Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review

2013 is almost in the books. Before 2014 (and all the goals/resolutions that come with a new year) begins, I wanted to reflect on the highlights of my last year. This year has been a year of change for me. I moved away from the city I've lived in for nearly 30 years, started training for a marathon, lost people close to me, and grew even closer to amazing friends who have become family.  Without a doubt, it was a year to remember.

Though I could have included so many more, here are my top thirteen highlights of 2013:


What were your highlights of 2013?
Happy new year and happy running! Have a blessed, safe, and amazing 2014!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dopey Challenge Training Update: Week 25

I can't believe we have just finished week 25 of Dopey Challenge training. It feels like only yesterday Matthew and I were talking about signing up for this crazy endurance challenge. But here we are, only 15 days from the start, feeling as ready as we'll ever be. This was the last week of long training runs and was the closest mileage to the actual challenge: 2.5 on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday, 12 on Friday, 24 on Saturday.

What went well:
  • We actually stuck to the training plan. We walked the 5 and 12 miler, as hard as it was to just walk.
  • We changed up the scenery for the long run and ran throughout the city of Hazleton, PA. While hilly, it was great to have something different to look at for hours and hours.
  • I think we've nailed down the fueling for the marathon. We used clif bars, walnuts, and Weight Watcher's bars and we felt pretty good throughout.
  • I only used the bathroom three times during the 24 miler. :-)
What could have been better:
  • We did the 12 miler from 7-10pm on Friday night. We were out on the road for the 24 miler by 9am on Saturday. We had only 11 hours to recover and I think our bodies were still in shock when we started our run on Saturday.
  • The weather, while warm on Saturday, was rainy. And as the snow was melting, there was a lot of slush and ice on the roads/sidewalks, making us more cautious as to where we placed our feet. I think this slowed us down some.
  • We could have planned our routes a little better. While it was nice to be running in a different area, there were times where we had to make several loops of a neighborhood to get all our miles in.
I loved Jeff Galloway's training plan for this challenge because it was always manageable. Every three weeks, we would run for 4 days in a row to simulate the Dopey Challenge. And each time, that mileage would increase slightly. On the other weeks, we would run only 3 times per week and our "long" run was between 6-7 miles. Now that we've finished the last week of long training runs, we have only a few short runs between us and our next run Disney adventure.

Matthew and I both are very fortunate to have supportive families who understand why we may need to run while we are home for the holidays- our last Dopey simulation was over Thanksgiving weekend. Now that our longest runs are behind us, we can relax with our families and enjoy the holidays.

Happy holidays and happy running!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Make a Tiana Inspired Leaf Crown

For the Walt Disney World 5k coming up in just a few short weeks, I'll be running as one of my favorite Disney Princesses, Tiana from "Princess and the Frog."

I'll be wearing a lime green sparkle skirt, a light green tech t-shirt, and of course, Tiana's signature leaf crown. The Disney store sells a Tiana crown but it is just a plastic crown with a picture of Tiana in the center. I wanted to do something that closely resembled what Tiana wore in the movie.

I was able to make this crown for less than 15 dollars and less than an hour's work. I used the following items:
  • Tiara- Target dollar section
  • Sparkly green/white poinsettia flower- Michael's
  • Bridal floral sprays- Michael's
  • Sage green 5/8" ribbon- Michael's
  • White felt- JoAnn Fabrics
  • White/green rose- Michael's (used for Tiana's skirt)
  • Clips- Michael's (used for the flower on Tiana's skirt)

To start, I hot glued the white felt to the tiara. Because it was red, I didn't want the color to show through the leaves. If you use a tiara that is white or a similar color, you can skip this step.

Then I cut the leaves off of the poinsettia. I used seven leaves- the largest in the middle and decreasing in size on each side. First, I rearranged the leaves to make sure I liked how they looked together. I also tucked four of the bridal floral sprays behind the flowers. I hot glued each leaf to the tiara, starting with the middle leaf and layering each additional leaf in front of it. Then I glued the floral sprays behind the flowers; two on each side.

