Sunday, December 30, 2012

Skills!

I'm on my third week on crutches (for this time around anyway) ... since my second stress fracture was diagnosed  right before Christmas.

Looking at a previous post of mine (see here, "cereal"), I remember I wasn't able to even prepare a bowl of cereal on crutches.  That part hasn't really changed ... you would only know if you've been on crutches.  BOTH of your hands are full, all the time, so you can't do anything ... can't carry a cup of coffee, glass of water, book, etc.

But this time around I feel like a pro.  In the morning I get up, put my knee on my wheeled office chair, and scoot to the bathroom to get ready.  I even figured out how to get in and out of the shower on my knees, on my hands, on my butt, from the chair, from the floor, whatever.  I slide up and down the stairs like I was on a playground ... AND ... the big new development this time around is this --- a knee scooter!



I wasn't able to use one for the first injury, because it involved my hip, the right femoral neck.  This time the injury involves my left tibia, so I scoot around the house on this thing.  Not bad.  It's bulkier and a bit heavier than I imagined in would be, and to this day I have not yet swallowed my pride to bring the thing to work.  My excuse is that it's a pain to get up and down the three steps to my garage, fold it and put it in my trunk, and take it out and set it up ... all on one foot.  All that is true.  But the time it would potential save at work in terms of speed would be negated by the conversation, the questions, the explanations, the "wow that's cool," "wow look at you," "what is that thing?" etc.  I'll stick to my clumsy crutches, at least people know what they are, they're used to seeing me on it, and damn I got skills on them now.

But onward!

I WILL be participating in the NYC 13.1 Half Marathon in March.  Now, I did not yet say I was "running" it.  And no, I won't be "crutching" it like others out to prove something ...



That's great if you want to do that, all the power to you.  Just not my choice right now.  I will heal and get back to walking.  And I will WALK that half marathon if I have to.  I can swallow my pride and do that.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Excited

I am in good spirits today.
Everytime someone (who's not my doctor) sees me injured again and tells me to stop running, the more excited I get about getting back into running.

things I heard today,
"this is a sign."
"God is telling you to find another sport."
"Stop exercising."

Now, many are well meaning too with concern about why I got injured again,

"Something is going on."
"Something's not right, you should not be getting another stress fracture."

Now, although I believe that my erratic training schedule plus my technique and form caused my stress fractures, I realize that I am NOT my own doctor.

I am taking this seriously; I am seeing an endocrinologist as well .. had some labs done last week: ionized calcium, parathyroid hormone, spep, and upeo.

So we'll see.

But I'm not worried. I am focused on healing properly and getting back in shape properly so that I can fulfill my goals.

It is mainly for me. But yes, proving naysayers wrong would be icing on the cake.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Plan

When I got injured the first time, I had to cancel or defer my entry to several races.  There was the Spring Lake Five, the largest five mile race in the country, and a huge local summer tradition here.  And of course there was the Atlantic City Half Marathon, which was to be my first "big" goal.

I am now injured again, but this time I will NOT be cancelling or deferring the races I have already registered for.  I have already decided that I will heal and complete these races.

I am not doing this haphazardly or irresponsibly, however.

Of course I want to heal again properly and return to running properly and train properly, under a physician's guidance.  But last night I came to terms that while I would love to run these races, I don't necessarily have to.  I've seen that races generally have a 16 minute per mile time limit, which is fine for brisk walking

There is a lot of debate about the Galloway method (walk-run) and general walking in these races.  If you walk, did you "run" the race?  You can't say you "ran" a marathon if you walked part of it, they say
When I started running, I did not want to walk, and a very deep part of me still has the goal of truly "running" a marathon, and "running" Goofy.  To each his own, but I will not be personally satisfied until I RUN the entire Goofy.

Here's what we have laid out for the next year or so:

Now through January 2013 -- heal smart, heal responsibly, be patient.  When I return to running again, will get gait and form analyzed.

March 23, 2013 -- Allstate 13.1 Marathon, New York -- I understand that when I heal and recover, there will only be a short time to train for a half marathon, and I want to avoid injury again.  The thing is, I realized I can WALK this if I have to!

May 5, 2013 --  New Jersey Marathon -- this is to be my first full marathon.  Again, I do not want to get injured.  I want to train smart and accelerate mileage only as appropriate.  But I can WALK this to if I need to.

(13.1 Marathon + NJ Marathon = NY/NJ Challenge!)

October 13, 2013 -- Atlantic City Half Marathon -- I deferred this from this year.  This will simply be a training run for ...

January 11-12, 2014 -- Walt Disney World Goofy's Race and Half Challenge -- That's the half marathon on Saturday, followed by the full marathon on sunday.
This is the point and purpose of this whole blog.  And my goal.  I see it!  I'm there.  In my mind, it is accomplished.  Thank you.




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Motivated

Tonight I'm more motivated to run again than ever before.

I want to prove the naysayers wrong. I cannot wait until I run my first half marathon, my first marathon, and my first Goofy just to show them that they were wrong.

Do NOT tell me I can't do something.

I've gotten a lot of words of discouragement, the most striking in my mind,

"Your running days are over," and even, "your dreams of running again are shattered."

And to set the record straight, they were NOT from my doctor. Heck, most comments are from NONrunners.

Don't tell me what I can't do. I'll prove you wrong.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Answer

Before the answer, there must be a question.
And right now, for me, the question is this:

"Should I run again?"

I started running about one year ago, and two weeks ago I suffered my third injury, my second stress fracture in eight months, serious enough to require non-weight bearing status and crutches.  Major sideline from training.  Major sideline off my feet.

All week I've been hearing the same thing from coworkers and pretty much everyone else who knows me and who just saw me get off months of crutches:  Criticism and "constructive" advice instead of encouragement:

"You ran again?"
"You should stop running!"
"Find another sport ... try biking or swimming."
"Your running days are over!"

And at first glance, the answer is obvious.  I ran, got injured, got better, ran again, got injured again.  So "obviously" I shouldn't run again.  Obvious answer, right?

BUT WAIT.

Why?  Why should I stop running?  If my son falls off his bicycle, should I tell him to stop riding his bike?
When I was growing up, and made a mistake while playing the piano, did I stop?  The answer is NO.  You correct your mistakes, learn from then, get up and try again!

"But that's different, you're hurting yourself," they would say.  Well, technically, when I eat steak, I am hurting my self too, but I enjoy steak, so I will continue to eat it!

That's the point.  I enjoy running.  Truly.  I can't express how much of a joy it is.  Running.  Getting out there ... being outside, no matter the weather, no matter what time, how early ... and running.  And that feeling of accomplishment, when the run is done, looking at my time, looking at the distance, and just feeling good.  How can I give that up?  It would be like giving up piano because I made a mistake, or my son giving up trying to ride a bike because he fell off.  I can correct mistakes, get up, and run again.

But honestly this question, and this soul searching, has been a struggle.  If I run again, and I hurt myself a third or fourth, it will be like a "duh" moment, and frankly will just look stupid.  No one will have any sympathy.  But ... if I don't run again, I'll spend the rest of my life wondering "what if?"  and on top of that I will just be missing running.  It would be giving up a hobby, and giving up a joy.

Well, tonight I found the answer ... or the answer found me.
Tonight was our office's holiday party, and per tradition we the employers gave our staff gifts, and the staff gave us individual gifts.

