I Conquered Everest! (The race, not the mountain)

As you may have heard, we went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and IT WAS AWESOME! We have been dying to go to Disney since having Luna, and we found the perfect excuse to plan a trip: a race. Several months ago, we signed up for the Expedition Everest Challenge. So, not only did we get to spend 4 magical days at our home away from home, but we also got to experience a magical run and after party. I think Disney runs might be my new obsession!

run disney

The Expedition Everest Challenge is a 5k through Animal Kingdom at night with obstacles and a scavenger hunt! I’ve got your interest, right? It was an extra special race because it was the 8th and final challenge. Why? I’m not sure, but I believe it has something to do with the Animal Kingdom expansion… Anyways, to prepare for the run we picked out Winnie the Pooh themed costumes. I was Pooh, Bella was Piglet and Husband was Christopher Robin. (BTW, I don’t know if Husband will ever allow me to dress him in costume for a race again… apparently Christopher Robin isn’t super cool. Whatevs. It could’ve been worse, my original plan was the three kittens from Aristocats.) We also prepared by doing Insanity Max 30 and running almost never. It’s so hard to stick to a running schedule, am I right?!

You’ve got to admit, it’s a cute idea!
Here's what we went with instead...
Here’s what we went with instead…

our group

Even without running we totally kicked butt! We ran our fastest 5k ever at 22 minutes and 51 seconds! Husband placed 15th out of individual men, Bella placed 7th and I placed 8th out of individual women. I am super proud of us, and impressed with Insanity Max 30 for keeping us in good shape. It was very intimidating to start the race in the first heat. We were surround by individuals and teams who have placed or won the challenge in previous years. Some had run every single year. We were shaking in our tutu’s, but we managed to keep up with the pack and it was a blast!

Before the race began
Before the race began

We ran through the parking lot, through the park, through three (albeit mediocre) obstacles and across the finish line. At the finish line we were handed the usual bottle of water, a cool towel and a clue! That’s right, the challenge was only halfway over. We were to solve the first clue, run to the second, give the correct answer, receive the second clue and so forth. It was not easy to keep running, but we pushed through it and took a few breaks to solve some serious clues. There were a total of 6 clues and at the second finish line we had to hold up the “hidden Yeti” with our 6 solved clues in order to cross and receive our medals. It was exhilarating and so much fun!

We did it!
We did it!

Then, the after party. We celebrated at the post-race private after party in the park. The Dinoland and Asia sections were open for us to enjoy. There were characters, open food and drink stands and rides! Yay, for rides with no lines! We rode Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids. It may have been a mistake to get soaking wet on the rapids considering it was chilly out and night time, but it was still worth it to be in Animal Kingdom at night during our own private party.

We conquered Everest!
We conquered Everest!

We didn’t get back until almost 2am. (Wild night for us lame parents.) After spending the entire day at Magic Kingdom and running all night we were EXHAUSTED! It was definitely a night to remember. In fact, it was such a good time that we are already planning our next Disney Run: The Disney Princess Half Marathon!!! (And, by “we” I mean me and Bella. Husband is thrilled to be the babysitter.) Who’s with me???

There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.
There were characters all along the course cheering us on and Mickey and Minnie were at the after party.

Also, who has advice? I am SO not prepared. Good thing I’ve got 9 months to whip myself into running shape!



Before the wedding, I informed Husband that it’s tradition to get the bride a surprise the day of the wedding. He took me by surprise immediately, and informed me that the groom also gets a present. He’s smarter than he looks. I am terrible at keeping secrets or surprises, especially from Husband, so I “accidentally” told him his surprise a month before the wedding. He is terrible at leaving his laundry on the floor, so I also accidentally found the receipt for my surprise in his pocket.

Husband’s gift to me was taking me on the Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here’s Disney description of this tour:

Join the ultimate animal adventure! Journey deep into Pangani Forest on a thrilling, privately guided expedition featuring close encounters with exotic wildlife species. Get closer than you ever dreamed possible to Nile crocodiles and massive hippos. Venture on to a VIP safari across an open savanna teeming with native African creatures!

During the tour they gave us our own water canteens, name tags, and safari vests. We walked all over the “backstage” area of the Kilimanjaro Safari, and we got breaks often for water and jungle juice.

Disney only allows 12 people at a time to sign up for the tours, which makes it really personal and relaxed.

Whenever we’d get close to the animals, they would force us to harness ourselves into these long metal rods (kind of like being harnessed to a closet). We could stretch out pretty far, but just far enough to not put ourselves at risk.

At every animal stop, the guides would tell us all about the animal we were viewing. Not only would we get a nice science lesson on the species, but we would get a history lesson about the specific animal we were watching. This hippo, for example, is a male and has to live alone because he is very aggressive towards other males, and is not allowed to mate with the females right now. He also loves to eat corn on the cob.

About halfway through, they took us over some 30 ft tall rope bridges that crossed over the alligator swamp. Disney is a little ridiculous with their safety measures. We were triple protected as we walked over the bridges.

