Latest Entries »

Anyone who reads my blog – or reads anything about my training – knows that I’ve been a dedicated devotee of the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. As someone who started running relatively late in life (around age 38), I found that run/walk has helped me finish endurance events with minimal injury. While some beginning running programs like the Couch to 5K use run/walk as a bridge to running continuously, Jeff Galloway firmly believes that the run/walk method can benefit almost anyone who wants to continue running until age 100. He also believes, in most cases, that taking walk breaks from the beginning of a run will actually speed the runner up rather than causing a slower overall pace. His belief is based on many years of coaching runners to the finish line and seeing an improvement in finish times when run/walk is used versus running continuously.

So what’s the catch?

Despite the popularity of run/walk within the runDisney community, there are many runners who see run/walk as “cheating” or as a bridge from the couch to running continuously. As I’ve started experimenting with heart rate based training, I’ve had 2 different coaches tell me that I have to stop using run/walk now that I’m a marathoner. My strength coach (who I generally love and is a marathoner herself) told me to just go out a run 10 miles continuously for my next long run (please note that I usually use run 30 sec/walk 30 sec or run 40 sec/walk 20 sec intervals for my long runs). Another heart rate based coach told me that there is NO way he will allow me to take walk breaks during my upcoming 10K. Interestingly neither person asked me how I feel about run/walk or what my goals were. The assumption is that if I want to get faster, I need to stop taking walk breaks.

During a recent submission to The Extra Mile Podcast (which is produced by my amazing friend Kevin who is one of the kindest people I know), I spoke of my training angst caused by these recent attacks on run/walk. Adding fuel to the fire are a few friends who are quite openly anti-run/walk (it’s predictable that at least one of them will post that I should just run my upcoming 10K continuously regardless of my training or how I actually feel about it) and a family member who has confessed that he finds run/walk to be a little bit like cheating and something that he can’t imagine actually using himself (I’m withholding names to spare the not-so-innocent but I will say this person ran track 50 years ago but has never done endurance events). I know my Extra Mile friend Kevin is very intrigued by this question about run/walk and plans to explore it further.

I know my angst has led to discussions amongst my running friends and amongst listeners to the Extra Mile Podcast. Just today I was fortunate enough to listen to a super interesting podcast – The Seeker – which explored my question. I’m downloading at least one other running podcast that also addressed my run/walk angst (Just Norm is the podcast).  I am certain that there are other runners who struggle with run/walk as a concept and question whether or not it is right for them.

So where do I stand?

It’s still a fluid issue for me because I haven’t firmly settled on my running goals which makes it hard for me to take sides.

Part of me continues to feel frustrated that I’m not a faster runner. I grew up as a competitive athlete (not a runner). I was competing in gymnast from at least age 7. I graduated high school with 9 varsity letters. I raced sailboats, competed in diving over the summer, and was a passable tennis player. I’ve never really been a couch potato even when I was really actively participating in sports. So why can’t I run faster than back of the pack? In my heart I don’t believe it’s a run/walk problem. I conceptually like heart rate training but believe it could be combined with run/walk and still be effective. The Seeker podcaster James mentioned something in an email exchange today about how less than 1% of the U.S. population finishes a marathon in a given year so that makes me faster than 99.5% of the U.S. even if I don’t finish faster than a few other runners on the course. Good point but still not entirely satisfying. I think that losing a few pounds and added a few extra miles per week might help me speed up. And I’m continuing strength training and hoping to add more cross-trianing to further help things along.

The other problem for me is that I need running to be fun. This may be surprisingly to some but I lead an incredibly stressful life. I’m a surgeon. wife, and mother of 3 children. Work can be very stressful and parenting can be very stressful. Running is what I do for fun. I’m never going to earn a living as a runner. As long as running is a hobby, it needs to be fun. Focusing solely on speed takes some of the joy out of running. My solution has been to run a lot of races for fun and with friends and only focus on a few time goal races. If I’m taking over 6.5 hours to finish the Disney Marathon, then I’m obviously not worried about speed. On the other hand I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun runner. I finished the NYC Marathon well over an hour faster than Disney and yet I felt disappointed and let down after that race. Following Disney I had a runner’s high for weeks and weeks. Big difference. If time goal racing makes me stressed and sad and running races with friends makes me happy, maybe that’s my answer (I don’t think ALL time goal racing makes me stressed and sad and I really did enjoy the MORE half marathon recently.).

What’s my plan?
I signed up for another 6 months of ecoaching with Jeff Galloway. My fall race calendar is busy and I finish it off with the Dopey Challenge in January. From October 11th until mid January I am running two 5Ks, one 10K, 3 half marathons, and 2 full marathons. I need to be healthy and I did to enjoy running. All of those races will be run with friends and, with the possible exception of the Hartford Marathon at the beginning of that stretch, none will be time goal races. 

As for my June 10K? I still don’t know. Jeff Galloway has me doing speed work for a time goal and I will likely stick to whatever plan he suggests. Tomorrow will include 400M repeats (probably on a treadmill due to terrible weather) instead of heart rate training. We’ll see how the plan works. I’m still a believer to Jeff’s training for now and I’m going to commit myself to his plan.