The staff said, "this is for you when you get better ..." and presented me with this:

A GPS watch!!

How thoughtful.  Really, how very thoughtful.  Other from those extremely close to me, this was the first sign of encouragement that I got from anyone in regards to running since this most recent injury.

And for now, this is the answer:

Yes, I should run again.


Friday, December 14, 2012

The End ?

Yesterday I saw my orthopedic podiatrist, got an MRI, as confirmed a stress fracture in my distal tibia.

another stress fracture?!?!?!?!  another injury?!?!?!?!

This is my second stress fracture this year.

I'm in a boot and on crutches again. I had just gotten off 5 months of crutches and cane.

I came to the sad realization today that I probably should not run anymore. Even if and when I recover from this, it would just be stupid to run and get injured a THIRD time ... wouldn't it?

I finally found a sport that I loved. Running.

Couch to Goofy no more.
This is the end for now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ankle bone is connected to the ... ?

I haven't posted in a while. I was actually making good progress getting back into running after my injury, my right femoral neck stress fracture that had sidelined me for 6 months.

I started back up again, slowly ... or so I thought. I did the Couch to 5k again, or at least started again, then transferred over to the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Marathon training program. I followed it religiously, taking rest days when prescribed, only doing the miles indicated, no more. Cross training as scheduled. Furthermore, I ran half my miles on a supposedly less impact inducing treadmill. Even did a couple of soft surfaced trails. Everything was going great, my long run built up to 7 miles without being tired, and I felt awesome.

Then last weak I felt a twinge on the medial side of my left ankle. Great. I ran a couple more times. Ankle hurt more, so I stopped.

Still hurts now, but I can walk on it. i'm walking carefully. I'm taking naproxen, put a lidoderm patch on it, and wrapped in in an ACE bandage. i iced it last night and kept it elevated. It feels fine at rest, hurts on toe push off. There is point tenderness just posteriosuperior to the medial malleolus.

We'll see what happens.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The New York / New Jersey Challenge

I ran 5k yesterday, 3.1 miles.  It was the longest I had run since my injury 6 months ago May 2012.  In fact, my last "real" run before my injury was the Ocean Medical Center 5k, where I PR'd at 23:48.31, or 7:40 pace.

Yesterday I was much slower, at 10:23 pace, barely shuffling along at times I felt, but I could not be happier!  I'm back!  I'm running!  And it feels great.
But I have to be much smarter, and I'm doing my best to be careful, listening to my body, planning ahead, and not doing too much at one time, and not accelerating either my pace or my mileage too fast ... at least that's the plan.

Because of my injury, I missed several races ... the most important of which was the Atlantic City Half Marathon, this October 2012.



I was there this year, as I had had the hotel booked and everything, but I was a spectator.  It was initially to be my first Half Marathon, (officially anyway, I have run a 2:04 half marathon in training), and although I was disappointed in not being able to run, by the time I was standing at the finish line watching everyone go by, I was ok with it, and at that moment I knew I would be back.

Running had to be put on hold for a couple of weeks at least ... as Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore pretty bad ...



It hit very close to home.  My own immediate family and home were out of power, heat, and hot water for more than a week, but we were the lucky ones.  Many of our friends and coworkers lost their homes.  It has been almost a month since the storm hit.  The effects and the damage will last a long time, but the Jersey Shore is rebuilding.  At a time like this running seems almost inconsequential ... strange that I started this whole running thing by running up and down the boardwalk, and my regular route eventually became running down to Point Pleasant Beach, up and down the boardwalk, and back home.  Now much of that route is wiped out, as you can see from the above videos.

I am now, as I mentioned, starting to run slowly, and I did find a short place to run close to home.  I like the idea of running towards a goal ... and yes my ultimate goal, and the purpose of this blog, is still to run the Goofy Challenge (marathon and a half 39.3 challenge) in Walt Disney World January 2014.  To get there I did set a couple of goals along the way ...

I spent a couple of days looking to racing calendars (check out running in the usa) and racing schedules to find at least one half marathon and one full marathon that I can train for and run before training for the Goofy.  My idea is to do a half in february or march 2013, on the way to training for a spring marathon.  I did find a spring marathon, the New Jersey Marathon!  Which is perfect as it's a spring marathon, and happens to be right here on the Jersey Shore. After a lot of considerations with my own work schedule and everything, I looked at some half marathons : the Red Rock Half Marathon in Las Vegas, the Rock n Roll Mardis Gras Half Marathon, even the Williamsburg Half Marathon.  Those would be destination races I guess ... there is the E. Murray Todd half marathon here in new jersey also, but it looks small (field wise) and hilly.  At this point for my first real half marathon, I want something somewhat festive, and big, and especially after an injury, I want it to be flat if possible.

Then by chance I saw a link for something called the New York / New Jersey Challenge, and immediately I knew I found what I was looking for.  Basically if you run the Allstate 13.1 Marathon (in Flushing Meadow, NY):

AND you run the New Jersey Marathon,


then you have completed the NY / NJ Challenge and to boot you get a third medal ...



AWESOME.  This is perfect for so many reasons.  The 13.1 Marathon is close by in NYC, right on target in March 2013, with training for the May 2013 NJ Marathon, which is right here on the Jersey Shore, and the NY/NJ Challenge might just a preview of the Goofy Challenge!

I'm so excited.  For my training, I'm following my own modified version of Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Marathon training program.  It's written as an 18 week gradually progressive program with 3 maintenance runs during the week, and I long run each weekend with a "step back" in mileage every 3rd weekend.  I'm modifying it to make it longer, for even more gradual acceleration, and may even skip one of the 3 mid week runs for more rest time.  We'll see how it goes.

But it's going.  Yes!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Second chance

Today I RAN for the first time since my injury 5 months ago. After a month of self-rehab on the elliptical (getting up to a one hour easy session) ... I ran today.

Nothing super special, no celebration, no pat on the back ... it felt very natural actually, and a couple of times i had to consciously remind myself to appreciate it. But i was careful, timid actually, excited and happy with a twinge of fear mixed in. I do NOT want to get injured again.

If i didn't get injured, at this point i could have been tapering down my long runs in my training for the Atlantic City Half Marathon to be run in 2 weeks. This was originally my first big goal, I have since deferred my entry for this year, and i am very ok with that. Content and not frustrated anymore.

If it wasn't for my injury i could have also been ramping up my training this week, as i had also registered for the Walt Disney World full Marathon for 2013. The AC half marathon would have just been another long run in the training for Disney. (I'm still in contact with runDisney on how to defer that entry).

But no. Today was not a long run of 10-13 miles or more. It was not a maintainance run for 3,5,8 miles or whatever. It was a first run. Again. I ran, or more correctly, did a walk-run, as i did Week 1 of the couch ton5k program. Yup, run 60 sec, walk 2 min. Repeat for 20-30min.

It felt good, but i didnt want to get hurt, so i concentrated on form and stepping lightly and not pushing.

This is a second chance. A do-over. I get to do it right this time.

Yes!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Focus

Day 4 today of elliptical.  20 minutes.  Still not like a long run of 10+ miles, but still felt nice.  One of my goals was to run the Walt Disney World Marathon this July 2013.  Because of my injury, I was sidelined and my training has been pushed back.

Last week I had a revelation, and that I could feasibly run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon instead!!  I emailed runDisney to transfer but unfortunately they could not accomodate me as now both the marathon and the half marathon are sold out.

Oh well.  Might be for the best.  Now I can just concentrate on getting better slowly, and properly, instead of rushing to run the race.

Don't get me wrong ... the goal of running a Goofy in 2014 still stands!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Baby steps again

Today I "exercised" for the first time since my injury 4 months ago in May. Per doctor's orders, I can pretty much only do nonimpact exercises now, like elliptical, stair master, bike, or swim.

Well, I do have a boring old elliptical down in the basement, so I went down with my iphone this morning excited to exercise, but expecting that i would need some music or podcast or something to get me going... Here's the thing, when I ran, I did not need any music, or iphone, or anything to keep my mind occupied. Running itself gave me a thrill and kept me going. The scenery, the cliched "wind in my face," even the other runners who would wave in encouragement and acknowledgement, that would keep me going. And most of all, that euphoric feeling at the end of a run..that sense of accomplisment, and seeing how far I'd run... That kept me going.

But this morning, i expected I would be stationary, staring at the blank basement wall while on the elliptical, indoors, and needing some music.

What I experienced was totally different. Afterwards, anyway. As this was my first exercise session since being sidelined, i knew i had to take it easy. I was on a nonresistance setting , on an elliptical, and going at a slow 60 step per minute pace. Barely "walking" on an elliptical. And I only went for 15 minutes. A far cry from my 2 hr long run of up to 13.1 miles that I did not too long ago.

But I actually felt it when i got off the machine. Just that 15 minutes gave me that familiar sense of heavy jelly legs, and yes some euphoria. I had almost forgotten what it was like. And i loved it. I'm exercising again!

And i can't wait till tomorrow.

Baby steps. Whatever it takes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winner!

Victory for me today.

No, today I did not run a race, finish a half marathon, a marathon or even the Goofy Marathon.  I did not even run.  When I started this blog, I looked forward to the day that I would do one of the above and use the word "winner" or "victory" or "mission accomplished" or something like that.

But I got injured ... and sidelined ... for over 3 months.  Crutches, scooter, cane.

My goal stays the same, but today I will celebrate my own victory, of a different type:

Today my doctor told me I can start exercising again!!

I stopped using my cane about 5 days ago, and I feel great walking around on my own.  Funny how you only appreciate what you have when you don't have it.  Cliche' but oh so true.  My doctor said I can start using the elliptical and maybe a stationary bike for the next month, in the meantime only continue to use my bone stimulator for a week or two more.

And then ... one month from now ...

I can start running again.

True, only a half mile at a time.  But I will be able to start running again.

It seemed like every day over the last 3-4 months someone would say to me, "No more running for you!" or even one said these words, "so your dreams of running again are shattered!"

I tried to stay positive, and kept myself confident that I would start running again, and now I know.

I will be running again.

Victory!

Thank you!! Of course my friends and family have been a great support, but I offer a special online thank you to the WISH boards on www.disboards.com and also on the Femoral Neck Stress fracture / reaction support group on the Runner's World forums, for helping me get through this.  On the internet you find out really quick, you are not alone!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Good News!

Last week I got my repeat MRI ... and my doctors told me that my femoral neck stress fracture is almost gone!!!  There is just a little bit of "residual edema" according to the radiologist, but that it still might be in the normal range.

More importantly, my orthopedic surgeon said I should start to transition off of the cane to be off 100% by next week, and to start some light stretches.

Yes.

Winner.

Good News!

Last week I got my repeat MRI ... and my doctors told me that my femoral neck stress fracture is almost gone!!!  There is just a little bit of "residual edema" according to the radiologist, but that it still might be in the normal range.

More importantly, my orthopedic surgeon said I should start to transition off of the cane to be off 100% by next week, and to start some light stretches.

Yes.

Winner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dreams

Today Disney revealed the finisher medal for the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon.

Inscribed is Walt Disney's quote,

"All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Healing Power of Disney




ok, I promise not to be New Age or religious in this post.  Not intentionally, anyway.

(Disclaimer: this is not a substitute for professional medical advice and may or may not pertain to your particular condition.  Consult your physician for your own health needs.)

Evidence (and common sense) suggests that a good sense of well being, and, perhaps, "positive thinking" has an effect on healing and recovery.  Shorter recovery times, and less pain, have been observed.  Cancer patients and others have used hypnosis to decrease pain.  Whether it's one being able to deal with it better, or the mind actually affecting physiology, I don't believe that it could be a bad thing, as long as "positive thinking" is an adjunct, and not a substitute,  for adequate medical care (my opinion).

The week before we left for vacation at the World, I tried to use a cane instead of a crutch, and I was not able to.  I walked with pain, and it felt too unstable.  I called my orthopedic surgeon and he suggested I continue the crutch and even use an electric scooter while at Walt Disney World.  I followed his advice and it was the best decision.  I was not fatigued, and I was able to sit and actually enjoy the surroundings for once.

The day after we got back from our Disney Vacation, I took out the cane, and have been able to walk with it now for a week.  This is certainly an "upgrade" from the crutch.  I feel like I am walking faster, smoother, and can go longer periods of time without pain.  Much longer than I did before the vacation.

Yes, it's probably because I rested on vacation.  Yes, it's probably because I caused less stress and had less weight-bearing on my hip over vacation.  Yes, it's because I recently started on a bone stimulator and now am experiencing bone healing.

But I also think yes, I was in a good mood, in my favorite place, with my family, and ... and I just felt good.
There's nothing necessarily magic, religious, or spiritual about it.  Just common sense.  You feel good, good things should happen.  And Walt Disney World happens to make me feel good.

Whatever the reason, I feel much better now.  Now if I can somehow schedule another Disney vacation to really complete this healing process!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Walt Disney World Mini BEER Tour

We just got back from a wonderful week long vacation at my happy place, Walt Disney World.  I had originally planned to blog about the running routes around the hotel and on the resort, but ... seeing as I am still injured, and really could not run during this vacation, I decided to focus on another activity: BEER!

It turns out that Walt Disney World has a wonderful selection of beers, but you have to look carefully.  Here,  my goal this week was to expand my palette and try a new beer every day.

(Disclaimer: I am not a beer expert, beer snob, professional taster, nor professional critic.  I simply enjoy beer in moderation and wanted to try new tastes!)


I will go through each one, however I am most excited about the Unibroue flight I had at Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot!! May be the best beers I've ever had!!

But onwards.

DAY 1: Samuel Adams Summer Ale




This first day we started with a not-so-exotic beer at a not-so-exotic restaurant: T-Rex at Downtown Disney ("theme" restaurant with limited beer choices)


But it was a perfect beer for this hot July summer day.

So this was one of the only draught choices at this restaurant. It arrived at the table already poured into this ice cold goblet. Appearance was an opaque medium amber, minimal cloudy orange with hint of reddish tint. Head and lacing almost gone by the time it got to the table. Smelled a touch of wheat and alcohol, can make out little lemon. Felt medium body and highly carbonated in mouth. I really enjoyed the flavors of fruit and orange without being too sweet, I could make out a hint of cinammon. Finish was also some fruitiness, but not overpowering.

Ok, enough with the "notes," at this point who am I kidding? I really liked this beer. Perfect crisp flavorful beer for a summer day. Very refreshing without being too sweet or light. Reminds me of Blue Moon, but the orange comes out a little more. Great summer day beer!


