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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.


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.


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!


Almost to Hollywood Studios!

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


Mile 23 and then a character stop.


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!


Going by the hat.

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


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.


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!


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.


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


(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!



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!



Heading to the homestretch!



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



And we finished together…



The way it should be…



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.




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.


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.


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


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


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


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?


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…


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


Without the bathroom goers….


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.


“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.


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.


You can see the crowd of runners to my left.


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.


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.



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!


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


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!


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.)


The gang in the starting corral.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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


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


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.


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


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!


Tom getting ready to run.



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.


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!


Mile 3 was near-ish the entrance to Epcot.


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.



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.



Mile 5!

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



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




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.



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!



We’re in the home stretch now!



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



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



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!

Looking backwards, moving forward

In the year 2013 I ran approximately 815 miles.  Give or take a few.  At an average pace of 12:45 min/mile.  The previous year, 2012, I ran approximately 650 miles at an average pace of 13:21 min/mile.  Now 165 miles over the course of 12 months isn’t anything crazy but I do think the increase in pace per mile is fairly significant.

I started the year off with the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon on Saturday morning followed by a full marathon on Sunday morning.  Despite some late injuries I was able to finish both “in the upright position with a smile on my face.”  My full marathon time at Disney was a few minute PR over the previous year’s disaster marathon while the half marathon was, intentionally, my slowest half marathon to date. I followed that up with a decent performance at the Princess Half Marathon in February.  Despite the heat and humidity, I was only a few minutes short of a PR.  Even more impressively, I spent the entire day touring the parks at Disney World with 3 children in tow and didn’t return to the hotel room to rest until well after dinner.  My FitBit told me I walked/ran the equivalent of a full marathon that day! In April I ran another strong MORE Magazine Women’s Half in NYC with a new PR of 2:25:41.  This isn’t an easy race because it requires tackling the Harlem Hills twice but it’s a race that I continue to love running. 

In June I ran the Mini 10k also in NYC.  The 6.2 miles were only a small part of my total mileage for the day but I still had an official PR at the race.  This is another special women’s race and one that I plan to run again in the future.  For someone who works in a male-dominated field and always felt comfortable participating in traditionally male activities, I really do enjoy the women’s races.  Although Marathon Weekend at Disney World is a particular favorite of mine, there is something special about seeing women of all shapes, sizes, and abilities test themselves on a race course! I had the pleasure of running the Diva Half Marathon with a new running friend.  This was another race run at training pace instead of race pace.  Although the course wasn’t super interesting, it was still an enjoyable day.

The highlight of my running year was certainly the NYC Marathon.  This was definitely a bucket-list race for me and I’m so pleased that I was able to run it this year.  I raised close to $3000 for charity and loved running through the streets of NYC.  My finish time was almost 1 min/mile faster than my previous marathon PR and yet I was somewhat disappointed in my performance.  I think the logistics of the race were difficult – especially for those of us in the back of pack – and I also learned – yet again! – that 26.2 miles can never be taken lightly. While I love the half marathon distance, there is something uniquely challenging about a full marathon.  The distance can never be taken for granted.  Overall I’m proud of my NYC Marathon race.  It is yet another reminder of how much we learn about ourselves when we are truly tested to our limits.

To summarize 2013 is to say that I improved my speed and endurance.  I ran several enjoyable and challenging races.  I made new running friends and strengthened my friendship with other running friends.  I was reminded of the special bond that forms between runners.  Some of my favorite people in the world are runners I’ve never met in person or runners I’ve only met a few times in person.  These include some of the most generous donors to my charity campaign, people I’ve met through runDisney, and people I’ve met through the Extra Mile Podcast.  I am grateful to you all! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the love and support of my family.  I certainly believe that I set a great example for my children when they see me running.  But I also appreciate that my running takes its toll on my supportive husband and children.  I am so lucky to have a family that is proud of Runner Amanda in the same way that they are proud of my other accomplishments.

What’s ahead in 2014?

I’m starting the year with my 4th consecutive Disney World Marathon Weekend.  This is such a special weekend.  We live in a country that is plagued by an obesity epidemic.  It is so refreshing to spend time at Disney World surrounded by people who care about endurance running.  We aren’t all built like elite athletes but we are all working towards fitness goals and that sets us apart.  I can’t wait to see friends old and new! And I’ll confess that I can’t wait to show off my brand new Mickey Medal after I finish marathon #4.  I love seeing the new race bling around the parks!!! I’m also looking forward to running with my husband for the first time as we run the 10k.  Good times!!!

My focus in the beginning of the year will be a time improvement goal for the April 13th MORE Magazine Women’s Half Marathon.  I’ve PR’ed this year 2 out of 3 years and I think with my current training plan, I should be able to finish strong.  I will likely run the Mini 10k in June again.  I’m hoping to return to the Westchester Running Festival this fall after taking the year off (it’s a half marathon in October).  I will either run the Tower of Terror 10 miler or the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in the fall.  I will let my husband pick which one he thinks I should do.

My big debate will be To Goofy or Not To Goofy in January, 2015.  It will be the 15th Anniversary of the race which means Special Anniversary Bling.  Although the Goofy was challenging, it was certainly do-able.  I’m suspecting I’ll be Goofy again in 2015 but I’m not going to decide until I finish my marathon in January.