Sometime between finishing the NYC Marathon in early November and running the Disney Marathon in January, I realized that it wasn’t reasonable to run 2 full marathons for time goals in a 9 week period. I made the decision to run the Disney Marathon for fun (which was a GREAT decision) and to put off speed work and time goals until my spring half marathon. I’ve long felt frustrated that I’m not a faster runner and was hoping that some speed training would help me improve in time for the More Magazine Women’s Half on April 13th.

The winter of 2014 will certainly be remembered as a bad one and there’s no doubt that this impacted my training. Instead of doing track work I had to rely on the treadmill as our local track was buried in snow for months. I wasn’t sure how my treadmill dependent-training would translate to the very hilly course in Central Park. And then, of course, the weather predictions for the race included a high temperature in the 70′s. 

Race day morning was sunny and just a touch chilly. I wore a running skirt with compression socks and then my Super Girl tech shirt with arm warmers. I had brought a mylar heat wrap for pre-race warmth but decided to leave it in the car. I found a parking spot on Broadway and 69th Street (which made me giggle like a 14 year old because, why not?) and then walked a few blocks over to the starting area. I had enough time to wait in a gigantic line for the only toilets with indoor plumbing in the area and luckily convinced my friend Kim to come wait with me. Another “virtual” friend (who is now a “real” friend), Christine,  stopped by to say good luck as she headed to the start area. We had a funny moment in the bathroom line when a woman asked to please be allowed to cut the line because she was singing the National Anthem and was needed on the stage immediately. (For the record I thought she did an amazing job singing!)

Kim and I headed to the “poo brown” starting corral. The last corral in these larger NYRR races is always brown and another running friend, Beth, always calls it “poo brown.” I’ve adopted it. Kim and I weren’t there particularly early so we started mid to late in the brown corral. I think in the future I would make more of an effort to get to the corral earlier because I spent the first 2 miles weaving around walkers (I do run/walk so I honestly don’t mean that in a judgmental way). NYRR has the opposite problem as runDisney. Disney used to lump anyone with a sub-2 hour half marathon into Corral A which was frustrating for the 1:30 half marathoners who are quite a bit faster than the 1:59 half marathoners. NYRR lumps all of the 11+ min/mile people together. This race had a 4 hour time limit which meant that I finished more than 1:30 faster than many of my corral-mates. 

My arm sleeves came off by mile 1. The crowding at the start definitely impacted my race as my 1st two miles were my slowest two and they weren’t particularly hilly. After mile 2 the crowds opened up a bit but then you have the Harlem Hills to counteract that.  With the except of the BIG hill, my pace per mile pretty much got faster as the race went on. Mile 13th was the fastest mile of the race with a 10:30 min/mile pace. And I definitely felt like I put everything I had into the last few miles. One of the fun things about doing 2+ loops around the park is that the elite runners lap you during the race. It was amazing to see Deena Kastor – a 41 year old mother – with an impressive lead as she set a course record. What an amazing athlete! I also ran into (figuratively, not literally!) several other runDisney friends on the race course which was so much fun.

My previous half marathon PR had been at the 2013 More Magazine Half Marathon one year ago. I finished in 2:25:31. As I was approaching the finish line I knew that my time was pretty close to last year’s but I wasn’t sure in which direction. For some reason as I approached the finish line I had convinced myself that last year’s PR was 2:24:41 ( I have no idea where that came from – runner’s math?) and that I was going to finish within seconds of that time. Perhaps prophetically that was my exact finish time and also a new PR. I still haven’t achieved a half marathon pace per mile below 11 min/mile which was my A goal. A new PR is still a new PR and I have shiny new medal to add to the collection.

I was able to watch my friend Kim finish the race is an amazing new PR for her. Super excited and proud of her! It was great fun to hang out with her and Christine for a while after the race. This is one of the many reasons that I pay to run 2+ loops of Central Park every year. Good friends. Good vibes. Fun race. It’s definitely more expensive than some other local half marathons but I love what it has to offer.

Pre-Race MORE Half, 2014

There is a Henry Ford quote that has been popping up on social media, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” I worry that perhaps this quote will become prophetic regarding tomorrow’s race.

When I first started running – about 5 years ago – I had no concept of speed. I was training for my first half marathon, mostly on a treadmill in my basement. My B goal was to cross the finish line (preferably within the 3:30 time limit of the race) and my A goal was to finish under 3 hours. I had no race experience to help me predict my likely finish time and had only done a small number of runs outdoors. I set a pace on the treadmill based on nothing better than a random guess and used that pace for training purposes. I finished that race somewhere in the 2:45 range (I think around 2:46 but I don’t remember exactly) and was thrilled to shatter my sub-3 hour goal.

The downside to having finished a race is that I now had a target to beat. I quickly realized a few things: I needed a decent training plan, I was setting the treadmill at too-slow a pace, and I needed to run more outdoors in “real life” conditions. Over the next 3 years I managed to take about 21 minutes off my half marathon time. The last half marathon I actually ran for time was exactly one year ago at the MORE Magazine Half Marathon where I set my current PR (Personal Best).

