When Disney announced that they would be having another 24 hour party at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, there was no question in my mind wither I would I would attend. When I attended the same event in 2013 (see video), I was not prepared. I knew how to do the dimple things like, making sure I stayed hydrated, and remembering to eat a good breakfast, but I was not mentally and physically prepared for the task. Yes, I made it through that day in 2013, but barely. I almost fell asleep on the drive back to my Orlando area hotel, and I spent most of the net day in pain and cursing myself for attending the event.
So when the time came to tackle the 2015 “Coolest Summer Ever” event at the Magic Kingdom, I was determined to approach the event with a new sense of maturity and concentration. To me, this is so much more than spending 24 hours in a theme park, riding fun rides. To me, this was a challenge; a mountain to climb. It’s the same way a runner looks at a marathon. It’s not really something you look at as “fun”. It’s a challenge/. It is something that you look forward to prepare for, and really want to do, but it is not “fun”.
What I Did Wrong
I Did Not Bring “No Rinse” Body Wipes: Being in the hot Florida sun for so long makes you sweat, and sweating for almost 12-16 hours straight makes you very stinky. And while being stinky may not have a direct effect on your pursuit of tackling 24 hours at the Magic Kingdom, it can have a huge effect on your psyche. We all want to smell fresh and feel like we are not carrying around a few pounds of excess sweat and stink. While I did change clothes later on in the day (explained below), I could have brought along a package of no rinse body wipes to help me wipe down after a particularly long stretch in the Florida heat. Also, I’m sure the others in my group would have appreciated not having to put up with my stinky-ness also.
I Didn’t Wear Sunglasses: This is a mistake I make all too often when outdoors. Cycling, playing golf, or tennis, I always forget to wear sunglasses. I do not even own a pair of sunglasses. I do wear eyeglasses and thus, I guess it never crosses my mind to pick up a pair of sunglasses; but on this day, I really paid for that mistake. You probably don’t need me to tell you just how brutal the Florida sun can be, and on this day, it was showing no mercy. Not having sunglasses caused me to squint for most of the day. My eyes had to work harder focus on far away objects and my body expended a lot of energy trying to compensate for that. That was energy I could ill afford to waste when, on a day like this, I needed to reserve every bit of energy possible.
Not Enough Rest The Night Before: I tired. I really did try. The night before the 24 hour event I had an early dinner and was back in my hotel room and in bed by 9 pm. I thought this was early. I talked to people the morning of the event at 5 am, who said they hadn’t gone to bed until 1 am that morning! So surely, me going to bed at 9 pm the night before should have been enough. But when my alarm went off at 3:30 am the morning of the event, I instantly knew that I didn’t get enough sleep. Those 6 and a half hours were just not enough. I woke up tired and I was dragging ass around my hotel room the entire time I was getting ready. I was not chipper, and I was not ready for the very long day ahead of me.
I Did Not Take A Nap During The Event: Well, except for a 10 minute period during Carousel of Progress where my eyes were closed, I did not take the time to rest my eyes, and more importantly, my body. Don’t get me wrong, I tried. We would load a slow moving dark ride and I tried my best to get some sleep, but it just wasn’t working for me, I am notorious for not being able to relax and sleep in the middle of the day. I only nap when I am sick, and even then, I have to force myself to lay still on the couch and close my eyes. With so much noise and action going on inside the Magic Kingdom on this day, I nap just wasn’t going to happen for me. It would have been very handy for me and it would have helped me, temporarily at least, recharge my batteries and face the rest of the long day.
What I Did Right
Wearing Proper Clothing: This one should seem easy.If you are going to be outside, all day, in the unforgiving Florida sun, you may want to dress appropriately. For this event, Disney encouraged guests to show their “Disney Side”, and come to the theme park dressed as their favorite Disney character. Some of these costumes were very elaborate, and more importantly, heavy. I took the exact opposite course. My strategy was to wear as little clothing as possible. For this event, I wore small running shorts (ones that were loose and the highest cut I could find), running shoes, and a tank top. That’s it. No elaborate costumes, no suit, no tie, just keep it simple. Again, I took the same approach to this 24 hour day, as a runner would a marathon. When it came to choosing my clothing for the day, this strategy was a lifesaver.
Another thing I did, that was critical to surviving all 24 hours was changing my clothes at about the 5:00 pm mark. I brought along another pair of running shorts and another tank top. This quick and simple change was crucial because I spent the entire day, prior to changing clothes, sweating and my clothes and body were collecting dust, debris, and who knows what else. Changing clothes helped me feel refreshed mentally and it actually lightened the load I was carrying on my body. Clothes that spend all day collecting sweat, dirt, and debris becoming heavier clothes, thus, they weigh you down.
I Stayed Hydrated: This one seems simple enough, but I was surprised to learn how many people who were attempting the full 24 hours, were not actually keeping themselves fully hydrated. Again, this should be approached the same way a marathon should be approached. Staying hydrated dos not mean drinking soda and juice all day. It means, simply, drinking water; and a lot of it! Throughout the entire 24 hour event, I drank about 7 bottles, or 140 ounces of water. That may seem like a lot, but to be honest, it probably wasn’t enough.
The more difficult part was finding a spot in the part where you could get ice cold water (besides buying a new bottle each time for $3). Disney did have one free ice cold water station outside Pinocchio Village Haus, but it was being used sparingly, at best, by guests. Also, the water station was closed after about 7:00 pm. The only other option was to search the Magic Kingdom for the coldest water fountain. A task that proved to be futile since most all of the public water fountains in the Magic Kingdom dispensed only slightly cold, room temperature water.
I Ate A Lot Of Protein: Again, what should be another common sense strategy, but one that I saw being neglected by my fellow park goers. Simply put, protein is energy. It’s fuel for your body; and if there is any day that your body absolutely needs fuel, it’s on a day where you are going to spend 24 hours in a theme park. My snacks for the day included peanuts, lots of granola bars, bananas, and Lunchables (which are surprisingly packed with protein). Every hour I would eat a few handfuls of peanuts. Which amounted to about 20 grams of protein each hour. Compare this to the 2013 24 hour event, where my snacks included chips, cookies, and cups of jello. I learned that year that I need to provide myself with the right kind of snacks to last the entire day. I needed to eat snacks that simply didn’t fight hunger, but ones that would provide me with fuel and not slow me down. A lesson well learned in 2013 and implemented to perfection in 2015.
I should clarify that these were just snacks and did not replace my meals for the day. For my meals, I did not stick to the high protein diet, but I simply chose to eat what looked good at the moment. Part of making this as “fun” as possible meant not depriving myself of some of the theme park favorites.
I Rested My Legs and Feet: Whenever and wherever possible, I rested my legs. If I was in line for an attraction or waiting for a friend to finish using the bathroom, I made sure I was off my feet as much as possible. Five minutes standing in one spot waiting in line for Space Mountain can be five minutes spent off my feet. If you do this throughout the course of 24 hours, you can conserve a lot of energy. During the 2013 24 hour event, I did not employ this strategy. I stood until my feet hurt. By the end of that day, my feet were throbbing and I could barely walk back to my car in the parking lot. So, this year I was determined to not make the same mistake. And it worked. When I do these types of events, it is never really so much about being tired, as it is the physical tole on my body. I can deal with fighting sleep for a few hours, but I can not deal with sore feet, or achy knees. Conserving energy and keeping off my feet were a huge boost to me this year. When the final 3 or so hours came, I had an extra reserve of energy I could draw from and my feet were not as sore, which allowed me to power through to the finish.
I Paced Myself: In keeping with the marathon analogy, I knew it was important to pace myself. And I don’t just mean not running through the park at high speeds. I am referring to the pace at which we powered through the Magic Kingdom’s almost 50 attractions. The park opened at 6:00 am, and by 6:30 we were already finishing our second attraction. At that rate, we would have finished every attraction in the Magic Kingdom by 5 or 6 pm. Leaving us with 12 hours to do who knows what. SO it was important to pace myself during this day. I would ride an attraction and then take some time to soak in the themed environment around the ride or sit on a bench and people watch while I ate a granola bar. This way, by the time 4 am rolled around I would still have things to do that would be fresh new, and exciting (as exciting as something can be in a theme park at 4am).
I Kept My Group Small: This one was mission critical. Is it fun to go to a theme park with a large group of friends? Yes. Is it fun to share experiences and and create memories with loved ones inside the Magic Kingdom? Yes. But on this day I was not trying to share experiences or create memories with friends; I was trying to survive. The more people in your group, the more problems you can have. Six people in one group may all want to do a different attraction or eat at different time or restaurant. That kind of conflict and constantly having to confirm plans with five or six other people can be tiring and could waste a lot of energy you cant afford to waste. During this 24 hour day, I tried to keep my group small. Most of the day my group consisted of about 3 to 4 people. At one point our group ballooned to 6 people and this created problems. Someone wants to ride Haunted Mansion and someone else in the group wants to go charge their phone. Discussion begins and you find yourself having to lobby to the group for what you want to do. Energy wasted. Keeping your group small helps you stay flexible, be more spontaneous, and make decisions quicker without wasting energy. I know it might seem fun to spend the entire day with 10 of your best friends inside the Magic Kingdom, but don’t. Make a plan to meet up a few times a day at designated times and places and then spend the rest of your day with only a couple of other people who are relaxed, calm,and do not require much maintenance(i.e. having to stop to go to the bathroom every hour, or wanting to walk all the way to the other end of the park to get a special gluten free bun offered at a restaurant that already has a line outside the door).
Drinking A Gatorade/Powerade After The Event Was Over: In 2013, when I returned to my Orlando area hotel after the 24 hour event I went right to bed. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t even take a shower. I opened the hotel door and plopped on the bed. When I woke, I felt hungover. I felt heavy. I felt like I had just woke up from surgery. Anyone who has been through this can tel you just exactly how awful this feels. So this year I learned from that mistake and tried to avoid it. On the way to my hotel, I stopped and grabbed a bottle of Powerade and drank it on the way to my room. It was a much needed boost to my system after what was essentially a 24 hour workout. Was I lifting weights and doing dead lifts the entire time? No. But I did walk upwards of 20 miles that day and my body, through sweating, lost a lot of important electrolytes and fluids. While I am sleeping after this event, my body was working hard to replace all of those lost fluids and electrolytes. Drinking that Powerade before sleeping was an easy way of assisting my body and helped me wake up refreshed. I did not feel groggy and hungover. My body was well on it’s way to repairing all of the damage I had done to it throughout the 24 hour event.
After all of that I did survive 24 hours in the Magic Kingdom. And it was somewhat fun. These events are a lot like marathons of a sort. They take a lot of preparation and require a degree of discipline and focus one would not think would be required for a full day in a theme park. 24 hours in a theme park is a challenge, and I never back down from a good challenge; that’s why I’ll be back at the Magic Kingdom in 2016, for another 24 hour day.
Here is how the full day unfolded.
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