My family has decided to join a new gym which will open in February.  Although much of this deserves its own post, I will be undergoing metabolic testing (the kind where you wear a mask and run on the treadmill) and spend some time working with a nutritionist.  I need to lower my body fat % and increase lean muscle mass.  I hope to add more cross-training.  Additionally I will continue tae kwon do either once or twice a week.  I should be testing for my yellow belt at the end of January.

My goals for 2014 are:

Faster Half Marathon (no definite number…yet)

Better overall fitness (cross-training, including tae kwon do)

Better nutrition with better body composition (this will almost definitely include weight loss but that’s not the primary motivation)

I won’t hang on a specific number but I will try for 1,000 miles in 2014.  That’s an increase of 185 miles over this year.  From 2012 to 2013 I increased 165 miles so this may be do-able (especially if I go for Goofy!).

Mostly I want to run a lot of happy and healthy miles!

Lessons learned…

Today was my last long run before the Disney Marathon.  Although I have 4 weeks before race day, Jeff Galloway scheduled my longest long run today.  The next several weekends will be in the 6-10 mile range.  During my mid-week runs I will continue to work on speed work in preparation for my April half marathon.

My alarm went off around 3:45am and I was greeted by 25F temperatures outside and impending snow.  I was out the door by 4:15am dressed in many, many layers in an effort to stay warm.  Jeff Galloway wanted me to walk the first 10-13 miles of my run since my longest run in this cycle was 20 miles.  I was a little worried about being cold during the walking portion so I chose to run 10 sec and walk 50 sec for the first 8 miles and then did a run 15 sec/walk 45 sec for the next 8 miles.  My final miles were at run 20 sec/walk 40 sec.  

The snow started sometime around 5:45am and started to really pick up around 7am.  By 8am the sidewalks had a decent layer of snow on them and were starting to get slippery.  The road had a thin layer, too.  I was regretting the fact that a new pair of yaktrax are wrapped and under the tree rather than on my shoes. I decided after 14.1 miles that it was better to finish on a treadmill than to finish by slipping and falling and getting injured.

I fully admit to being a wimp.  Having a decent treadmill in my basement makes it very easy for me to move my runs indoors on cold or inclement days.  I realized during the outdoor portion of my run this morning that I have never run in 20F temperatures before.  I’ve definitely run in 30F but 10 degrees makes a big difference.  As I was philosophizing and running, I came up with some lessons that I learned today.

1.  Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but if that girl has to run in 20F temperatures, a pair of $1 hand warmers are probably more useful.  Having hand warmers in my pockets made a HUGE difference this morning as I am prone to Reynaud’s (where your fingers turn white in the cold).  I have decent running gloves but I still needed the hand warmers.

2. Remember in high school chemistry class where we learned that the freezing point of H2O is 32F? Apparently that holds true for water in a water bottle while you running…. There have been many 80F days where I’d have been thrilled to have ice spontaneously appear in my water bottle.  In 20F that is much less appreciated.  The next time I run in 20F, I may add Nuun or electrolytes just to lower the freezing point! 

3. 10 days before Christmas Eve at 4am in 20F temperatures, there are almost no runners out.  Except me.  At 8am in the snow there were several other runners out.  I saw one woman wearing capri running tights and one man wearing shorts with zensah calf sleeves.  Which leads me to wonder…. Am I crazier than they are or are they crazier than I am? You don’t have to answer. It’s rhetorical.

4. Snow is much less wet than rain.  At least when you’re outside in the cold.  Once you move indoors the snow melts and becomes wet.  I was surprised that the snow didn’t really make my clothes feels wet while I was running outside. 

5. A thin layer of snow on the sidewalk is very slippery.  If I had stuck it out and waiting for the snow to accumulate, it would likely have become much less slippery.  I didn’t stick around to figure this one out.

6. Consistently the coldest parts of my body when running in cold weather are my butt and thighs. I had 2 layers on and was still very cold in this area.  Thank goodness my daughter is buying me toasty buns shorts from Athleta to wear over my tights for my next cold weather run! 

7. The problem with the butt/thigh cold thing comes when you need to go to the bathroom.  Cold hands trying to remove multiple layers from cold butt/thighs is challenging at best and disastrous if you really, really have to pee.  Just like when you were a kid playing in the snow with snow pants and then it took forever to get undressed and use the bathroom…

8. Early, cold, miserable long runs are best done with company, even if it’s virtual company.  I had a running buddy (Nate Wagner – yay!) texting me while he ran 20 miles and another running buddy tweeting me (Thanks Kurt Bower!).  Then several friends checked in with me via Facebook.  It definitely kept my spirits up and entertained me.

9. It’s not the last 6.2 miles that are really, really hard for me.  It’s those darn middle miles – say 14-20 – that destroy me.  Not sure why. Today I struggled from about 16-20 and then it got easier.  Or closer to the end.  Either way.  During NYC Marathon it was the same.  I really struggled starting around mile 14-ish and then seemed better after mile 20.  If anyone has brilliant insight, please share!

10. There’s a reason the half marathon is more popular than the full marathon.  Running 14 miles in training is do-able.  Almost reasonable.  Running 27 miles in training is just crazy.


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