My first race represents a sort of Eden-esque time. I was thrilled to be racing. Even more thrilled to be racing at Disney. And very pleased with my finish time which was significantly better than I realized I could run. Unfortunately my naive state of satisfaction with my performance was quickly destroyed when I ran the MORE Magazine Half as my second race. I beat my time at Disney but quickly learned that Disney races produce slow finish times and a mid-pack finish at Disney put me firmly in the back in a New York Road Runners’ race. With this realization came the desire to get faster.

I haven’t actually raced a half marathon since one year ago. The only half marathon I ran between then and now was in October in the heart of my NYC Marathon training. I ran the race at training pace in order to PR at the NYC Marathon. Following that I ran the Disney Marathon for fun before re-starting more serious training. I decided after the NYC Marathon (which despite a solid PR was not a great race for me), that I would focus my attention on a faster half marathon this spring.

Starting in December I added speed work to my running schedule and then in early March adding strength training and heart rate training. Unfortunately some of my efforts were derailed by the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad winter we had. I found it impossible to convince myself to run outdoors at 4:30 in the morning when it was pitch-black, 10 degrees, windy, and icy/snowy. I didn’t miss any training runs but I found myself, once again, training primarily on the treadmill. I’ve had a few outdoor runs, including a 15 miler and an impressive track session of 14 x 800m repeats, but the majority of this training cycle has involved a treadmill. My one attempted tempo run took place on a Sunday afternoon about 24 hours after a challenging strength training session and following a day of running around from one child’s activity to the next. It was a confidence-blowing disaster.

Which leads me to my dilemma. I, honestly, don’t know what I’m capable of running tomorrow. Will this be my 2:20 half marathon that I’ve been hoping to achieve? Or, similar to my recent tempo run, an unequivocal disaster of low energy and slow pace? Will the 14 x 800m repeats be predictive of a fast (for me) race? Or will the hills of Harlem kick my butt since I haven’t done as much hill work as I had intended? I wish I could go into tomorrow’s race with a sense of confidence that I know what I can do but I honestly have no idea.

So what’s the game plan? I’m going to pretend like I have to the training to leave it out on the course. With a generous 4 hour time limit, I can walk the last half of the race and still finish. I’m hoping for 11:30 min/mile until I pass the first big hill and then increase the pace a bit until the second hill before trying to turn it up another notch or two. This might be a recipe for disaster but I guess I won’t know until I try!

Metabolic Testing

For about a year I’ve wanted to have metabolic testing done. This is where you wear a tight mask over your mouth and nose that measures the contents of your exhaled breath and gives an idea of what type of fuel you burn under various conditions. Since I’ve had trouble maintaining/losing weight, I was curious to get a better understanding of my metabolism. We recently joined the brand-new LifeTime Fitness in our area. As Founding Members we were entitled to a free health assessment and discounts on various services, including metabolic testing. I chose to have both resting and active metabolic testing done.

On my assign day I was required to fast – no food or water before the test. I arrived at the gym and was brought into a small cubicle. I was fitted with a mask and told to lay quietly in a recliner. No sleeping allowed! Image

Super attractive, right? I had to stay that way for about 30 minutes. For someone who is addicted to technology, it was pretty boring.

After we collected the resting data, I was brought over to the treadmill. They do the test on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. I was doing the test to improve my running so the treadmill was an obvious choice for me. I was asked to pick a treadmill setting where I knew I could comfortably run for 30 minutes. Since I do run/walk intervals there wasn’t an obvious answer so I guess. The tester started me at a walk and every 2 minutes increased the speed on the treadmill. I wore the same mask as above.  After an 8 minute warm-up I needed to do a 5 minute rest. Then we started the actual test. Every 2 minute she increased the speed while monitoring my heart rate and the content of my exhaled breath. Even when I felt I couldn’t go further, I never truly maxed out my heart rate.

So what information did I get?

The resting metabolism information included my resting metabolism. This is 1174 kcal. Meaning that any day that I lay in bed all day without doing anything, I will burn 1174 calories. In the resting state I am burning 70% carbs and 30% fat. Unfortunately this is not ideal. I should be burning 90% fat and 10% carbs. Hopefully making some changes to my diet will improve this ratio.

The active metabolism helped to establish my heart rate training zones. Zones 1 and 2 are better for fat burning. The line between Zone 3 and 4 establishes the anabolic threshold or the point at which your body stops using oxygen to burn fuel and relies on the body’s glycogen stores. Most training should be done in Zones 1-2. 

Based on this data I was given a heart rate-based training plan. I will continue my long run each weekend (which should be done in Zone 2 and, as it turns out, the pace that Galloway has assigned me for long runs appears to be in my Zone 2 heart rate range). During the week I will do one “threshold” run where I do intervals that bring my heart rate into Zone 4. The other run is a base building run done in Zones 1-2.

Interestingly the Threshold run seems to correlate well with my Galloway-assigned speed work and the other run works out to be at long run pace for me. I have my next half marathon in about 3 weeks and we’ll see how well this new training works out on race day. I find heart rate training to be interesting. I’m someone who likes specific purposes for each run so this type of plan works well with my personality. In a few weeks I will re-do my metabolic testing and see if I’ve made positive changes.

