to tell when member might become incapacitated. But in case you are interested, there is a story behind this rule of which I cannot confirm is true. But I have heard rumors that during the initial days opening days of Disney that smaller race participates were left behind. Much like lost and found items, they then became property of Disney. And not wanting to waste such a valuable resource, Disney dressed them in costumes, put then in an exhibit, and taught them the phrase "it is a small world" in 37 languages. Like I said, I cannot confirm this story but I heard that it was true. LOL
All races have participates of various experience levels. However, rookie racers are far easier to spot than veterans at Disney. Rookie racers will frequently walk along the trails while staring at their race maps. Frequently, they will stumble into other people or items placed along the trail by the race crew. While the veteran course racers will walk swiftly, use little known short cuts between the obstacles and fast passes to push their teams into the lead. For those that don't know, Disney has this closely guarded secret – called a fast pass which allows the veteran racers to skip past many of the rookie racers. This allows the veteran racer to only have a short wait before getting on the ride. Rookies races eventually figure this top secret out because nothing can be kept a secret forever. LOL
One of the more interesting activities to do is to watch the team dynamics unfold. Usually, one team member is designated the team leader and coordinates how the team proceeds from obstacle to the next throughout the day. To my knowledge, gender plays very little of a factor here. Women lead just as well as men. However, some teams try the committee approach and effectively wonder around in circles for the entire day. I have seen this happen more time than I can count.
The other as aspect of team dynamics is communication. Each day starts with every team covered in smiles and eager to face challenges waiting ahead. But as the temperature rises and tired bodies become the norm, the communication between race team members make the arguing of "Survivor" and "Amazing Race" participates look tame. There is nothing like watching a race team member halt in the middle of a trail, start releasing water from the corner of their eyes, and lose all ability to take verbal instruction from the older team members. Veteran racers call this a meltdown. While very serious condition, it is recoverable. The racer just needs copious amounts coke, chips, and/or ice cream. Usually, within 15 to 30 minutes, they are bouncing up and down and ready to go.
Of course by the end of the day all race participates are ready to head back to their camp sites to recovery and prepare themselves for the next day. In all honesty, sleeping comes easily at Disney.
So don't get me wrong, Disney is a fun place to visit. I have been there many times and have many fond memories. But Disney will test you like no other place.
I count myself lucky. My daughters have literally grown up visiting Disney and know the parks as well as I do. We move in around the parks with ease and typically never have to wait very long to do the rides or see the shows. But then that is a veteran taking.
Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner.