RACE RECAP: Long Branch Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran half marathon number 3, and I have to say…it was not easy.DSCF3344

As you may remember, I ran my second half marathon just two weeks ago, and crossed the finish line in a very unexpected 2:03. I was absolutely elated with my time (2:05 was my “best-case scenario” time goal). It was a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore, I was feeling strong, and in what seemed like moments after the start of the race, I was placing a medal around my neck.

So I sort of expected a similar experience this weekend when I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon for the first time. Once again, it was a BEAUTIFUL day at the Jersey Shore. But this time, I struggled. A lot.

Let me rewind a bit. On Saturday, I headed down to Monmouth Park Racetrack for the expo, where I picked up my bib and did a little a lot of shopping. I was trying to spot Kim from Barking Mad About Running, who also ran the half and was volunteering at the expo, but didn’t get to see her, unfortunately. I was disappointed that arriving at 10:30am on Saturday meant that the majority of the women’s shirts that I wanted were sold out in my size (interestingly enough, my spectators later informed me that they were all re-stocked for sale on the day of the race…not cool!). But I did manage to get some official merch, along with some super cute tees and a 13.1 magnet from Bay Six, a new fuel belt from Hippie Runner, and, of course, I spent lots and lots of time at BondiBand shamelessly digging through piles of headbands and carrying on about how much I LOVE them — prompting the woman at the table to ask when I was going to come work for them. (The answer: ANYTIME! CALL ME!) ;-D

2013-05-04 12.20.40The race was slated to begin at 6:45am SHARP for half marathon runners on Sunday, followed by the full New Jersey Marathon at 8am. After making the drive to Monmouth Park on Saturday for the expo in a solid 45 minutes, I went ahead and allotted an additional FULL HOUR to our morning commute  for the traffic that I knew was going to back up along the several lights leading into the racetrack.

So my sister, BF, and I piled into the car at the ungodly hour of 4:55am to make our way to the park…and I am sorry to report that I would have missed the start of the race completely had we left just five minutes later.

We arrived before 5:45am, but the traffic to get into the park was absolutely insane, and it took a solid 45 minutes just to make our way into the parking area. I proceeded to make a mad dash for the port-a-potties (because I know myself enough to know that I will NOT stop during a race), and stood in a line that appeared to be about a mile long. The race day security was no joke, either; I completely understand the heightened security, but I know there was some frustration about not being able to carry even a small purse.

Meanwhile, it was now approaching 6:45am, and the announcer was calling the start of the race. I figured I had a few extra minutes since I was in Corral C, so I didn’t worry too much — I had no idea then that the corrals were being released within seconds of each other. It was finally my turn at the port-a-potty, so I did my thing and then ran like hell to the starting line…only to discover that the corrals were now gated, and my corral was next to start. Another frustrated Corral C runner broke through the barricade, so a bunch of us followed, and it was IMMEDIATELY time to start running.

I’ve cut it close before, but I NEVER want another race day experience to begin this way…stressed and aggravated is no way to begin a 13.1 mile journey!

Of course, I had my sights set on beating my previous half marathon time of 2:03. I knew that only two weeks had passed since my last race, but I knew I had it in me to push just a little bit harder. My foot issues (which I have conclusively diagnosed as tendonitis) have been subsiding in the last week or so, thank goodness, but I tied my shoelaces loosely so as to not cause any flare-ups during the race. Little did I know that something so seemingly insignificant — SHOELACES, for crying out loud — would be among my downfalls in this race.

photo 3In miles 1-3, I was feeling good. I spent some energy weaving around other runners, but there was definitely room to run (not the case at Runapalooza, unfortunately), and I found my stride right around an 8:45 pace for those first miles. But then came mile 4, and I started to feel a little…off. Though I wasn’t experiencing any of the pain that I’ve been dealing with in my foot, I could feel some discomfort in my left shoe, so I allowed myself to pause for the briefest of moments to tug at my socks and adjust my sneaker.

If it was just my stupid foot that was the problem, I could have dealt with it. But overall, I just wasn’t feeling that great. By mile 5, I knew that this was just not going to be my race. My legs felt heavy, I felt tired…and the miles ahead of me seemed endless.

The course took us through a variety of back roads and neighborhoods in the towns of Long Branch, Oceanport, and Monmouth Beach. Though I know Hurricane Sandy ravaged the race’s previous course along the boardwalk — and that race organizers overcame enormous obstacles in re-routing the course and being able to hold this race at all — the scenery just wasn’t that exciting (also, there were several giant hills that I wasn’t expecting!). If it weren’t for the AWESOME spectators, I don’t know what I would have done — I kept pausing my iPod completely to feed off their enthusiasm (I still don’t know how I rudely ignored the cheers from blogger pal (Writing While Running) and fellow Jersey girl Amy…sorry again that I missed you!)

When I reached the halfway point where the half marathon relay runners were switching off, I spotted Emily, who blogs at Keep Running Keep Writing and whom I know from our former shared post at New Jersey Monthly magazine. I was really struggling at that point, but I was so happy to see her and all of the relay runners and spectators at the 6.5 mile mark — some of whom gave me shout outs for my Team Sparkle skirts! — and they infused me with the energy I needed to take on the second half of the race. I waDSCF3338s shocked to see that my sluggish 9:30 pace was now back to around 9:00 for the next mile or so.

