Race Recap: Epic Character Race 10K

Universal Studios Orlando had their inaugural running events for the general public in the form of a 5K and 10K race over the first weekend of February. I signed up for both races when registration opened up. Arthur ran the 5K with me on Saturday. I went to the 10K alone.

Training & Goals
My only goal here was to have fun. I thought I'd run:walk the boring bits, stop for whatever characters and photo ops were interesting, and walk when I wanted to look around. I was looking forward to the longer course, with more to see of the parks and backstage.

Race Day: February 2, 2020
I left home around 4:30AM and had the car parked around 5:12AAM. Parking was a breeze both days. Since I was so early, I sat in the warm car for a while before heading to the start line. I was assigned to Corral A again. The wait for the start was cold but uneventful. It was about 49°F at the start with a forecast for clear blue skies.

Mile 1: 12:45
The first mile was the same as the 5K yesterday. We started the race at the Volcano Bay bus depot and then ran along Universal Boulevard and Hollywood Way towards Islands of Adventure.

Mile 2: 15:50
Running into Islands of Adventure, we went through Toon Lagoon and Marvel Super Hero Island. I ran by Betty Boop and some stilt walkers. Next we ran around City Walk, before heading back into Islands of Adventure.

Mile 3: 23:06

Back in the park, we ran through Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Hogsmeade (Harry Potter), Jurassic Park, and Skull Island. Here we had the summer Whos out again, Puss in Boots with Kitty Softpaws as well as a live percussion band as on course entertainment.

Mile 4: 14:03
Next we ran backstage from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios Park. I ran by a long line to meet Scooby and Shaggy Doo in front of the Mystery Machine.

Mile 5: 16:35
The last two miles of the race mostly took us through Universal Studios. For this mile, we passed through San Francisco and Diagon Alley (Harry Potter).

Mile 6+: 18:26, 15:04
The final mile or so had us run through Springfield, Hollywood, Production Central, and New York. I saw Roxie the Aussie in Springfield. There was a big Mardi Gras float out with some stilt walkers as a photo op. I stopped for some photos here, though I didn't stop for Hashtag the Panda.

From all the swerving around and going back to get in character lines, stopping for one quick bathroom break, and scooting off course to take various photos, my GPS gave me a race of 6.67 miles.

After the Race
There was a huge line to meet an interactive raptor with a rangler. I stood in the line for a while but it wasn't moving so I left. I got my water and snack box; the bananas were all too ripe for me. Leaving the finish line area, we could also have our photo taken with some Minions but I skipped this too. Instead, I went to the car, changed my clothes in the parking lot hub restroom, and then headed to City Walk to get some doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut.

Room for Improvement
I enjoyed both races but I had a few problems here and there. I thought I'd keep the negativity in this one section.

Several times during this race I noticed team member photographers not shooting all of the participants. I noticed a couple of photographers shooting runners in costume and skipping everyone else. When I got to the front of the line for Puss in Boots, the photographer was messing around with his equipment so he was unprepared to take photos of the party in front of me or me, which was disappointing. When I was in line for Bart and Homer, the photographer was talking with a bike marshall about how many runners were still coming through. He wasn't paying attention to the guests waiting to have their photo taken, which was unfortunate. Otherwise...

I had a lot of fun during the 10K (and the 5K race as well).

I enjoyed the longer course, which was partially through the parks and partially backstage. I thought there was a great amount of characters and other photo opportunities for the runners, plus general entertainment that participants look for in a theme park race. I also thought the lines for characters during the race were really reasonable compared to my experience at Disney races, though I saw others mention online that they thought the character lines were way too long.

There were plenty of water stops (about one each mile). The start and finish locations were the same for both races and they were very convenient to the parking lot.

The race shirts are kind of cheap, made of heavy wicking material with a thick print, and only available in unisex cut. The bibs are oddly printed off-center and not special, though they are custom. The medals are nice spinners.

Our local CBS station had a runner report on the 10K race.

Chip time: 1:55:44
Placement details: 154/166 in Age Group, 1793 overall out of 1976 finishers
Race Amenities: Unisex tech shirt, drawstring backpack, finisher medal for all, fun course through theme parks.
Cost: $111

Report written February 4, 2020

Watermarked photos (c) Running Universal

Race Recap: Epic Character Race 5K

Universal Studios Orlando had their inaugural running events for the general public in the form of a 5K and 10K race over the first weekend of February. I signed up for both races when registration opened up. Arthur surprised me by signing up for the 5K about a week before the race.

Race Goals
Arthur's not a runner, but he can walk faster than me, and he can sprint faster than me. We didn't really make a plan except to try to stay together, which didn't end up working very well. We also wanted to be able to stop for some photos and to meet some characters. We had no time goal in mind. These races both had a very generous, walker-friendly pace. The minimum was a 17 minute mile for the last starters.

Race Day: February 1, 2020
We left home around 4:30AM and made our way down to Universal. We had the car parked by around 5:15AM. The forecast for the morning was comically bad: the last time we checked, there was a 90% or more chance of rain between 6AM and 9AM.

The start line was close to another part of the parking garage, so we were under cover for the walk towards the start. Real restrooms were available in the parking structure hub and there was a group of porta-potties as well as drinking water available for participants close to the starting line.

We stood under a parking kiosk roof to stay dry for as long as we could, but team members pushed us forward and we ended up getting pretty wet in steady light rain as we waited for the race to start.

I was assigned to Corral A but I stayed with Arthur, who didn't have a corral. We were sent to C because B was already filled up by the time we arrived.

Corral A started at 6:15AM, then Corral B, and then it was time for us in C. It was about 62°F when we started our race at 6:25AM.

Mile 1: 13:49
We jogged, we ran, we walked, we leap-frogged. I didn't notice any characters out at all for this first mile, which took us from the Volcano Bay bus depot and then along Universal Boulevard and Hollywood Way towards Islands of Adventure.

Mile 2: 21:22
This mile took us through Toon Lagoon, Super Hero Island, and Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure. We ran backstage along the Hogwarts Express train line towards Universal Studios park. Here we saw our first characters out on the course. Betty Boop and Popeye with Olive Oyl were out in Toon Lagoon. We also passed by Puss in Boots and stopped for a photo with some Spring Whos (Whoville characters). All of the characters were under cover because of the rain, although it had cleared up shortly after we started running.

Mile 3+: 18:53, 7:28

The last mile took us through much of Universal Studios Park. We passed the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, with a driver and the funny animated Dre Head. Krusty and Sideshow Bob were out in Springfield. We passed by some Mardi Gras characters under the Horror Make Up Show marquee. Bumblebee and Optimus Prime were out in front of their attraction building.

While we were in line for Krusty and Bob we saw Tim Tracker (Disney / Orlando / new parent YouTuber) walk by. After we got our character photos, we ran on to try and catch up with Tim, to say hello and let him know we are fans of his channel. I asked if we could take a quick selfie. You can find his video report of the race here: Tim Tracker at Universal Orlando's First Ever Running Universal Epic Character 5K. You can see us taking our photo with the Summer Whos at around 5:33 and you can see making a fool of myself at around 10:00.

Moving on, we stood in a short line to meet the Blues Brothers. Unfortunately they took a break as we reached the front of the line and we decided to keep moving rather than wait any longer. Shrek and Donkey were out for photos as well, but somehow we completely missed them.

After the Race

After we passed the finish line, Alex from Madagascar was available for photos. We skipped the line and picked up our water, bananas, and Running Universal snack boxes. It was starting to drizzle again so we didn't stay long. The walk back from the finish line took us backstage to City Walk near Blue Man Group. We were back to the car pretty fast and decided to head home because of the lousy weather.

Room for Improvement
I enjoyed both races but I had a few problems here and there. I thought I'd keep the negativity in this one section.

Arthur and I had some small issues during packet pickup, which we did on Thursday before race weekend. I read the entire online FAQ before we left home. When we arrived at the parking kiosk, the attendant asked for our parking voucher. I actually thought she was kidding at first, because I read nothing about a voucher in the FAQ. It should have been sent to us via email. I didn't get it. Arthur checked his email and found it, but showing the voucher on the phone was not acceptable; it had to be printed out. We were told that we would have to pay for parking or leave.

My 5K bib had a corral sticker on it. My 10K did not. I asked about this and was told to go to runner relations to get a corral assignment for the 10K. There were two women with laptops at a table outside. I asked about the corral assignment and they asked if I had proof of time to show them. I needed to pull up something on my phone. I said I registered for both races together in one transaction and that I had put my proof of time in the registration. I asked if they could pull up my registration but they could not. I flustered, stood to the side and tried to think of what race I might have used for proof of time. Then one of the ladies said she could figure it out and she started staring at an email which gave the time standards for corral placement. She said it would take her a minute to figure it out but after a couple of minutes she seemed flustered herself and just got out a sticker to put on my bib, rolling her eyes and making me feel like she thought I was trying to do something wrong and she just wanted to get rid of me. Only later did I realize that in the printout I had with me was the proof of time I had entered in my original registration.

