January 31, 2014

Friday favorites!

Last year we posted several Friday favorites post and recently I realized this theme should be resurrected!  Since the holidays, there are several items that have been making my life much happier!

1.  Erin Condren Planner  This little organizer is amazing!  Last year, I managed to forget several meetings and appointments.  Having always been a detail oriented person, this was not only upsetting but it made me feel rather stupid. I decided to get my organization skills back in order for 2014 so I can feel in control of my days instead of the reverse. This planner is wonderful and I spend a little time each day updating it.
Love the monogram, and I use matching Sharpies! (nerd)
2. RunDisney Vera Bradley duffel bag:  This was a Christmas gift and I absolutely love it.  I have used it now for two trips and it holds a ton of stuff, yet it is perfect as a carry on bag. I plan to travel light for the Princess Weekend and this bag will hold all my running gear and park clothing for five days! 

3.  Salted Caramel GU:  I received a box of this fuel as part of my prize package from Another Mother Runner. Since Peppermint stick GU has been my favorite for some time, I was excited to try a new flavor.  Many runners have professed their love of the salted caramel since it was introduced last year and now it will be in my fuel rotation.  Give it a try!

4. Vera Bradley Disney Blanket: Friends gave me this blanket for my birthday last month and with all the cold weather, I have enjoyed using it every night when I watch television or read.  However, my little Lulu has decided that it really belongs to her!

5. Dopey Dooney Bag: I loved my marathon Dooney tote from last year, and Tom gave me this years model as part of my Christmas gift.  I love the bag and especially the memories it provides when I use it!

Dopey front and center!

What are some our your current favorites?  Do you have any tricks for staying organized?

January 30, 2014

Princess Half Corrals and Course Maps

It's that time, princesses!  Time to figure out your corrals and learn the route you'll be traveling as you run to your Princess bling!  runDisney released the latest information for this year's events and we have it for you in this post.

You can find your waiver here which includes your bib number that corresponds to the corral placement tables.

Princess Half Corrals
Glass Slipper Corrals

The half marathon course is the same as previous years.  It starts just outside EPCOT and takes you to the Magic Kingdom at about mile 5 and back through EPCOT at mile 12.
Princess Half Marathon Course Map
And probably most exciting is the course for the new Enchanted 10k!  It looks to be the same course from marathon weekend and we hope there are more princesses and fun characters along the course to keep you entertained!

Royal Family 5k and Enchanted 10k Course Map

Do you run/walk your races?

Many people have been surprised to learn that Christine and I use the run/walk method for our marathons.  We are still relatively new at marathon racing with both of us completing just our second on January 12th.  Both of my races were run at Walt Disney World, the first as part of Goofy Challenge in 2013 and the second several weeks ago as the final leg of the Dopey Challenge.

Training for a marathon takes many months of preparation and for my first, I followed Jeff Galloway's training plan for the Goofy Challenge that recommended using the run/walk method.  Trying various intervals, I found that a 4/1, four minutes running, one minute walking worked best for me.  Coincidentally, Christine trained with the same ratio, so this worked out perfectly when we raced our half and full marathons earlier this month.  When we did our simulation for the Dopey Challenge, both the 12 and 24 mile training runs were completed using this method.

There are several factors that make this method good for long distance running, most of all conserving energy for the last half of the race.  Recently, Jeff Galloway qualified for the Boston Marathon using run/walk intervals and he adjusted them during his race, the Space Coast Marathon in December when necessary. His most recent newsletter talks about his fall marathon results and the culmination of a lot of hard work, not to mention his thrill of qualifying for Boston. You can read all the details here.

The real reason for this post is to let runners know that you can do great things on the race course without running an entire race. Walking through water stops, taking a bathroom break and/or using a run/walk method can still help you achieve the goal you are after. I am hoping to qualify for Boston this year, and my next marathon will be just like the other two with four minutes of running and one minute of walking.  Hopefully, I will be toeing the starting line in Hopkinton, MA in April, 2015 and Mom will be in Wellesley cheering for me!
Mom cheered on the runners in 2013!
Have you used the Galloway run/walk method for running? Will you be running Boston this year or in 2015?

January 29, 2014

Get After It

This week I officially started training for the Shamrock Anthem Half Marathon in March.  I wrote my training plan back in December when I was feeling particularly motivated after an unexpected 5k PR.  The plan is incredibly aggressive, but I kind of like it that way.  After all of the mind numbing miles from Dopey Challenge training, I'm eager for a more focused training plan.

I've decided this race and the training for it is all going to be about "get after it!"  My swim coach used to give us pacing input for each of our races and often instead of telling us to go hard, he would tell us to "get after it" in the final yards of a race.  I still remember these immortal words of advice heading into what turned out to be my final 400 IM (due to a nagging injury).  I raced hard and had a huge personal best.  So this mantra works for me.