Day 2: Bohemia





This cloudy and drizzling day's beer comes to us all the way from Mexico, well, at least the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot, specifically at La Hacienda de San Angel.

The beer? Bohemia.

The bottle's dark brown color, somewhat bottom fat shape, and royal foil labelling are reminiscent of a San Miguel...but the similarities don't end there.

Bohemia pours a translucent honey yellow with a decent pale foamy head. Smell a bit of lemon lime. although the actual lime wedge the place on the rim admittedly helps that out. Taste is smooth and light, with a short bitter finish, medium light mouthfeel. Lime taste definitely there, with bits of lemon, and wheat.

Overall another refreshing beer, a bit on the lighter side, and only a touch of bitterness at the finish. Reminds me of a mix of San Miguel and Corona. Enjoy!



Day 3: Anchor Steam



I'll have to be honest.  I cannot give a fair assessment of this beer, as I had it while at the wonderful California Grill, where I was engaged in some great conversation with friends, I unfortunately did not pay attention to any details about this beer.  I know I did not dislike it.  Out of fairness and respect, I will defer any more judgement of this beer for another time.  A great excuse to order it again.


Day 4: Orlando Brewery Organic Ales Flight:




This was a very pleasant sampling of a local brew.  On tap at the Wave in the Contemporary, there was the Blonde Ale, the Pale Ale, and the Brown Ale.  I do not remember striking details about each one, but they were pleasant and smooth overall.  The Blond Ale tasted exactly as it looks: light, mild hoppiness, with a light zest of wheat and lemon.  The Pale Ale was better for my palette, with hints of orange.  Now the Brown Ale was definitely more my style, and really had a stouty finish to it, with hints of chocolate and coffee which I like.  Overall nothing extraordinary, but these are worth another taste to be fair.

Day 5: Unibroue Flight:




Let's just come on out and say WOW!!!  These three beers of Unibroue (Ephemere' Apple, Blanche de Chambly, Trois Pistoles), in Walt Disney World only exclusively found at Le Cellier at the Canada Pavilion) were light years ahead of any beer I tasted this trip, and may be overall the best beers I have every had.  At least the first impression of these three were wonderful.  As a contrast, the Orlando Brewery flight I had the day before was nice, but were not even close to these.

First, the Unibroue Ephemere (apple variety at this restaurant):  light, smooth, zesty, with a wonderful grapefruit finish, more citrusy than apple to me.  Did not taste overpoweringly sweet or weak.  Good carbonation made it taste like an Orangina but not like a full on soda.  Definitely a beer and not a cider.  Oh it was so good.  Not a "fruity drink" for sure, but so good.

The Unibroue Blanche de Chambly was interesting, with a smooth clove essence to it, almost like perfume, which I normally wouldn't like, but this was very drinkable with a very complex taste.  Not my favorite of the three but still an amazing beer.  Also good carbonation and could be a great everyday beer.

The Unibroue Trois Pistoles could be the best beer I've ever had.  Now, I am by no means a beer expert, and many others have had more experience trying many more different varieties.  But wow, this was great.  First of all, I like stout beer, the stronger, the deeper, the darker, the better for me.  This did not disappoint.  Dark in color, full bodied, tasted like a mix of semisweet chocolate syrup with coffee beans, the right amount of carbonation, and just the right smoothness to make it a drink that you can sip like a fine wine.  Think of a cold winter's eve, sitting by the fire, and having this as a perfect drink.  HAHA.  No really, this was great, and I wish this was available outside the restaurant!!


Day 6: Bedele




This beer has the unfortunate luck of following the best beers I have had so far.  But this Ethiopian beer, Bedele, was great.  It didn't hurt that I had it in what is probably my favorite Disney restaurant right now, Jiko.  Our wonderful server Michelle described this beer as having a "honey note."  Well, she was 100% right.  It was smooth without being too light.  And the honey was a definite flavor note without the sickly sweetness.  Maybe some maple syrup in there too.  Never had anything like it, and I think I will order it again.

Day 7: Birra Moretti La Rossa





I don't remember too much about this beer. I did not dislike it.  I had this with our final dinner for this particular vacation at Walt Disney World, specifically at Tutto Italia in the Italian Pavilion at Epcot.  Being from New Jersey, we often wonder why we eat here when we can get the best Italian food at home, but hey, it's Disney, and it's good!  The beer was fine, close to the "rocket red" varieties with more hoppiness to it, and a dry finish.  Not bad at all .... I'm still dreaming about the Unibroue!!



Day 8: Orange Blossom Pilsner



At the Top of the World Lounge, (a Disney Vacation Club members-only lounge at Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary), I had to try this local brew, which clearly states "made with Orange Blossom Honey."  Certainly pleasant, and I could taste the honey, but it wasn't as nice as the honey note in the Bedele beer.  Definitely less complex taste as well.  Just like beer mixed with a little honey.  Definitely drinkable, not overly sweet.  I can see myself ordering it again it I come across it.

(as an aside, I also tried the Bud Lite Lime ... but it really was not worth a picture nor a review, and not in the same league as the other beers I tried here).

Wow, that was fun.  I wanted this post to be about my running and training while on vacation, and running in the resorts, but well, I couldn't run.  So what's an injured runner to do on vacation?  Drink beer!  This was a small sampling of the wide assortment of beers found at Disney.  I am glad I did this and now want to try more.  The variety of textures, bodies, smells, and flavors are wonderful, and I am starting to appreciate the "complexity" of some of these brews.

Final word: Unibroue!!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Swallowing my pride ...

Time to face reality.  My femoral neck stress fracture is taking longer to heal than I had expected.  I don't want this to be a bad thing, and I want to stay positive.  But I will be going to Walt Disney World with my family next week, and I have to face reality ... there will be a lot of walking, and although I think I can handle it, my doctor and my family don't think so, and frankly, I am still limping around on a crutch, so who am I fooling?

I continually look to two runners: Kara Goucher and Meb Keflezighi, American long distance athletes, who have suffered similar hip stress fractures, and have gone on to become champions.



I am not at the same level as they are in athleticism of course.  But I realized that if I am to maintain and reach my goal of completing the Goofy Marathon and Half Challenge, I have to swallow my pride.  So today in preparation for my trip to the my happy place, Walt Disney World, I have reserved myself an electric scooter:


It was a hard decision to make.  I fully realize that others are a lot worse than I am, and have more serious medical problems than I do, and live in a so-called ECV every day.  But I had too much pride, no way a runner like myself was going to ride in a scooter at Disney!  But I realized that this is the way to go.  This is the best way for my family and I to enjoy ourselves at Disney, and I can heal in the process.

I especially thank www.disboards.com and the specifically the folks on the disABILITIES page for sharing their experiences and thoughts, and inspiring me to go this route.  I will still run, this is just a little vacation!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How quickly focus changes

A few months ago I was shopping around technology for running ... I was using the app iMapMyRun as a GPS on phone device, and I was considering getting a GPS watch (those Garmins look great) ... and maybe even asking for one for my birthday.  Would have been a fun (but not necessary) addition to my running gear.

Well, this year's birthday has come and gone, and I did not get nor even ask for a GPS watch.  Because of my injury, I had to stop running.  And instead of a $200 (or more) Garmin Forerunner GPS watch to help me track my miles, I got this:


This is an Orthofix 3315 Bone Stimulator.