The energy was short-lived, however. Now not only was I tired, but I was POSITIVE that I had an enormous blister forming on my left foot…I refuse to allow myself to walk during races, but I begrudgingly let myself stop for moment to re-tie my shoelaces. It helped a little bit, but unfortunately it was too late.

I spent the final miles of the race playing every mind game I could think of to ignore my aching, blistering feet. The cherry on top of it all was that my usual stomach cramping was back in full force by mile 10 — now I know it’s not just a coincidence, and I’m determined to figure out what is causing it.

Meanwhile, I kept telling myself to just keep doing the best I could, not every race can be a PR, enjoy the moment, look how far you’ve come, blah blah blah, but there’s part of me that still couldn’t help but be disappointed in myself. Old habits die hard, and I am the textbook definition of a perfectionist…and once I knew this race wasn’t going to result in a new PR, I felt defeated and discouraged. I could not wait for that finish line.

In the last two miles, we did have the opportunity to run along the beach — I had already seen the Sandy devastation during Runapalooza, and did my best to ignore the sight of the torn up boardwalk — and there’s something about being near the ocean (or any body of water, really) that really does soothe me. So while I was dead tired and ready to rip my sneakers off and throw them far, far away, I sucked it up anDSCF3380d forced myself to enjoy this moment and be proud of myself…and thankful that even though it wasn’t my best performance, I was still so very fortunate to be doing something that I love.

And then the finish line was finally up ahead, I was handed my medal, and all of the pain and frustration of the previous 2 hours, 7 minutes, and 9 seconds (my official chip time) just faded away.

Oh, and when I reunited with my sister and boyfriend, I finally did rip off my sneakers…and proceeded to find the most disgusting blood blister (never had one before, but a Google search definitively confirmed my diagnosis) you could ever imagine on my left big toe. It is GROSS.

Overall, the race was well organized and I, of course, had an amazing time…but basically this is all a long-winded way of saying that you learn a whole lot from a race when you fall short of your expectations!

1.) First and foremost, when race organizers say get there early, THEY. MEAN. IT.

2.) Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to register for three half marathons over the course of six weeks. D’oh.

DSCF33873.) I need to work on my pacing. In my last half, I went all out in the beginning and then crashed and burned a bit at the end. This time, I tried to be more conservative in the beginning, and then various factors prevented me from picking up the pace in the final miles…so I just got slower, and slower, and slower.

4.) It’s time to figure out what the hell is causing me stomach issues every. single. time. I race! I’m currently using Clif Shot Bloks as my fuel, as many of the gels I’ve tried cause nausea. The blocks don’t seem to bother me during long runs, but I’ve recently been experimenting with Honey Stingers gels (delicious, BTW…I LOVE honey), so I’ll have to see if I need to make a switch.

5.) More hill training and speedwork. NO EXCUSES!

6.) Rest means REST. In the week prior to my last half, I did very little running (or anything, really) because I was trying to rest my foot — and I ended up feeling fantastic during the race. Last week, since my foot was feeling better, I was desperate to “make up for lost time” and I’m sure I ended up over-training — which would explain my sluggish performance yesterday. I need to get better about tapering and not pushing myself too hard in the days before a race.

7.) Most importantly: I cannot — and will not — PR at every race. So I need to stop being ridiculous and realize that I’m not a robot and that sometimes, I just have to accept that I’m doing my best and be happy with it.

How do you deal with race day disappointment?

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Last Week’s Workouts and ANOTHER Half Marathon!

Hope everyone had a marvelous weekend. We had AWESOME weather here in New Jersey (although right now it’s rainy and dreary and gross), and I’m excited to finally be running in spring-like conditions!

Photo credit: njmarathon.org

Photo credit: njmarathon.org

Yesterday I took the plunge and registered for the Long Branch Half Marathon, which is part of the New Jersey Marathon. I said I wasn’t going to do it. I really didn’t think I was going to do it. I thought that taking on Runapalooza so late in April, followed by the Superhero Half Marathon in mid-May, would be too much…not to mention the fact that my spring races are already costing me a pretty penny, and I’m trying to save for Disneyland!

But then I took a good hard look at my Dopey Challenge-running self — I mean, really, I should probably get used to running A WHOLE LOT OF MILES in a short period of time — and I decided to just go for it. It’s a pretty big deal for us New Jerseyans (well, the full marathon that’s held on the same day is, anyway), so I’m excited to be part of it!

In other news, I am feeling pretty damn stupid right about now. I’ve been whining about pain running along the top of my left foot  for weeks now, and lost I don’t know how many hours of sleep worrying that it was a stress fracture or some other kind of serious injury and I could kiss running good-bye for weeks, if not months (hence my hesitation to put on my big girl panties and see a doctor). Well, after following the advice of countless runners and health care professionals on-line who have written about the all-too-common foot tendonitis (in runners, often caused by too-tight sneakers), the pain is now disappearing…and all because I’m tying my shoelaces more loosely, doing some simple foot and calf stretches, and massaging the tendons in my calf and foot. If that’s really all it was, I am SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL…but I’m still feeling kind of foolish right now!