At race signup, race start times were listed as 5:30AM with the parking lot opening at 3AM but but was changed to a start time of 6:15AM with the parking lot opening at 4:30AM by the time of packet pickup.

Although we didn't have a good time during packet pickup, the 5K race (and the 10K as well) was a lot of fun.

I enjoyed the course, which was partially through the parks and partially backstage. There was a fine amount of photo opportunities, especially considering the weather. The course was well-marked and there were plenty of water stops. The start and finish locations were very convenient to the parking lot.

The race shirts are kind of cheap, made of heavy wicking material with a thick print, and only available in unisex cut. The bibs are oddly printed off-center and not special, though they are custom. The medals are nice spinners.

Chip time: 1:13.5 (for 3.36 miles on my Garmin)
Placement details: 198/252 in Age Group, 2715 overall out of 3234 finishers
Race Amenities: Unisex tech shirt, drawstring backpack, finisher medal for all, fun course through theme parks.
Cost: $72

Report written February 2, 2020

Watermarked photos (c) Running Universal

Race Recap: Pump House Run 5K

I participated in the Pump House Run in Lake Apopka, Florida this year. I'm not sure but I think it was an inaugural event. The main run was an 8-miler from Magnolia Park along hard-packed gravel roads to the historic Pump House by the lake. There was also a 5K with this event that took the same course but an earlier turn-around; I ran the shorter distance.

Training & Goals
Following a month in a walking boot and another month of PT I am cleared to run, but I need to ease back in as I lost a lot of fitness and gained a lot of weight in the last year.

I had a good race last week at Shark Bite (the Feeding Frenzy 5K) but hadn't run since (oops). For this race I wanted to keep up my regular intervals (45:30 run:walk) for the entire distance. Since much of the run was on an old gravel road, I didn't have any thoughts of besting last week's time.

Race Day: January 25, 2020
I left home around 6:35AM to get to Magnolia Park in time to get my packet before the 7:40AM start time for the 5K. There was plenty of parking, though the later one arrived, the further away one had to park in the extremely long parking lot. It took me about 6 minutes to get to the race site from my car so I kind of had to hustle back and forth to drop off my bag and get back in time for the race.

The 8-milers went off at 7:30AM and then, 10 minutes later, it was time for the 5K runners to start. It was an extremely pleasant 55°F at the start with bright sunny skies and little wind. Really nice running weather.

Mile 1: 12:36
The first ~1/3 mile was on a multi-use paved trail along S. Binion Road. It was mostly level with some sloping downwards that I wasn't looking forward to running on the way back. Then we turned onto the hard packed gravel trail, suddenly surrounded by the wetlands and bird sounds of the Lake Apopka wildlife area. About 1/3 mile later we turned again, now running alongside Lake Apopka to the southwest.

Mile 2: 12:32
The trail continued to run along the Lake Apopka shore. This was an out-and-back so we had the same beautiful scenery after the turnaround.

Mile 3+: 12:31, :51
It wasn't super pleasant to look around now with the sun in our eyes. I was feeling really good and super happy to keep up without any unplanned walking breaks. I was right -- the sloping uphill for the last 1/3 mile was no fun. But still, I was faster than last week's race. And look at those splits! Nice.

After the Race
Runner refreshments included hot dogs, water, soda, granola bars, chips, plus muffins and grapes provided by Sweet Tomatoes. I thought it was an okay spread for the small field of runners. Awards were given out to the 5K group winners as the first 8-milers started to come in. I wanted to get over to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive so I left shortly after having a muffin and grabbing a banana to go.

This was a well-organized event from local race company Sommer Sports. It was a small field of runners (69 in the 5K and 133 for the 8-miler) but we were well taken care of. The route is gorgeous and I hope to run all the way to the Pump House next time. Recommended.