Yup, bone stimulator ... prescribed by my orthopedic surgeon to help heal my stress fracture. I have to wear it 3 hours a day for the next 90-180 days.  The GPS watch has to wait.

How things change.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ice Cream Victory

Last night I drove my family to a local ice cream place, Sundaes, got out of the car, walked in, got a chocolate ice cream cone, ate it, and walked back to the car...VICTORY!

Why "Victory"?

Because I was not able to do that one week ago.


It has been almost 7 weeks since I sustained my latest running injury, my femoral neck stress fracture, and I've been on crutches since then (save for a couple of ambitious moments when I tried to come off, but ended up hurting myself again.)  And last night I left my crutch in my car and walked over to get ice cream, unassisted.  Victory.


When I started this blog a couple of months ago, I wanted to chronicle my training towards the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, the Marathon and a Half Challenge.  Yes, it may have turned into an injury report, with bits of Disney Pixie Dust thrown in ...

But my goal remains the same.


Yes, I sold my entry to the popular Spring Lake Five Mile Run, and I am trying to transfer my entry to the Belmar Five Mile Run (any takers please message me).

But I am still registered for the Atlantic City Half Marathon, and also the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon!  And God willing I will run both.

I am not in denial (or maybe I'm in denial of being in denial?), I know I have to recover smart, and train smart, and listen to my doctor and to my body.  We will be going to Walt Disney World in several weeks, and I have already researched online to find places to rent a wheelchair if I have to use one ... (God...30-something years old and I have to use a wheelchair at Walt Disney World?) ... but that's a big if.

But getting myself excited all over again at my favorite site:


Will keep you updated on the progress, but for now, Disney Trip planning!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Patience

Question: what does waiting in line for Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios and waiting for a running injury to heal have in common?

Answer: both require patience.  and lots of it.

(I thank and credit grumpyfan.wordpress.com for the above)


It will be five weeks tomorrow that my orthopedic surgeon told me that I had a femoral neck stress fracture, and that I had to be on crutches, "for a couple of weeks...".  Well, even though literature suggests that it often takes at least 6 weeks on crutches, I became a bit impatient, and after only one week I started to weight bear, and I came off crutches for a week ... limping badly.

Limping so badly that I aggravated it, and my orthopedic surgeon said "two more weeks."

Well, this past weekend, my wife and I went out to dinner with some friends, (at Daniel's Bistro in Point Pleasant, which was phenomenal by the way), and I did not like the prospect of hobbling in on a crutch and attracting attention when I wanted to have a nice night out.  So, exactly like someone who did not learn his lesson before, I left my crutches in the car, limped a couple of blocks to the restaurant, and needless to say, after dinner, one of my friends had to literally carry me back to the car.   Literally.  As in pick me up carry me back like a load of laundry.  Great, how's that for attracting attention.

Two days later, today, my groin still aches.

I had planned on resuming my training for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon on July 1, next week.  Because I wasn't patient enough, now I have to be more patient.

 Life has a way of teaching you a lesson over and over until you learn it.


And patience is what I need, given that I move around slower and get to places later.  On the plus side, being forced to slow down actually forces you to slow down!  Look around.  Appreciate things.  A couple of weeks ago I went on a Disney Cruise (see my trip report) on a crutch.  Looking back, it wasn't a hindrance, or a pain.  It was relaxing actually.  I did not feel I had to rush to get anywhere, because I knew I couldn't run there.  So my wife would stroll leisurely with me, and I got to actually see the ship, and experience the atmosphere.

In a few weeks we will going to Walt Disney World.  Will I be on crutch?  Maybe.  But if so, I will be happy to slow down and look around.  Really look around.   I am always telling people about Disney's attention to detail, and the intricate theming of everything from the streets to the garbage cans to the smells to the attractions.  Now instead of running to Space Mountain, I will be able to really appreciate Main Street USA.

But while I'm contemplating doing that, let me pull out my obsessive-compulsive touring plans!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise Part III

Trip Report: NYC Disney Cruise, 2 night weekend getaway
Part III

So the alarm clock on my phone awoke me 7am on our final morning, the morning of debarkation, and I felt like I missed an opportunity.  The day before, the Captain had announced that we would be passing the Statue of Liberty at around 3:30 am, and, along with that, we would have a nice view of the New York City skyline.  I didn't think much of it at the time, having been born in NYC and having grown up in the suburbs ... but seeing the skyline by way of sea, and sailing in, would have been very unique.  Oh well, there's next time.

I looked out our verandah and instead of the open water I saw New York.  Beautiful city, but it meant we were home and the cruise was over.



We had left our one luggage outside the night before (gave it to our hostess Donette actually), with the color-coded Orange Goofy tag ... so just a quick shower, and a sweep of the room we called home for a few hours really, hehe, and off we went to our final meal.

I was initially expecting to rotate in only two of the three main dining rooms, it being a 2 night cruise, and traditionally the debarkation breakfast is held in the dining room of your last dinner, but the pleasant surprise was that we were scheduled to rotate into the third dining room.  Great surprise because it was Animator's Palate!!  Animator's Palate was revolutionary in its technology in the early days of Disney Cruising.  Throughout your meal, the room, which started out as black and white in color scheme sketches, would gradually transform into brilliant animated color, and your servers would change costumes as well.





There was no gradual change, and the menu was the See Ya Real Soon menu (again, not a restaurant-specific menu), but we were so thrilled to see the dining room show and animation at the end of the meal, and the room did transform.  It was beautiful, and the perfect way to end our trip.  When we first boarded and I saw that the Animator's Palate was not included in our rotation, I regretted not having requested it, but ending with it was perfect.  The meal itself was fine, I opted for a toasted bagel and lox with cream cheese, and coffee. (hey, I was back in new york city!)

Disney Cruise Line has mastered the debarkation process.  You are given color coded luggage tags, and your luggage (if you choose) is carted out the night before for sorting.  On this particular cruise, one thing different from the Dream was that you were also given an assigned waiting area, until your luggage tag color was called, before debarking.  We did not have to go there as our color was called before breakfast was over.  Debarking was quick and smooth, no line.  Our luggage was there immediately, and we did not have to go through customs because we did not stop in any ports.

We waited for our car service then went home with the satisfaction of having a wonderful cruise.




Final thoughts:  This weekend cruise getaway was a wonderful weekend!  I thought it would feel too quick, and too short ... which it was, but I had the mindset of it being a weekend versus a long vacation.  The best part was that it was local and we did not have to trek to the airport and fly down.  That was a huge plus!
The boat itself?  I walked onto the Magic after having sailed three times on the new, gorgeous Disney Dream.  My first impression was that it was nice, maybe dark and small in parts ... but after this weekend, experiencing the charm of it, thrilled to be on the original Disney ship, enjoying the wonderful DCL service ... I finally got it -- It wasn't "dark and small", I saw how others view it as "cozy and intimate".  Expensive?  who knows ... depends what you value.  I valued every minute of this cruise with my family, and for that it was worth every penny.

Oh, and my running injury for which I used a crutch the entire cruise, my femoral neck stress fracture??  It feels better already.


Monday, June 18, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise part II


Trip Report: 2 night weekend getaway on the Disney Magic 6/15-6/17/12
PART II

(be sure to read Part I first HERE)



So I awoke spontaneously as I try to do every morning on cruises to catch the sunrise ... it never gets old.  Going out on the verandah, seeing nothing but the ocean around you.  In terms of real estate value, this is the ultimate water view.