After all the walking, they put us in the back of what can only be described as pick-up truck with benches, and drove us through the Savannah. They gave us more water, some ice-cold, scented cloths to keep us cool, and binoculars. They stopped in the middle to allow us to use our binoculars and ask several question about the giraffes, wildebeests, and other wild African animals. During our stop several animals decided to stand in the middle of the road used for the Safari. It took them over half an hour to get them all off the tracks. This turned out to be great for us because several giraffes came right up to our car to get a closer look at us. I also got to take advantage of the tour guides and really pick their brains about the animals they keep at Animal Kingdom.

Disney actually works with numerous other zoos around the world who are all on a big zoo committee together. Each zoo in this group is really careful that each species live in a perfect environment with the right amount of space. To stick to these rules, they have to be VERY careful that no animals breed unless they are POSITIVE there is room for the baby. Soooo for example, if the Animal Kingdom wants two of their giraffes to have a baby they have to make sure that, if they are at giraffe capacity, another zoo has to agree to take the baby. If no zoo has room for the baby, then Disney has to make sure the giraffes do not mate.

Once the roads were clear, we drove to a little hut in the middle of the Savannah for lunch. My vegetarian meal was unbelievable! Eating in the Savannah while watching the wildebeests and the elephants was a pretty unbelievable experience too.

As we were eating, a storm started rolling in, and we had to pack up, jump in the truck, and head back. This storm turned out to be the best part of the whole tour. It made all of the animals go wild! Typically, when you go on the Kilimanjaro Safari, you will see lots of sleeping, hiding-in-the-shade, or under-the-water-animals, but this storm woke everyone up. The giraffes were racing for shelter, the cheetahs were alert at the edge of their field, and the lions were stretching and sharpening their claws.

The tour was really fun, and a week after we got back to NYC, Disney sent us a DVD with hundreds of pictures from out tour.

My surprise to Husband was SUPPOSED to be a day of swimming with manatees. Turns out, Husband was less than thrilled about taking a manatee excursion during our Disney vacation. (Who doesn’t want to swim with manatees??? What kind of  person did I marry????) I decided to cancel meeting the manatees, and planned on a special NYC surprise once we returned. But, I’ve typed enough for today so that will just have to wait until tomorrow!



When Husband forced me to see the Flights of Wonder bird show at Animal Kingdom, there was a character in the performance that claimed to have F.O.B. (Fear Of Birds). I immediately connected with this character.

I love animals. I even like birds. In fact, I had a pet bird when I was little. It was a cockatiel named Spikey. Maybe, Spikey is where my bird issues began. I LOVED animals as a child. I wanted to be a veterinarian, live on a farm, and rescue every animal I came across. Also, I wanted to hold and snuggle every animal, including Spikey.

Birds, however, do not enjoy snuggling, or even being pet. I found it very difficult to interact with Spikey. I took it personally, and never understood what Spikey had against me and my cuddling ways.

I had issues with parrots too. The pet store in my hometown was my favorite place in the mall. They had hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits out for people to hold and cuddle anytime! I often stayed in the store snuggling these rodents while my Mom racked up the sales items at JCPenny.

My favorite snuggle partners were the bunnies, which were also the most challenging. You see, two giant parrots guarded the bunny container. These parrots sat on top of perches above the bunny home, and angrily squawked and pecked at anyone who reached their hand towards the bunnies, namely, me.

Getting a bunny out was like going shopping with Husband. He screeches at me, tries to knock the item out of my hand, but I still get what I want in the end.

The parrots never physically hurt me, but they scarred me, emotionally.

Costa Rica is known for having some really beautiful birds. While traveling through Costa Rica we stopped at several places that kept birds in a bird type sanctuary or in a rescue facility. The first place we visited with birds is called the Peace Lodge. I chose to keep my distance from the birds, but Husband had different plans.

He decided the best way to get over my fear is to enter the Toucan house. Can’t you see the excitement on my face?

Again, why do I cover my ears?

My Mom-in-law happily allowed one on her arm. So, Husband tells the worker that I too would love a toucan on my arm.

SO brave

Even as we walked around the grounds and Zoey spotted a pretty bird in a faraway tree, you can see the fear in my eyes as I curl my hand towards my face… It could attack at any moment!

I know this fear is irrational, but I still chose to spend my time with the butterflies instead. I think that’s a good start to working my way up to birds.

“here butterflies, here little butterflies”

By day four I had a real break through. We visited the Animal Wildlife Rescue and Reserve in La Fortuna where we got to volunteer and meet and pet lots of wild animals. At the end of the tour we were allowed to feed the animals after preparing their food. I REALLY did not want to miss out on any aspect of this, so after skipping the first 10 birdcages, I finally entered one.

Yay me!

I’m not the only one who conquered a fear. Zoey and Mom-in-law went zip-lining (although Zoey has done it before, and Mom-in-law only did the beginning..). Still counts.

Yay Zoey!

AND Peter, Dad-in-law, and myself did the Tarzan swing! The Tarzan swing is a terrifying free fall where the rope catches you at the end and you wind up swinging up as high as the tree tops, just like Tarzan. Attached is my video. Spoiler alert: I scream like a fool.

Our entire trip was thrilling. I don’t think I’ll be adopting a bird anytime soon, but maybe I’ll actually look at them next time I visit a zoo.