Monday, September 30, 2013

Dopey Challenge Training: Week 13

In less than 100 days, the Dopey Challenge will begin at Walt Disney World! Tomorrow marks the end of my 13th week of training. Using Jeff Galloway's 26 week plan, I am officially at the half way mark. This is both exciting and terrifying.

This weekend will be my longest training distance- 15 miles on Saturday followed by 5 miles on Sunday. As in any training program, we've had to adjust some of the training runs to better fit our schedules. For example, we have 17 miles scheduled for October 12th. This is the same day as the Baltimore Running Festival. So, we will line up for the 5k at 8:15 am, run 3.1 miles, and then go get in our corral for the half marathon starting at 9:45am. This way, we'll get 16.1 miles of racing and the other .9 running between the starting lines.

I've also decided to run The Tomato Run (3.1 miles) on October 19 and the Gettysburg Blue-Gray Half Marathon on October 20. If you're keeping track- that's 3 back-to-back weekends of half marathon+ distances. My motto for these races? "Forward is a pace." :-)

In more exciting news, I was recently interviewed for a national news story on mud/obstacle races and the prevalence of injuries in those races. A fellow runner in an online running group that I am part of was looking for runners who had been injured in a mud run for a story (she's an executive producer for a news company)- and I just so happened to have sprained my ankle last summer during Rugged Maniac.

Smiling after a visit to the medical tent!
She reached out to me via email, we chatted on the phone, and then we set up an interview for later in the week. A few days later, a production company came to my house and filmed a 10 minute interview and some footage of Matthew and me running outside. They spent about 2 hours with us. As soon as I get the link to the final story, I'll be sure to share it here!

Chatting before the interview with a pug on my lap! Awesome!

Getting a close-up of the medals.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Training Tip Tuesday: Stretching!

This week's tip is about stretching- both before and after your run. Not only is it vital to preventing injury, it can help you enjoy your run so much more. And it usually feels great and eases recovery!

Before you run a single step, start with dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching allows you to get the blood flowing to your running muscles by incorporating movement into the stretch. This includes walking, high knees, walking lunges, "kick butts"- where you literally kick your own butt with each foot in rapid succession. You want to avoid the traditional static stretching- where you are stretching the muscle to the point of discomfort for a length of time, usually while at rest- think gym class stretching.

Runner's World has a great guide to running-specific dynamic stretches.

Once you've finished a run, static stretching is absolutely appropriate. Some areas you'll want to target- calves, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Don't forget about your arms, neck, and back. Many people (me included!) tighten up their shoulders/neck/back while running so stretching them after a run can do wonders for easing the feeling of tension.

My favorite stretches target two of my problem areas:

Hip flexor stretch- start out in a lunge position, one leg extended behind you and the front knee bent at 90 degrees. Then slowly roll your hips forward and drop your back leg slightly. You should feel this in your hip- it should feel amazing :-)

Photo source:
Curb-side calf stretch- find a curb and something to stabilize yourself- a lamp post or another person works well. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the curb. Slowly lower your heel down until you can feel a deep stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this for 30 seconds. If you have trouble balancing, just do one foot at a time.
Photo source:

Check out more great post-race stretches from Runner's World. By incorporating stretching into your training, you can prevent injury while improving your form and recovery.

Happy running- and stretching!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thinking about a distance race? Look no further!

As an avid runner and sometimes over-sharer of said running on social media, I get a lot of questions from friends surrounding running:
  • "What's the best training program?"
  • "How do you stay motivated?"
  • "What kind of shoes do you recommend?"
  • "What are the best 5ks/mud runs/half-marathons around?"
  • "Tell me your training secrets!"

These questions got me thinking about all the factors to consider while preparing for a distance race and what I wish I would have known about before I started planning my first race. So if you're thinking about running your first race, here are some things to explore:

  1. Find a race. Before you do anything, figure out what race you want to run! Look for a race that you think you'll enjoy. and local running stores (and their websites/social media) can help you find local races. Try Runner's World for other running related websites for reviews of larger races. Ask your runner friends and search for running-related blogs- you're bound to find great reviews of races that can make your decision easier.
  2. Identify your reasons for racing. I cannot stress this enough- before you start training, write down the reasons you want to do this race; to increase your fitness level, to achieve a goal, to honor a loved one's memory, to earn an awesome medal :-) Whatever your motivation, remember it. When the training sucks and you're tired and you just can't run anymore- remember the reasons you run. 
  3. Select a training plan. There are tons out there: Couch to 5k, Jeff Galloway, and Hal Higdon are all good places to start. The best thing about training plans? They are completely customizable to your schedule and running ability.
  4. Get the right equipment. Whether it's a running watch, new running clothes, or awesome ear buds that don't hurt your ears (I recommend yurbuds), you'll need the right things to keep moving. Don't forget about a way to track your progress- I LOVE It keeps track of all my miles, calories, and I don't need a fancy GPS watch to track my runs (but if you'd like to buy me one, I'd gladly accept!)
  5. Visit your local running store. Getting a pair of properly fitting running shoes isn't the only thing you'll find at your local store. The people that work in running stores (not the giant sporting goods stores) are usually runners themselves, have extensive knowledge of the sport, and are readily available for support and encouragement. Charm City Run is my absolute favorite :-)
  6. Be proud. You've done an awesome thing- committing to running your first race, no matter the distance, is one of coolest things you can do for your health and your self-esteem.  And it can be such a fantastic experience!
Once you've committed to your race, the training begins. But that's another blog post entirely :-)