(port side view from our verandah ... ok, this is a few hours after sunrise, but beautiful nonetheless)

When I had originally planned this cruise, I scoped out the Deck plans for a running track.  On the Dream, it was on Deck 4, and the length worked out to 2.5 laps = 1 mile.  Here on the Magic the running track is similarly on Deck 4, but shorter, 3 laps = 1 mile.  I was originally anxious about getting in my long run, as the cruise fell on a Saturday, and I think at this point of marathon training, I would have been scheduled for at least a 10 mile long run.

But no matter, I got injured, on a crutch now, so it wasn't even an issue on this cruise.  Made packing that much lighter too, not having to bring running shoes and gear.  But my wife went down to check on the track and get her run in, but reported that the ends of closed off ... crew said they were working on something.  So instead of running back and forth along one length she ran up to Deck 10 and found there was ample room to run around there as well.

I loved running on the Disney Dream, like running along the shore, pretty empty early in the morning, and just knowing that you were on a Disney ship.  I missed it ...

Anyway, at this point I realized one thing about the stateroom that I didn't notice the day before ... the curtain between the sleeping and the living areas is NOT a blackout curtain.  Not a criticism, just an observation, and a warning to those who want to sleep in.  (The curtain to the verandah IS blackout, so you can close that ) ... but by no means did I want to sleep in on this one and only day of the cruise!


So after my wife came back from running we headed up to Topsiders, mainly because Parrot Cay wasn't open until 9:30am and didn't want to waste precious hours on this short cruise.  We weren't sure what to expect for Topsiders breakfast buffet, since we were not overly impressed with the embarkation lunch.
Well, I'm happy to report that the Topsiders breakfast buffet was good!  Pretty much standard American breakfast fare, but it doesn't take much to impress me for breakfast though, give me an omelet station, some fruit and coffee, and I'm good to go.  We sat outside where it was cool and windy, but perfectly nice.

The service I have to say again and again was excellent.  Crew members offering to help everywhere you turn (Thanks Kristi from Estonia!).  Smiles all around.  Little things like walking around picking up bits of empty sugar packets that blew off your table.  Just my opinion, but those are the things that make a cruise all worth it to me.

Now, this was both the first and the last day of the cruise.  Our captain made a very funny announcement overhead,

"Good morning, I have the unique opportunity to both welcome you on the cruise and to also thank you for sailing with us, because this is the first and probably the last time you'll hear from me." LOL!


All in good fun!  After breakfast we went to Decks 9 and 10 to take a stroll.  At this point on the Dream, we would have to scope out some poolside seats.  Well, on this cool and windy day ... a mad rush was not necessary:




(To be fair, it did get crowded poolside later in the day, but we managed to snag a couple of seats).

The rest of the day was really about relaxing, and fitting in activities as they came around.  My wife and little one took obligatory pictures with the characters in the lobby, which brings up a point...just yesterday I read a user review of the Magic which criticized that there were "not enough characters," and that "Characters should be EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME!"  The author criticized that the Disney cruise should have "more Disney decor."


Wow.  I really don't know where to start.  The reason I love Disney Cruise Line, is that, although I am an avid fan of Disney, I appreciate that you're not overrun by Disney everywhere.  The feeling and atmosphere is that of class and elegance on a Disney ship.  I love the decor and the subtle Disney references and hidden mickeys throughout.  The interior of the ship does not look like a tacky cartoon ... it's just beautiful.  Character appearances are limited, but goodness there is a schedule outlined right on the daily Navigator.

We did check out the cooking demonstration, in this case it was a Salmon wrapped in Phyllo dough.  Definitely more of a demonstration than a class, by the Chef de Cuisine of Topsiders ... pretty good tasting, the pleasant surprise was that it came with a tasting of a Chardonnay.



So...going along with the Cruise Director's statement that "the biggest decision you will face is where to eat next", before we knew it it was lunch time already!  So back to Topsiders we went, mainly because the chef at the cooking demonstrated mentioned something about a seafood buffer.  We had some room service the day before, which was quick and convenient, as quick and convenient as the fast food offerings they had on Deck 9, but seafood buffet sounded good.   Not a bad a buffet, there were mussels which I like, and crab legs which my wife likes, and the phyllo-wrapped salmon of the earlier demonstration.  I would like to forget about the dry halibut, but the best part was the crepe station!   It was a buffet, but I didn't overdo it.  I had one plate of food, and didn't go back for seconds.  Maybe my crutch made the whole prospect of going back for dry halibut and trying to carrying it back an ordeal, and I didn't feel like having my wife or one of the crew get something for me.

I did make my way at some point to the ice cream station outside for soft serve banana and chocolate!

As an aside, this was my fourth cruise, and I've only cruised Disney.  I cannot compare it to anything but itself.  People ask me how I can justify the price of Disney and how it compares.  I imagine there are many things on the Disney cruise that I just take for granted, things that other cruise lines don't offer.  Unlimited soda, ice cream, characters, second-to-none kids clubs etc, are the obvious features I guess, but the extra cost is for the "Disney touch."  Whether you believe in it or not, I think it's there.


We made our way poolside and my kid loved the Mickey pool and the slide.  The slide on the Magic appears bigger than the Mickey slide on the Dream, but the Dream has the aquaduct.  I did not get in the water and my wife and I were perfectly content sitting out there people watching, until it got too cold and we went back inside to watch Charlie Peachock, an enjoyable comedian/juggler who was on America's Got Talent:


Here's a quick clip from our camera:

video

The amazing thing was that he was able to juggle in the relatively low-ceilinged space of Rockin' Bar D.  Pretty impressive.

Afterwards, a little bit of shopping then we ran into our stateroom hostess and she mentioned that she left us some debarkation luggage tags in the room!  What?  No!  we just got here!  And we have to think about packing and leaving already? Booo.  short cruise!

Next thing we knew it was time to watch the show Dreams: an Enchanted Classic.  I won't say much about it, other than I am a huge Disney music fan (my favorite cruise show is the Golden Mickeys) but this show did not do much for me.  Others in the audience seemed to love it of course.

After the show we waited out in the Atrium lobby to get some "formal" pictures and here is where I noticed a huge difference in atmosphere between the Dream and the Magic.  At least in my experience, the feeling in the Atrium Lobby of the Disney Dream, especially around dinner and show time, is almost like a wedding reception or a classy cocktail hour.  There is nice live music, most people are dressed up, walking and standing around, with drinks and what-not, and there always seemed to be officers in their white uniforms mingling with the guests.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was a team of tuxedo wearing hosts with plates of hors-doerves.

Now, I don't know if it was because this cruise on the Magic was much shorter, but this did not have the same type of elegance.  The space is smaller, there was no music, people were not as generally dressed up, and I saw very few if any officers.  Again, this cruise was different, shorter, and more casual, so the comparison might not be fair.