After crossing the 20 mile not-so-spectacular, we were in the final stretch to the finish line. We left ESPN Wide World of Sports and started the journey to Hollywood Studios. This is another stretch of road that is made far more fun by running with friends. Image

This guy ran the entire Marathon with a Mickey-themed tuba. He actually played the tuba. I heard that he ran the entire Dopey with the tuba but I only saw him during the marathon.

Image

My Merida outfit seems pretty tame in comparison….

I was surprised by how good I still felt at this point in the race. Mile 20 is usually a wall for most people. I had trained past 20 miles anyway and we were taking time to enjoy the race but we definitely put some extra distance in. There was a lot of sprint ahead and then walk.

Image

Another hilarious incident occurred when Michael bummed a (unlit) cigarette off a construction worker on the side of the road. There were several funny pictures taken of various people with the cigarette. All in good fun. Definitely makes the miles go faster!

Image

Almost to Hollywood Studios!

There were some Citizens of Hollywood as we entered the backstage area followed by the all important chocolate stop.

Image

Mile 23 and then a character stop.

Image

Some lovely cast members were handing out cups of ice as we ran by the ABC Commissary. Although the temperatures never got crazy warm, it was still greatly appreciated!

Image

Going by the hat.

As we exited Hollywood Studios, Michael decided to sing along with the course entertainment…

Image

With a Mickey bar, of course…

I love the stretch from Hollywood Studios over to the Boardwalk. It’s a route I’ve done many times in training when I’m on property.

Image

Apparently I didn’t pose the correct way. Lesson learned. I’ll do it better next year!

As we came around to the Yacht Club there were lots of friends of friends. As the newbie in this group of runners, I didn’t know all of the same people. But it was still awesome to see the amazing support!

As we entered the backstage area near the International Gateway, I was super excited because I knew my husband would be waiting in England for me. I was really hoping he’d have a beer but the alcohol didn’t go on sale until 11am and the line was long. We still got an awesome picture!

Image

I love running around World Showcase but we saw SO many people and kept stopping. I was starting to just get tired of the whole race. I just wanted to finish.

Image

But then something miraculous happened.  A few members of our group ran ahead to Mexico. And returned with some frozen yumminess!

Image

(Excuse the bad picture. It was mile 25.)

And then as we turned the corner to head towards Future World, my husband miraculously re-appeared with a BEER!

Image

 

This may be my single favorite picture from the race. Mile 25+ and I’m smiling and celebrating. This picture is what my friend Fast Eddie means when he says that Disney races are meant to have fun with friends. If you can run over 25 miles and enjoy it this much, you are doing something right!

Image

 

Heading to the homestretch!

Image

 

I love when you head backstage and the Gospel Choir is singing for you!

Image

 

And we finished together…

Image

 

The way it should be…

Image

 

So what was my finish time? I have NO idea. It was under 7 hours. Although it wouldn’t have matter, I wanted to finish within the official time limit of the race. And I know we did.

The was my slowest marathon ever. And the most fun I’ve ever had running in my life. It changed my life in ways that I can’t even explain. Several of the people who I was lucky enough to join for the race, I met for the first time on race morning. And yet I now consider them friends for life. This group has joined my fantastic running family with bonds that can’t be explained with words. I am so incredibly lucky that I was invited to be a part of this experience. 

I feel that I have to add that we were all well-trained for this race. I will never be a fast runner. I hope to be a faster runner but I don’t think I’ll ever be considered fast. But I know that I can always be a well-trained runner. It was because I prepared to go this distance that I was able to take extra time for fun. I hope to repeat this experience next year but that doesn’t mean I’ll slack off on my training. If anything I want to train even harder so I can keep up with the group!

As we entered Animal Kingdom our group had one goal – ride Expedition Everest! But before we got to the roller coaster, I needed to get the black stuff off my hands that I acquired while posing dramatically on the train tracks. I have fond memories of indoor plumbing in the bathrooms at Animal Kingdom.  When I ran my first marathon (2 years ago), I overheated and splashing cold water on my face in the bathroom at Animal Kingdom went a long way to helping me get to the finish line. So when the opportunity arose to use running water to wash the tar off my hands, I took it.

The group met up at the Fast Pass Entrance to Expedition Everest.  The Cast Members let us use the Fast Pass line and we were soon boarding the roller coaster.

Image

Image

Image

We had one interesting moment when the ride stopped for a while. I was a little worried that we were going to get stuck on the ride and be unable to finish the race! Fortunately it was only a brief pause and we were back on course again.

In my opinion one of the best parts of the newer marathon course is having Animal Kingdom earlier in the race.  Animal Kingdom can be hotter than Hades on a good day and running there in full sun can be brutal, especially during heat wave years.

Image

Halfway done!!!

At the far side of Animal Kingdom we met up with the wife of one of my co-runners who had all sorts of goodies for us. I was happy to have a cool wet towel which I kept for the rest of the race.  Even though it never got super hot, the wet towel was greatly appreciated.

IMG_0066_2

Heading to the next Cone Alley on the way to Wide World of Sports.

IMG_0068_2

For those at a “dead” run, the grave-diggers were willing to help.