Chip time: 38:26
Placement details: 4/7 in Age Group, 27th overall out of 69 finishers
Race Amenities: Cotton unisex t-shirts and finisher medals for everyone.
Cost: $41.40 (downgraded from initially signing up for 8-miler)

Report written January 26, 2020

Branded photo (c) Sommer Sports

Budget Runner: Replacement Garmin 235 Cable

One of our cats has the occasional bad habit of chewing on wires. While William has mostly outgrown this, we like to have backups of important cables on hand just in case he decides to be naughty.

Garmin brand replacement charging clips can be puchased on Amazon for $20-$25, while various off-brand clips can be had for $6 or more.

I found this incredibly affordable charging cable for my Garmin 235 on the Chinese market website AliExpress and decided to give it a try.

Order & Shipment
I placed my order on August 30, 2019. I received my charging clip in the mail on October 1, 2019.

Prices on AliExpress tend to fluctuate; I paid $3.06 for the charging clip with free shipping.

Note that sometimes ordering through the mobile app gives better pricing than via the desktop interface. I usually do my shopping on a computer and fill my cart from there. I can login via the app on my phone and compare the total price between the two before placing my order.

Review | Recommendation
I have been using this replacement charging clip for my Garmin 235 exclusively since I received it. It clips to my watch just like the official Garmin one that came with the watch. It works -- my watch charges up just like it should. I would not hesitate to purchase this again and I gladly recommend this affordable option to anyone looking for a replacement cable or to have a backup for charging their Garmin watch.

Race Recaps: Feeding Frenzy 5K & Shark Bite 5K 2020

The fifth annual Shark Bite Half Marathon and 5K weekend took place on January 18 and 19, 2020. It was my second time participating; I ran the Shark Bite 5K in 2019. This fun and popular event happens in the shark bite capital of the world: New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Organizers added a challenge with a new late afternoon 5K the day before the main event. Participants could run the Feeding Frenzy 5K on Saturday and then either the Shark Bite Half Marathon or 5K the following morning to complete the challenge and pick up an extra medal. The races benefit the charity Girls on the Run Volusia County.

Training & Goals
Following a month in a walking boot and another month of PT I am cleared to run, but I need to ease back in as I lost a lot of fitness and gained a lot of weight in the last year. While my Achilles is on the mend, my knees have started to bother me. Ugh.

My plan for this weekend was to push myself during Feeding Frenzy and then take it easy for Shark Bite on Sunday morning. I have been trying a 45:30 run:walk interval and that is pretty comfortable right now.

Feeding Frenzy 5K

Race Day: January 18, 2020
Funny that I never enjoyed running in the evening but my first three races of 2020 were all late afternoon/early evening runs. I left home around 3PM to find a parking spot close to the historic downtown of New Smyrna Beach. Packet pickup was smooth and was accompanied by a small, well-appointed and well-attended expo with various local vendors, a fun photo opportunity, and real toilets. It was about 73°F with 57% humidity and partly cloudy skies when I started running at 5PM.

Mile 1: 12:37
The course was a flat out-and-back run through downtown New Smyrna Beach. We ran by bars and restaurants on Canal Street and on Riverside Drive along with Indian River. I did my 45:30 run:walk from the start, hopeful I could keep it up for the entire race.

Mile 2: 12:36

Mile 3+: 12:40, 1:20
My Achilles is on board with running again, but my heart and lungs aren't so happy with me! This last mile was a struggle but I was so happy I kept up my intervals to the end. Pretty pleased with those splits, too. This is a nice baseline for the future, I think.

After the race I pretty much headed straight home, trying to beat the sunset and get to bed early for the next morning's race.

Chip time: 39:11
Placement details:
39/63 Age Group; 277/456 overall

Shark Bite 5K

Race Day: January 19, 2020
Arthur and I left home around 6:30AM. We had a really hard time finding a parking spot so eventually he ended up dropping me off near the start line and parking about a half mile up the beach. I arrived in time for our West Volusia Runners group photo and could drop off my bag at our tent. The Half Marathon runners took off first. Arthur made it to the start line to see me off. It was 63°F with 88% humidity and sunny skies when my race started at 7:43AM.

Mile 1: 15:34
I felt really good. My plan was to speed walk the first mile, do some slow interval running for the second mile, and walk the rest. It was crowded for a while so it was great to walk the start.

Mile 2: 13:39
The crowd was dispersed by the time I reached the start of mile 2 so I did a slow 45:30 run:walk for most of this mile. The water stop was towards the end of the mile and I started walking when I got a cup so I didn't quite run the whole second mile.