And then dinner time!  This time we went to Lumiere's.  Again every restaurant rotation had the same menu, this time the Till We Meet Again menu.  I had the tuna sashimi appetizer which was more a seared tuna than straight up sashimi, but still good.  The seafood/lobster bisque was more tomato soup than anything, but fine as well.  I really enjoyed my beef wellington in puff pastry, and ended with a nice chocolate decadence and again a really good cup of coffee.  We have never really ordered anything that was not on the menu, and at least two head servers we have had previously made it a point to say something like, "Please ask me for anything, think of something, please challenge me."  On our very first cruise (The Disney Dream 3 night Bahamian Cruise, March 2011), our head server told us that if you think of something and they didn't have the ingredients, they would try to get it when they got to the next port!  Wow, that's service, but my wife and I never really took advantage of it.  At a nearby table, a couple was making use of the wonderful service and ordered a French Onion soup, salad, and a fish dish, none of which looked like it was on the menu.  That's fine, and wonderful, and the staff should be commended.  This time my wife for the first time tried to order something not on the menu -- creme brulee.  Our server said it would be tough, so we didn't push it.  That's not a big deal.

The Youth Activities counselors came around and picked up the kids to bring them to the clubs while we finished dinner (another awesome feature of the Disney Cruise Line).

Best part of this dinner was the cruise dining staff celebration and congratulations.  This is definitely something they should have on the Disney Dream.  Your dining servers (who follow you from restaurant to restaurant throughout the cruise) are introduced in festive fashion, and parade around the dining room with international flags.  This is complete with cheering, and high fives.  This was wonderful to see and to give due compliments to your servers on this two night cruise ... I could only imagine the cheers and the well-wishes, and perhaps even tears, on a longer cruise.  Imagine the bonding that the guests have with their servers on a week long cruise, and then this is their moment.  Loved it.




So we said our thank yous, and our initial good byes, really feeling how short this cruise was.  We also gave our tip envelopes at this point.  This was something new for this cruise:  Tips were added automatically!  Now, I liked the convenience of not having to go down to guest services to add tips to your account, but initial feeling is that this may do a disservice to the staff.  Now that the tips are added automatically, guests will not have the incentive to add to tip, because they will have to go down to guest services.  Hopefully the staff will continue to have incentive to provide their excellent service, and guests will have incentive to give more.

This was the second and last night, so before we turned in for the night, we checked out Beat Street, the adults-only evening area.  The juggler Charlie Peachock had a nighttime version of this show, just as amazing, but we enjoying chilling out in Diversions, the sports bar.  I can see where the Dream improved upon this with their 687 sports bar in their adult area called the District ... which has a darker, smoother feel, with rich wood tones and artifacts from the ship.  Still, my wife enjoyed her margarita and I my Boddington's just the same.  Especially with the bar food spread ... chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, what can go better?


Then we turned in for the night, sad to know that the next morning this short but certainly sweet cruise was going to be over.

Stay tuned for Part III coming soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New York City Disney Cruise!!


Cruisin' with Crutches

Trip report: 2 Night Weekend Getaway NYC on the Disney Magic. 6/15 - 6/17/12
Part I.


(official DCL promo photo for NYC cruises)


To be honest, this cruise kinda crept up on me.  To date, I had been on three previous Disney cruises, all  on the Disney Dream, which had  a rather short reign  of being Disney Cruise Line's newest (and grandest) ship until the Disney Fantasy made its debut earlier is year.  We as a family looooved our first Disney Dream voyage so much that when DCL announced that its 2012 itineraries would included cruises from New York City,  booking one was a no-brainer.  Why?  Not only am I  a huge fan of  DCL, Disney service, and the "Disney touch," but  we're from New Jersey.  The thought of enjoying the magic of Disney without having to fly down was amazing.  So book one I did,  and this  2 night cruise to nowhere  sounded like fun. 

But with my femoral neck stress fracture, and me being on crutches (going on 4 weeks now), I almost forgot about this cruise. I wasn't looking forward to cruising with crutches, but come on, being on crutches on a Disney Cruise must be infinitely better than being on crutches at work, right?  We literally packed at the last minute, because hey, it's just a weekend, and waited for our car service.

Day 1, 6/15/12:  Car service promptly picked us up, and from 9:20am to 10:30am we hit no traffic from the Jersey shore to NYC, missing rush hour, until we hit the West Side Highway.  Our official port arrival time  that we got was 12-12:30pm, so we had plenty of time, but we like to be early for things.  So we sat in traffic for a while when it hit me...when  we got a glimpse  of the  unmistakable red smokestack with the mickey head emblem of the Disney ship,  I admit I got excited.

Warning: unavoidable comparisons to the Disney Dream (and Port Canaveral) ahead (because that's all I know).

Drop off at the NYC terminal was ok ... Located at 12ave and 55th street, easy to find ... Signage was ok, but just look for the big ships.  It was congested, it's New York City  for goodness sake, but not at all chaotic.  I was born in NYC, and grew up in Jersey,  it felt like a typical day in the city.  So we got  dropped off right in front of the ship.   The Disney Magic is smaller than the Disney Dream, but this is THE original, with the classic shape and theming of cruise liners of days gone by, with the Mickey colors done in an elegant style.  The exterior showed some wear and age, but this ship is about 14 years old, and at least from the outside, it's beautiful.




Being that the NYC terminal  is not a Disney-exclusive  nor a  Disney-permanent port, the "disney cruise" signage  looked temporary,  but you couldn't get lost.  There were people with disney signs pointing the way, there were porters to check  in your luggage.  We arrived exactly at 11am, and  found no line to get inside.  There's an elevator to go upstairs to check in, then a security checkpoint which was smooth, and then actual check in.  The terminal itself is ok, again some temporary disney  signs,  banners, random people waving Mickey Hands.  At this point I don't know if they are official Disney cast members  or local employees or what not.  But friendly for sure.  Check in lines were split amongst first timers, gold and silver castaway club members,  platinum castaway club members, and there was a separate area for concierge.  By FAR the longest line was for the gold and silver castaway club members.  Most people on this cruise clearly had  cruised Disney  before.  Also, clearly most  of the passengers were decidedly local like we were.  New York, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania.  I was born in NYC, and grew  up in New Jersey where I am so proud to  live right now, and it takes one to know one, with the dress and accents and overall appearance.  This weekend cruise looked like it  had more adults and less kids than other Disneg cruises, and that people were  going to party.  (disney style anyway).

So we were on line for I guess 10-15 minutes (i know not long but surely longer than any checkin at port canaveral) and the actual check in could not be smoother.  We then went to the Youth Activities registration area, and there was no line at all (this line is the longest at port canaveral.  Again, less kids at NYC).  Waiting in the port, everyone was crowded with many people standing  in the area  right next to the boarding gate.  But  just look around,  there is a large seating area near security, in front of youth registration, where we sat and waited for our boarding #9 to be called.  there was a small stand with coffee, drinks, and sandwiches, something Port Canaveral  didn't have last time we were there.

Oh yeah, Goofy was there.

Boarding was FAST.  They started boarding at 12pm and they called our #9 in what felt like 15 min.  And there was really not much of a line to get in, with the  picture taking to the swipe of the Key to the Worl card.  This part at Port Canaveral seems to take forever.  Here, at  NYC  I guess with a smaller ship and less people, it was a breeze.  Now from the key swipe to the actual ship there is quite a bit of a walk, probably more than half the ships length, outside, then with a snaking gangway/platform thing.  So I hobbled along with my crutch, and again there didn't feel like a mad rush of people trying to get on the ship.  The timing of the boarding numbers being called was paced just right.

