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)"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dopey Challenge Training Update: Week 22

Can you believe in just SIX weeks I'll be finishing FORTY EIGHT POINT FREAKING SIX miles of races in FOUR days? Me neither!

This is the part of training where I realize how absolutely insane the Dopey Challenge is. I will line up for my first marathon AFTER I've run a 5k, 10k, and a half. I'm pretty sure I should be chaperoned when signing up for races from now on.

Here are the fabulous numbers:

Total since start: 338.7 miles
Longest single run: 20.03 miles
Highest mileage week: 36.7 miles

This upcoming week will be the closest mileage and schedule yet to the Dopey Challenge:

Thanksgiving: 5k
Friday: 4 mile walk
Saturday: 10 mile walk
Sunday: 23 mile run

Luckily, it should only be in the mid to upper 30's this weekend so it won't be too terribly cold. By the way, that's how you know someone is suffering from serious marathon sickness: using the word "lucky" to describe spending hours of strenuous activity outside in 30 degree weather.

Last weekend, I finished my first 20 miler. It took nearly 5 hours, it wasn't always pretty, but I finished upright and smiling. I never, ever, ever would have thought that I was capable of moving my body forward for 20 miles. Even though I was exhausted when I finished, I couldn't stop smiling. Accomplishing running goals is the best kind of high :-)

Part of last week's 20 mile run was on the Ma & Pa Trail (in Bel Air, MD) and because it was a little chilly (mid 40's), there weren't a lot of people out. I wore shorts, a short sleeve tech shirt, and a long sleeved tech shirt (my Wine & Dine half shirt). I actually wore my hair down to help keep my ears warm. For the entire run, I carried my Nathan hand held water bottle. The next day, my right arm and in between my shoulder blades were SO sore! It's amazing that holding something that weighs less than a pound can cause so much soreness!

Seriously, this was a beautiful run.

I know it doesn't look it, but this is a pretty ridiculous hill.

Again, another strength-building hill! Notice the positive re-framing :-)

The last few days of fall.

This weekend the long run was only seven miles. It also ended up being one of the fastest paces I've kept in a distance longer than three miles- 11:13 minutes/mile. Had I kept this up, I would have finished a half marathon distance in less than 2:30:00; which is my 2014 goal. I can't wait for my next non-Disney half so I can push the pace and work toward a new PR.

Final thought for this week- on Thursday I'll run my third Turkey Trot in as many years. It's amazing that this has become a yearly tradition. I almost can't remember what Thanksgiving was like before running :-) Well, I can, but it involved copious amounts of food and lots of laziness :-)

Below is my "costume" for this year's race. Depending on how cold it is, it will either be a tuxedo t-shirt with a long sleeve under it, or my tuxedo t-shirt with a tuxedo sweatshirt over it. Either way, it will be pretty classy.

Is it weird that I own TWO tuxedo shirts?

Happy running! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Power of Community

I have been trying to write this post for weeks. Actually months. This unwritten post is one of the reasons I started blogging in July. I'm struggling to express this in words- it makes perfect sense in my head so hopefully, maybe, it will make some sort of sense here :-)

If you know anything about me, you know I'm a social person. Extremely social. So it's a little odd that the sport I chose and love is pretty solitary. In reality, for me at least, running is not solitary. Ok, so the act of running when you're alone is solitary but the sport of running is really about community.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point. Before I started blogging, before I joined Half Fanatics, before I joined Team #runDisney, I used to visit the run Disney facebook page pretty frequently. I would read the posts that fans of the page would submit on the page's wall. I'd feel connected to these other people who loved to run and loved to participate in run Disney races. This felt like a group of people I wanted to belong to. Then, on July 2nd, Dopey Challenge training officially started. I posted on the  page that I was excited to start training for this event- I think the post was something along the lines of, "Who else is excited to start training for Dopey Challenge?!"

Someone commented that they, too, were excited to start training even though they were coming back from injury. I commented on the thread that I was also suffering from some wicked plantar fasciitis but was looking forward to training. Then the notifications started popping up on my home screen. It seemed that a lot of people that follow that page had a lot of opinions on what I should and shouldn't be doing in my training. Against my better judgment, I tried to defend myself and stated that I had cleared my training with my doctor and podiatrist. This only made it worse. The amount of negative feedback and just plain nastiness my simple post stirred up caused me to finally (after multiple negative comments) remove myself from the notifications so I wouldn't see any more of the vile, hate-filled words that these self-proclaimed "experts" were spewing. 

But here's where this story ends happily. I had a few people, strangers really, reach out to me and private message me in support. One of those people is a wonderful woman by the name of Rhonda. Now, we've never met in person but she and I have become virtual run Disney training partners and keep up with each other on facebook. She even sent me the cutest Dopey Christmas ornament- she is awesome. We have plans to get together when we're both in Disney in January and I can't wait to meet her.

Shortly after this experience with the run Disney facebook page, I started looking for other ways to engage with like-minded individuals- and people that thrive off positive energy, not negativity and hatred. I found the #Team run Disney blog and then stumbled upon their facebook page. I can't begin to tell you how much more rewarding my training miles have become now that I have a community of people to share them with. Seeing this group support, inspire, and help each other has made me so proud to be part of the running community.

