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February 20, 2017

The Castaway Cay 5-kilometer run ... and some unfinished business

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After several missed opportunities, the author took part in the Castaway Cay 5-kilometer run earlier this month.

Call it unfinished business.

Back in 2012, and again in 2015, I was registered to take part in the Castaway Cay five-kilometer run around Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas. The Castaway Cay 5-k is sanctioned by runDisney and, as such, is a "real" race: You get a race number, support along the course and a medal when you cross the finish line. It's the only runDisney event that doesn't charge an entrance fee ... although one might argue that the cost of the cruise itself ends up making the race the most expensive on the planet.

In 2012, there was a hurricane lurking in the Carribean and the waters off Castaway were abnormally rough. It took the captain of our ship [the Disney Dream] several hours to dock the boat, forcing the race, as well as other off-ship activities, to be canceled.

In 2015, we were on the last leg of a trans-Atlantic voyage on the Disney Magic. I was registered to run and had spent about 45 minutes each day in the ship's gym going stride-for-stride with my wife Janet in preparation. But a nagging [and painful] hip injury, as well as the prospects of a sunny, hot and humid day, forced me make the prudent decision of not taking part.

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This wooden sign marks the starting line for the Castaway Cay 5-k.

Which brings us to our most recent DCL cruise, aboard the Disney Fantasy, earlier this month.

We boarded the massive ocean liner on Feb. 4 and I was the first person to sign up for the race. At 67, I also was among the oldest. Our friend Julian, a national-class race-walker back in the day in his native England, was the second to register. It turns out, there were more than 350 people who'd be toeing the starting line less than a week later.

The Fantasy left Port Canaveral at 4 p.m. on Saturday. With the race scheduled to be run on Friday, Feb. 10, Janet and I again made it a point to hit the treadmills almost every day of the cruise ... me to prep for the race; her to work off some of the delicious meals we enjoyed during the week.

Race day dawned windy and comfortable [not nearly as humid as previous visits]. At 8 a.m., I mistakenly went to the D Lounge for the registration; with so many people taking part, check-in was moved to the Walt Disney Theatre [clearly noted on my event ticket]. Although I was the first person to sign up, I was among the last to receive a race bib.

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A map of the Castaway Cay 5-k. The race starts and finishes near the bike rental shack. The out-and-back course features time on an airplane landing strip and a loop on a secluded trail.

After listening to about 20 minutes of corny jokes from well-meaning cast members, the ship was cleared by Bahamian officials. Julian and I and the rest of the participants began the long trek from Deck 4 of the ship, down the stairs to the gangway and then about a one-mile walk to the starting line, which is rather nondescript ... and narrow.

The start is located near the bike rental hut. There's a small wooden sign that says "5k start" and the official race clock was set up on a tripod to the right. Unlike other runDisney events, there are no fireworks, no loud music and no Disney characters milling about. Pretty much no-frills racing. It was simply "ready, set ... go!" and we were off.

It took about 30 seconds to reach the starting line, but by then, Julian had broken out into his arms-held-high, heel-toe-heel-toe race-walking gait. When I spoke to him about the race during the cruise, he said he was hoping to break 45 minutes. The way he started, I knew he'd do much better than that. As for me, the hip injury that had precluded my participation in the Castaway Cay 5k in 2015 had persisted through much of 2016. It wasn't until November that I began the long, arduous task of getting myself back into some kind of respectable shape.

My goal was to finish in around 40 minutes, using a combination of speed walking and jogging. My plan was to walk for seven minutes, run for three minutes, walk for seven, run three, etc., and then see how I felt over the last mile or so.

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Runners leave the start area and head out toward the main section of the course.

As you might expect, the Castaway out-and-back course is flat, but that's not to suggest it's easy. After leaving the start area, you wind your way out onto an abandoned - and sun-splashed - airplane landing strip. A few minutes later, you make a right turn onto a narrow, thickly-wooded loop. While the vegetation did keep the sun at bay, it also blocked most of the wind, which made it seem hotter than it actually was.

The loop takes you to the island's observation tower, where you bear left and head back toward the airstrip. There's a water stop at the end of the loop, which competitors end up passing four times during the event. Once out onto the airstrip, the sun felt noticeably stronger. A turnaround arrow is located at the end of the strip, near the adult beach area, which means you've reached the halfway point. During my trek toward the arrow, I spotted Julian - still looking strong - on his way back to the loop and we exchanged greetings.

By now, the field was beginning to thin out and those competitors near me seemed to be following a similar course of action ... walking, jogging, walking, shuffling ...

I exited the loop, made a left turn and decided to jog the rest of the way to the finish line in hopes of breaking 40 minutes.

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Runners hit the sun-splashed airstrip section of the course.

At the finish - 40:10 according to my watch - was a cast member handing out finisher's medals [actually, they're rubbery, not metallic]. I reunited with Julian, who finished in around 37 minutes, and we made our way back to the ship to meet up with our wives and enjoy breakfast before heading out to the island again for a day of relaxation.

It had been nine years since I last took part in a runDisney event ... the 2008 Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. Although I have continued to lead an active lifestyle, I've had to clear a lot of medical hurdles along the way to keep going. Exactly one month after completing the Goofy Challenge, I had prostate cancer surgery. In the years that followed, I also had rotator cuff surgery and a procedure to relieve trigger finger ... not to mention that annoying hip injury.

So, although 3.1 miles pales in comparison to the 39.3 miles over two days needed to complete the Goofy Challenge, I was quite proud to have set a goal, trained to reach that goal, and then go out and achieve it.

Unfinished business no longer.

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A sight for sore eyes ... and legs ... is the simple finish line sign for the Castaway Cay 5-k run.