Mile 3+: 15:39, 1:41
It was a pleasant speedwalk to the end.

After Party
The after party for Shark Bite is pretty awesome. There's lots of treats for the runners, free beer, vendors with swag, and a mechanical shark! Arthur and I left pretty soon after I finished so we could go watch the SpaceX manned crew capsule test flight from Apollo Beach, so I didn't get to enjoy the festivities too much.

Super highly recommended. This race is extremely well-organized, with an awesome website and super clear pre-race information and instructions. The expo venue was great and the new Feeding Frenzy 5K added a fun challenge to an already outstanding event. Both 5K races were well staffed with great volunteers and good law enforcement and traffic control. I have only heard great things about the half marathon too. This event is a really good time. I look forward to running the half marathon once my fitness is back.

Chip time: 46:27
Placement details:
44/65 Age Group; 641/895 overall

Race Amenities for 5K Challenge: Runners got a nice soft cotton unisex shirt for each race, a big finisher medal for both races, plus a large challenge medal. Every finisher got a pint glass, too. Finisher hat for top 10% half marathon runners and free race photos. Great support and after party with free beer and treats.
Cost: $90.64 [I initially registered for the half marathon challenge but downgraded to the 5K challenge]

Report written January 20, 2020

Group and branded photos (c) Almost There Photography

Recap: Moonlight Beach Run 10K & 5K Challenge

This year I participated in the 2nd annual Moonlight Beach Run event in Daytona Beach. The event offered races of 4 distances: Half Marathon; 15K; 10K; and 5K. Runners could participate in any of the longer races and add the 5K for a bonus challenge medal.

All races had the start/finish line near the Daytona Beach Bandshell and were out-and-back courses on the hard-packed sand of the beach.

Training & Goals
In early November I went to an orthopedic specialist to get some help with my chronic Achilles issue. I spent most of November in a walking boot. I had Physical Therapy for much of December with my last session just prior to the races. I am cleared to run but I need to ease back in as I lost a lot of fitness and gained a lot of weight in the last year. I also need to keep up with strength and balance exercises to avoid future injury. My plan for this event was to mostly walk both races with a little bit of running mixed in.

Race Day: January 4, 2020

Parking: The 10K had a start time of 5PM. I drove over to the beach and circled around a bit before I found a free parking spot in the Ocean Center surface lot at the corner of Oleander and Earl. 

Packet Pickup: Packet pickup was on the bandshell stage. There were plenty of volunteers when I arrived and pickup was a breeze. Bag drop was also on the stage and another smooth operation.

Weather: Overcast skies for the moonlight run = not good! Eventually the skies cleared once the sun started to set. When I started the 10K, which was moved up to a 4:50PM start for reasons I never learned, it was a breezy 70°F with 83% humidity. It dropped down to 64°F with 73% humidity and still breezy for the start of the 5K at 7PM.


Mile 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6+: 14:27, 14:55, 15:05, 15:06, 15:29, 16:33, 1:47
After a five minute walking warm-up, I started adding 1 minute runs between two minute walks, telling myself to run slowly. Halfway though the race I was feeling pretty fatigued so I opted to walk most of the rest with only a couple of running minutes in the back half.

With the 10-minute earlier start, I had a really nice cushion to get back in time for the 5K start at 7PM. I had about a half hour to stretch, eat a few cookies, and drink some water before the start of the 5K. There were a lot more participants in the 2nd race, with many walkers who had already run the half, 15K, or 10K.


Mile 1, 2, 3+: 16:25, 17:37, 16:45, 1:26
There were a lot more participants walking this race. My legs were very, very achy after the 10K so I opted to walk the entire 5K.

After the race
There was a very nice spread of treats and food for runners following the races. Energy bars, cookies, fruit, and more were available. Pizza, soda, and beer (I think) were also offered. Bag pickup was smooth and luckily I was able to change my t-shirt size once I was done running.

This race event had good organization and ample perks. Recommended.

Chip time: 1:33:16 (10K) | 51:52 (5K)
Placement details:
9/9 AG 117/131 overall in the 10K | 26/33 AG 285/334 overall in the 5K
Race Amenities:
Nice long sleeve tech shirt, finisher medal for all distances (I got the same for both the 10K and the 5K), bonus medal for challenge, nice after party

Report written January 8, 2020

Branded photos (c) Sommer Sports