Archive for June, 2011

Without sounding totally cheesy, finishing this half-marathon was one of my prouder moments in life. Not that I haven’t done cool things – I’m a surgeon with 3 kids – but this was something that didn’t rely on intelligence or special God-given gifts. I finished a half-marathon through hard work and determination. I felt (and continue to feel) that what makes finishing a big race so amazing is that, even though most people in the world *could* run a race, most don’t.
I think I would still be wearing my Donald Duck medal if I thought I could get away with it. But the wonderful thing about a Disney race is that I DID get to wear my medal for the rest of the trip. And I certainly wasn’t the only one wearing a medal.

This is race day but I wore the medal on Sunday and Monday. I even wore it on the plane ride home Monday night. (And, for the record, there were several other people on the plane wearing medals.)

By Sunday afternoon the Full Marathoners started showing up at the parks with their medals.  Finishing the full marathon gets you a Mickey medal.  As cool as my Donald medal is, I knew right then and there that I NEEDED a Mickey medal.  And thus began my crazy marathon training plans.  Only it gets worse.  There are these crazy people out there who finish the half marathon on Saturday (13.1 miles) and the full marathon on Sunday (26.2) for a total of 39.3 miles.  There is only one word to describe these people: Goofy.  And, yes, they get a Goofy medal.  Even better, they get 3 medals – Donald, Mickey, and Goofy.  I now have a new Bucket List item:  finish the Goofy.

I can’t explain how inspired I was by all of the activities during Marathon weekend.  Upon returning to my awful New York winter, I knew I needed to sign up for another race.  I chose the More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park.  For the curious, I picked this race for a few simple reasons.  #1:  The race took place on a Sunday and my children have fewer Sunday activities so it wouldn’t be a hardship on my family.  #2: We live in the suburbs of NYC so it would be easy to get there.  #3: It seemed like it was the right amount of time to get my training going.

The benefit of my new-found love of racing – or at least my new-found love of being handed a medal at the end of the race (it’s all about the bling!) – is that I was much more motivated to train this time around.  Race day was a lovely spring day in NYC (a miracle given our terrible winter).  I shaved over 30 seconds per mile off my time, despite some impressive hills in Central Park.  It was a really fun race and one that I will likely do again!

With 2 medals under my belt (or around my neck), I thought I’d be ready to start my marathon training for January, 2012.  I signed up for an October 1/2 marathon (the Westchester Medical Center Half Marathon – close to home and on a Sunday!).  And I paid my $$$ for the Disney Full Marathon which takes place in January, 2012.  I found that my next races were too far out and I lost my motivation.  (I’m too chicken to run a summer race.) I joined a free women’s running clinic at our local running store (major props to Westchester Road Runners Store for doing this clinic!) but found that most weeks my Monday night group run has been my only run.

According to the Jeff Galloway training plan on RunDisney, I’m supposed to start my Marathon Training today.  I need accountability.  I need motivation.  So here is my true, and purely selfish, reason for starting this blog.  I will try to keep track of my training (and my DH is training for his first half marathon with me as his “experienced” coach) as a way of forcing me to train.  Three runs a week:  2 midweek runs of 30-45 minutes and 1 weekend long run.  I posted the training plan on the wall by my computer where I have to cross off training days as they happen.

My short-term goals are to finish the October 1/2 marathon – I’m not really running for time but more as part of my marathon training – and finish the January full marathon.  My long-term goal is to finish the Goofy in 2013.  Welcome to my madness!

I was so incredibly pumped to start the race. I had decided that I wanted to live in the moment and take in all the sights and sounds of the race. I had my digital camera in hand and, although I wore an iPod on my arm, I never once put my iPod speakers in my ears. The start was crowded but I stuck to my run 5 minutes, walk 2 minute plan and just found my way through the traffic. I tried to take pictures of each mile marker but most were blurry or had other people’s heads in them!

(Note random guy standing in front of Mile Marker One.  Also note that it didn’t take me 43 minutes to run the 1st mile.  That’s the time from the first runner crossing the start line!)