DSCF3227

Pretty sure my Disney Princess Half Marathon gear helps me run faster! 🙂

And now, on to last week’s workouts. As you know, I ran my second half marathon last weekend, but I neglected to mention that I followed that up with a local 5K the following morning that was a fundraiser for a few of the elementary schools in my town…and despite running on legs that pretty much felt like lead, I actually PRed! My old 5K PR (from a Halloween race last October) was 27:59, and now it’s 27:18 — and, best of all, I took third place in my age group (gotta love small races)!

Sat., April 20: Runapalooza Half Marathon (recap HERE)

Sun., April 21: Bloomingdale/Orange Ave. School 5K (rescheduled from November thanks to Hurricane Sandy)

Mon., April 22: Rest

Tue., April 23: A second day of rest…I thought it would be prudent given all the running I did over the weekend!

Wed., April 24: An easy 3-mile run

Thur., April 25: Went out for a 4-miler, came home after 3…I wasn’t feeling sore, but my legs felt so heavy and I just wasn’t into it.

Fri., April 26: 6.5 mile run — felt pretty good!

Sat., April 27: Thai kickboxing class and 10-mile bike ride. It was such a beautiful day, so I forced asked my sister to accompany me for a few miles.

Sun., April 28: Thai kickboxing class

I was hoping to get in a long run this weekend, especially after deciding to run the New Jersey Half Marathon, but I’ve decided that it might be best to take this this week’s runs pretty easy to help me gear up for the half marathon. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me in terms of those final training runs before a big race.

How do you train in the last week before a race?

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RACE RECAP: Runapalooza, Asbury Park Half Marathon

I’m still reeling from last week’s events in Boston, but I felt as though the only thing we runners can do to show our unyielding support for the victims and everyone affected by this tragedy — and a nice big F-U to the [insert expletive of your choice] who did this — was to just keep running.

IMG_6930So I ran my second half marathon this weekend, and, in a way, it sort of felt like it was my first — I completed my first half in Disney World, but I wouldn’t exactly call what I did “running a half marathon,” given the fact that I was stopping every half mile for photo opportunities! However, running the Miles for Music 20K in March gave me the confidence that I could actually RUN a half marathon…after all 12.4 miles is nothing to sneeze at, and I did manage to run the entire course with a sub-2 hour finish time, so I was feeling optimistic about my second attempt at 13.1!

I headed down to Asbury Park with my parents and sister at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on Saturday morning for Runapalooza, a race that benefits the Special Olympics of New Jersey; this year, some of the proceeds were being donated to help restore the Jersey Shore after the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused to our beaches.

We received several e-mails in the wake of the Boston Marathon advising us of security procedures — though I have to say, it was a little disheartening to see bomb-sniffing German Shepherds all over the place — and asking that we don blue and yellow to show our support. There were even blue and yellow ribbons and hairbands available for runners at bib pick-up, which I thought was really nice. I also pinned the Runner’s Unite for Boston race bib from RunJunkees on my back, and saw that lots of other runners had done the same.

I had to pick up my bib on race day, as I really don’t live close enough to Asbury Park to make the driIMG_6941ve twice in two days, nor far enough that I felt the need to get a hotel for the night. Those picking up their bib on the day of the race had to make a mandatory $5 donation to the Special Olympics of New Jersey; though I sort of resent the idea of being forced to shell out even more money (after my $75 registration fee!) just to pick up my bib, I was perfectly fine with writing a small check for a good cause.

The race also included a small expo — I know I’ve been completely spoiled with attending a runDisney race expo as my first! — and runners were awarded with a free beer afterwards (which I skipped…I hate beer). There were bagels and yummy mini muffins and bananas and other goodies to help us re-fuel afterwards.

IMG_6948It was pretty much perfect racing weather, other than being hit with a few strong gusts of wind (fine when it’s behind you, not so fun when you’re running AGAINST it!), and the course ran through lots of local neighborhoods with some lovely ocean views. It was unfortunate that a large section of the race took place on a main street, in traffic, where I had to run on the sidewalk at times…not an ideal option when it comes to preventing runner’s knee and other unnecessary aches and pains. However, everything was really well organized and there were plenty of volunteers to help cheer us on.

The race course usually runs on the boardwalk, but I knew they had adapted this year’s course to accommodate for the fact that, unfortunately, so much of the boardwalk was destroyed by the hurricane. I was definitely a little disappointed that we only had the opportunity to run on the boardwalk for the last quarter mile or so of the race — although it definitely was a nice way to bring us all home! — but, of course, that’s not the race organizers’ fault.

I went out pretty fast (which, for me, is about an 8:30 pace), and I held that for about the first two miles. I felt great, and my foot really wasn’t bothering me all that much, so I decided to juIMG_6996st go with it. I usually struggle with just how conservative to be during races, so this time I tried to push myself a little harder, and kept a close eye on my pace to ensure that I was holding about a 9:15 for the majority of the middle miles.