So where will I be getting after it?  I plan to work really hard on my training runs.  I have planned 3 runs each week - a tempo run, a speed workout and long run....nothing earth shattering here.  I have a goal to swim at least once during the week for cross-training to help with physical endurance, my VO2 max and core strength.  I also plan to hit the weight room hard to stay strong.  I know that's one of the key elements of reducing my knee pain - strong quads and hips.  I was pretty lax about weight training after Marine Corps and I can start to see the impact on my bum knee.  And to top it off, I'm working on getting back on track with a healthy diet (I was pretty much junk food loading after Dopey!) and quality sleep.

How do you prepare for a big race?

January 28, 2014

Marathon recap - Pam's version

Waking up for the fourth straight morning to go run 26.2 miles did not seem like fun at all.  In fact, it felt a little bit like that movie Groundhog Day and I had little interest in getting up, much less running a marathon. I was much more interested in staying here:
My comfy bed!
 Luckily, Christine was quite perky, so I got dressed and tried to be cheerful as I worried about this last race.  Having been up early for a total of six straight days, one for my 5:29 AM flight on Tuesday, Wednesday to get in the Expo line and then the race days, the lack of sleep was definitely getting to me.  This was something I had not anticipated and would share as a warning to future Dopey runners. 

The 2:49 am wake up call gave us some extra time at the Race Retreat and that worked out really well.  Once in Race Retreat, I immediately got something to eat and drink and that helped relax me a bit, or at least take my mind off the race.  We also ran into several blogging friends which was really fun; Cyanne, Karen, Megan and if I forgot to name you, just blame my race day amnesia.  We had a photo taken with Mary Poppins and the penguins and then after a porta potty break made our way to our corral.  

The race started promptly and we waited patiently for the start of Corral G. Despite my prior sleepiness, I was ready to race and so was Christine.  Our race started quite slowly due to a very crowded race course.  Our pace was 10:53 for the first 5 miles which was much slower than we had planned. However, the course did start to thin out and we were able to gain speed as the race progressed.  While I thought we were going at a decent tempo, in my mind, I had us on track for a 2:30 half and when I told Christine this at mile 12, she said, "Mom, we are way faster than that.  Do you realize how much you have picked up your pace?" Clearly I did not, and perhaps I need to go back to school to work on my math!

After the halfway point of the race, I knew a PR was well within my reach and possibly for Christine too.  As we passed various mile markers and people along the course, it was truly one of those races that was fun from start to finish.  To think that several hours earlier, I was so nervous about the race and now the miles were flying by and we were having a blast.  

Soon we were approaching the speedway and we both got excited about seeing all the cars and people who cheer as you lap the race course. There were definitely fewer cars and spectators this year, but we still enjoyed this part of the course.  As the miles ticked by, we reached the stretch of road heading to Hollywood studios and this is when I could barely contain my excitement.  The Katy Perry Roar song was playing for that stretch of roadway and I was singing out loud and probably scaring all the runners in my vicinity.  It is amazing how certain songs or distances in a race can pick you up and I knew we were getting close but still needed to stay controlled with our speed. I remember going through HS and loving the crowds of cheering people.  The chEar squads really help runners with their support, signs and encouragement along the way. As we exited Hollywood Studios to go to the Boardwalk and eventually Epcot, Christine was running hard and I was doing my best to keep up.  She definitely held back to stay with me and while I encouraged her to go ahead, she said, "We started together and we finish together."  Once we were in Epcot, my adrenalin kicked in and I gave an extra push to the finish line.  We hugged, received our medals and I had a few tears of joy.  We headed to the Race Retreat for a celebration with our friends and some food.  I was starving and tucked into not one, but two huge plates of food!

Post race bliss!

Many runners feel the only way to have fun at a Disney race is to stop for all the characters and take photos, but honestly, you can have fun racing too.  There are plenty of Disney races that we run for fun, but we both wanted to do our best for this race.  Christine PR'd the race by six minutes and it was a twenty-three minute PR for me.  Christine surely would have broken 4:30 if she had gone on her own, but she was kind enough to stay with me so we could cross the finish line together!

 It was such an amazing race and running a marathon with your daughter cannot be described in words, although I will use a Disney phrase, "It was Magical!"


January 27, 2014

Princess weekend is coming soon!

Are you getting excited about the Princess Half Marathon weekend and the Glass Slipper Challenge?  I know I am!  One of the ways I like to get organized for the trip is to review all the race information on the runDisney page. My first stop will be the expo on Thursday afternoon.

12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 20
9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Friday, February 21
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 22
Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

It was a mob scene last year at Coronado Springs, but hopefully better this year when the expo is back at ESPN.

Unless I lose control of my fingers I am registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge only! It is very tempting to sign up for the Royal Family 5k, and here is the link if you would like to join the fun! This was our first Disney 5k last year and we loved the experience.  We had so much fun Christine made a video recap that you can see here!