They say you shouldn’t have a time goal for your 1st race at a particular distance. I tried to remind myself that my goal was to finish within the time limit of the race (16 minutes per mile which is about 3 hours 30 minutes). In reality my goal was to try to break 3 hours. My biggest fear was starting too fast and burning out by the end. I don’t have a fancy Garmin, just a $25 sports watch (in an attractive and feminine shade of light pink!) which I used to keep track of my run/walk. I also kept track of my pacing.
I was averaging about 12:30 per mile which was faster than my training. I lost a few minutes for a port-a-potty break around mile 3. The line was quite long but there was no denying mother nature! I did meet a nice father-daughter pair in the bathroom line (she was probably middle school age?). My family was worried about my “fast” pace because apparently they texted me to slow down! (I got the text after crossing the finish line so it didn’t help much!)

Disney knows how to do entertainment. it’s hard to describe all the stuff going on during the race – high school marching bands complete with cheerleaders, character meet and greets, random guys on stilts, etc. It seemed that every few minutes there was something else to see.

(Example of the aforementioned random stilt guys.)

It was dark at the start. So dark that for the first few miles I needed to use the backlight on my watch to see my race time. But we approached the Magic Kingdom, the sun started to rise and it started getting lighter.
The race was packed. I was constantly dodging people and having people dodge me. There’s were some particularly narrow spots entering and within Magic Kingdom.

(Running through the toll plaza to Magic Kingdom.  A few comments:  1. Lots of people! 2. It’s pretty dark still!)

Entering Main Street USA was definitely a highlight for me. Both sides of the street were packed with Cast Members cheering us on. I even saw the Mayor shaking hands on Main Street! We turned right and headed to Tomorrowland and then swung around to Fantasyland. As we entered Cinderella’s Castle there were troubadours announcing our arrival. Exiting the Castle was one of the most crowded points of the race. Cool though it was, I would have enjoyed it more with fewer people!

(I love Main Street USA.  And it was awesome to run it during the race!)

We finally exited Magic Kingdom and start the run back towards Epcot. This road took us past the 3 monorail resorts: The Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian. One major advantage of staying at a monorail resort is that your family can just walk from the resort out to the road and watch you run by. Which leads me to another memorable highlight of the race – seeing my family as I ran by. At this point in the race I was starting to tire a bit and it was so inspirational to see my parents, my husband, and my 3 children cheering for me. Definitely worth the price of the Polynesian!!!

(My kids looking bored!)

(Me running by.  I’m trying to get the kids’ attention!)

Much of this stretch of road is a blur in retrospect. We reached a cloverleaf that took us up over the roadway. Not fun to have the one major uphill at this point in the race. To mitigate the pain, Disney stationed a green army man (think plastic green toy soldier) at the bend of the curve. He had a megaphone and was yelling at us. I definitely walked that hill but was laughing my butt off the whole time! As we approached Epcot one of the World Showcase bands was playing for us. Entering Epcot was awesome. It’s a short run in Epcot. From Future World past Club Cool (as though you’re heading towards World Showcase) and then a quick 180 degree turn back toward the front of the park. Epcot was lined with Cast Members and even a surprise visit by Phineas and Ferb (a favorite in my house).

(For the uninitiated, here are Phineas and Ferb)

The finish line was just outside Epcot. Many people had already finished and stood with their medals to cheer us on. That was very nice. The finish is a bit of a blur. I remember high-fiving Minnie at the finish. I then got my medal and the post-race Mylar. I picked up my stuff from bag check and grabbed some post-race snacks. I definitely felt like puking for a few minutes but then tried to re-fuel. My DH was waiting at the family reunion area (he was smart to leave the kids with my parents as it was a zoo!). My official time was 2:44:15. I definitely met all of my goals.
A few thoughts on the race. I honestly think I was smiling from start to finish. My name was on my race bib and many, many strangers cheered for me by name. It was great! I gave high-fives to any and all spectators who were there. I took water or sports drink when it was offered and took snacks or goo as available. I figured it couldn’t hurt, might help. I honestly think my smile and positive attitude allowed me to enjoy every minute of the race. Sure I felt crappy at the end. My legs hurt for days. But it was awesome!!! I really believe that this is an experience everyone should have at least once…

Somehow in addition to training for my 1st half marathon, I also was in charge of planning a trip to Disney for 7 people (+1 who joined us later). Although I am undoubtedly the “Disney expert” in my family, it’s hard to make decisions for so many people. Somehow it all happened. The half marathon is a Saturday morning race. Since this was January, I wanted to ensure that bad weather wouldn’t prevent me from running. So we left NY early on Thursday morning. The crew included my family of 5 plus my parents. We managed to arrive safely at the Polynesian after a quick grocery stop to insure we had plenty of race-friendly snacks (Cliff bars, gatorade, water, etc.). Our rooms weren’t ready so we headed off to the parks. Limiting your pre-race activity is slightly unrealistic when you take 3 little kids to Disney!!!

We tried for an early bedtime and 2 of my 3 were up by 5:30am on Friday. Normally this would annoy me but I considered it good preparation for my 3am wake-up for the race the next day. I was very grateful that we were staying Club Level so I could take the kids off to the lounge for some pre-breakfast snacks while watching Disney Channel and let Tom and Nathaniel sleep in a bit. We spent the morning at the parks and then I headed off to Wide World of Sports Complex to pick up my race packet.

I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable Disney person. I was not prepared for the hugeness that is the Wide World of Sports. I really had no idea! And the mass of people there to pick up their race packets! It was exciting and inspiring!!! I think most people run a 5k or a 10k before venturing into a half marathon. Not me! This was my first race ever and the Expo was overwhelming and wonderful. There were 2 indoor stadium-type buildings involved. The first building had the race packet with your shoe tag (for timing purposes so that when you cross the start line 30+ minutes after the elite runners, nobody adds that 30 minutes to your race time) and your race number. I didn’t realize I would need safety pins for my number (luckily one of the booths had some or it might have been an issue!). I had to test my shoe tag to make sure it was working. I found a cute 1/2 marathon t-shirt that I purchased for way too much $$$. I headed over to the 2nd building to pick-up my t-shirt. I will say that Disney makes nice shirts. They were long-sleeved tech material. The half marathon medal is Donald Duck so the shirts had Donald on them. A very nice souvenir! I did buy a headband (I had made the mistake of getting my hair cut the week before the race and the front of my hair wouldn’t stay in a ponytail holder anymore – I recommend against last minute haircuts unless you already have short hair!). I choose the brightest headband I could find. Afterall if I’m going to run slowly, I might as well look cool! I honestly could have spent hours there but realized that I had left my husband and parents with 3 kids. All too soon I was back on the bus to the Polynesian.

That night we had dinner reservations at Kona Cafe – a Polynesian themed restaurant. Not the ideal place for carb loading but they did have a pasta dish that was quite tasty. The yummy pepper-crusted tuna would have to wait for another trip! I tried to get the kids to bed early but it’s hard to do when they are excited to be at Disney. I probably fell asleep before they did. My youngest did me a favor by waking up at 3:15am, before the alarm went off. I gave him my spot in bed and he went right back to sleep. I had put out my clothes for race day the night before (including pinning my number to my shirt) and dressed in the bathroom.

I put a few Cliff bars in my waist pack and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade before heading up to the Club Lounge to see what Disney had left us. I grabbed a banana and some vile coffee before heading to the monorail. I met a few fellow insane people in the lounge.

Part of the problem with a first race is that you really have no idea how the flow works. Add to that the fact that I choose a Disney race with 20,000-ish participants and it was a bit intimidating. Luckily everyone I met was incredibly nice and helpful. I figured out bag check ( and even checked my $6 “throw away” fleece instead of keeping it. My children were horrified that I would consider throwing away a perfectly nice fleece! It was quite chilly that morning but downright balmy compared to reports from 2010.

I made my way to my corral (letter F which means they expected me to be slow) and met some other new runners. Here’s me in the corral:

The general feeling was that of excitement, especially when the starts began. We had a ways to wait but enjoyed the starting fireworks:

Finally it was my corral’s turn to start. I had almost no experience running anywhere but the treadmill so I was worried about pacing. I took a deep breath and was off!

