Running Disney's Princess Half: The Good, The Bad & The Blisters

Friday, March 4, 2011

How did I become a runner? I mean, really! This time last year, I couldn't run a half of a mile without stopping, and last weekend, I ran 13.1.  Now, if you've ever been skeptical about the power of pixie dust, I hope this helps prove my point that Disney is way more than some (world renown) theme parks and a few (Oscar-winning) animations. For me, it's about people coming together in the name of courage, commitment and creativity to make life a little better for everyone along the journey.
Jeff Galloway, US Olympian runner and marathoner, designed a plan for novice runners to train for Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon. I began following it last summer and crossed the finish line on Sunday with NO PAIN and NO REGRET.  My goal for the weekend was to finish like that and to meet him to tell him so.  Here's proof positive that fairy tales really do come mile at a time!

The Disney Princess Half Marathon was just that for me. In fact, I got emotional several times watching mothers and daughters running together knowing that my dear mom will never run again; witnessing cancer survivors overcoming the odds and running to celebrate life; seeing first hand the agony and despair of some that simply couldn't finish the race (or finish when they thought they would).  Yet, I finished!  Nothing could've made me endure a hardship like that nor made me enjoy it along the way more than Disney. (Yes, I said "enjoy!")

I flew down to Walt Disney World last Friday (by myself) and joined some friends already there hosting a retreat at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I had dinner with them and my new blogger friends from the site. This site is all about moms written by moms traveling with or without families -- tips, deals, offers, products and advice.  Its founders, Kim Orlando (@kimorlando) and Cindy Richards (@cindyrichards), are amazingly talented and intelligent women who are ambitious yet equally concerned about promoting the interests of others. It was such a pleasure to spend the evening and part of the day on Saturday with this creative group of women, and I appreciated their hospitality.  They are all wonderful communicators and so well traveled...yet, I loved showing them a different side of Disney. Whether with fabulous food, good wine, amazing experiences or little known facts, I get such a kick out of spreading the pixie dust and showing others my Disney World.

Enjoying Jiko courtesy of the hostesses with the mostesses:  Kim Orlando of and Leanne Jakubowski of Walt Disney World
As a lone traveler, I was in charge of my own agenda on Saturday, and I was loving it! I spent some time at Disney's Fit for a Princess Expo where I received my race packet and bib number. I brought proof of my running time from the Red Nose Run in Birmingham earlier in the year which boosted me from Corral E up to Corral C. (Keep in mind that I'm still a very slow runner -- about a 12mm pace -- but that gave me hope that I wouldn't be picked up by the pace van!) Plus, I got to start the race about 15 minutes ahead of the last corral.  That evening, I carb loaded at Mama Melrose's at Hollywood Studios with some amazing moms/bloggers who are equally amazing athletes, and I think I drank my weight in bottled water.

If you're thinking of running with me next year, I took a little video of the race packet, some race day tips from my friends who coached me and my Disney Princess 1/2 race day costume:




The race started (at 5:45 a.m.) in the parking lot of Epcot; to and through the Magic Kingdom; and back to Epcot.  Along the way, there were photo ops with Disney characters, DJs, tumblers and acrobats, stilt walkers, cute firemen, high school bands, choirs and various other entertainers.  Even "Sarge" from Toy Story was there to encourage us up a hill! And there were food, water and medical stations to keep everyone hydrated, energized and patched up.

As a novice runner, I was impressed with how the race was organized, and I was thrilled to have access to the VIP tent afterward where I met my running hero, Jeff Galloway.  Yet, I was equally thrilled to see my new buddy, Monique Rubin (@monique_rubin), who traveled all the way from The Netherlands.  She is a blogger for and also can be found on her blog at

Monique and I are still smiling even after 13.1 miles -- tutus and tiaras intact!