Who can resist these 2 for a finish line photo? source

Friday, February 21, 2014
Start Time: 6:15 a.m.
Start/Finish: Epcot

Next up is the inaugural Princess Enchanted 10k will start and finish at Epcot and will be the first leg of those trying to complete the Glass Slipper Challenge. Be sure to read the final race instructions carefully to know what is required to received that beautiful medal. We needed wrist bands to qualify for the Dopey Challenge medal. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014
Start Time: 5:30 a.m.
Start/Finish: Epcot

The final race of the weekend is the Princess Half Marathon.  This will be the sixth year for this race and my fourth time to participate.  You can read some of our race reviews here and here. Since Princess 2011 was our first runDisney race and first big race, this one is very special to me.  I will miss my sidekick Christine but am excited that my sister is joining me for the race.  Hopefully I won't drive her nuts waking up too early on race morning!
Just after finishing 2013!
The pasta party has space and you can click here for registration information.

Friday, February 21 – Saturday, February 22, 2014
Buffet Dinner 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth 9:00 p.m.
Location: World Showplace Pavilion inside Epcot

Race retreat has limited registration options here.  We loved this option for the Dopey Challenge and have details of what was included here. While this does add an extra fee on to your race day, it was a treat for us and we enjoyed it immensely.

Saturday, February 22, 2014
3:30 – 5:30 a.m. (runners only)
5:30 – 9:30a.m. (runners and Platinum ChEAR Squad only)

Sunday, February 23, 2014
3:00 – 5:30 a.m. (runners only)
5:30 – 10:30a.m. (runners and Platinum ChEAR Squad only)
Location: Family Reunion Area at Epcot Wonder Lot

Race retreat post marathon!

Soon we will be printing our waivers and packing our suitcases.  In meantime, I need to get my race day outfits planned.  There may or may not be a costume in my future!

January 26, 2014

Weekly Roundup - January 26th

This was an unusual week for both of us as we continued our recovery from the Dopey Challenge.  While I was off sipping strawberry daiquiris and cruising the Caribbean, Christine was dealing with snow and cold weather in Virginia. For the most part, exercise took a back seat to my vacation and my body was definitely enjoying the rest. However, my mouth got some great workouts with all the delicious food and drink available on the cruise ship!  Lots of stair climbing was also part of the week as I avoided the elevator and kept my legs moving. Using the ship's gym was not always an option, because it's forward location could make you feel very unsteady on the machines. I am not a fan of rocky seas and large exercise equipment.

After arriving home Friday night, I was excited to get my running clothes ready for a Saturday morning run. Unfortunately, the temperatures were quite chilly so I pulled out my warmest running attire and enjoyed a nice brisk run!

The evidence post run!
Overall it was a great week and I am happy to be back to my running and cross training schedule.  In a few weeks I will be traveling back to Orlando for another race week so it is time to get the miles done! Here is our week in review:

Sunday, January 19th
Pam: 45 minute kayak, 15 minutes eliptical machine
Christine: 30 min circuit work - 10 min cardio, 10 min strength training, 10 min yoga

Monday, January 20th
Pam: 30 minutes snorkeling, lots of stairs
Christine: 45 minutes swimming, 2000 yards with focus on breast stroke and kick sets

Tuesday, January 21st
Pam: Walked 3 miles and lots of stairs
Christine: 35 min stationary bike, push ups, abs

Wednesday, January 22nd
Pam: Swam 30 minutes
Christine: 30 min elliptical, leg weights

Thursday, January 23rd
Pam: Swam 30 minutes, lots of stairs
Christine: Rest day

Friday, January 24th
Pam: Rest day, travel home
Christine: Rest day

Saturday, January 25th
Pam: 5 mile run, average pace 9:09
Christine: 6.1 mile run, average pace 8:59 (first run since Dopey booyah!)


January 24, 2014

The Pressure to Race

This post is probably a bit heavy for a Friday but I've been thinking about this topic for a while.  And on the heels of completing Dopey Challenge, it's most certainly applicable.  Just about any conversation I've had with another runner since Sunday, January 12th has revolved around my next race, or another race to consider, or when to run another marathon.  "When should I attempt another marathon PR?"  "Do I want to train for another fall marathon meaning lots of lonely hot runs in the summer?"  "Maybe I'll run in Europe this year…"

Last night, I finally had a pep talk with myself and told myself to slow down.  It's easy to get caught up in the race hype, particularly when there are so many fantastic races out there.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't hit them all in my lifetime even if I ran a new race every week!  And then there's the social media presence of races and runners on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Every week there are new race recaps, registrations, bib photos and the like.  I have certainly found myself wishing I was at a certain event now and again.  It's easy to find yourself feeling pressed to race, and race often when everyone else is doing it.

Recently I contemplated running a local race (the Virginia is for Lovers 14k) in February.  And not for any specific reason but I felt like I needed to have something on the calendar for February.  It so happens that I had a fabulous time at this race last year when my friend Krissy kindly acted as my pace car.  After going back and forth about registering, I realized I wasn't signing up for this race because it would help me en route to any goals or because I wanted to experience it as a new race, but I was signing up for it "just because."  And it hit me that there may be times when that's an ok reason to race, but I'm not in that place right now.

In 2013 I ran 19 races and loved all (ok, most) of my experiences.  But there were definitely races (notably Wine and Dine just 2 weeks after Marine Corps) that weren't the best idea.  Both my heart and legs simply were not in my Wine and Dine half this year.  And it makes me a little sad to admit that I had a less than stellar time at a race in Disney World through no fault of anyone other than my own.  It taught me a HUGE lesson that I need to be more thoughtful about the events I choose and make sure they're a good fit for my running goals and personal schedule.