Tonight I had the privilege to run with a brand new runner. While we ran, we talked about why I loved running so much. To be honest, it's not really the actual running I love. I love the people I run with; both literally and figuratively. I love being part of a community that believes in each other, that pushes each other, that inspires and supports each other to be the very best version of themselves. To me, running is so many things- a confidence booster, a way to stay in shape, a way to step out of my comfort zone. I wouldn't be able to experience all of those wonderful benefits if I hadn't been inspired/motivated/supported by other runners.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this- there will always be haters. Every community contains some folks that just enjoy being Debbie Downers. But if you seek out the positive, you'll find it. And it will change your life, for the better. :-)

Happy running.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Race Recap & Review: Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend Part 2 (Half and After-Party)

When we last left off (see Part 1 here) we had just gone to sleep at 9:30 am. We'd finished the 5k and come back to the resort, had a little breakfast, and then got in bed. We set our alarms for 5:00 pm and were sound asleep by 10 am. I took a Tylenol PM so I was guaranteed to fall asleep.

Matthew and I ended up waking up around 4 pm and were totally awake so we started to get ready. We packed a bag for the after party with jackets and a change of clothes for each of us.

Around 6 pm, we left our room and walked to the resort cafeteria to get dinner. We each had chicken parmesan with pasta and a piece of bread. I also had a sugar cookie. We'd packed granola bars and Clif Shot Bloks for the race.

At 7 pm we got in line for the bus to take us to Wide World of Sports. We stayed at Pop Century so in minutes, we were at the starting area. There were lines for 4 characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip & Dale. We chose to wait in line for Mickey.

The main mouse!

After getting our picture with Mickey, we grabbed the food we needed from the bag and then dropped it off at bag check. While we were running, they would take the bags to Epcot. After bag check, we found a place to sit and wait until it was time for us to move to the start. Run Disney always does an excellent job with the pre-race entertainment- there was a great DJ who was playing music and playing games with all the runners. There was even a proposal- so sweet!

While we were waiting, we met up with friends from all over the country- Joe and Chris from Philadelphia; Kathy and Betty from Seattle; and Jennifer, Chris, and Amy from Florida. It was great to hang out with all our running friends- especially since we had just about 2 hours to kill before the corrals opened up.

Love all our running friends!
Before we knew it, it was 9:15 and time to get in the corrals. Unlike the WDW half/full, you don't have to walk a mile to get to them. Once in the corral it was just a waiting game until it was our turn to start. There were fireworks for each start and near the start line there was a champagne bottle and glass- bubbles were floating up from behind it- so cool.

Crappy picture, but you can kind of see the bubbles on the left hand side.


Such an awesome way to start a race.

Mickey and Minnie seeing us off!

Loved this start line!

We started the race and headed towards Animal Kingdom. It is pretty cool running at night- there's no Florida sun beating down on you and it seems to go so fast in the dark.

Animal Kingdom is a little hilly and super dark- they used glowing cones to help illuminate the course.

Tree was up at the entrance of AK


I thought these looked kinda cool :-)

The Tree of Life

After a short run through AK, we headed out of the park and towards Disney's Hollywood Studios. I should note that at this point, I started getting some of the worst stomach pain I've ever had during a race. I don't know if I drank too much water or what, but from this point on until the finish, my stomach was in knots. I think I need to adjust my fueling strategy as I keep adding on miles. I don't want to relive that pain again.

The course from AK to DHS is short, maybe a 3- 4 mile trip and I thought it went by pretty quickly. There was plenty to see and the on-course entertainment was really on-point! There must have been at least 5 DJ's and all were playing great music! There were also all kinds of light-up characters on the course. Around mile 8, there was a video detailing the highlights of the after-party and it definitely made me want to hurry up and get there!


Hard to see, but each mile marker featured food from different countries.

Soon, we were in DHS! I will let the pictures do the talking- we must have spent at least 10 minutes in the Dancing Lights section just taking pictures and walking around. This is my favorite run Disney race for this part. It is breathtaking.

Sunset Boulevard.

I have a similar picture from DCA in California!

Just beautiful at night.

I believe they had "Stayin Alive" playing as we went through the "Disco Tunnel"

"I'm gonna wreck it!"

These next pictures should show you just how long we stayed in this section :-)

Had to wait in line for this one! Matthew is a huge Star Wars fan!

Once we made it through DHS, we were on our way through the boardwalk and on to Epcot! The back pathways to the boardwalk were so congested- this is my least favorite part of the race. But, we only had a few miles until the finish.

The front of DHS.

Running towards Epcot!

We're finally here! Almost finished!

After a very quick jaunt through Epcot, we rounded the corner, ran through the fog and light show, and we were done!

Crappy picture but pretty cool part of the race.

Headed towards that finish line! Thanks to run Disney and Marathon Foto for this picture!
New medal!

After getting our medals and free beer, we walked toward the masses to get to the after-party. Once through the gate, we headed towards World Showcase. To do this, we needed to cross the course that runners were still coming through. There were crossing points set up with Disney Cast Members trying to herd people through. After standing in a massive line for 10 minutes without moving, we finally found our own space to cross the course. Besides that part, the after-party was really a blast!

We were able to connect with some of our friends and walked all through World Showcase. We grabbed wine from the Florida Local booth and perogies from Poland. Then we rode Maelstrom in Norway and walked right on to Test Track. What was so cool about the after-party was that all the Cast Members were so excited and enthusiastic. They were singing and dancing and congratulating each and every one of the runners. It was just a fun and festive environment to be in. At 4:00 am we finally decided that we were exhausted and should get home to get some sleep. We walked right over to the bus and were back at our hotel in minutes. We finally fell asleep at 5 am.

Spaceship Earth!

Some of my absolute faves!

"I got no strings..."

Love the parks at night.

Next up, Dopey Challenge!

Maelstrom in Norway- one of our favorite rides!

Love just walking on rides!
An awesome race and party.

From the pre-race entertainment to the fun, 3-park course, to the very enjoyable after-party: I loved everything about this race. This is easily my favorite run Disney race and I am looking forward to the 5th anniversary next year!