After brunch, I made it back to Saratoga Springs and took a quick shower in time to check out and make a few phone calls to my admiring fans back home.  (Some of my friends and family virtually followed me by receiving updates on my time splits and texting me with encouraging messages along the way.)  I then threw on my swimsuit and ordered a yummy turkey and brie sandwich from Artist's Palette to eat by the pool. And this was pretty much my position until it was time to change in order to catch Disney's Magical Express back to the airport on late Sunday afternoon.

If you look close enough, you can see the blisters on my toes.

If I had it all to do over again, would I do it and would I consider doing it again next year?  Yes and yes!  The only thing missing was having you come with me.  So strap on those running shoes and get to movin' -- you can't slap that 13.1 sticker on your car unless you've trod the miles! Good luck, princesses, and I hope to run with you in 2012!

Military Defense Is No Match For RSV

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

With two military officers in his house, my little nephew still wasn't protected against a potentially deadly enemy.  Sterling -- who is not quite three months old -- was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) last week and spent seven days in the hospital. RSV causes an infection of the lungs and breathing passages and is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children.  Although he is at home now and doing much better, his illness scared the life out of my brother and sister-in-law -- who had to put everything on hold and were in shock over how this tiny being had put their hearts in a tailspin in such a short amount of time.

In adults, RSV may only produce symptoms of a common cold, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, mild headache, cough, fever, and a general feeling of being ill. Yet, in babies (and kids with diseases that affect the lungs, heart, or immune system), RSV infections can lead to other more serious illnesses.  RSV is highly contagious and can be spread through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. It also can live on surfaces (such as countertops or doorknobs) and on hands and clothing -- then, it can be easily spread when a person touches something contaminated.

RSV spreads rapidly through schools and childcare centers, and babies often get it when older kids carry the virus home from school and pass it to them. Almost all kids are infected with RSV at least once by the time they are two years old, and RSV infections often occur in epidemics that last from late fall through early spring. Generally, in healthy kids, it's not necessary to distinguish RSV from a common cold.

Because RSV can be easily spread by touching infected people or surfaces, frequent hand washing is key in preventing its transmission. Try to wash your hands after having any contact with someone who has cold symptoms, and keep your school-age child with a cold away from younger siblings — particularly infants — until the symptoms pass. I've always been of the mindset that everyone gets colds, and with so many people in my house, I rarely get in a wad when someone has a common illness.  However, with the scare we experienced last week with Sterling, I now have a new respect for keeping our germs to ourselves...especially for the sake of those with lesser defense systems.

Getting Ready to Run Disney -- My First 1/2 Marathon

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Long run complete? Check.

Blisters turned into calluses?  Check.

Tu-tu purchased and packed?  Check!

I know it's not exactly the serious runner's check list, but when you're running the Princess 1/2 Marathon at Walt Disney World, a great tu-tu is almost as important as a good pair of socks. Now, the only thing that will complete my quest is to have you follow along with me next Sunday (February 27)!

Nobody does anything quite like Disney and that includes endurance events, too. So, come along beside me -- either in person or virtually by following the steps below. You can sign up to have alerts sent to your computer or smart phone and follow me as I run the Princess 1/2 Marathon Course, or you can follow the steps of the Spectator Tool to watch all of us royal types as we pass through Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom or take our victory lap around Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

For those who are lacking a little pixie dust and can't fly off to the happiest place on Earth, you can sign up for Runner Tracking by receiving my personal times notices, and Disney will "magically" let you know when I cross the finish line...whenever that might be!

After all, fairytales do come mile at a time!

Disney Fantasy Moves a Step Closer to Reality During Keel Laying Ceremony

Friday, February 11, 2011

Today, Disney Cruise Line celebrated the keel laying of the Disney Fantasy at the Meyer Werft shipyard. This is the second of two newly-designed ships that take the family cruise experience to all new heights. I recently sailed on her sister ship -- the Disney Dream -- in January.  She entered service to guests on January 26 of this year.

The keel-laying ceremony is a significant milestone in the ship building process when the first block, or section of the ship, is lowered into the building dock and a coin is placed under the keel for good fortune. Placing the coin was Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line, assisted by Minnie Mouse. (No, that's not me...although I am partial to dressing like a Disney character!)