As you all know from my post on the new year, one of my goals for 2014 is balance.  Balance not only in terms of the types of races I run, but in the way I spend my time.  I've been very focused on that this month and I've found myself feeling pretty content.  I rediscovered my KitchenAid mixer and that has been a glorious (and coincidentally, tasty) reunion.  I'm working on diversifying my workouts - hello Speedo, swim cap and goggles!  And just because I'm not running a half marathon once a month (remember that goal from last year?) or checking out every new race in the area doesn't make me a bad runner.  It just makes me a balanced one for picking the right races for me…and for finding other hobbies that make me happy and who I am.

So on a lighter note for all my running buddies trying to convince me to check out a race, you're going to have to work harder to convince me.  Consider me your date playing hard to get!

Do you ever find yourself feeling pressure to race?

January 23, 2014

Marathon Weekend Race Retreat Recap

As you all know, we decided to splurge for Dopey Challenge and purchase Race Retreat.  Wait, let me re-phrase that.  Mom gave me my Race Retreat for Christmas with my stuffed Dopey!  The Race Retreat for both Dopey and Goofy Challenges included access to the tent for both the half and full marathon days.  Many of you have asked us for our opinions on this add on option for race days, so we wanted to be good bloggers and oblige!  So let's get started!  And for those of you who aren't familiar with Race Retreat, it's a chance to relax in a climate-controlled tent before and after the race with some food and other amenities.  Access to the Race Retreat tent is also available for spectators who purchase the platinum ChEAR Squad package.

The view inside the tent before the half
I have to admit that I have always been a bit skeptical of Race Retreat.  I perceived it to be a silly waste of money and time that I could otherwise spend on a Disney vacation.  I saw it as a way for Disney to make more money and of course, that's a factor here but I am pleased to report that both of us were very pleased with our Race Retreat experience!  It was a great way to relax before and after the race in a comfortable place.  I also appreciated that it was a great way to see some friends.  We saw old friends, finally met several online running buddies and made friends with others sitting at our table.  And particularly after the marathon, it was a fabulous way to celebrate our 48.6 miles with friends!

I generally feel like runDisney events can be a bit high on anxiety because of the amount of travel and logistical coordination required on race morning and the very early race start times.  I found Race Retreat to be a very relaxing experience...it was incredibly simple to check my bag, there were short lines to use a porta potty and I was able to stretch my legs a bit on the mats before the half when I was feeling stiff.  Overall, the mood in the tent is pretty light and the volunteers definitely help keep it upbeat!  After the race, when you arrived back in the tent, there was a line of volunteers cheering you in and handing you a small gift (more on that in a moment).

Bag check area
So let's get to the details, shall we?

- Cost for a single day/race: $120
- Cost for Goofy or Dopey challenge (2 days): $200
- Admission is through a wristband that's picked up at the expo
- Hours for half marathon: 3:00-5:30 AM for runners only; 5:30-10:30 AM for runners and ChEAR Squad members.
- Hours for full marathon: 3:00-5:30 AM for runners only; 5:30 AM-1:30 PM for runners and ChEAR Squad members

Pre-Race Amenities
- Cold breakfast with bagels (PB, jam and cream cheese), bananas, coffee, water and Coke.  Note that PowerAde was advertised but I never saw it in the food area.
- Private bathrooms (basically a sectioned off area of porta potties)
- Private bag check
- Character meet and greet.   Note it was the same character(s) before and after the race and for both the half and the full.
- Stretching area with mats
- Kiddie Korner with bean bag chairs and Disney movie playing on a large TV (it was Mary Poppins this time)
- Self treat medical station with band-aids, biofreeze, Tylenol, etc.

Post-Race Amenities
- Hot breakfast after the half including: scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, muffins, cut fruit, bananas, water, coffee, hot chocolate and regular and Diet Coke
- Hot breakfast/lunch after the full including: scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, muffins, cut fruit, bananas, sandwiches, pasta salad, water, coffee, hot chocolate and regular and Diet Coke
- Gift when you arrived in the tent.  We received runDisney socks and a towel for both races and the socks were white for the half and black for the full.
- Private bathrooms
- Private bag check
- Character meet and greet.  Note it was the same character(s) before and after the race and for both the half and the full.
- Massage area - I believe it was $1 per minute
- Kiddie Korner with bean bag chairs and Disney movie playing on a large TV (it was Mary Poppins this time)
- Self treat medical station with band-aids, biofreeze, Tylenol, etc.
- Live Results area with printer
- TV streaming live coverage of the finish line
We had a practically perfect marathon!
Race Retreat swag: socks and hand towel
Celebrating before heading into the tent with Dani
As I've already said, we found this to be a good value considering other costs for the weekend and we'd highly recommend it.  Here are a few final takeaways, weighing the pros and cons.

- Very relaxing pre- and post-race environment.  Sure we still had to make the long walk to the corrals...an upgrade for next year's Race Retreat would be private golf carts to take us to the starting area!
- Chance to meet up with friends, new and old
- No pressure to plan a pre-race breakfast while away from home, assuming that a bagel and banana works for you
- Great opportunity to refuel after the races, especially if you're completing a challenge
- Great way to reconnect with family members in the ChEAR Squad after the race
- Incredibly simple bag check - no lines!
- Stress-free porta potty experience with very short lines!

- Added expense on your race weekend
- May not be a great option if you plan to run with a group and all members aren't doing Race Retreat
- If you want to take advantage of the amenities before the race, you'll likely arrive at the start before you normally would.  We arrived about 30-45 minutes before we normally would arrive.
- If you are in a later corral for the event and tend to be a slower runner (ain't no shame in that game!), you may not have much time in the tent after the race.  For example, if you started in the last corral at the Donald Half this year and ran a 3:30 half marathon, you would only have about an hour from the time you finished until the race retreat tent closed.  Definitely a consideration if you're worried you may be finishing later.
- If you have a spectator in your party, they will not be able to join you in the tent before the race.
Celebrating Dopey Challenge with our Race Retreat crew:
Scot, Natalie, and Megan
Please let us know if you have specific questions via the comments on this post and we're happy to update the post with additional information!

**Note we updated this post after receiving some feedback about the timing of the event.

January 22, 2014

Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap - Christine's Version

We’ve decided to write two recaps of this race because we felt sharing our unique perspectives was valuable.  And let’s be honest, writing a marathon recap is FUN and we both wanted to have that chance!  Pam’s will be coming soon (once she’s back from the sunny tropics). 

Leading up to the marathon, we had chatted about time goals and expectations, given we were running this as race 4/4 of the Dopey Challenge.  I was content to focus on a PR for Mom – her best time leading up to this race was 4:54 and I figured we had that in the bag.  But as time went on, she started talking more about BQ’ing at this race.  After a few fast runs leading into taper, I was confident we could do it.  Note that I thought her BQ qualifier was 4:20 when in reality it’s 4:25…that will be a key piece of information later.  We agreed that we would run together in the full unless her BQ was on the line.  I told her under no circumstances would I allow her to hang back for me if that time was within her reach. 

After the half, I was feeling pretty confident but a little anxious heading into the marathon.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel and was starting to panic about maintaining a pace that would put is in the range of Mom’s BQ.  As we were walking back to our room at the Poly, I told her how I was feeling.  She made a similar comment and we agreed that we wouldn’t focus solely on the BQ pace and run a little more on feel.  I felt a little more at ease and collapsed into bed a few minutes before 8:00PM.  I’m pretty sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow…the early mornings were definitely taking their toll.

Our alarms were set for 2:45 (I think) and we got out of bed quickly and got ready.  Unlike the previous mornings, you could tell this was “all business” – there was a bit of anxiety in the air for sure.  We were after all taking on 26.2 miles after running 22.4 over the previous 3 days.   Once again, we got on the monorail and made our way to Race Retreat.  We got to the tent much earlier and were able to scope out a large table for our group.  I had a much harder time choking down breakfast this morning, mostly because it was still so early and my nerves were rearing their ugly head.  We met up with Cyanne and Karen and wished them well on their FIRST full marathon, snapped a photo with the penguin, said hello to my hometown friend Kristina, and suited up to head to the corrals.
Met the lovely Cyanne and Karen! They ROCKED their first 26.2 together!

Kristina and I 
Ready to roll!
Once again we started in corral G (like the half) and were off a few minutes before 6:00AM.  We settled into a manageable pace pretty easily and noted that the course was very crowded for the miles leading up to the Magic Kingdom.  In retrospect, I’m glad we weren’t focused on the BQ time because I know I would have gotten frustrated that we couldn’t achieve that pace in the beginning of the race.  Before we knew it, we were running down Main Street and traipsing through Magic Kingdom before dawn.  This never gets old to me and I hope I’m able to run this course many more times!  As we were exiting Magic Kingdom, the 4:30 pacer passed us.  This isn’t really notable at this point but you’ll see why I mention this later.

I was excited for our next major attraction on the course – the Speedway.  Since I didn’t run the marathon at Disney last year, I’ve never had the opportunity to run this section.  And everything that I read in advance was spot on – the entry into the Speedway was treacherous at best.  The incline down is so steep that people are nearly walking to maintain their balance and coming back up and into the Speedway, it feels a little like climbing Everest (not that I know from experience).  It was a nice diversion to run through here and we enjoyed the classic cars and spectators around the track.  

After the Speedway, we turned to head to Animal Kingdom down Bear Creek Road.   I commented to Mom that we’d picked the pace up quite a bit and confirmed she was ok with where we were. I expected to be bored in this stretch but I really enjoyed it.  We interacted with fellow runners and it was very serene and peaceful.  Mentally, I appreciated the time to decompress a little bit and lose myself in my music and peaceful surroundings.  And it was the perfect mileage to zone out – approximately 10-13.  At the mile 12 marker, I checked our split and we were pacing ahead of my Marine Corps pace.  We were on track to hit the 13.1 marker in 2:18 or 2:19.  I quietly thought that I wished I had a PR half marathon in me to help get Mom to the BQ pace but I knew that was all but a pipe dream.

