When Carra pointed out the listing for the corrals for the Expedition Everest Challenge (EEC) this year we knew things were going to be a little different. In the past all individual runners have been placed in the first wave and then the teams followed. Steve has always registered us as single runners just to ensure that the three of us could get in the same corrals since teams are limited to two folks. This year the three of us were in Corral F. Volunteers working at the packet pick-up were able to find out that a estimated pace was requested when we registered and people were placed in corrals based on that with teams and individuals being mixed together. I was anxious to see what other changes might be coming our way.
The final race instructions said to arrive before 9:15 to avoid traffic. From my more recent race experiences I decided to give us an hour to get there, so we left the house at 8:15 to make the usual 20 minutes drive. We hit a small back up getting into the parking lot but nothing to panic about. We were soon in our parking spot and I was in need of a port-a-pot. We walked up to the runners area and got our first glimpse of the corralling area. My first thought was that these corrals were extremely tiny. Unfortunately Corral F had a speaker that was unavoidable no matter where you moved in the corral so we stepped back out to protect our hearing. We made our way back towards the corrals with about 10 minutes before the start line and it became apparent that these tiny corrals were not large enough when people didn’t want to stand next to a stranger. I kept hoping that the speakers would request everyone to step forward, but luckily when the first few corrals started moving they were able to get us all into our corral with plenty of time to spare before our start. Unfortunately this crowding prevented the volunteers from being able to properly check bibs to make sure folks were in the correct corrals.
The corral starts were paced about 6 minutes apart so we anticipated starting at about 10:30. One observation that we saw was as corrals were pulling away from us even the A corral had walkers in it. This has become something that people have been getting accustomed to at Disney races: people fudging their estimates to give them more time to finish the race or more time at the party. Our corral was sent off by smoking rising from the start line rather than the usual fireworks, which I was surprised to see last year give how close we were to the animals. The first mile was rather congested as usual so we were weaving our way through and getting close to the right side trying to pass. Suddenly I hear “DADDY!” from behind me and turn around to see Steve on the ground. He rolled his ankle on the side of the pavement and scraped up his hands, elbow and knee. He said he was okay and we were soon on our way to the first obstacle.
The first obstacle was hay bales again but rather than use my foot to jump over I tried to leap at Steve’s suggestion. It was a stretch for my legs but I managed it and I think it may be why I am sore today. When we got to the park I anticipated our first issues with the clue seekers crossing the race course. A gentleman stopped right in the middle of the gate to read his clue and nearly was plowed into. I cringed thinking about this happening repeatedly during the race course like last year, but I was pleasantly surprised. Disney was able to limit this issue to just this one area this year by changing up the 5K course. I admittedly hadn’t looked at the detail of the course map and seeing the long out and back just assumed it was the same course as last year. It was not. Finally I was running a completely new 5K course at Animal Kingdom which included portions of the park I have never seen during my other races including the area behind Expedition Everest. I was really excited.
The second obstacle again was the tires and as we made the turn to go towards them an announcer called out to us saying, “This looks like a family running together!” I gave her a thumbs up and she got excited that she called it out right and E waved to her. There was a slight back up at the tires that I was concerned would slow us down, but when I timed it it only lasted about a minute before we were on the tires ourselves. The change in the course made the second and third obstacles come up in close succession.
The third obstacle was also the same as last year: crawling under a cargo net. I had forewarned Steve and E that I would most likely have to skip any cargo net obstacles for fear of re-injuring my shoulder. When we saw that it was crawling under a cargo net we decided it wasn’t good for Steve either since he was dealing with freshly skinned knees. We ran around the obstacle and turned around expecting E to be behind us and we spotted her under the net. She was stuck behind a slower gentleman, but being as skinny as she is she was able to pass people under the net. We laughed as we waited for her then ran to the finish. Next up is the scavenger hunt.
We grabbed our first clue and flash light at a tent clearly labelled clue distribution. Another great improvement over last year to help make sure people didn’t miss their clues. We were surprised to not get a marker to write our answers. In fact there was no need to write down the answers. We were given a clue to solve before the race that had the answer of “Keep the solutions to the first four clues! They will be used to solve a symbolic final clue.” So we made sure to keep our clues with us as we walked from station to station. Luckily the scavenger hunt used the same locations as last year so we knew where to walk and if we didn’t we could have just followed the crowds.
Before long we noticed a trend in our answers. They were all directions on the compass. NW, NE, SW and NE.
I will admit the fourth one we had assumed would be SE and we ran up and tried to use that, but it was wrong, lol. Before too long Steve overheard someone saying NE and we used it to get our last clue. I later studied the card till I finally noticed the “nor the ast” in the three sentences stacked. The final clue had us flip our cards over and use our directions to rotate our cards until we had a shape that matched one of the shapes on our bibs.
At first I thought that the directions would indicate where in our configuration the card would sit, but that wasn’t working since we had two NE. Then I tried putting the cards rotated to have the directional corner in the order that we answers the clues, but that was over thinking it. Finally I was able to just take the indicated corners for each clue and place them to get them to fit together.
This matched the white flag on our bibs.
I expected then to check that we had the right flag before we got to the finish but we were able to cross the finish line before we had to show anyone our solution to the final clue. That surprised me because we had a final time when we may have had the wrong shape. The finish line was back out in the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom this year and not in the shadows of Expedition Everest. So the scavenger hunt portion was much longer than last year. I didn’t mind if it relieved congestion.
We walked back into the park to hop on Dinosaur just once and we were able to walk right onto the ride. We were all tired so we started to walk back out. We stopped for some ice cream on the way out. A Mickey Premium bar was an awesome reward for our day’s races in addition to our awesome bling.
The price increase of EEC this year was a shock, I will admit. I am glad to see that that increase seemed to go towards improving the race in some way and didn’t pay for the same exact race as last year. I am very proud of E and her dedication to her training given her tender age of 11 and all the changes she has been dealing with this year. She kept up the 90:30 intervals we did yesterday like a champ and didn’t complain about my speed walking from clue to clue. If E wants to do it again next year we definitely will. Heck even if she doesn’t I might do it by myself to see just what I can do when on that scavenger hunt portion.