Happy running!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

NFL Back to Football Run Race Recap & Review

This past Wednesday, the NFL sponsored a 5k race in Baltimore, MD as part of their NFL Back to Football Run Series. This was the first one in Baltimore (home of the 2012 Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens!) and I was thrilled to be a part of it. The race boasted a finish on the 50 yard line, an Under Armour tech shirt, and a medal. Not too bad for $45. Running and the Ravens are basically my favorite hobbies/passions/obsessions, so this was pretty much heaven.

My friend Kelly, her dad, and her friend Lois and I met at Kelly's house and headed down to the stadium around 5:15 pm. They had warned us that certain streets would be closed and that you could only get to the stadium/start line from certain places. Well, there was so much traffic that we ended up parking in a nearby neighborhood and walking to the stadium. There was parking at the stadium but we just couldn't get there in time for a 7 pm start.

Once there, we got a few pictures and then tried to find some water- it was kind of hot and it was the end of the day. All the water coolers were empty and there were no cups. Oh well.

Kelly and me.

Starting line.

Me, Lois, and Kelly with Poe!

We lined up in "corrals" based on pace/finishing time. We all lined up together and agreed on a meeting spot at the end of the race- the 20 yard line on the field. Kelly was hoping for an under 30 finish, I was hoping for a nice and easy race after running 19.3 miles a few days before, Lois was running her first 5k so she'd get a PR either way, and Kelly's dad, Hank, was hoping to finish upright and strong :-)

Corral signs.

I ran into my beautiful running friend, Morgan!

Behind us- the corrals went up to an hour finishing time.

We are ready for this race!

There were awesome flames that shot up on both sides of the starting line.

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, was there to count us down- that was pretty neat. There were also former Ravens players there signing autographs and smiling for pictures. After a few minutes wait- about 5 minutes between each corral- we were off! We started running away from the stadium on a downhill- awesome :-) I did what I usually do in the first few minutes of a race- take it slow, figure out how I'm feeling, and determine what kind of a pace I'd like to keep. I ran the first 3 minutes and then walked for a minute and snapped some pictures. 

Running to catch the light rail! Just kidding :-P

Twilight runs are so beautiful, especially when surrounded by Ravens fans!

Another overpass...

Passing the stadium- probably my favorite picture of the race.

We ran through the streets of Baltimore, kind of circling the stadium. Since running 1:1's at the Boordy 5k, I decided to try that out again here. It was working beautifully. I was averaging somewhere between 10:30- 11:30 pace which is fantastic for me. The best part? I didn't even feel like I was working super hard to be there. This pace felt comfortable for me; something I wouldn't have been able to say a few years ago when I started running.

Before I knew it, we were running down a steep embankment and into the underbelly of the stadium. This part of the race- running through the tunnel and onto the field- was simply amazing. Running out of the same tunnel where your favorite team enters every Sunday? Unbelievable and awesome.

Coming back towards the stadium.

Random, decorated gate on our way to the tunnel.

Awesome. Just awesome.

Sorry for the blur- I was running and trying to take pics!

It was at this point in the race that I realized I was very close to breaking my newest 5k PR just set two weeks ago (33:55). I turned on whatever I had left, ran around that field as fast as I could, and finished strong. Final time: 34:20. I'll take it. Only 25 seconds off from a new PR. And after 19.3 miles of races and hours of Disney parks:-) 

Finished in my favorite place in the world!

The finish line!

Once finished, I found Lois (we ended up finishing at the same time) and we looked for Kelly. Race officials were pushing us off the field. You literally finished and then they were having everyone exit the field to wait in the stands. Kelly texted and we made our way up to find her- she has a wonderful new PR at 28:47! I am so proud of her!

Then we cheered Hank on while he finished. We made our way up to the free beer line- which was insane. We passed on the beer, stopped to take a quick pic with the Lombardi trophy, and then headed back to the car.