We turned into Animal Kingdom, entering near Asia, just before the mile 13 marker.  It was fun to run through this park during daylight (we’ve only seen it at night during Wine and Dine and just briefly at the Jingle Jungle 5 and the course was much more crowded during that race).  Many runners opt to hop on Expedition Everest during the race but we passed it just a bit too soon – the park wasn’t open yet when we ran through and not to mention, there’s no way Mom would have wanted to wait around while I rode a roller coaster during a marathon!

Coming out of Animal Kingdom, we spotted fellow Dopey Challenge runner Dani.  We had a great chat and she took a hilarious selfie of us on the course.  It was great to see her and get some encouraging words before we were off to ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS).
This photo perfectly captures the moment of the race - sun just coming up in the background,
feeling good and having fun chatting with the girls in the colorful tutus behind us!
As we headed back out toward ESPN, I told Mom that it was “game on” and it was “going to get real” when we got out.  I’d heard horror stories about the trek to ESPN WWOS and coming out of it.  I’ve heard it called the “Bhutan death march” and was warned that you would really feel the sun while out on the roadway.  But I refused to be intimidated by this.  We were consistently picking up the pace with every mile leading up to ESPN WWOS so I was feeling pretty confident.  And yet again, we ran into Dani while running around the ESPN complex.  It was great chatting with her and running with her ensured we were keeping a pretty good pace.  The final part of the course around WWOS was running through the stadium which was filled with lots of spectators – another great confidence boost! 

As we made the turn to Hollywood Studios, I started doing mental math, but my brain wasn’t exactly on point if you know what I mean.  It took me about 5 minutes to figure out we were easily on PR track for both of us and it was possible we might break 4:30.  I held my tongue for a little bit because every time I made a comment about our pace, I could sense that Mom tensed up a bit. 

We headed into Hollywood Studios and I was ready to jam to the finish.  I was feeling great and had a lot left in my legs.  I felt like we were FLYING through the park – literally.  We passed a ton of people which is always a boost and as we passed Wreck it Ralph, I yelled to Mom “we are wrecking this marathon right now”…excited much?  One of the girls around us laughed and gave us good wishes for the finish.  I could feel that Mom was starting to fade a bit but I knew she had something left in the tank (she always has gas at the finish so I felt comfortable pushing the pace a bit more). 

As we exited Hollywood Studios, there were spectators everywhere.  I’ve been known to ham it up a bit with the crowd and I sped ahead of Mom to get them going a bit (she needed them more than I did at this point).  I heard a few people yell for us which was awesome, but I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to search the crowd for faces.  We made the turn onto the narrow path to the Boardwalk and eventually EPCOT.  I told Mom a sub-4:30 was in reach, but we had to gun hard.  She told me to leave her but I told her we crossed together, no questions about it.  I looked tirelessly for Jen along this stretch and saw a girl that might be her, but her face didn’t register.  Turns out it WAS her!  Thanks for your cheers Jen, even if we never realized it was you! 

Once we got into EPCOT, Mom turned on the juice…see, I knew it was there!  We were running as hard as we could toward the finish and I never even noticed our pal Dopey out on the course in Germany (or many other characters for that matter).  We were in head’s down, eye on the prize mode.  The only chatter that occurred in EPCOT was me pointing out where I saw her in last year’s marathon and her telling me to slow down when I ran ahead in Future World to get the crowd revved up for her (it was well intentioned!).  As we made the turn out of the park to the finish, we passed the 4:30 pacer and I realized we wouldn't get under the mark but a PR for both of us was certain.  I’ve never enjoyed a finish line stretch more than this one.  There weren’t tons of people coming in so it was nice to enjoy the crowd and the announcers.  We crossed hand in hand and shared a giant celebratory hug!  My final time was 4:31.51 and Mom’s was 4:31.50…we’ll call that her Birthday gift, shall we?!  This was a 23 minute PR for her and 6 for me. 
Celebrating with Danielle
Celebrating the completion of Dopey Challenge with Dani!
In retrospect, we might have had a 4:25 in us to get Mom to the BQ standard, but I’m really glad we didn’t have that pressure over us for this race.  I LOVED just about every second of this race.  Seriously.  I told Mom that I loved the event at about mile 7, which coincidentally is around the same time as when I told Danielle how much fun I was having at the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was an incredible experience to share Dopey Challenge with Mom.  I was immensely appreciative of the companionship along our 48.6 mile journey and most notably, the 26.2 miles of the marathon.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel very proud of how we ran the marathon – double PRs, negative splits and smiles on our faces.  I know a lot of people say they don’t run Disney events to PR but I am here to tell you that you can PR AND have a fantastic time!  Fun and PRs are not mutually exclusive at Disney. 
3 more medals
Coming off this race, I am eagerly awaiting my next full even though I don’t have one on the calendar yet.  I’ve learned I really love this distance and the mysteries it holds.

January 21, 2014

Training Tuesday: Time to Refocus

As I continue to recover from the Dopey weekend, thoughts towards my race calendar and goals for 2014 are coming into focus.  It is amazing how Dopey completely overtook my life, schedule and running goals for nearly 4 months.  Surviving four consecutive days of racing made training difficult since I normally only run three times per week.  Moving forward, I intend to return to three days of running per week and include some new cross training routines to improve my core strength.  My weakness at the moment is my lower back and core, so naturally I would like to find ways to make these areas stronger.  In terms of my running, hopefully my mileage will now increase slowly with more speed thrown in to make my racing goals achievable.

One of the things I am most excited about this year is spectating the Boston Marathon again with my mother.  Last year we were in Wellesley at the halfway point and had a wonderful time cheering on the elite runners and the fastest men and women.  Little did we know that the day would end with such a disastrous and devastating event at the finish line.  Hopefully 2014 will be a wonderful race and lots of my running group will be participating.  I can't wait to cheer for them and give them fuel or food as they pass by our spectating spot in Wellesley!  Part of my excitement is that I am secreting hoping that the crowds along the course will be there for me the following year.  My marathon time after Dopey has put me in range for a Boston Qualifying time and it would be wonderful to join those elite runners for this prestigious race.  This may be the push I need to get that time required to register for 2015.

Friday I fly home from a fantastic race and cruise vacation.  On Saturday, my running schedule and plans begin again and I can't wait to get started. 

What are your goals for 2014? 

January 20, 2014

Race Recap: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

On the third day of Dopey Challenge, things started getting a little more serious.  For the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, we had a much more definitive plan.  Our goal time was 2:30 and Mom even had a pace bracelet to get us there!  In terms of timing for the morning's events, we planned to try to be walking into the Race Retreat at about 4:00 AM.  We dressed quickly and headed to the monorail (again) to make the trek to the EPCOT Wonder lot.

When we arrived (about 3:55), he heard the announcers saying they wanted all runners in corrals by 4:30 AM.  Umm say what?!  Mom and I looked at each other and felt a bit confused.  We headed into Race Retreat for some snacks and to try to relax a bit before the start.
Added security started at Wine and Dine - all bags checked
when you go into the start area
While in the tent, we ran into Megan, Natalie and Scot who would be our Race Retreat companions over the next two days.  We all lamented the insanely early corral placement times and decided we would head out a little later.
Dopey Challengers ready for day 3!
Mom and I parted ways with the group and headed to the corral around 4:50.  And while on our way there, we ran into Kat and Linzie!  We have been at so many of the same races as Kat and never have officially met so it was awesome to get to finally meet her!  She is just sweet as can be!  

We also ran into Walter from Running Happily Ever After while walking to the corrals and all gave him accolades for his fabulous costume.  
We'll call Kat our Dopey Challenge groupie!
We had about 30 minutes or so to kill in the corral before we started and saw lots of buddies.  I always enjoy chatting with people in the corrals as it eases my nerves.  Before we knew it, the fireworks were shooting off and it was go time.  
A horrendously bad photo of the starting line!
We planned to run this race with 4:1 run:walk intervals to help manage our pace and to not overly stress our legs.  The first few miles ticked off easily and we saw some of the usual sites for the course - pirate ship on World Drive, large Mickey, Donald and Goofy banner on World Drive and the villains just past the speedway.  We enjoyed taking in the course, the costumes and chatting with runners around us.  And soon enough we were heading toward Magic Kingdom squeal!  We stopped for our first ever (yes, you read that correctly) castle photo and headed on our merry way.  
Running into Magic Kingdom before dawn is MAGIC!
The stretch coming out of Magic Kingdom and headed to EPCOT was filled with spectators and characters which made it very fun.  We saw our buddy Krista and her darling daughter just out front of Shades of Green and got some high fives from random spectators.  We wanted to stop to see golfer Goofy but decided the line was too long so we snapped a photo of a random runner with him!

We made one solo character stop during the race and that was the Army Man at the mile 10 on-ramp to head to EPCOT.  We got some great advice from Sarge and "carried on" (har har).

When we got to EPCOT, I can honestly say I felt like I was running on a cloud.  Physically I was feeling great and I was eager to get to the finish line to get this race in the books.  I turned on the gas a bit too much and had to pull back a bit to hang with Mom (my fault not hers).  We crossed the finish line in 2:25 and change and checked off our third race of the Dopey Challenge.  
My 11th half marathon!
A few summary thoughts: 
- We were pleasantly surprised to find that the course had adequate space to run and never felt any crowding.
- The character lines were much more manageable for the half but the popular characters still had pretty long lines.
- Once again, we witnessed the clean-up crew on World Drive picking up all of the race gear to reopen the roads.
- I will never tire of the ChEARing fans when you enter EPCOT.  
- We finished slightly ahead of pace and I attribute that to both of us feeling relatively strong during this race.

What did you think of Donald's big event this year?

January 19, 2014

Weekly Roundup: January 19th

I know we've been slacking in the new year on our roundup posts, but let's be honest you knew we were running marathon weekend last week and this week has mostly been a recovery week.  I got home from Disney on Monday night and promptly unpacked a few things to repack a bag for an overnight work trip on Tuesday.  To say I was exhausted when I got home on Wednesday night might be the understatement of the year.  All I could think about was plopping on the sofa and spending time with Paddy (who I picked up that evening on my way home).  I decided that my body needed a bit more rest and I'm glad I listened.

Normally I try to power through a gym session even if I'm feeling fatigued.  I ended up taking the entire week off and enjoying myself.  Remember how I used to talk about letting my butt grow roots in the sofa and eating bon bons after Dopey?  Yea, it was a little bit like that!  So I've let my body tell me when it's ready to workout again and it so happens that was yesterday.  Mom has been a lot more active on her cruise!
Paddy and I both got haircuts this week - before and after shots
Sunday, January 12th
P / C: Walt Disney World Marathon

Monday, January 13th
P / C: Stretched our legs walking around Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, January 14th
P: Rest day
C: Rest day

Wednesday, January 15th
P: Snorkeling in Bahamas
C: Rest day

Thursday, January 16th
P: Rest day
C: Rest day

Friday, January 17th
P: Hiked around San Juan
C: Rest day

Saturday, January 18th
P: Snorkeling
C: 30 min stationary bike, push ups, core work

Recapping the week of January 5th...
Sunday, January 5th
P: Stretching
C:  30 min stationary bike, stretching

Monday, January 6th
P: 30 min stationary bike, stretching
C: Rest day, stretching

Tuesday, January 7th
P: Traveled to Orlando, 3 mi easy run around the resorts
C: 3 mile easy run

Wednesday, January 8th
P: Lots of walking around the expo
C: Traveled to Orlando, lots of walking

Thursday, January 9th
P / C: Disney Family Fun Run 5k

Friday, January 10th
P / C: Inaugural Walt Disney World 10k

Saturday, January 11th
P / C: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

How do you normally recover after races?

January 18, 2014

WDW Marathon weekend race expo

After several less than stellar race expo experiences last year at both the Dumbo Challenge and the Princess Half Marathon, we were approaching this expo with excitement as well as trepidation.  I was going early Wednesday morning in hopes of scoring some really cute Dopey merchandise and perhaps a pair of the latest edition of Minnie shoes by New Balance.  Having a ride to the expo was really helpful (thanks Scot) and I got in line with Megan from Running Toward the Prize to wait for the official opening!  We had a two hour wait, but fortunately the expo had a "soft" opening at about 9:00, which saved us an hour of wait time.  After taking some outdoor photos, we took our place in line behind Sid who has been first in line at the Expo for many years now!  He runs the marathon every year with an American flag and the name of a fallen soldier on his back. What a fantastic story!

As soon as the doors opened to the expo we headed straight towards the Dopey booth to score some merchandise.  I had plans to buy everything that said Dopey or 48.6 miles on it, but found very little at the runDisney official merchandise booth.  A volunteer working the booth suggested we go to the main expo after we picked up our race packets because this merchandise booth was just a "teaser".  Those were his exact words.  We hurried to pick out race bibs and shirts and race retreat wrist bands.  I must say that I was super excited to see our race shirts this year.  After the poor fit of the shirts last year, I was looking forward to a woman's cut long sleeve shirt.  RunDisney did not disappoint, the shirts are fantastic with both a nicer material and great fit.

Race bibs!
Quickly we crossed to the main Expo at the Josten Center and found the large official runDisney booth.  Unfortunately, I was totally underwhelmed by the Dopey merchandise.  There were two jacket styles, one a red windbreaker style and the traditional Champion zip jacket in black with an uninspired Dopey logo.  Neither was of interest but I did buy the black short sleeve tech shirt and the "I Did It' shirt (which quickly was placed in the bottom of a drawer back at the hotel)!  I also got a magnet that had 48.6 on it.  My wallet/credit cards were happy that the merchandise was not great!

My loot!
I did manage to buy the Minnie shoes from New Balance shortly after I left the runDisney booth and they are adorable. While I won't run in those, they will be fun to wear for park visits in the future and at home.

Custom shoe kits for Marathon Weekend races

My favorite part of the morning other than getting my race bibs and shirts was picking up my preordered Dooney and Bourke handbag.  I had two lovely volunteers help me choose a bag that had Dopey on both sides, too cute!  After picking this up, I was so laden down with stuff that I needed to go back to my hotel.

Christine arrived at the hotel just as I was putting my things away and we had a quick lunch before returning to the expo. She got her bibs and race shirts quickly and we then toured the runDisney booth again so she could choose a few things.

Race pins
Christine's loot!
We spied one of the newest (and also most fun) features that runDisney has added to the expos - fun photo booth!

We looked at a few other vendors and then listened to the end of a talk on the Dopey Challenge that was very informative. 
Race Director, John Hughes, providing tips on Dopey Challenge
And of course no race expo experience is complete without a few photo ops!

All in all this was a fun expo experience!