IMG_0115_2

Because it’s always better to be buried in a mass grave….

IMG_0071_2

My 5 year old wants to marry Ariel. I’m always happy to pose with my future daughter-in-law!

I do remember last year that this was a spot where some people decided to cut the course.  There were cones separated those of us running into ESPN Wide World of Sports from those leaving it. Some people decided to skip the whole Sports Complex and cut the marathon a few miles short. There was a timing mat at mile 20 to try to prevent this but I’m sure it happened again this year. Not to get on my soapbox but I really can’t understand cheating in this way. Unless you’re an elite runner, nobody cares about your finish time except you. If you run fewer than 26.2 miles, you haven’t finished a marathon. Period. Why cheat yourself?

IMG_0075_2

I had made it to ESPN without taking a single bathroom break but at this point in the race I was starting to have to go. We saw “real” bathrooms with indoor plumbing in the Sports Complex. The line for the women’s bathroom was quite long but there was no line for the men’s room. Guess which bathroom we used? I don’t think it helped that I announced that I was a urologist when we walked by the urinals…

IMG_0076_2

It was shortly after this point that another runner starting talking to one of the guys in our little group. It only took a minute or so for me to realize that she and I follow each other on Twitter. We spent the next several miles catching up and getting to know each other. Since Mary Jo is a pharmacist and I’m a doctor, we have a lot in common. Plus we both love running and Disney! It was so fun to randomly meet up with a virtual friend and it really made some of the tougher miles much, much easier.

IMG_0078_2

Part of the journey through ESPN Wide World of Sports involves running around the warning track of the baseball stadium. The field was off-limits.

IMG_0114_2

Unless you climbed under the rope…. Did I mention that I’m usually an extreme rule follower???

IMG_0079_2

No Mile 20 Spectacular (which was less than spectacular last year) but at least Mile 20 was Frozen. And then we were leaving ESPN Wide World of Sports and heading into the final 10k….

After passing mile 5, we reached the most iconic portion of the marathon at Disney World.  Magic Kingdom.  I have a deep love for the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps this is because I was born the same month and year that the Magic Kingdom opened.  Or maybe it’s all the happy memories I have of the time I’ve spent there.  Regardless, this is a special part of the race.

After leaving the Contemporary Resort behind, you enter a backstage area which puts you in the Magic Kingdom near the hat shop.  You soon turn right and find yourself running down Main Street, U.S.A with a glorious view of Cinderella’s Castle.  There are tons of spectators along Main Street, including my dear friends Deanna and her new husband Neil who gave me a big hug and some encouragement.

Image

About as iconic as a Disney World picture can get!

We turned right and headed towards Tomorrowland and then headed back towards Fantasyland.  And then the BIG run through Cinderella’s Castle!

Image

A slightly blurry picture of Mickey and Minnie greeting guests before the runners headed through the Castle.

I didn’t see the usual troubadours announcing us as we ran through the Castle but otherwise this was the same amazing experience I remembered.

Image

This might not be a flattering picture but at least I look really, really happy!

On the far side of the Castle we waited for a group photo.  This was delayed due to a bathroom stop.  Which seemed to take a long time.  Which lead to some inappropriate comments about knowing a good urologist.  It went downhill from there. One plus side to waiting around is that I ran into someone I knew and was able to take her picture in front of the Castle for her.

Image

Without the bathroom goers….

Image

With the whole group.  Now everyone will know who needs a urologist…. ;-)

We re-entered the race and headed towards Liberty Square and then Frontierland.

Image

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me!”

As we headed past Splash Mountain and towards the backstage area, I missed an opportunity to lay across the train tracks but we got this picture instead.

Image

We briefly ran past Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (I suppressed an overwhelming urge to wait in a long line for a picture) and headed towards the infamous Cone Alley. For those who are unfamiliar with “cone alley,” this is a special part of the Disney marathon (and many of the half marathons) where you run past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian.  The road is one lane in each direction and the runners are separated from on-coming traffic by a line of orange cones.  The running path is one lane wide (which is to say that it’s super narrow) and there may be traffic on the other side of the cones.  It’s a frustrating spot because it’s difficult to pass people and it’s especially challenging for those doing run/walk intervals.

IMG_0040_2

You can see the crowd of runners to my left.

IMG_0041_2

Donald was playing golf while we ran by.

This was also a bittersweet portion of the course for me because two years ago, when I ran my first full marathon, my family – including my mom – was watching me in the area.  We had stayed at the Grand Floridian and my family cheered right here.

IMG_0042_2

Last year, for the 20th anniversary of the marathon, Disney changed the course to include a portion in the Speedway.  The entrance to the Speedway involves an insanely steep ramp but the rest of the Speedway was fun.

DSC00699

IMG_0043_2

The sun was coming up but it never got uncomfortably warm this year.

After exiting the Speedway, we headed along the stretch of backstage roads to Animal Kingdom.  In previous years this was my least favorite part of the race but this year I had fun people to entertain me.  Makes ALL the difference!

IMG_0047_2

Eddie tried to get a decent Villians picture for me but it wasn’t mean to be.