Lomardi- so cool.
My thoughts on this race- overall, not bad. It was a decent course, great volunteers, and you get to finish on the 50 yard line of an NFL stadium. I did not like having to leave the field so quickly, the ridiculously long line for beer, or the fact that they ran out of water before the race started. But I would definitely do it again.

My personal thoughts on this race- I'm pretty damn proud of myself for this one. I ran a great pace after a crazy amount of miles a few days prior. And I did it in a tutu! I also wore my new compression socks to this race. I had bought them about a month ago for recovery and I liked them so much, I decided to run in them. It was pretty cool. I'll probably wear them again, especially in cooler weather. Overall, I didn't have much pain or soreness in my legs. Just some slight pain in my foot and a little knee pain.

The Stats:

The course, my split times, and elevation/pace. I love Map My Run.

Love making new running friends and memories :-)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dumbo Double Dare Race Recap & Review

This past weekend was the Inaugural run Disney Dumbo Double Dare: run the Disneyland 10k on Saturday and the Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday to complete the challenge- and get another medal!

Matthew and I signed up for this in January and had been anxiously awaiting these races. It's always exciting to run through Disney but for us this was REALLY exciting for a number of reasons: 1. Running through Disneyland (neither of us had been), 2. Running in the inaugural DDD, 3. Getting our Coast to Coast Medal. If you run a half marathon (or more!) on each coast/park in one calendar year, you earn the Coast to Coast Medal. Pretty freaking sweet.

This will be a LONG blog post but I'll cover the expo and both races; and maybe a little bit of the parks too!

The Expo
Let me say this, I have been to hell and have lived to tell the tale. Disney expos are always crowded. There are always lines. But this expo was the absolute worst I have ever seen.

We got there early- way early. The expo opened at 10 am in the Disneyland Hotel. We arrived to the outside of the hotel around 7:15. We wanted to get in line for the limited edition New Balance run Disney sneakers. They are only offered at the run Disney expos and usually only around 1,000 pairs are made. So, we wait in this line (in the HOT California sun!) until 8:30 am- at this point, the New Balance guys come out, fit us for shoes, and give us a ticket so we can leave the line and just pick up the shoes at any point that day from the expo. Awesome, we can leave the line, right? Not exactly.

When we left this line, we stood in another line to get into the expo- there was some official run Disney merchandise that we knew would sell out pretty quickly so we wanted the first crack at it. Luckily, we made some awesome friends in the shoe/expo lines! It was great to meet other people who share our passion for running and all things Disney. They made the time spent in the lines much easier to bear.

There was yet another line for packet-pick up- we knew we'd be coming out to this later so we stayed in the merchandise line.

At 10 am, the expo opened and chaos broke out immediately. People were running, grabbing shirts, and clamoring to get to the checkout. We quickly grabbed the things we wanted and got in line. We probably only waited about 20 minutes to check out. Once we had checked out, we walked outside (back into the 90+ degree heat) to get in the packet pick-up line. It was insanity. This was the line- all wrapped around the hotel- with NO SHADE.  It took me about an hour to get to packet pick-up. There were also several times when the lines would get confused and the run Disney folks had no idea how to fix it. Warm weather and long lines made for a lot of hostile people waiting in this line.

Once we saw this line, we decided that Matthew would go inside and pick-up the New Balance shoes and I'd get the packets. After about an hour, he was able to find me in the line and pick up our packets together.
Once we had packets, we then had to wait in ANOTHER line to get back into the expo to pick up our shirts. All in all, it took about 4.5 hours to get all we needed to get done. Usually we are in and out in less than an hour.
Even though it was hot, disorganized, and generally frustrating; we still left with our merchandise, new shoes, and bibs for the races.
These were totally worth the wait.
The coolest part of the expo was meeting some of the people who blog about running. I met three of the folks whose blogs I regularly read- I was star struck! I found most of these people through the team #runDisney facebook page or blog. This community has been so positive and amazing- I'm so glad I found it! If you've been debating running Disney, just try reading some of the posts here and I'm sure you'll be convinced!
The 10k
I have a new favorite run Disney race- the Disneyland 10k! For as horrid as the expo was the day before, the 10k was an absolute dream. With almost 4 of the 6 miles in the parks, this race was absolutely what a run Disney event should be!
The starting line!

The first two miles were around the convention center and on the highway.

You can see Matthew here in his Tweedle Dum hat! :-)

 I should also mention here that it was hot. And humid. Like really, really disgustingly humid. The 10k started at 6:15 am so the sun was already up and shining. The temps were around 90 degrees with about 65%  humidity. It really felt worse than that.

After the first two miles, we entered the back of Disney California Adventure through Cars Land. It was magical. I'll let the pictures show you...