We were greeted and our family names announced by the crew members with the familiar white formal uniforms, and the familiarity of that was awesome.  Seriously, something about the youth and the class and international accents of the crew just transported me instantly, we were on  a Disney cruise again!

The lobby of this 14 year old ship is of course smaller and in a way darker than the openness and opulence of the much newer Dream, but absolutely no way less in the character, theming, and magic of the whole thing.




Embarkation brunch:  both the Parrot Cay and Topsiders appeared to be open, so we headed for Topsiders, mainly because we were so impressed with the Cabanas lunch on the Dream, we were expecting somewhat of a counterpart.  Instead of being negative, I'll make this a positive comment and just say that Cabanas is a wonderful improvement over Topsiders, at least for the embarkation lunch.  What, with the endless pods of lamb, pasta, turkey, stone crabs, clams, shrimp, vegetables, etc etc etc in the comparitively bright and open and flowing Cabanas....what's not to love.  But that's on the Dream.  This was Topsiders on the Magic.  I'll leave it at that.

So we walked around a bit, checked out Deck 9 and 10 before our stateroom was ready.  There were not too many people milling about yet.  That's one thing I definitely liked about this cruise, although smaller, with smaller spaces, it just didn't feel like it was crowded or chaotic.  I felt that the service was a bit more special too, and that the crew didn't seem as harried.  I'm assuming too that me walking around on my crutch prompted more servers to offer, "can I help you with something? Can i carry that for you? Can I get something for you?".   I was perfectly capable of using one arm for my crutch and the other to carry my plate or whatever.  One server even seemed genuinely sad that I refused her help.  The Disney Cruise crew works so hard!  Kudos to them!

Check out what was parked just yards from the Disney Magic: the Space Shuttle Enterprise!!!




Our cruise director Peter humorously said, "The Magic has sailed out of Port Canaveral for 15 years, (next to the Kennedy Space Center), but we had to go to New York to see the Space Shuttle!"

So we checked out our stateroom.  Category 5C, deluxe family stateroom with veranda.  Located on Deck 6, closer to the aft than the midship elevators.  I liked the location.  It was very quiet, and close to the elevators, which I actually used less than I expected.  People OFF crutches would definitely find it convenient to run down a flight or two for the kids clubs, shops etc, and just 3 flights to get up to Deck 9 pool etc.  Elevators are very small.  Those with wheelchairs  and scooters  waited a long time for an empty elevator during busy times.  The side stairwells were also narrow at parts, people would have to wait or take another route when I was hopping down them on my crutch.
So anyway, the stateroom itself was fine.  I think split bathrooms should be mandatory in every family hotel, what a great feature!  Bed was comfy enough, there were a bunch of drawers, nice desk space, a little living area with convertible couch, and the verandah of course.  I supposed we could've stuffed  our one piece of luggage under the bed (which would have to be lifted a bit), but really, on this short of a cruise, we didn't really unpack, and we just  kept it in a corner.  Overall  smaller stateroom than the Dream, but perfectly fine, and  other than a few expected signs of age and wear, I couldn't find  much  to improve upon.

After the mandatory and uneventful muster drill, we went to the Adventures Away party.  It was the expected fun, spirited, high-energy  sail away party with a really good cruise-activitied host, Tisha, characters, music, confetti, and  what I look forward to the most ... The countdown followed by the "When You  Wish Upon A Star" horn.  The Magic  version had bit less sentimentality but the New York skyline in the background  and the New York crowd  elevated the energy.




And off we went passing by the Freedom Tower:



...and the Statue of Liberty ...



Then we dropped the little one off at the kids clubs, there are the Oceaneers Club and the Oceaneers Lab for those ages 3-12.  Now, I know there has been some debate and heat over the "open houses.". Basically the open houses are hours during which "families can enjoy the clubs together with their children.". The problem is that during these hours you have to physically be with your child and you can't drop them off.  I thought this was going to be a bummer but the Magic solves this problem by alternating the open houses between the Club and the Lab, so they'll shuttle the kids between each. Problem solved.  The club and lab themselves looked great, beautifully themed, with a pirate ship and the like, and plenty of organized and free-play activities.  No kid looked bored, and as usual I felt completely comfortable leaving my little one in the hands of the yellow-shirted counselors.

Then we hit the Promenade Lounge to let the weekend begin.  The Promenade Lounge is something that the Dream should have, in my opinion. It's located a few steps off of the Atrium Lobby, a perfect location as a meeting place or what not.  I suppose the Bon Voyage bar on the Dream would be a counterpart, but the huge difference is that the Promenade Lounge is much larger, with ample seating, a dance floor, and enough space to hold events, live music, and the like...

And thus we found ourselves in the middle of a Disney Trivia game, and ... I actually won!  Questions ranged from what year was Beauty and the Beast released? To What is the name of the High School Musical mascot.  The prize on one of the trivia games on the Dream was a bottle of champagne, so I was excited and expected similar ... but instead I won this plastic medal, hehe.  And fun, memories, and laughs:


(hmm...looks vaguely familiar to the plastic 'winner' medals they gave to every participant in the Castaway Cay 5k)


After some more exploring ... Dinner time! (second seating for us). At Parrot Cay for us.  This was the inaugural 2 night weekend getaway from NYC, so there was some online speculation online about dining options, if  it would be the same restaurant both days, which menu, etc.

Here's the brief rundown:
On our 2 night cruise, we rotated through the THREE restaurants: for dinner 1, dinner 2, and for the debarkation breakfast.
The menu was the same for all restaurants at the same time: Let the Magic begin, Til we meet again, and See ya real soon menus.  That means there was no restaurant-specific theme menu.
Palo was open as far as I know, but we didn't make reservations.

Our servers were Greenidge from India, and  Widi from  Indonesia.  In the brief time we spent with them, i found their service as excellent as any other DCL server I've ever had.  There was some speculation online that the servers would not be as engaging  or  whatever on a 2 night cruise.  I found them excellent.  Of course you can't "bond" with them over 2 nights as you can over  5 or 7, but they were perfectly fine.

Food was ok on the Let the Magic Begin Menu.  I don't really complain about food, and I eat anything, so I don't have much to criticize but that the food was unremarkable.  I already forget the details of what I had ... Flavorful chicken bastelo for appetizer, clam and seafood chowder soup which didn't look nor have the texture of a New England chowder, but flavor was just as good, and a rather tough Yachtsman Steakhouse Sirloin.  Dessert was fine, I got some sort of trio.  Coffee was really good I must say.

It was Pirate Night, but the huge thing I noticed is that I didn't notice.  There were very few cast members milling about in Pirate gear during the day.  Our servers did not wear pirate costumes.  They did not leave any red bandanas in our rooms, so I didn't see any fellow passengers in them, and I really didn't see the amount of passengers in all-out pirate costumes around.

So the Pirate show and Mickey's Buccaneer Blast fireworks went off.  Very cool that the Disney Cruise Line is the only one allowed to have fireworka at Sea.  Oh yeah, one more thing: the main show was Villains Tonight!  But we skipped it as we had seen it three times previously and most recently two months ago on the Dream.  Presumable the Magic production would have their own impromptu jokes, but we were content skipping it this time.

So...embarkation was smooth and perfect,  and so far service was wonderful.  Tomorrow would both our first and last full day, but I didn't care--we were on a Disney Cruise, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Stay tuned for Part II soon!