RELATED LINK:

** Kristin's Castaway 5K Just 11 weeks after Total Knee Replacement!

February 8, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 4 Castaway Cay

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

The ship arrived and docked early at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. We chose Cabanas for breakfast before we headed ashore. They had lots of good choices including eggs benedict, omelets and corned-beef hash - a favorite of Aaron's and Michael's. When we'd had our fill, we made our way down to the gangway on deck 1. Once on the dock we had our first up-close and personal view of the ship. Wow. She is at the same time beautiful and massive.

A number of things have changed on the island. The tram stop for the family beach has moved down island closer to the new Pelican Plunge water slide. This relocation seemed to help spread out the crowds along the family beach. Right as you exit the tram is another shop very similar to She Sells Seashells. Merchandise choices seemed nearly the same. They also have Cookie's Too; a second BBQ service located at Serenity Bay, the adult beach.

Once we got to our favorite spot just beyond the Conched Out Bar, Aaron and I decided to do a little exploring. We hopped on the tram to check out the adult beach. It was quiet and peaceful, but a bit windier. Then we decided to rent bicycles. Great bargain at only $12 for two bikes! Good old, solid Schwinn with the pedal-backward style brakes. And, my bike was pink! There were a couple different paths that we took. On one loop we stopped at a look-out tower that offered spectacular views of the entire island.

After our ride we headed back to our spot where Michael had settled in with his kindle, a cigar, and a Mickey margarita. (We made up this one ourselves: tequila, club soda, and lime juice and by the time we left the cruise a number of the bar tenders and servers were using the name!) We tried dipping our toes in the water, but it was pretty cold! Even though the water was cold, the temperature outside was very pleasant: 73 and sunny.

They started serving lunch about 11:30am. Selections were about the same as we remembered from past stops at Castaway Cay. Hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled mahi mahi, BBQ ribs, chicken, a variety of salads, fresh fruit, and desserts. You will never go hungry on a Disney cruise, that's for sure!

It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. Michael and I did not go in the water choosing instead to simply nap/read/ipad on the beach. Aaron tried to lure us all into the water and did brave it himself for a short time. He's 19. It was our perfect day in paradise.

We headed back to the ship about 3pm on foot in order to capture a few more photos of the ship. When we got back to our stateroom, I decided to start on the dreaded task of packing. It went pretty quickly even though I had, of course, brought along way more than we needed.

Aaron wanted to head to deck 12 to watch the crew throw the lines in preparation for sailing away. We sailed promptly at 5pm preceded by the lovely tones from the horn of the Dream. This afternoon we were treated to "Be Our Guest" and "When You Wish Upon a Star". A trip to Castaway Cay is bittersweet; paradise arriving and during the day, very sad to leave as it signals our trip is coming to an end.

Tonight we were treated to a brand new production in the Walt Disney Theater: Disney's Believe. I absolutely loved it! The story is about a little girl celebrating her birthday and trying to get her dad to believe in magic. I was delighted that they included many musical numbers from some older classics like Mary Poppins, the Jungle Book, and Pocahontas. The genie from Aladdin acted as host trying to convince Dad to believe.

Dinner for us on this final evening was in Animator's Palate. This restaurant is located on deck 3 just down a really long hallway from the Royal Palace. The highlight of Animator's Palate is supposed to be the show. The screens around the room transform throughout the evening coming to life with characters from Finding Nemo. Unfortunately, our table was more toward the center of the room making it difficult to see and hear. If you've ever been to the "Turtle Talk with Crush" attraction at Epcot, you would find this show somewhat familiar.

Besides the show, I loved the decor. The color scheme was primarily black and white with splashes of color here and there. The backs of our chairs were red with yellow "buttons" -- kind of like the shorts of our favorite Mouse!

This was probably our least favorite menu. Michael had tenderloin, Aaron had a shrimp pasta dish, and I had a steak salad. Good, but not great as we've come to expect. While our servers did their best to be attentive, service was just not up to par. What we later learned is that the galley for this restaurant was quite a trek for the servers. (This is a good example of Disney building a beautiful ship, but not giving enough thought to what it would really take to make some things work.)

After dinner, Aaron went exploring after getting himself packed. I met Michael at Meridian. When he finished his cigar, we headed back to Pink for one final cocktail. Also, our friend, Yelena, had left a special gift for us -- a pair of champagne flutes from two of the pre-maiden voyage cruises. We promise you will not find ours on eBay!

Just before we left, our new friends, Dottie, Donna, and Carol stopped by. Fingers crossed, we plan to all meet up again when the Disney Fantasy sails her maiden voyage next year! (We have our reservation! Do you?)

And, one final thing. Donna mentioned that she was able to order one of the new Dooney & Burke designs available only on the Dream. People snapped them up within an hour or two (maybe minutes) the day they were released. Crazy. At any rate, I was so excited! We dashed to the store, White Caps, only moments before they closed the doors at midnight. Whew. Made it! And, I placed my order! It should arrive in plenty of time before our next cruise.

We called it a night around 1pm. All too soon we will be on the airplane home.

AquaDuck 1

AquaDuck 2

AquaDuck 3

Welcome to Castaway Cay

Water is cold!

Dream 1

Dream 2

Dream 3

Dream 4

Dream 5

Sorcerer Mickey

Dad Too Busy

Dad and Daughter

Genies

Merlin

Baloo

Lion King

Fairy Godmother

Be Our Guest

Mickey I Believe!

Minnie and Mrs Potts

Finale

Animators

Animators Table

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About Castaway Cay

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Castaway Cay category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

AllEars Western Caribbean Cruise 2014 is the previous category.

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