I was really enjoying the race and the first 10K seemed to fly by…but it always seems to be somewhere around mile 11 that I begin questioning WHY THE HELL I DO THIS TO MYSELF. I choked down a few Clif Bloks every few miles, but my energy really starts to dip in that last 5K…and like my first half, it was right around that point when I started being hit with stomach cramps that would. not. go. away. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk unless I was making a quick stop for water, so I’m thinking maybe I need to adopt a new strategy or continue experimenting with my race day fuel, since this isn’t the first time I was forced to slow down in the final miles of a longer race due to stomach issues.

As I was struggling with stomach pains and fatigue in the last 5K, I couldn’t help but think of all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. There were, of course, reminders of Boston IMG_7146everywhere, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running with a heavy heart on Saturday. Thinking about the victims and their families, and the marathoners who never got to cross that finish line, really helped me to dig deep and finish strong. Who was I to complain about a little stomachache or a sore foot or feeling “tired?” Running is an incredible gift, and I was determined to run this race for all of those who can’t.

The good news was that I proved to myself ONCE AND FOR ALL that my 3:30 Disney Princess Half Marathon finish time can purely be attributed to my shenanigans on the course (still no regrets!) because I finished under my best-care scenario goal time of 2:05. My official chip time was 2:03:25, and I was beyond thrilled with the accomplishment…especially given my recent foot issues. Interestingly enough, my foot felt slightly sore in the first mile or two, and thenIMG_7167 the pain disappeared for the duration of the race, only to come back as soon as I started walking around after crossing the finish line. After some research into this phenomenon on-line, I’ve decided to try ONE MORE ridiculous self-treatment option — something so obvious as adjusting THE WAY I TIE MY SNEAKERS — and resting for a few days before sucking it up and seeing a doctor.

I’ve already submitted my shiny new half marathon PR to the folks at runDisney for Dumbo Double Dare…fingers crossed that it lands me in Corral A or B! 🙂

Does anyone have any tips on how to fight fatigue and finish strong in those last few miles?

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Running for Boston

I know that my feelings echo that of pretty much everyone who has ever laced up their sneakers for a tempo run or crossed a finish line. But I’ve been trying to process the events at the Boston Marathon for a few days now, and would feel remiss if I didn’t at least attempt to express my reaction to this senseless tragedy.

Runners-united-to-remember-bib-for-BostonAs someone who has only been running seriously for about a year and a half, and whose per-mile pace times are utterly laughable compared to those of the elite athletes who were competing in the Boston Marathon on Monday, I was honestly surprised by just how hard the news hit me. Don’t get me wrong — any act of terrorism committed on innocent civilians is obviously enough to shake anyone to their core, but I am still struggling to digest the news of such a blatant attack of the sport that has done so much for me. News of the Sandy Hook shootings back in December broke my heart, but I felt I couldn’t fully connect with the enormity of what happened because I don’t have children of my own…I really couldn’t even begin to fathom the pain those parents were feeling.

But what happened in Boston this week touched me on a level that I CAN understand. Even though I wasn’t at the Boston Marathon, or personally knew anybody running or spectating that day, the bombings felt so unabashedly personal to me. I could so very clearly imagine completing those 20 or 23 or 25 miles that I had trained so hard and for so many months to run, anxiously awaiting that ultimate moment of pride and accomplishment. I could imagine looking forward to being cheered on by my loved ones and crossing that finish line and feeling the weight of that finisher’s medal around my neck…only to turn a corner and see that the finish line was no more.

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My 4:09 run in honor of Boston.

I know what running has done for me…what it means to me…and seeing fellow runners and their loved ones attacked at what is such a pivotal event for our sport hurt. It really hurt.

As many of you know, I recently registered for my very first marathon. Granted, I will tackle this challenge in Walt Disney World, in costume, with lots of character photo opportunities along the way and other silly fun…but no matter where you choose to run a marathon, 26.2 miles are 26.2 miles. After training for my first half marathon, I can honestly say that I know what it’s like to have your entire life consumed with preparing for a singular personal milestone, and right now I can only imagine the kind of dedication that I know I’m going to have to bring to the table if I’m going to successfully (and safely) complete next year’s Dopey Challenge.

So I can’t help but put myself in the minds and hearts of all the runners who were there to celebrate their accomplishment on Monday with their friends and family, but had to face sheer terror instead.

Running has changed my life in so many ways, and I continue to feel as though I owe a debt of gratitude to the sport that has helped me discover so much about myself and what I can achieve…and, more importantly, the kind of person I truly am. So to have the holy grail of the sport of running — the Boston Marathon — so brutally and senselessly terrorized has filled me with emotions that I really can’t even begin to explain.

These are people who had committed to putting their bodies and their minds through the ultimate test of perseverance and endurance and dedication, and I am utterly enraged for all of those who were about to see that glorious finish line in the distance. I can’t stomach the idea of my sister or my boyfriend or my parents or any of the people who have ever come out to cheer me on during a race waiting for me at the finish line that day. I can’t comprehend the idea of a person whose sense of self rests so heavily on their ability to lace up their sneakers and go for a run suffering severe injuries to their legs…or losing them all together.

As I sit here watching the news coverage of the hunt for the second suspect, I still don’t know why this happened. I still don’t know how to process it. But I do plan to do my part to help fight back on behalf of the running community. I’ve been trying to rest my foot as much as possible, but still went out and logged my 4:09 run in honor of Boston this week. I will don a Boston bib on the back of my race shirt in both of my upcoming half marathons, and participate in the Run 26.2 for Boston challenge on Facebook. I also ibostonntend to participate in a virtual 5k sponsored by NYCRuns to benefit The One Fund Boston, and am keeping my eyes peeled for other races and fundraisers and any other opportunities to show my support.

Because, really, the only thing I can think to do in response to this tragedy is run.

Despite all of the heartbreak and the confusion and the rage that continues to bubble up inside of me, the events of Marathon Monday have made me so very grateful for the ability to lace up my running sneakers. The running community has welcomed me with open arms, and I am forever appreciative of all of the support and encouragement I have found since I started running. But more importantly, horrific acts like the Boston Marathon bombings demonstrate just how precious life is…and why you have to appreciate every moment you spend here on this Earth.

That’s what running is for me. And that’s why this attack hurt so much.

Whomever these [insert expletive here] kids are who did this should have known that they were messing with some of the most tenacious and strong and dedicated people on the planet. And I know I can speak for all of us — as both a runner and an American — when I say that we will not back down.

I have never been more proud to call myself a runner.

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Weekly Workouts: 4/7-4/14

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! The enormity of what I’ve gotten myself into — registering for the Dopey Challenge as my FIRST marathon — is really starting to sink in now, and I found myself at Barnes & Noble yesterday scouring the running books for titles like “Marathon Running for Dummies.”

dopeydiamondsI know I’m in WAY over my head here, but I have to say that I am really excited about the journey. I know I really should have had at least one marathon under my belt before attempting to train for the Dopey Challenge. I know that I am probably a fool for taking this on. I know that training to run so many races in one weekend, including a FULL MARATHON, is going to be ridiculously hard and painful and downright terrifying at times.

But you know what? I am taking this challenge very seriously, and think I’m motivated and disciplined and and determined and just plain crazy enough to make this happen.

On that note, I thought I’d join every other running blogger and become a bit more consistent when it comes to posting weekly workouts. A large part of training for any race is consistency…and what better way to stay accountable that to share what I’m doing right here? So here’s what last week’s workouts looked like.

Sunday (4/7): Thai Kickboxing class, 10-mile bike ride. It was the PERFECT day for a bike ride, I couldn’t resist!

Monday: 8 miles, slow. And I do mean VERY slow…we had some unseasonably high temperatures here in New Jersey last week, and my body was SO not ready to run in 80-degree weather!

Tuesday: 5 miles

Wednesday: 3 miles

Thursday: Rest

Friday: A gross, rainy day, so I hit the gym I just joined that opened up around the corner from my apartment (Crunch Fitness). I ran there and back, and did a little speedwork on the dreadmill for a total of 4 miles, then did some strength training. I was reminded of just how much I hate running on the dreadmill…it really is pure torture!

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class
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Sunday: Thai Kickboxing class and 10-mile run. It was my first long run in my new Sweat Pink laces, the weather was perfect, and other than a nagging pain in my foot in the last few miles (details below) and some serious soreness in my legs from doing a zillion squats and lunges in my kickboxing classes, overall I felt great!

Thoughts for this week:

I think I overdid it a little bit. I’ve been training for the Asbury Park Runapalooza on April 20, and I’ve noticed I tend to panic in the final week or two before a bigger race and try to do everything I can to make sure I’m “prepared.” I’m still new to all of this and never know if I’m running enough, or too much, or too fast, or too slow.

I was planning to run a few half marathons this spring, and have sort of been playing it by ear since the Princess Half Marathon in terms of keeping my weekly base up and getting in my long runs, but without the step-by-step training plan I used for my first half — since I really was starting from square zero! — I’m still not quite sure EXACTLY what I should be doing in between races if they’re, say, three or four weeks apart.

While my foot was starting to feel better in the last week or so, I think the combination of the kickboxing (you know, slamming your feet against a giant, hard punching bag) and the long run in the same day — which I NEVER do, by the way! — caused me to injure it again, because now it’s sore in a different part on the top of my foot. Meanwhile, pretty much every muscle in my body aches from all of the kickboxing (my instructor decided it was muscle conditioning weekend, and I had my ass handed to me!) combined with running.

Needless to say, I am NOT a happy camper right now. I’m going to officially call this week “taper time,” spend plenty of time resting my stupid foot and possibly take my bike out for a spin…and cross my fingers and toes that I’m feeling better by the race this weekend. There’s also a local 5K I already signed up for the day after the half (I figured it wasn’t too early to start getting used to back-to-back races!), so if I have to back out of that, I will. If things aren’t getting better, I will stop self-diagnosing myself and see a doctor…promise.

How do you train in the last week or two before a big race?

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My Incredibly DOPEY Decision

So yesterday I did something crazy. Like, real crazy. WAY crazier than my decision to register for the Dumbo Double Dare, which I thought was just pure MADNESS at the time (and now just doesn’t seem so scary after all).

disneyprincesshalfmarathon1Yesterday, I got completely swept up in the excitement of Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. If you follow runDisney fanatics on Twitter or Facebook — especially as many as I do — you just can’t help it. I had been casually entertaining the idea of attempting a full marathon ever since I crossed the finish line of the Princess Half in February and proved to myself that I could make it through 13.1 miles without dropping dead.

Running a marathon, a FULL marathon, has always been one of those pie-in-the-sky, maybe someday, “you never know” type dreams for me. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a running newbie, and I figured that someday, SOMEDAY, I’d probably go ahead attempt a full marathon.

But there was one thing I did know for sure. I knew that if I WAS going to take on 26.2 miles, it was going to be at Walt Disney World. It just had to be. So I figured maybe I’d consider registering for the 2015 marathon…or 2016. Or, hell, 2017 — what was the rush?

Truth be told, when I read accounts of runners training for their first marathons on their blogs, I’d physically cringe. 20 mile training runs? Who has the time? Or the energy?

When I read countless recaps of this year’s “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge” — running the half marathon followed by the full marathon in the same weekend — I shook my head. What the hell were these people thinking? Were they TRYING to get themselves injured? Or killed?

But yet I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I was so incredibly, amazingly in awe of these runners. I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be a marathoner.

I knew there would be one minor road block standing in my way. I was absolutely, unequivocally terrified of the idea of running 26.2 miles. Who did I think I was even CONSIDERING the idea? A year ago I was struggling to finish 5ks, and I really only have a handful of distance races (10 miles+) under my belt…and now I’m sitting here fantasizing about running a marathon?

When I was in Disney World in February for the Princess Half Marathon, cast members were constantly asking me if they’d “see me next January” for the marathon. I would then proceed to laugh hysterically. “I’m not quite there yet,” I told them. In fact, I believe one of my first tweets upon hearing the news of the Dopey Challenge was something along the lines of, “good luck to everyone doing the Dopey Challenge, it ain’t gonna be me!”

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. Even just a little bit.

Yesterday, my mindset shifted. Big time. I wrestled with a giant knot in my stomach all morning, watching the clock for the 12pm registration time for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Should I register for 2014? Is it too soon for me? Will I be able to do it? Am I ready? Will I EVER be ready?

The answer? Who knows. Is there EVER a good time to train for a marathon? Will I EVER be “ready?”

There will always be work and family and responsibilities, and I couldn’t help but think that if I WAS going to do this, now is probably as good a time as any. I have a fairly steady client base of both editors and piano students, so while I will never get rich doing what I do, I manage to live quite frugally (I still drive the beat-up old car I bought in college; it has 170,000 miles on it for crying out loud) and also have some money saved up from spending the majority of my 20’s working and living at home with my parents. I don’t have children or pets or a mortgage, and I make my own work hours.

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: www.talkdisney.com

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: http://www.talkdisney.com

Most importantly? I’m 27 years old, and in the best shape of my life…no physical ailments or health issues of any kind (knock on wood), other than the occasional minor running-related injury, of course.

So yesterday I had to ask myself the question: Why not ME? Why not NOW?

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

I whipped out my Disney Visa (my poor, sad, TIRED Disney Visa), and registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.

But, wait, there’s MORE.

In this moment of insanity, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the Dopey Challenge. In its inaugural year, it’s a challenge to run not only the marathon, but also the weekend’s 5K, brand-new 10K, AND half marathon.

That’s a total of 48.6 miles. In 4 days. The thought still sends chills down my spine. And not the good kind!

Was it it a good idea for my health? My sanity? Maybe, maybe not. But…runners who complete all four races receive not only a medal for each race, but also the coveted Goofy Challenge medal AND the brand spankin’ new Dopey Challenge medal. SIX MEDALS. Can we say BLING?!

So I thought for a moment. If I was going to put my body through months and months of marathon training…why not go ahead and celebrate my hard work with the ULTIMATE weekend of running?

Why not aim high? Why not take this chance? Why not believe in myself for once?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not ambitious (and, also, just a little bit off my rocker). So…

DOPEY CHALLENGE HERE I COME!

I think what really sealed the decision for me is that I have truly gone through my whole life putting things off and doubting my ability to do what I wanted. “Someday” I’d “try” to be a freelance writer. “Someday” I’d “try” to lose weight. Of course, there was even a time when I told myself that “someday” I’d “try” to run a 5K…how long ago that seems!

I am TIRED of doubting myself. I am TIRED of putting things off. I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence and the courage to set a goal and then make it happen. I don’t want to “try”…I just want to DO. And I’d say this is a step in the right direction!

Okay, so who else is doing “Dopey?” Is it anyone else’s first marathon?

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Exciting Blog News: Sweat Pink and Versatile Blogger Award

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I sure did, because two pretty awesome blog-type things happened:

SPambassador4

1.) I was accepted as a Sweat Pink ambassador! It’s “where tough and girly come together at last” — so proud to be part of such an incredible movement.

2.) A fellow blogger nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award! Thanks so much, Andrea!

As part of the award, I was asked to share 7 facts about myself. So, here it goes!

1.) I am obsessed with all things Disney. And have been since…well, forever.