IMG_0048_2

Posing with Merida.  Who inspired my outfit. One of my running mates had dressed as Merida at the Princess Half Marathon compete with red wig.  He definitely put my outfit to shame!

IMG_0049_2

Here are 3 Disney dogs and the music? Who Let the Dogs Out! (Groan…)

It was along this stretch of road that several funny things happened.

1. This is the stretch of road where you go past the sewage treatment facility.  The scent is quite…aromatic.  So we took a picture with us holding our noses.

DSC00709

2. Since most of my running-mates were part of Team All Ears and I’ve been a member of Team Studios Central, I was asked about my Disney running team.  I was explaining how nice and small the team is and how supportive.  I was also saying that I’m one of the older members of the team and often feel a bit like the Team Mom (or one of the team moms).  I explained that since I’m “only” 42 years old, it’s funny to me that I’m one of the old people on the team.  My dear friend Rich looked at me at said, “You’re only 42? You B****!” Intentionally or not this was said loud enough for many people to overhear. Which led to many funny retorts.  Hilarity ensued.

3. I finally managed to get a picture laying across the train tracks in dramatic fashion.

IMG_0054_2

And we also ran past miles 11 and 12 before entering Animal Kingdom…

IMG_0051_2

IMG_0052_2

Next up? Animal Kingdom and the best roller coaster ride of my life!

The road to the starting line of the Disney World Marathon wasn’t as straight as I’d expected. After the horror of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I decided that I had to run the NYC Marathon in November, 2013.  NYC became my “goal” marathon and it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t have 2 goal marathons 10 weeks apart.  Although I finished the NYC Marathon without any injuries – other than some minor wounded pride – I felt spent.  It took a few weeks for me to get myself motivated to run again.  I was inconsistent with my training for the first month.  This was made worse by a wonderful trip to Hawaii (jet leg much?) and then a short pre-Christmas trip to Disney World.  I did manage a 20 mile run in Hawaii and a 27 mile run about 4 weeks before race day.  During my taper period I started doing speed work to prepare for my April Half Marathon and aggravated my old left foot injury (stupid, stupid me!). I was well-prepared to finish 26.2 miles but not necessarily ready to have the race of my life.  At least not from a speed perspective.

After finishing the 10k on Friday, I was on a mission to hydrate and recover.  Unfortunately I made some poor food choices and ended up with gastroenteritis starting at dinner on Friday and continuing all night and into Saturday.  Luckily I was able to drink fluids and managed to stay on top of my hydration.  I made the decision to test my stomach with a few roller coaster rides on Saturday morning and seemed ok.  By Saturday night I felt confident that I wouldn’t be dehydrated for the marathon and hoped to avoid excess pit stops on the course. The weather reports were looking promising and I was optimistic that I could have a decent race.  I was even thinking I might pull off one of those unexpected PRs that happen when the stars align.

Sunday morning started at 2:30am with my alarm.  I quickly got myself ready to head out the door.

Image

Another great selfie!

I wore an OR gown over my running clothes for some pre-race warmth and hopped on the monorail.  Once at Epcot I took advantage of my last indoor plumbing stop for many hours and then wandered over to the bag check area.  Again the security was tighter than in previous years.  I made it through the security stop and dropped my bag off before heading to meet up with Team Studios Central.  Fortuitously our meeting spot was near several other popular Disney running teams and I saw many friends.

747081-1002-0012s

For several weeks I few of my runDisney friends had been inviting me to run the marathon with them.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  Part of me was worried that they would use long run/walk intervals and I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Part of me was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy running the race for fun instead of trying to do my best.  And, of course, part of me was worried that they’d find me annoying by mile 10 and then feel like they were stuck with me for 16.2 very long miles! We had spent some time talking at a Mickey Miles Podcast meet on Friday night and I felt pretty convinced.  Luckily for me I saw them early on Sunday and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I was running with them and I would like it.  Whether I wanted to or not! Agreeing to join the group turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!

I ended up joining a group of about 11 people.  We added some and lost some over the course of the race but the core group of 11 was pretty much together for all 26.2 miles.  (Or 27+ miles when you add the extra miles for our antics).  Some in the group are super fast and accomplished runners who have qualified for Boston.  Others (like me) are back of the packers who can manage the distance as long as we aren’t expected to go to fast.  I was definitely one of the slowest in the group but I had a slight advantage in that I was one of the few non-Dopey runners so I was better rested than most.  (The Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, 1/2 marathon on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday.)

0016t

The gang in the starting corral.

IMG_0020_2

Mickey Mouse and Rudy Novotny calling the start of our corral.

IMG_0021_2

I’m ready to run 26.2 miles! I was wearing a pace band prior to this picture and realized that it wouldn’t be necessary since I was giving up any time goals for fun.

And off we went! Our friend was working at the 1st water stop just before Mile 1 but I didn’t get a picture with her.

IMG_0022_2

One advantage of running with fast friends is that I could send one of them ahead to get the pictures I wanted.  Here’s Fast Eddie with Mile Marker 1.  I was on the other side of the road waiting for other friends to use the ports-potty.

747325-1030-0046s

While a few friends were waiting in line for the bathroom, we waited for a picture with the Johnny Depp look-alike.  Arrrrgh!