The Disney Fantasy will offer many of the innovations that the Disney Dream features and brought to the cruise industry for the very first time, including AquaDuck -- the world’s first shipboard water coaster. However, the Disney Fantasy will feature a few new design elements and guest experiences that will give the ship a unique identity all her own.

The 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Flordia with its maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, 2012.  To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, you can visit, call Disney Cruise Line at 888-DCL-2500 or contact your travel agent. And for your friendly "mom-next-door" advice on all those details, come visit me at! The advice and information is free, and I'd love to help you!

Riding the Waves of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Since I started answering questions in January on exclusively for Disney Cruise Line (DCL), my little world has been rocking like the waves of the ocean.  With the introduction of the new Disney Dream and new itineraries for the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, interest for DCL is at an all-time high, and as a result, I've been busy answering all sorts of questions for guests planning itineraries for Europe, the Mexican Riviera, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and for the first time...Alaska!

Yes, the Disney Dream is just that -- dreamy! She's a beautiful, magnificent ship with intricate details and enchantment at every turn. I was privileged to have sailed on her christening cruise, and instead of posting something here, I'll save that story for one of my friends' blogs to whom I owe a promised post! Suffice it to say that the Dream lives up to her name! There were famous people, delicious food, funny stories, and you already know I rode the AquaDuck! (Please notice -- for my parents' sake -- that after more than 20 years of studying ballet, I even point my toes on a water slide!)

(Photo by: Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)

One of the distinct blessings about serving on the Disney Moms Panel is meeting all the wonderful people. Whether they are guests, cast members, media or fellow moms panelists, you can count on the Disney brand to be surrounded by quality. Such is the case with my new friend, Kristin Ford. She and I met just before "The Golden Mickeys" at the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Dream last month, and I'm so thankful I spoke up to say "Hi!" She writes for The Orlando Sentinel and is known as "A Mom and the Mouse."  She wrote the piece below, and you can follow her blog and her travels with the link above.

Disney Moms Panelist Andi Sims Offers Advice Tailored To Disney Cruise Line

Walt Disney World Moms Panel member and Disney Cruise Line specialist Andi Sims poses with a VIP on the Disney Dream. (Photo by: Kristin Ford/Orlando Sentinel)

While I was onboard the Disney Dream for its Christening Cruise, I spoke with Andi Sims, a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and 2011 Disney Cruise Line Specialist Mom. The moms panel is a group of Disney enthusiasts chosen from thousands of applicants to answer online questions from families who are planning Disney vacations. After being chosen for the moms panel, Sims was selected for the specialist position.
“It’s a pretty good year to be the Disney Cruise Line specialist,” said Sims of Birmingham, Ala.  Although she had only been on one Disney cruise before the Dream set sail, Sims said, “One of the things I bring to the position is the myriad ages of my kids.” At the time of her first cruise, she had children in all the kids’ clubs. Her children are now 7, 10, 13 and 16.

What has impressed you most about seeing the Disney Dream?
They put so much thought into the design. They built their dream ship as you would build your dream home. They took everything up a notch.

What is the most common question you are asked about Disney cruises?
It’s always about what to wear, usually to dinner. A cruise is an extra special vacation, so I like to dress up. But you don’t have to, so I tell people not to stress about it.

What advice do you have for families with kids?
I had one question about whether a family should put their child with Cerebral Palsy in a kids club and, if so, which one. The counselors know what they’re doing and the programs are tailored, so I suggested they put the child where he belonged age-wise. You should definitely bring your kids on the cruise, no matter what their abilities.

Many people who go on cruise vacations have certain things they always bring with them. What are your must-haves for a Disney cruise?
I bring a plastic over-the-door shoe hanger for toiletries; a magnetic message board for the stateroom door; and a tiny purse for evenings.

Any last suggestions?
Take lots of photos of your family because you have great backdrops everywhere.