So here I was. A non-runner who just signed up for a half-marathon at my favorite place in the world. How was I going to manage that? My MIL donated her treadmill to the cause so as soon as our power returned, we came home with a treadmill. I did most of my mid-week runs on a treadmill at the gym. And my weekend runs on the treadmill in the basement.
I didn’t really know enough to have a training philosophy (Galloway? Higdon? I didn’t know these names yet). I printed out a Disney half-marathon training plan from the DIS and more-or-less followed it,
My training was inconsistent at best. I found that I did better with run-walk intervals. Someone on the DIS was doing run 5 min – walk 2 min so I adopted that. Yes, that’s right. I was getting my training advice from random strangers who were beginners like me!

My midweek training suffered from a few job-related hazards. First, I leave for work by 6:30am at least 3 days per week. I am certainly not hardcore enough for a 4:30am run so that effectively eliminates morning runs. Second, there is an inherent unpredictability in my work day. It is not uncommon for me to anticipate leaving by 5pm only to still be at the hospital at 8pm. This makes it hard to adhere to my scheduled training days. And, of course, I’m the Master of Excuses!

My weekend long runs brought a whole new level of complexity. Nathaniel, my eldest, has Hebrew School from 9-11am every Saturday (side note: Tom and kids are Jewish. I am Protestant. We belong to a welcoming, small, Reform synagogue where classroom space is limited. K-2 attend Hebrew School on Saturday and then it switches to the more traditional Sunday Hebrew School in 3rd grade.). Tom and Nathaniel have a standing breakfast date at IHOP prior to Hebrew School and leave home at 8am. This leaves me home with the 2 younger kids. My long runs are done on a treadmill in the basement while watching endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Hannah Montana until one of two things occurs. Either Zachary’s diaper becomes so offensively stinky that I can no longer reasonably ignore it. Or 10am rolls around and I need to quickly shower and dress so Jessica can get to her 10:50am ballet class. I definitely lost a few miles here and there for one or both reasons.

I doubt most “real” runners would happily jump on the treadmill for ALL of the long training runs but I knew that this was my way to get to Disney. I even peaked with a ten mile treadmill run in December!

A non-runner gets moving

I guess it all started in January, 2010. I made a seemingly reasonable New Year’s Resolution, to start – and finish – the Couch-to-5k training program. For those unfamiliar with this program (C25K), it’s a way for non-athletes to get from a inactive lifestyle to completing a 5k. The program requires three 20-30 minute training sessions per week. Easy enough, right?

Here’s the rub. This would be my 5th attempt to get through the C25K. That’s right. This former high-school varsity athlete couldn’t train herself to running a 5k. And I have plenty of reasonable excuses… 3 kids ( my eldest was not quite 6 in Jan, 2010), a busy full-time job as a pediatric urologist, etc. But this time I was determined.

I started off well. The first 2 weeks I was diligent with my 3 walk/runs per week. More walking than running at this stage, of course. And then the legit excuses started: a sick child, a particularly busy week at work, all perfectly good reasons to fail. And then I discovered the DIS.

The DIS is a discussion board for all thing Disney. It’s a Disney trip-planner’s heaven. Thousands of crazy Disney people, just like me. I started planning our August trip and browsed some trip-planning journals. During this time a powerful storm knocked out power lines throughout our community leaving us in the dark for 5 days. We packed up the kids and spent some time at my MIL’s house (an adorable 2 bedroom house which temporarily welcomed our family of 5 + 1 large black lab).

Two very good things came out of this time. One, my MIL had a treadmill in her basement for me to use. Two, my time spent browsing the DIS lead me to meet some other C25kers who were training for a race. And not just any race. These folks -who were beginners like me- were planning to run the Disney Half Marathon. A major epiphany occurred. If I shell out $150 (give or take), I will be signed up to run a race. In Disney. And if I want to be able to actually go to Disney for said race, I had better start training for real!

Surprisingly, it didn’t take much convincing to get my husband to agree to my plan. “A half-marathon? In Disney? In January? Sure, why not?”. I didn’t expect it to be so easy! Tom is not a runner and while he likes Disney, he certainly doesn’t share my level of fanaticism. So at this point I’m thinking that I just scored myself an extra Disney trip. Woohoo!
Oh crap! Did I just agree to run 13.1 miles? In less than a year? When I can’t even finish a 5k? And so begins my introduction to running…