2.) I have two businesses: I’m a freelance writer, but I also moonlight as a private piano teacher, which pretty much means I work all day long…but I love what I do, so it never feels like it! Plus, one of the best bonuses of being my own boss means I can lace up my sneakers and go for a run whenever I want…I got 8 miles in this afternoon!

3.) I LOVE to read…especially true crime. Ann Rule is my favorite. I do like fiction, too, and when I find an author I love, I have to read every. single. one. of their books, and have effectively done so with authors like Kristin Hannah, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin

4.) When I’m not rversatileblogger111unning, I’m taking martial arts classes…I study both Muay Thai kickboxing and Taekwondo. So…don’t mess with me. (Kidding!)

5.) There is little that excites me more than scoring a good deal, whether it’s when I’m buying groceries or adding new tanks or capris to my endless workout wardrobe. I always know what’s on sale and where, and am never without a stack of coupons (or, of course, phone apps like Retail Me Not).

6.) I have a younger sister, and we used to hate each other…but now we’re BFFs. We are the absolute epitome of that thing moms always say to their kids when they’re fighting…you know, “someday you’ll appreciate each other.”

7.) I have had the same two favorite bands since I was 12 years old: Hanson and Third Eye Blind. I pretty much stalk them both whenever they’re in the tri-state area, so I’ve seem them in concert about a zillion times…in fact, I just scored tickets to Hanson‘s two-night event at Irving Plaza in NYC this summer! EXCITEMENT!

I also get to pass the award along to 15 of my favorite bloggers — fun! Here are just a few of the awesome bloggers I follow…it was SO hard to narrow it down!

1.) Running & Singing in the Park

2.) Running Coastie to Coastie

3.) Sneakers and Fingerpaints

4.) Keep Running/Keep Writing

5.) The Beginners Runner

6.) We Run Disney

7.) Back at Square Zero

8.) Hello Fitness…We Meet Again…

9.) Road Runner Girl

10.) Barking Mad About Running

11.) Run and Write

12.) Run Eat Repeat

13.) 2 Princesses on the Run

14.) Live, Run, Grow

15.) It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint

Here’s how it works:

1. Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post

2. Thank the person who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post

3. Share seven things about yourself

4. Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out these other bloggers…especially Andrea’s blog, I Run for Donuts!

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Spring Goals

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring — although at a chilly 45 degrees today, it certainly doesn’t feel like it! — so I thought I’d post about some of my spring races!

My toe (HOPEFULLY) seems to be on the mend…even though I stupidly decided to go for two short runs this week. I have it all wrapped up with KT tape like no one’s business so as to stabilize whatever muscle/joint I injured, and I’m hoping that by taking it easy for the next few days, I’ll be set for a long run this weekend…which I desperately need, because…

I’m registered for Runapalooza in Asbury Park on April 20. I’ve heard it’s a really fun race, and with plenty of spectacular views of the ocean as we run along the Jersey Shore…which of course was ravaged during Hurricane Sandy. The proceeds from the event benefit both the Special Olympics of New Jersey and Hurricane Sandy relief — I am SO in!

And, I mailed in my registration for the Superhero Half in Morristown on May 19 a few weeks ago. This is a race where runners are encouraged to dress up like their favorite superheros. ‘Nuf said.

Meanwhile, I’m still toying with the idea of running the Long Branch Half Marathon, but that would occur two weeks after the first half, and two weeks prior to the Superhero race…and I certainly have my reservations about running three half marathons in such a short period of time. Is this something people do, or am I just completely insane for considering it?

superheromedal

SO excited for this medal! (Photo credit: http://www.superherohalf.com)

I’ve also got my eyes on a few other races (albeit probably shorter distances) before taking on the Dumbo Double Dare in August…which I still have no idea how to train for.

Are any fellow Dumbo runners (okay, that sounds weird, but you know what I’m talking about!) doing anything special to prepare for the 10k half marathon combo that awaits us this summer? To be honest, I’m still a little fuzzy on how to train in between half marathons when they’re so close together…you don’t start a whole new training cycle all over again after each race, do you? Totally clueless here!

I know I haven’t been putting in the same number of miles as I was in the weeks before the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and I’m still figuring out the whole half marathon training process…so I have no clue what will happen in these races.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some best-case-scenario time goals in mind…but the only thing that really matters to me is that this is the first year I’ve had the guts to register for BIG RACES — that is, anything longer than a 10k — and I have to say, that fact alone is endlessly exciting to me!

What are some of your spring goals or upcoming races? I need training tips!

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Taking it Easy After an Injury

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend, if you celebrate!DSCF3166

I spent the better part of my weekend in Atlantic City with my sister on an impromptu girls’ weekend, eating and drinking WAY too much…which I then continued when I made about six million not-so-healthy choices on Easter. Needless to say…I’m not exactly feeling like myself today.

However, that could have a lot to do with the fact that I have been battling my latest injury since the middle of last week. And I have to say…I’m getting a little frustrated. And nervous.

I have a ton of lofty goals lined up for the spring, including a few half marathons and some local 5ks and 10ks as I gear up for the Dumbo Double Dare this summer, and I don’t take too kindly to any hindrance in my training plan.