To finish the crown, I glued a piece of ribbon around the base of the crown. You could also glue more ribbon around the entire headband. Since I'll be running in it, I wanted the "teeth" on the inside of headband to still be able to do their job.

And that's it! With the right materials and with just a few minutes, you can make a Tiana-inspired leaf crown.

Here's a sneak peek at part of my Tiana running costume. Look for the full costume reveal (including all four race costumes) coming soon!

Monday, December 16, 2013

What I Can't Run Without Part II: "These are a few of my favorite things"

A few months ago, I wrote a post detailing all the things I couldn't run without. After logging over 400 miles of Dopey Challenge training, I've found some new favorite things.

Here's my updated "must-have" running list:

  • Hoka One One's- These shoes have changed my life! They are the opposite of a minimalist shoe: lots of cushioning and support. I've been running in the Bondi B's and the Stinson Tarmac's. The best part about these shoes is how they make my recovery from long runs amazingly short. While expensive ($160- 175 per pair), they are absolutely worth it.
    Also, they look like moon shoes. But they are the most comfortable running shoe I've found.
  • Under Armour Compression Shorts- These fit perfectly and have just enough compression to make my hip flexors feel secure. And they are super affordable at just $28 a pair.

  • 2XU Compression socks- Usually, I use these after a long run to aid in recovery. I'll also wear them on the plane or sometimes I'll sleep in them the night before or after a long run. They help tremendously with muscle soreness. Sometimes, I'll wear them on a cold run. They are pretty warm so I won't wear these if it's above 30 degrees. 

They're also incredibly fashionable :-)
  • Map My Run voice feedback- It's no secret that I love this app for tracking my runs and progress on my phone. What I have been using recently is the voice feedback feature. I can set it up for one minute intervals and she'll (it's a female voice) update me every minute with pace, total time, and total distance. It's a great help when I'm running with friends- I don't have to check my watch every minute to know when to run or walk. It's also great for keeping track of my pace mid-run so I know if I need to speed up or slow down.

  • Weight Watchers 3 point bars- When my long run is over 15 miles, I've found that I need more substantial food to stay energized, not just gels. These bars do just the trick. I buy them at any Weight Watcher's location- you don't need to be a member, anyone can purchase them.  My favorites are "Berry-licious Cashew Chew" and "Aloha Almond Bar."

  • Sparkle Athletic skirts- I may be addicted to these; I have six skirts and there are several more on my wish list. But, they come in amazing colors and make me feel pretty when I run. So there.
  • Raw Threads shirts- Made from bamboo, these shirts are super soft and super comfortable to run and workout in. And they have amazing designs- I'm a fan of their "Good Girls" and "Princess/Castle" collections.
This is from the "Villains" collection. It glows in the dark :-)

What are your favorite running-related things?

Happy running!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Race Recap & Review: Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis 5k

Yesterday, we got to participate in the Jingle Bell Walk/Run for Arthritis 5k in Harrisburg, PA. We've done this race before but not in this location. In fact, this was our first race in Harrisburg, the closest city to where we live. This event offered something for everyone- kid's races, a 5k walk/run, and you could even bring your dog along the course with you!

All weekend there had been the threat of serious weather. Another local 5k actually canceled their race for Saturday fearing it would be snowed out. With the snow slated to start falling around 5 am Saturday and with our race having a 10 am start, we kept a close eye on the website to make sure we didn't drive nearly an hour to a canceled race.

At 8 am on Saturday, there was no snow and no cancelation notice so we got in the car and headed north to the race. When we got there, the party had already started. There were approximately 2,000 people all gathered in a business park in various heated tents. There was a DJ, awesome pre-race food, mascots/characters, and a general fun atmosphere. It was like being at a Disney race! Except for the freezing temperatures and wind- it was probably close to 30 at the start!

Me and a crazy looking elf!

Yeah, this was pretty awesome. In a HEATED tent, too!

So many people out to support a great cause!

The starting line.

At about 9:45, we lined up to start. And just at that moment, it started to flurry. It was actually very pretty to run while the snow was just starting to fall. At 10 am, without much fanfare, we were off! The race itself was within a business park and just a little out on the main highway. We did two loops- both of which started uphill.