IMG_0023_2

Mile 2. This was definitely a “No runner left behind” type of group.  Which is great when your one of the slower ones! We used a 30/30 ratio.  Except when waiting for someone to catch up after a potty break.  Then we used a lot of walking.

IMG_0026_2

It’s hard to get great pictures when it’s still so darn dark out! Still one of my favorite signs to see during the race. Magic Kingdom!

IMG_0027_2

And then it became clear that I needed to pose with each mile marker.

IMG_0028_2

We had recently watched the Nightmare Before Christmas for a movie night with my kids.  I *needed* this picture!

IMG_0030_2

Mile Marker 4 was in a bad spot for a picture and I realized as I ran on by that I wasn’t going to get.  My thoughtful friends offered to try to go back for it but it was a narrow spot in the course and it really wouldn’t be fair to other runners.  So here’s #5.  At the 5 mile mark I got a text message with my split.  What was the number? I have no idea! I remember saying that we were enough ahead of the 16 min/mile pace requirement but that’s all I know.  I did announce that I wanted to finish within the 7 hours time limit for the sake of my pride.  The overwhelming response of the group was that I would learn that pride and hanging out with this group wouldn’t really go hand-in-hand and I should just get over it!.

The Inaugural Minnie 10k

On January 10, 2014 my husband, Tom, and I woke up at 2:45am to get ready to run the 1st Minnie Mouse 10k.  Tom thought that I had lost my mind when I explained that we needed to get on a monorail shortly after 3am but he went along with my insanity.

P1000800

(Forgive the funny expression on my face.  I was trying to get a decent Selfie.)

P1000801

The Super Heroes were ready to go!

We hopped on the 2nd monorail of the morning and headed over to Epcot.  We later heard about some people waiting and waiting for transportation to the start so we were super happy to be there early.  The morning was pretty comfortably warm, which isn’t a great temperature for a race but since this was a 10k and not the full it was ok.

One of the things that was immediately obvious to me was the increase in security.  In order to enter the start area (or the finish area), everyone had to go through bag check.  Running belts were inspected as were any “check” bags.  The start set-up was similar to the Royal Family 5k that we ran last February.  Unlike the half and the full, the starting corrals were right in the Epcot parking lot without the endless walk.

While waiting to enter the corrals there was a DJ and we had the opportunity to meet up with several friends.  One of my favorite things about becoming a regular at runDisney events is how many friends I’ve made over the years!

P1000802

Tom getting ready to run.

P1000803

P1000807

We started in Corral E with 2000 of our closest friends!

There were 10,000 runners participating in the 10k of whom 7,000 were taking part in the Inaugural Dopey Challenge.  There were 5 corrals and I’m still not sure how the corrals were divided.  The corrals were crowded and there was a long lag between starts.  Annoyingly the first runner crossed the finish line before we crossed the starting line! There were fireworks for each Corral although more limited than for the full marathon.

We decided on a run 20 sec/walk 40 sec ratio to start the race.  The first 3 miles were outside of Epcot.  I was pretty disappointed by the lack of entertainment, especially since the scenery wasn’t interesting either.   Early in the race we saw one of my DISboard friends – McFlurry John.  He had his name on a piece of paper attached to the back of his hat.  John is famous for being a 60-something year old race walker who can walk a 2 hour half marathon and routinely finishes long-distance triathlons.  What an inspiration! He talked with us for a few minutes before leaving us in his dust.

P1000824

Here’s a picture of the crowd early in the race. In the middle of the picture, you can see some balloons.  It was somebody dressed as the bird from the movie Up and the balloons were part of the costume.  Crazy!

P1000829

Mile 3 was near-ish the entrance to Epcot.

P1000830

Finally some in-park time!

We did a clock-wise loop around World Showcase.  While there were a few characters stops, I must say I was a little disappointed.  Granted we were near the back of the pack so they may have started packing up to prevent issues with the Sweepers.

P1000832

P1000833

An early morning shot of the World Showcase lagoon.  The Epcot “ball” is in the distance.  I love running through an empty World Showcase at sunrise!

We exited at the International Gateway and started a clockwise loop around the Boardwalk area.  We had such a magical stay at the Boardwalk Villas in August so this area has even more meaning to me, now.

P1000840

 

Mile 5!

Football Goofy was outside the ESPN Club with quite a line and I didn’t get a decent picture.

0009t

 

Tom doesn’t look nearly as happy as I do….

 

P1000837

 

An iconic shot of the Boardwalk looking from the Yacht Club.  Love early mornings at Disney!

As we were leaving the Boardwalk area to head to a backstage area near International Gateway, we saw something amazing.  The very last runner on the course was entering the Boardwalk area with the Sweeper bikes right behind her.  Every single runner who saw her stopped to cheer for her.  It was an amazingly emotional moment and I sent some speedy thoughts to her as I hoped she finished.  I won’t lie.  A few tears were shed.

P1000842

 

As we re-entered Epcot, we headed towards the front of the park.  Tom was definitely hurting at this point and my goal was just to get him to keep going to the finish line!

0029t

 

We’re in the home stretch now!