I had been noticing a little bit of discomfort in my foot during my Taekwondo class earlier last week, especially in my big toe joint, but I chose to ignore it. Then I hobbled home in mile 3 after a planned 6-miler on Thursday, tore off my sneaker, and discovered that IDSCF3198 couldn’t bend my big toe upward without pain.

Of course, I Googled this phenomenon — the worst thing you can do when faced with any sort of health dilemma, IMHO — and I scared myself shitless thinking that I’d need special orthotics and 4-6 weeks of rest at best, and surgery and no more running forever at worst.

I can’t even explain the kind of panic that ensues when you read on-line accounts of runners who started with just a dull ache in their knee or foot or shin and then it escalates into a serious injury that has them hanging up their running sneakers for good. I don’t think I have to even say that I would be utterly and completely devastated if I ever lost the ability to run…I can’t even think about it.

So, long story short…no more Googling for me.

Instead, I decided to fight the urge to “power through it,” which is pretty much my motto for every curveball life throws my way, and follow the advice I have heard time and time again when it comes to running-related aches and pains and injuries. I did NOT pack my running sneakers for my weekend down the shore, or head out for a MUCH NEEDED pre-dinner run on Easter. When I wasn’t hobbling around doing everything in my power not to bend my big toe for fear of straining the joint, or laying around icing it for hours on end, I’ve been obsessing over my compulsive need to GO FOR A RUN RIGHT NOW and scolding myself for being “lazy.”

Fortunately, it’s feeling a little bit better today, and I took that (of course) to mean that I should try running. But first, I decided to finally give in and try KT Tape, since I’ve read about it on a million different blogs and have sort of been wanting to test it out anyway (not that I would ever wish for an injury to use it on, but you know what I mean).

2013-04-01 13.59.07I taped up my foot (although I later realized I didn’t exactly use the tape optimally after checking out how-tos on their website) and went out for an easy 3-miler today, and can tell you that KT Tape truly is MAGIC tape…it stabilized the joint that has been bothering me, and I didn’t feel any discomfort in my big toe or foot at all for the entire run.

I know I’m going to have to take it easy for a bit longer — and I will absolutely see a doctor if my foot doesn’t feel completely back to normal in the next day or two — but it felt great to get out there and run today…especially since temperatures are near 60 today, and it feels like spring may finally be here!

Do you have a hard time forcing yourself to rest due to an injury?

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Bulu Box Review and Promo Code — Get Yours FREE!

If you took a look through my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you would find tons of not-so-well organized health and fitness products, from snacks to supplements. I’m one to try pretty much anything, and in my quest to be as healthy as I possibly can be, that means I end up with a whole lot of products that I ultimately decide aren’t for me…and, unfortunately, that means my money pretty much goes to waste.

buluboxSo when I was contacted to be a Bulu Box ambassador, I was psyched! This is a company designed to help people like me identify the products that work best for them without shelling out tons of our hard-earned cash in the process. It’s touted as the first vitamin, supplement, and general health subscription sample box designed to help you feel your best, and because I’m now one of their brand ambassadors, I have a special promo code that will allow my readers to get their own Bulu Box for FREE!

But first, here’s how Bulu Box works: for just $10 a month, you get a box stuffed with 4 or 5 samples from top brands. As any health seeker knows, there’s TONS out there in the way of health products and supplements, and I can easily drop $10 on just ONE product — and if I decide it’s not for me, then I’m out the money. This way, your $10 covers a few different products, and chances are you’ll end up with at least one sample of a new product that you know for sure that you love before investing in the full-size version.

I received my first box over the weekend — love the motivational quotes on the packaging! — and here are a few of the products I received, just to give you an idea. Two of the products are all-natural sleep aids, and I almost wondered if somehow the Bulu Box folks knew that I’ve been having some issues sleeping lately! The box also comes with a booklet that helps explain exactly what each product is, how to use it, and how it can help you lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.buluboxproducts

The boxes will always contain a new mix of products for both women and men, from vitamins and herbs to energy products and sports nutrition supplements, and the samples are large enough for you to give it a try and decide whether or not the product is right for you.

The good news doesn’t stop there…shipping is completely FREE, and there are no shady contracts — if you ultimately decide you’re not into it, you can cancel your subscription any time. There are also a few different options to choose from: you can opt for a month-to-month, 3, 6, or 12-month subscription.

If you end up really digging one of the products you sampled in your Bulu Box, you can, of course, hit your nearest Whole Foods or vitamin/supplement store to buy the full-size variety…or, you can earn Rewards Points to cash in for your favorite products simply by visiting the Bulu Box website and sharing your thoughts on the products you receive. You earn Rewards Points (50 points per month equals $5) just for sharing your personal reviews and completing short surveys, and you can then trade those points in to purchase the full-sized versions of your favorite products via the Bulu Box website.

All sound good? I thought so, too! So why not give it a try? As a reader of The Final Forty, Bulu Box wants to invite you to get your hands on your first box completely free!

So go ahead and visit Bulu Box, enter your shipping information for the monthly subscription, and use coupon code BULUGAN004 for your free box!

Any other Bulu Box fans out there?

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