The uphill start.

Mid-race selfie!
My plan for this race was to keep my 1:1 intervals, which I did for the first mile. Then I switched to 2:1 and tried to keep under an 11 minute/mile pace. The main goal was to finish healthy. Dopey is only a few short weeks away- I don't need to try and PR a 5k when I have almost 48 miles on the calendar for next week :-)

The best part of the course was the switchback where you could see the runners in front of you. I actually was able to catch Matthew mid-run!

Hi Matthew!

So many Santa hats!

And that's route 81 on the right.
Because this was such a big race, there was a great deal of crowd support. This was also a race for "Girls on the Run." This is a non-profit organization that works with girls from third through eighth grade promoting health and self-esteem through running. There were hundreds of girls running with their coaches. It was really inspirational to see.

Lots of cheering spectators.

Best sign on the course!

After rounding the corner of the second loop, I knew I was just .1 away from the finish. I picked up the pace and tried to finish this race in under 34:00. My official time? 33:58.9. I'll take it. Matthew finished in an amazing 26:27.2. All our training is definitely paying off and making him super speedy!

All smiles at the finish!

All in all, this race was absolutely worth the $30 entry fee. Cute long-sleeved shirts, lots of pre-race food/entertainment, and all proceeds support a great cause. We will definitely do this one again next year. Not a bad way to round out the 2013 racing season. Just one more race (New Year's Day Resolution Run 5k) before we cap off all our training at the inaugural Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. Eek! :-)

How are your last races/training runs of 2013 shaping up?

Happy running!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dopey Challenge Training: Week 24

After this week, there will only be three weeks of training left until the Dopey Challenge. To try and describe the emotions I'm feeling would be impossible. I'm excited, terrified, joyful, worried, confident- basically I just feel all the feels all the time.

This week is a cut-back week: two short runs and an easy 7 miles this weekend. Part of this weekend's running will include the Jingle Bell Walk/Run for Arthritis 5k in Harrisburg. I'm super excited as I have been looking forward to running in Harrisburg since moving to the central PA area. Dream big, right? Next week is the last week of long runs: 5, 12, 26. Then we're headed down to taper town! Woo hoo!

I'm still in shock over my last week of long runs. Over Thanksgiving, Matthew and I completed the following schedule: 3 mile run, 4 mile walk, 10 mile walk, 23 mile run/walk. The best part? We felt pretty awesome afterward :-)

Our strategy for the long runs has been slightly altered from the normal run/walk intervals: slower and with more walk breaks. For the 23 miler, we started outside and ran two miles to the gym (we were at Matthew's parent's house and they have a gym in the neighborhood). Average pace was 14 minutes/mile. Then we did an entire half marathon on the treadmill at about 15 minutes/mile. My legs and hips were a bit achy on the treadmill- it is definitely not my preference to run that long on a treadmill.  At this point, we ran back to Matthew's parent's house to get some food and water. Then we started the last seven mile loop.

Right around mile 18, I started to feel like crap. Like my legs were made of lead. Like any little forward motion zapped all of my energy. Like there was no possible way I'd be able to continue. Was this "the wall?" The infamous mental/physical barrier of mythical proportions that all runners talk about? According to Matthew, no.

Actual conversation:
Me: "I think I'm hitting the wall. I feel like s#@!."
Matthew: "You can't hit the wall."
Me: "Why?"
Matthew: "We're not even at mile 20 yet. There's no way you've hit the wall. You can't hit the wall til mile 20. It's a rule."

Thank God he can make me giggle when I feel terrible. Yet another reason I'm glad he's my running partner :-)

We kept going. I continued to feel crappy. I ate some shot bloks. And then all of the sudden, about 10 minutes after it started, the feeling was gone. Like it hadn't even happened. And then I felt GREAT. And wanted to keep going. I tried to convince Matthew that we should run the full 26.2 just to say that we did it. He wisely reminded me to stick to our training plan and save the full distance for Disney. We finished the 23 miler in 5 hours and 32 minutes.

With only a few long runs to go, I hope I don't encounter "the wall" (or the non-wall, according to Matthew) again. But if I do, I'm confident I'll be able to move past it. There are six beautiful medals to be earned in the Dopey Challenge and I'm getting so excited to chase them.

Have you ever hit the wall? How did you get past it?


Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of my most favorite weeks of the year.


1. Peppermint EVERYTHING! Peppermint + Chocolate = Heaven.
2. Snow/colder weather. Fun to look at and run in; with the proper gear, of course :-)
3. Holiday races! Turkey Trots, Jingle 5k's, etc. Lots of local (and affordable) races this time of year.
4. Wish lists and holiday shopping!
5. Lots of time with family and dear friends :-)

Speaking of holiday races, I have been lucky enough to have participated in back-to-back weekends of fun and festive races! Below are my quick & dirty recaps for each with some helpful hints on what to wear in colder weather.

Shippensburg Turkey Trot 5k
This local race seemed to have everything you could ask for in Thanksgiving race- a low entry fee ($10), random drawings for cool prizes, and all proceeds benefitting a local food pantry. In reality, you get what you pay for.

This race started at Shippensburg Memorial Park at 8:30 am. It was really chilly Thanksgiving morning- around 28 degrees with some pretty horrendous wind. I have a habit of dressing up for holiday races and this one was no different. I wore Champion brand base layer pants and long-sleeved shirt (both from Target, around $15 each, amazingly warm!), a cotton tuxedo t-shirt, and a cotton tuxedo sweatshirt. I also wore my gunmetal Sparkle Athletic skirt, a pair of Nike gloves, a Nike ear warmer headband, a Champion brand women's running hat and a Bula brand neck gator.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The race itself was pretty simple, a little loop around the park, another loop through a neighborhood, then a quick out and back to the Volvo plant. There was one "water stop" and I use that term lightly. There were two kids, probably about eight years old, handing out small bottles of water around the one mile mark. No one was taking them because it was really, really cold.

After the turn-around and when I knew how much longer we had until the finish, I looked at my watch and started to feel pretty crappy about my time. In almost all races, my goal is to finish. This one was no different; it was a fun, holiday race. But something was bugging me. I felt like I was putting a ton of effort and pushing the pace. But my time was SO much slower than my typical 5k time. What concerned me the most was that this was day one of a four day Dopey simulation. Knowing that I was going to run 40 miles in four days, I didn't like feeling so crappy while I was going so slow.

Anyway, I finished the race and found my way over to Matthew. Then I looked at my mapmyrun app on my phone- 3.49 miles. I wasn't that slow- the course wasn't marked properly. The little loop we did in the neighborhood wasn't part of the course. But, with no course volunteers or course map ahead of time or directional signs to lead us, we all just followed the leaders. Apparently, this loop was part of the course in years past, just not this year.

I was ticked that I had allowed something as silly as the minutes on the clock make me feel so bad about myself and my run. I was working hard, pushing the pace, and really putting in effort. I don't like being in a negative head space like that. Also, I ended up being really warm. I probably shouldn't have worn the sweatshirt or the gloves.

Will I do this race again? Probably. But I'll be sure to try and figure out the course before-hand :-)

Christmas Dash for Cash 10k
Yesterday, we competed in another local race. This entry fee was significantly higher- almost $40 per person because there were lots of cash prizes for overall winners, age division winners, most festive dressed, teams, etc. I entered the "Athena" category; women over 155 pounds. This was the first time I've seen this division offered in an event OTHER than a triathlon.

This race had an 8:30 am start time. It was 32 degrees at the start. Previous to the start, you could pick up your bib (and shirt, if you bought them for an extra $12) and use a real bathroom at a beautiful church. It was really nice to have a warm area to spend the pre-race time. Around 8:15, they started letting us know that we would have start walking to the starting area.

I felt like we were at a Disney race! It was about a half mile walk to the starting line which was at the top of a giant hill.

Trudging up the hill to the start.
On this walk, I started to second-guess my clothing. I was wearing my Champion brand base layer pants, an Under Armour long-sleeved shirt, a cotton t-shirt, my Nike ear warmer headband, a Santa hat, knee-high Christmas socks, a cheap pair of tech gloves, and a Sparkle Athletic skirt. I was chilly at the start and hoped that I wouldn't be cold the entire race.

There was no start line. We had timing chips attached to our shoes, but we never ran over any timing mats. The race director literally stood on the side of us, counted down, and said go. It was the most odd start to a race I've ever experienced.

The crowd, listening to the race director.

Matthew, looking puzzled :-)

Race director giving us course information.
Without much fanfare, we were off! I started my watch when I passed the race director (about 10 seconds after he said "go!") and began the awesome downhill to start the race.

The course itself was well-marked and there were volunteers at every stop directing runners where to go. There was one water stop, just a bit past mile three. The course had a good amount of hills on it. While going up hills, I was remembering what Galloway says about hills- shorten your stride and pick up your cadence. I actually passed two people using this method! Also, I ended up staying nice and warm on the course. What I wore worked perfectly for this particular day and distance.

Not-so-scenic course.
At mile 5, I looked at my watch. It was at 55 minutes. I cried. Under 12 minute miles! For most people, my race times are not competitive. I'm a slow and steady runner. The only person I'm trying to do better than is myself. I strive to make each race feel better and (hopefully) pace faster.

The same giant hill we walked up to the start was the downhill finish to this course- it was glorious! Running towards the finish, I knew I was going to PR. I actually had butterflies in my stomach as I was nearing the finish line. I crossed and could not believe it. Unofficially, 1:09:23. I took almost five minutes off my 10k time from a few weeks ago. I could not be more proud of myself. Finally, all this training is paying off!

We didn't stick around to see the awards. They were posting times inside the church and I could see the 3rd Athena runner came in around 1:04 and since they were only awarding the top three in every division, I knew I wasn't getting an award. The lines to get food and water after were really long- we ended up getting a drink from the water fountain in the church.

Will I do this race again? Maybe. It was a little pricey for a 10k that didn't include a shirt and had funky logistics (start, food/water, etc). Overall, I enjoyed most of the race, especially the part where I managed a PR :-)

How were your holiday races? I'd love to hear about them!

Happy running!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

#runchat Holiday-to-Holiday Scavenger Hunt

So let me be really honest with you- training for a marathon in the mid-atlantic region during the winter months (November- March) is a nightmare. It's dark from 4:30 pm- 7:30 am. It's often between 20- 35 degrees. There's a lot of wind. And snow. And freezing rain.

Last night, I ran with a headlamp and a reflector vest- it was only 6:30 pm. This morning's run started at a balmy 16 degrees. My sunglasses fogged up and then condensation actually froze on the inside of the lenses making it virtually impossible to see through them. I took them off and then my eyelashes froze.

Headlamps are kinda cool.

Naturally, finding any little bit of anything that will motivate me to leave my warm bed/house/car and run in the tundra is greatly appreciated.

Enter the #runchat Holiday-to-Holiday Scavenger Hunt. Basically, it's a scavenger hunt for runners. Find certain things on your run in a certain timeframe and be entered to win awesome, runner-friendly prizes. All you need to do is tweet or instagram pictures of those items with the hashtag #runchathunt. This holiday edition runs from Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. You can learn all the rules and regulations here.


This is just the remedy for those winter running blues! Since there's over 30 miles on the training schedule this week, I have been excitedly planning routes where I think I'll find some of these items. So far, I have five:
"Runner I don't know" at the Shippensburg Turkey Trot!

"Inflatable holiday decorations"

"Body of water"- Lake Four Seasons, Drums, PA


This really has been so much fun! I can't wait to find the rest of the items- it helps the miles to go by quickly and just helps the run be so much more enjoyable. I'll keep this post updated as I find the rest of the items.

Hope your holiday- and your running- has been awesome!

***Update: Found four more items at yesterday's Christmas Dash for Cash (12/7)!

"Animals on a farm"

"Mile marker'
"Railroad" Bonus- with a train!! 
"Santa (or someone in a Santa hat)"