Then we ran through the Paradise Pier section of DCA and then underneath a tunnel that lead to Disneyland!
Such a cool park!

Though pretty, that sun was scorching!!

I don't know who this is, but I'm happy to see her!

Hey there, Walt!
We entered Disneyland and ran down Main Street, through Tomorrowland and Mickey's Toon Town, and then back through Sleeping Beauty's castle. I do have to say this- after running through Cinderella's castle, Sleeping Beauty's was a tad underwhelming. But cool, nonetheless.
You can see the runners coming through the castle!

Toon Town!

The Red Queen!

We found our twins!

Pausing for a quick picture.
Once we were through the castle, we had just under a mile to go to the finish. A quick jaunt through downtown Disney and we were back where we started- just with shiny new medals this time :-)
The Half Marathon
We woke up on the morning of the half around 3 am. We were meeting friends in the lobby at 4 am to take the shuttle over to the start at 5:30 am. We stayed about 1.2 miles from the start of the races- sometimes we walked over and sometimes we took the free shuttle. **Side note- I was hurting this morning. We spent all of the day before in the parks. Normally, we don't do much on days we have back to back races but since we aren't in California often, we wanted to see as much of the parks as possible. The next morning, I had a lot of pain in my knees and my hips- which normally never happens. Luckily, we had brought some biofreeze along to the race and after I applied that, I felt amazing!**
We got right on a shuttle and were in our corrals by 5:00 am. One big advantage to Disney World races is that at Disneyland, you don't have to be at the race so early. At Disney World, you have to wait for a shuttle to take you to the race area, then you have to wait for the corrals to open, and then you have to walk the 20 or so minutes back to the corral just to wait another hour or so for the race to start. At Disneyland, you simply walk down to the start about a half hour before the race starts. Beautiful :-)
At 5:30, the race was off and running, so to speak. We started similarly to the 10k- a few miles outside the parks then into DCA and then Disneyland. We ran the first 4-5 miles in twilight- the sun wasn't up yet so we were relatively cool. It was still around 75 degrees at the start and still pretty humid.

Mickey and Minnie at the start!

This is my "I'm really nervous and in some pain" smile.

Absolutely gorgeous sky :-)

Gotta love spectators!
Running through the parks was just as magical as it was the day before. We were able to get a few character pictures before heading out on the long stretch to Angels Stadium.
World of Color!

Cars Land is simply breathtaking in the dark!

Heading down Main Street.

I don't know why we are sitting.


Once we were finished in the parks, we began the long haul towards Angel Stadium (mile 9ish). This part of the race was not so fun for two reasons- the sun  was coming up and we were running on miles and miles of boring highway. Granted, Disney provided some entertainment on the course- cheerleaders, bands, dancers- but it felt like a normal half marathon at this point. And did I mention the sun?!
Just looking at this picture makes me sweat.

Out on the highway, just before sunrise.

Did I mention it was hot and sunny?
After what seemed like a long time, we arrived in Angel Stadium. I'm not much of a baseball fan but rounding home plate was a very unique experience.
Narrow course getting into the stadium.

Running into the tunnel- it was pretty dang steep!

Pretty cool, even if we don't root for the Angels :-)
Once we were through the stadium, we only had a few more miles to get to the finish- thank God! This race was just SO hot! Besides the sun and humidity, there was another annoying element to this race- some of the course was on a dirt trail- this kicked up a lot of dust into my eyes and throat-not cool while you're trying to run.

That being said, there were also some really cool aspects to this race- the "unofficial" race stops manned by spectators. There were at least two stations set up with candy, orange slices, pretzels, water, Band-Aids, Vaseline, and hilarious signs.

The "unofficial" halfway point.
I LOL'd at this sign. A lot.

After exiting the stadium, we made our way back towards the Disneyland Hotel and the finish line. We crossed the finish, got our three medals, and made our way back to the hotel to relax, nap, and eat.

I run for bling :-)

The four medals from the weekend plus the WDW half medal that qualified me for Coast to Coast.

Chocolate milk- the BEST recovery drink there is.
Overall, I am so glad we made the trip out to California for this challenge. It was a great warm-up to the Dopey Challenge, we got our Coast to Coast medal, and we were able to get the much sought after New Balance run Disney shoes. More importantly, we made lots of new friends and created some amazing memories :-)

I also just have to give a big shout out to my awesome boyfriend and running partner, Matthew. Though he's a much faster runner, he always stays with me and coaches me through all our races. I wouldn't be able to finish without him. Thanks, Matthew- you are simply awesome :-)

So, that's the whole, long story of our trip. Look for a review of the NFL Back to Football Run later this week!