0047t

 

Is this a metaphor? I look like I’m pulling Tom across the finish line!!!

0050t

 

Even with his painful ankles, wearing a medal makes Tom smile!

P1000845

 

So proud!!!!

Overall it was super fun to run this race with my husband and get him across the finish line.  I thought Disney “phoned it in” a bit with this race.  The first 3 miles were just boring and the next 3.2 miles were mostly interesting because we ran in places that I love.  The characters stops were much fewer than I expected, especially given the price tag.  I’m glad we got to run the first Minnie 10k.  I think I’d only run it again if I had family or friends who needed someone to help them finish.  My almost 10 year old is threatening to run it next year and I’d be more than happy to run with him!

 

Pre-Race Thoughts…. Marathon #4

Let me start by saying that I LOVE going to the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  This is seriously, and without exaggeration, up there on my personal calendar at level with Christmas and my birthday.  And I love Christmas and my birthday.  It will not be surprising when I say that I am genuinely looking forward to running my 4th full marathon and some o’dark thirty hour of the morning.  

The weekend started with a 6:30am flight from LaGuardia Airport.  I hate flying out of LGA.  The terminal is dark and old.  The food options are limited.  There aren’t enough seats at the gate.  I will say that security was a breeze and we got to the gate without incident.  Tom and I were hanging out and chatting when I saw my first Disney friend.  This was a member of the Disney’s Moms’ Panel who happens to live in our home town and was heading down on our flight to run the Half Marathon today (Congrats Erin!!!).  We arrived in Orlando, picked up our luggage (our race day clothes were in the carry-on!), and hopped in our rental car.  We made a quick pitstop at Publix to grab some provisions (I would kill for a grocery store like Publix in New York!) and then went to the Race Expo.

The nice thing about the new Dopey Challenge, which started on Wednesday, is the the Race Expo was relatively empty on Thursday morning.  We grabbed our bibs in one building and then headed to the next building for our shirts.  I thought the runDisney merchandise was particularly uninspired (although I LOVE my new race shirts!) and I managed to avoid giving the Mouse any extra money.  Tom waited in line for the lovely KT Tape folks to tape up his ankle while I shopped around.  I bought a few things – new Yurbuds to replaced my broken ones, a few Sweaty Bands, a Dr. Cool wrap for my foot, etc.  We avoided buying the adorable but pricey New Balance sneakers that runDisney has released (although I have a pang of regret because they are SO cute).  Other than my friend from our flight, we saw nobody that we knew at the Expo.  Normally I would see Jeff Galloway but since he is running the Dopey, he wasn’t there at that time.

My husband and I enjoyed a drama-free, child-free afternoon at Epcot which ended with a drink at the wine bar Tutto Gusto and dinner at Via Napoli.  We went to bed early and the alarm went off at 2:45am.  We made it on the 2nd monorail over to Epcot, breezed through the security check (they inspected running belts and water bottles this year instead of just inspecting “checked” baggage), and headed to the area near the DJ.  And that’s when the real fun began! We met a few of my online running teammates from Team Studios Central, ran into a few random friends, and got some text messages from other friends who wanted to make sure we saw each other before the race.  The starting corrals were crowded which prevented us from seeing as many people as we’d hoped but we did run into a few more friends on the course.

I’ll write up the 10k more later but we finished.  And Tom crossed his first finish line!  Once we were beyond the finishers’ chute, we ran into some more “virtual” friends.  One of the women we saw is someone that I’ve “known” for 4 years and finally met in person! There were hugs and pictures and catching up.  Even though my husband’s ankle was really hurting, he realized how important this was to me. Later that afternoon while he recovered from the 10k, I headed over to Epcot by myself.  I sent out a Tweet that I was wandering Epcot and happy to catch up.  One of my Team Studios Central friends was also solo in Epcot and we sat and talked for an hour.  Then we headed over to Beach Club for the Mickey Miles Podcast meet-up.  We were 30 minutes early and so was our other teammate.  We enjoyed some quality time together.

At the Mickey Miles Podcast meet-up I ran into many old friends and finally met some virtual friends.  I also met some wonderful new people.  The love and support of the group was amazing! It’s one of the best things that has entered my life through running – these awesome friendships! Here is a group of people as diverse as you can imagine and yet we all share a love for running and a desire to help one another across the finish line.  I am so fortunate and blessed to know my running friends – whether I’ve met you in person or not. After the meet Tom and I joined another couple (more running friends!) for dinner in Epcot before going home and crashing.

Today we wore our 10k medals around Hollywood Studios where we talked to many Cast Members and fellow runners about running.  We enjoyed some rides but mostly enjoyed some wonderful human interaction.  Even at dinner tonight we talked to more runners about running.  What could be better!

Tomorrow I will conquer another marathon while being surrounded by friends who share my love.  And with my husband on the sidelines cheering.  And with many friends from across the Country sending me “virtual support” via text messages and social media.  All in the name of Running.  It doesn’t matter if I finish in 5:30 or 6:30.  I will finish because I will be carried through the course by the love and support of the running community – both those who are here with me this weekend and those who are home and taking time to cheer anyway.

And this is why I LOVE running and especially running at Disney!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers