Posts Tagged With: bondiband

RACE RECAP: Superhero Half Marathon

As many of you know, I will take ANY excuse to dress up (and run!) in a ridiculous costume. So when I first heard about the DSCF3438Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, NJ, I KNEW I had to run it!

When it came to choosing my costume, it was no contest…I had to go with a Disney superhero, and race as an Incredible! I figured I need all the practice I can get for the zillions of runDisney races I plan to participate in, anyway. I scoured the Internet for weeks trying to track down red running capris, ordered a black Team Sparkle skirt (because, surprisingly, it’s one of the few colors I DON’T already own!) and I tried my hand at iron-on transfers for the first time (let’s just say…it did not go well) to make myself a sweat-wicking Incredibles shirt. I reluctantly cut two holes in an old, stretched out Bondiband to serve as my eye mask (AND keep the sweat out of my eyes), and then I decided to try racing in my new black Pro Compression socks for the first time, since they just so happened to go with the outfit anyway.

First things first. I woke up on Sunday morning to find that it was raining. I’ve never raced in the rain before, so I knew it would be…interesting. Based on some friends’ reviews of this race, I also knew going into it that it was going to be a somewhat hilly course, even though the race website described it as “mostly flat” — which I’m not quite sure is accurate. One of the course’s steepest hills had the paramedics stationed right at the top, for crying out loud! Trying to run to the top made me feel like I was actually IN a cartoon — you know, like when the character starts running and thDSCF3445eir legs are flailing around and dust is flying but they’re not actually going anywhere.

It was also a double loop course, which I’ve now officially decided I loathe…there’s something mentally unnerving about running past the mile 8 or 11 mile marker when you’ve only just started the race, and after I discovered everything the first loop had in store for me, I really wasn’t all that anxious to do it all over again!

I had planned for this to be my “just for fun” race, and I’m glad, because I definitely did NOT perform to my full potential (my chip time was 2:11). The fact that I’m still not fully recovered from the Long Branch Half Marathon combined with the rain and the hills and the fact that I once again (very STUPIDLY!) decided to attend my usual Taekwondo and Thai kickboxing classes in the days before the race did not exactly make for an easy 13.1.

However, it was still a lot of fun! I tried to relax into whatever pace I could manage (by the halfway point, I was completely ignoring my Garmin and just kind of going with the flow). I forced myself to chill out and enjoy the festive superhero costumes (I was secretly pacing myself with a Wonder Woman for the entire race!) and the not-so-festive rain and sticky humidity that was certainly keeping this race interesting, if nothing else!734267_3145089682661_410711098_n(1)

And it was great…now that I’m learning to give up the ridiculous notion that I can somehow magically PR in every single race, I’ve decided to practice learning how to loosen up and stop beating myself up and just enjoy the moment. After all, running IS supposed to be fun (sometimes)…right?

It was definitely exciting to see spectators’ reactions to all the costumes…they’re superheroes just for coming out to stand in the pouring rain to cheer us on, so I was sure to say thank you to everyone and give lots of high-fives! The kids especially seemed to enjoy seeing me as “Mrs. Incredible.” ;-D

My only complaint? (Other than the weather, I mean…which is nobody’s fault except Mother Nature’s). I registered for this race several months ago, and requested my t-shirt size on the registration form, as is pretty much the protocol. As it turns out, however, because I didn’t make the drive to Morristown (which isn’t horrendous or anything, but it’s still about 40 minutes away for me and really just didn’t seem necessary) the day before the race JUST to pick up my bib and t-shirt, I ended up with whatever was leftover on race day. I find that to be a tad unfair — I understand that those who register the day of a race end up with whatever shirts are leftover, but what in the WORLD is the point of asking us to request our shirt size when we register months in advance if you’re just going to hand shirts out to whomever happens to pick up their bib first? And they obviously didn’t order enough shirts in general because I heard the volunteers telling a bunch of other runners that their shirt size was completely “sold out”…but “here, how about a nice men’s size XL?” Absolutely ridiculous. I really liked the women’s cut, tech race shirts — for once, I knew I’d actually get some use out of my “free” shirt — but alas, the shirt size I requested was no longer available when I picked up my bib over an hour prior to the race…so I ended up with yet another too-big shirt that I’m never going to actually wear. Not cool!

The good news? Since this wasn’t a “push myself until I want to puke just to PR” kind of race for me, I had the opportunity to experiment with some new race day strategies. For starters, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been causing my stomach cramping in the latter half of a race, and I’m happy to report that my DSCF3452stomach issues were pretty much nonexistent during this race. I know it could just be that I slowed my pace down a little bit, but I also tried a few other strategies: I tried taking in more Gatorade during the race, but I diluted it with water at every station (which I allowed myself to walk through, for once). I also ate fewer Clif Shot Bloks (and later in the race) in case they’re actually causing me some GI distress and I just don’t know it! Based on the advice of some of you far smarter runners, I also tried to focus on any sodium imbalances I may have been causing, and snacked on pretzels and tried not to OVER-hydrate in the day or two before the half marathon.

Also…I have fallen madly and deeply and HOPELESSLY in love with my new Pro Compression socks! After reading nothing but rave reviews on some of my favorite running blogs — and given the fact that I’ve been having nothing but foot issues lately — I decided to give ’em a shot. And I am SO glad I did. I’ve worn them for a few shorter training runs, but this was my first time racing in them. I was having some leg issues during the race because I went in with them already feeling a little sore from Taekwondo/Thai kickboxing — like the GENIUS that I am — and my sopping wet sneakers didn’t exactly help with my usual blister issues,DSCF3462 and yet at the end of the race, my legs were feeling pretty good! Since I’ve heard they can help with recovery — and it took me several days just to be able to WALK after my last half — I decided to wear the socks for the rest of the day (after washing them…since, you know, the several other colors I ordered haven’t arrived yet!), and also sleep in them. I’m proud to report that while I do have a little bit of soreness today, given the fact that I practically ran up Mount Everest yesterday and my legs and feet are feeling this great means that Pro Compression socks are pretty much MAGIC socks…and I will never race without them again!

Does anyone else find racing in costumes as fun as I do? ;-D

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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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Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part one)

I’ve been waiting for a long time to be able to write this particular post: a recap of my very first half marathon in my very favorite place in the world. I’ve decided to split it into two sections because, otherwise, it would just be RIDICULOUSLY long…especially since I thought I’d share the finer details of our trip along with the race day stuff! I spent an unmentionable number of hours scouring the Internet for blogs and recaps of the Disney Princess Half Marathon while I was training for the race and planning my trip, so hopefully there’s something here that might be able to help someone preparing to become a princess in 2014 (or participate in any other RunDisney race)! Here it goes.

Our first night in Epcot!

Our first night in Epcot!

My “ChEAR squad” (mom, sister, BF) and I arrived in Orlando on Thursday morning, and after checking into our hotel room at Coronado Springs and freshening up a bit — I don’t even need to tell you just how drastic of a temperature change it was between New Jersey and the unseasonably hot, sticky, humid Florida — we headed to Epcot for the first of our pre-race festivities. I’ve found that it’s the perfect Disney park to hit when you only have half a day, because it handles crowds well and if lines are too long, you can always just hang out in the World Showcase! We had our “yay, we arrived!” dinner at Le Cellier — my first visit to the restaurant — and, of course, did a little light shopping before heading back to the room.

On Friday, I hit the expo (check out my recap here) while my mom and sister visited IMG_2495Seaworld (let’s just say my sister likes dolphins as much as I like Mickey Mouse) and my boyfriend alternated between enjoying Coronado Springs’ pool and helping me lug my expo purchases back to the room. We hooked up again in the afternoon to re-visit Epcot for missed attractions (we never made it on Soarin’ this trip because I refuse to stand in 60+ minute lines for anything and the Fastpasses were gone both days), but we did see everything else and enjoy Illuminations from one of my favorite World Showcase restaurants, La Hacienda de San Angel.

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Having a “wild time!”

Saturday was supposed to be a “relaxing” day, with a few hours at Animal Kingdom (the only Disney park you can experience in less than one full day, IMHO) and an early dinner reservation at The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary.

But it still occurred to me that I was doing pretty much everything wrong in terms of preparing for a half marathon. I was eating foods that were new to me (kind of hard not to when you’re not at home and cooking for yourself), my sleep schedule was completely out of whack from the traveling and park touring, the extreme humidity was making it hard to stay fully hydrated, and worst of all, my legs and feet were starting to feel a little sore from all the walking…even though we took things at a much more relaxed pace than usual!

Do I look nervous?

Do I look nervous?

By our last dinner before the half, I was a wreck. We hit the hay at a respectable 8pm that evening, but I don’t think I ended up with more than an hour or two of sleep before my alarm started blaring at 2:30am. I tossed and turned all night long, wondering if my training had been enough and whether I’d ever see that finish line. I even started mentally kicking myself for making a RunDisney event my first half marathon — with so many unknowns, it made it hard for me to relax and stop obsessing over not being able to finish the race.

DSCF2710But as I got out of bed and made my breakfast (I brought a mini-blender with me so I could make a smoothie in the room, my go-to pre-race meal!) and started putting on my costume — a lovely runner-fied version of this store-bought Ariel costume, expertly tailored by my sister — I tried to focus less on the enormity of what I was about to do (me, a former 260+ pound woman, running 13.1 miles!) and more on the fun of it all. I knew this race would be amazing and magical and everything I could ever want from a first half marathon, so I decided to make a plan right then and there that my one and only race-day goal would be to JUST HAVE FUN. I would stop for as many character photos as I wanted, as many fuel/potty/water pit stops as I needed, and just focus on FINISHING the race.

I headed out to catch a bus to Epcot around 3am, and luckily snagged one of the last available seats on the first bus (my family was going to travel to Epcot by car a little bit later on) where I munched on a banana and a Luna bar. I had purchased the race retreat when I first registered for the race, not really knowing what it was, so I headed for the retreat tent to nibble on half a bagel (NOT a tried-and-tested food for my sensitive stomach, but at 3:30am, I knew I had at least two hours to digest and should be fine) and enjoy some much-needed coffee.

DSCF2716I jumped in line for my first photo op of the day with the mouse from Cinderella, not knowing that there were character ops with princesses right outside, including the one photo I really wanted: Ariel. By the time I finished enjoying a visit to the retreat’s “private” port-a-potties and went outside to enjoy the DJ and character ops, it was almost time to head to the corrals and Ariel’s line was LOOOONG…so I only hoped I’d be able to get my picture with my favorite princess dressed in my costume (and, hopefully, with a medal around my neck) after the race.DSCF2745

Quick review of RACE RETREAT: Unless you’re going to attend the breakfast after the race (I did not) and celebrate with your fellow runners and/or ChEAR Squad members (Platinum level only), in my opinion, it might not be worth the price tag.

After making my way to the corrals and hitting yet another port-a-potty (at least I knew my desperate attempts to stay hydrated in the days before the race seemed to have worked!), I stood in my corral and tried to calm myself down. I knew I wasn’t the only one running by myself, but I seemed to be surrounded by groups of friends and sisters and mother-daughter duos and I suddenly felt completely alone in this — as I knew I would be. This was something I had to do for myself and by myself, but I was having a hard time enjoying the pre-race interviews and excitement because it was all hitting me: I was about the run the longest distance I had ever run, on very little sleep, in high humidity and heat that I hadn’t trained in for months. By the time the Fairy Godmother said the magic words and the fireworks went off for Corral A to begin, I was little more than a bundle of nerves.

727342-1003-0001sBut then I started running. This was really happening — all of my months and months of training were paying off. My body knew what to do. I forced myself to focus on the moment and what I was doing, and relaxed into a comfortable pace of 9:30, even though the sweat was soaking right through my tiara-themed BondiBand by the end of the first mile. I was jamming out to my RunDisney playlist and found myself grinning like a dork by the time we reached out first character stop: the pirate ship. I was under the impression that starting in Corral A might guarantee me short lines for characters, and that might have been true for the first photo or two, but as I kept stopping for pictures…with the princes, with villains, with Lightning McQueen, I already saw Corrals B and C catching up, and the less-than 5-minute character lines were already turning into 10 or more minutes each.

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As a side note: at the expo, I submitted my most recent 10K time of 56:17, which placed me in Corral A. I know there has been lots of talk about the overcrowded course and walkers/slower runners blocking the paths and people being placed into the DSCF2757incorrect corrals, etc. so let me just say that despite my ridiculously slow finish time (more on that later), I legitimately earned my place in the first corral…and, yes, I did use that extra time cushion to soak up a little bit more of the race day magic and stop for almost EVERY character photo and tons of other photo ops in front of the castle, mile marker signs, and other points along the course. I knew going into this race that there was no way I’d be able to maintain my usual 9-10/minute mile pace with so many Disney-fied distractions along the way, and I didn’t want to go home with my shiny new medal and an amazing finish time but know that I didn’t stop to enjoy any of the fun along the course. I wanted to do my best but still take advantage of everything a RunDisney race has to offer — mission accomplished!
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I was running from character to character, feeling physically great and mentally pumped, and having the time of my life. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I’d be running down Main Street, and I was getting closer and closer. I stopped for a potty brDSCF2761eak at the TTC where I began taking a few of my cherry chocolate Clif Shot Bloks — my absolute lifesaver during long runs, and quite possibly the only reason I had the energy to finish this race!

After passing the fifth mile marker, I knew my BIG MOMENT was almost here, and I saw several volunteers and fellow runners looking at me strangely when I started getting emotional when I saw the castle in the background from where we were about to enter Main Street USA from “backstage.” I was getting close to the halfway point, and even though the clocks on the mile markers were showing times that were SO MUCH SLOWER than I knew I was capable of running, seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time during the race reminded me of why I was doing this and just how big of an accomplishment it was for me to even be running this race…so I decided right then and there to continue enjoying the course and not to waste my precious mental energy obsessing over my finish time.

DSCF2766When I finally reached Main Street, elated really isn’t even the word to describe how I felt. I was struggling a bit to maintain my usual pace, so I had slowed down to about a 10-11/minute mile pace in between characters and water stops (I decided it was very important to keep stopping for water and Powerade, because this princess was NOT used to long runs in the heat/humidity!), but no matter what, DSCF2779_2I was DOING IT…and I was going to make sure I finished this race.

Before I knew it, I was running down Main Street, through some of my favorite “lands,” and then out through the castle. Of course, I stopped for a few photos with friends along the way, and I saw my “ChEAR Squad” waiting for me in the hub right in front of the castle. I put on a little show for them and then continued on to the second part of the race.

DSCF2777Quick review of CHEAR SQUAD: If you care at all about having those extra few photos in front of the castle, or seeing your family and friends in front of the castle, or really having anything to do with the castle, then ChEAR Squad is the only way to do so…all other spectators were relegated to Main Street.

Check out parIMG_3788t two of my race recap here!

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Recap: Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo

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Ready to get my shopping on!

I thought I’d start my Princess Half Marathon weekend recaps with a look at the race expo (if you didn’t see my first post-Princess recap, click here). Appropriately dubbed “Fit for a Princess,” the expo was pretty much the female runner’s heaven, with endless booths of must-have running gear and essentials along with girly apparel, sparkly jewelry, and plenty of other fun and festive accessories.

This was my very first race expo, so I feel I should mention that I really didn’t have anything to compare it to and pretty much had no idea what to expect during my entire race weekend experience.

That being said, I had read enough blogs and message board posts ahead of time to know that if I wanted a pair of those coveted RunDisney New Balance sneakers, that I had better get there early. I had already pre-ordered my Disney Princess Dooney & Bourke bag, so it was all about the sneakers that morning.

These lovely gentlemen were on hand to greet us at the expo.

These lovely gentlemen were on hand to greet us at the expo.

I had already changed my hotel to the Coronado Springs resort, which was hosting the expo this year, because I found a better deal through my annual pass discount than my original reservation at the Port Orleans French Quarter.  I was lucky enough to be able to wake up around 7am and take a stroll over the expo, where I was amongst the first 20-something princesses in line for the sneakers.

After the New Balance folks helped organize us into an orderly line and directed us to their booth, I spent about 30 minutes waiting for my turn to try on a pair of the sneakers…and let’s just say that I may or may not have purchased both models, with the justification that my size 10W feet were probably better suited for the wider men’s pair…but I really wanted the women’s, too!

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Yeah…this happened.

My next plan of attack was, of course, the RunDisney booth, where I was greeted with quite a surprise. It was 9:30 in the morning and the booth was absolutely and completely PACKED. I mean it, you could not move. I had to squeeze my way through what seemed a mile-long line of princesses just to LOOK at the merchandise.

Since I’m a crazy person and this was my first half marathon and I was oh-so-excited by all of the RunDisney goodies, my genius shopping strategy was to grab one of everything I MIGHT want, including the coveted “I Did It!” shirt, and then sort through what I was actually going to purchase while waiting in line (needless to say, I had some SORE arms the next day!). It wasn’t until well after 10am that I noticed that there was now a ridiculously long line formed by expo staff just let people into the booth, and I was almost denied re-admission when all I wanted to do was pick up my purse from the Dooney & Bourke table. CRAZY.

Found one of my favorite princesses at the expo!

Found one of my favorite princesses at the expo!

Then it was time to head to runner relations to get my corral changed, pick up my bib, my family’s ChEAR Squad gear, my race retreat wristband, my commemorative items — all of which required standing in separate lines, I might add — before jumping into the line that wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND THE EXPO for packet pick-up.

I was planning on catching at least one of the speeches by the likes of Jeff Galloway or Ali Vincent from The Biggest Loser — a show that I watched all throughout my weight loss journey, and that continues to inspire me today — but by the time I had all of my must-do tasks taken care of, it was too late! Now that I’ve been through the half marathon experience, I’m hoping to be able to chill out a little bit and participate in more meet-and-greet activities during my Dumbo Double Dare weekend this summer (hint, hint, RunDisney, I’m going to need a spot at the meet-up!)

By this point, I was absolutely exhausted. I never did stop for a cup of coffee as originally planned on my way to the expo, and my stomach was growling, so I grabbed a bite to eat at the resort with my boyfriend (who was kind enough to help me lug my purchases back to the hotel room) and then hit the expo again to browse some new-to-me vendors, like SportHooks for my awesome “Once Upon a Run” medal hanger and Milestone Sports Jewelry for my beautiful runner heart necklace and earrings, as well as some of my tried-and-true favorites: Team Sparkle, BondiBand, and my newest obsession, Raw Threads, who released the adorable Mermaid shirt just in time for me to pre-order for the expo (so that was one line I got to skip!) and whose shirts are the absolute SOFTEST and COZIEST material ever and now I want to buy one for every day of the week. I was also particularly excited to buy the special Princess Half Marathon BondiBands and the Team Sparkle limited edition princess-inspired tees!

2013-03-01 13.07.20

Some of my swag…

All in all, I spent a ridiculous amount of money — this running thing is still very new and exciting to me, and I couldn’t help myself — and while I will say that I wish the expo wasn’t so INSANELY crowded or that the lines just for essentials like packet pick-up didn’t go on forever (and ever…and ever…) it was still a great start to the weekend!

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Welcoming 2013 with New Goals…Not Resolutions!

First things first: for those of you who have followed me over the years, as well as those who are seeing this blog for the very first time, I vow to you that THIS will be the year that I uphold my promise to update more frequently! I’ve set a very realistic and manageable goal — two posts per week — and I’m sticking to it.

So here it goes.happynewyear

Although I love the idea of a fresh start every January 1st, I’m really not a New Year’s resolution kind of gal. Anyone who has ever promised themselves that they’d lose weight in [insert year here] only to find themselves back on the couch with a bag of chips by January 15th knows that it takes a whole lot more than declaring a “resolution” once a year to make a permanent lifestyle change.

I prefer to live my one and only “resolution” — leading a healthy lifestyle — 365 days a year.

However, if there’s anything that the last six months of 2012 taught me, it’s that consistent goal-setting really is EVERYTHING. And best of all, you don’t have to wait until January 1, 2014 to set new goals for yourself…you can do it all year round!

Early last year, I would describe myself as a recreational runner at best. It was something I did to exercise, and that was pretty much it. At that point, I had participated in a few 5Ks and 4-milers “just for fun,” and had to admit that the thrill of crossing the finish line was unlike any I had ever experienced. I couldn’t deny my growing desire to give running a real shot.

I wanted to try a real training plan and I wanted to learn how to get faster and stronger, but I still couldn’t quite deny that nagging little voice in my head telling me that I would ALWAYS be too fat to run.

So when I raced in my local Firecracker 4-Miler on July 4th and found that my finishing time had not improved one little bit from my first time running the race in 2011 (it was also my first race overall), I decided it was time to make a choice.

Was I going to be a “real” runner, or what? And if so…what the heck was I waiting for?

I had to set a goal. A real goal. One that I couldn’t back out of even I wanted to. And that’s why, last August, I ended up setting the ultimate goal: to run a half-marathon. And not just any half-marathon…the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Feb. 2013.

I paid the pricey registration, booked myself an on-site room on the Walt Disney World resort, started comparing airfare, and Googled like crazy to find half-marathon training plans and advice on how I was actually going to make this goal a reality.

In the last six months of 2012, I followed training plans from Cool Running and raced in a handful of 5ks, 4-milers, and a 5-miler — and, surprise, surprise — my times started getting better and better! I even participated in two 10Ks, and much to my amazement, finished both in under 60 minutes.

I began the year struggling to maintain a 10-minute/mile pace, and now I’m averaging a 9-minute/mile pace. In 2011, I was running a 40-minute 4-miler, and now it takes me about 35 minutes. My 5K PR once hovered around 29 minutes, and in October I completed a sub-28 minute 5K for the first time.

thanksgiving

I celebrated the holidays not with alcohol and turkey and sweets (okay, fine, there was SOME of that going on!) but by racing in “turkey trots” and “jingle bell” runs. My Christmas list consisted of pretty much nothing but running gear and accessories, from a Garmin Forerunner 410 to more BondiBands and Sparkle Skirts to another Spibelt and fuel belt for long runs.

Yes, that’s right…I’m even doing “long runs” now! I used to think that the idea of me running five miles was laughable, if not downright impossible. And now my long runs are up to 10 miles and counting!

christmasBottom line? I am absolutely, utterly addicted to running. And it’s because I finally mustered the courage to set a goal that I can proudly say today that I am a “real” runner.

Whether it’s a weight loss goal (say, shedding those few extra holiday pounds!) or a running-related goal (like setting a new PR), consistently challenging ourselves with new feats to accomplish is how we grow. And that is why I’ve decided to make it official and declare my top three goals for 2013:

1.) Cross the finish line of my first half-marathon. An obvious choice! Aside from my weight loss, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything this much. I don’t care how long it takes me, or if I have to crawl across the finish line…I WILL do this!

2.) Pay closer attention to what my body is telling me. This is a big one for me. In the last few months I’ve dealt with a few minor injuries that I know resulted in pushing myself too hard. I combine my half-marathon training with my Muay Thai kickboxing, and because my two workouts of choice happen to be very high-impact, I’m working on learning how to just let my body rest (without the need to call myself “lazy”) and to know when I need to scale back my efforts for the sake of my well-being.

10k3.) Strive for improvement, not perfection. I am notoriously hard on myself, so when setting new goals this year, I will focus not on being “perfect” but on recognizing and celebrating my own personal improvement. That means no more beating myself up at the finish line when I miss setting a new PR or other time goal, or berating myself for indulging in dessert or not exactly following the day’s food plan. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. And it’s time I start admitting it!

What are some of your goals for 2013?

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Dressing the Part: My Running Essentials

Unlike my Muay Thai kickboxing obsession (not cheap!), I assumed that running would be a relatively inexpensive sport. Sneakers can be pricey, but other than that, what else could you possibly need?

Oh, how wrong I was. Since I started running more seriously, I’ve discovered just how much you need to pound the pavement, from an ample supply of sports bras (lest you do laundry every single day) to gadgets to keep track of pace and distance.

Here are some of my favorite goodies, and other running essentials.

1.) Running Wardrobe

I have Kohls to thanks for my abundant wardrobe of running tanks, capris, shorts, jackets, pull-overs, and sport bras. I’ve pretty much become a walking billboard for FILA, which is the only brand I’ve found thus far that always fits me like a glove and, most importantly, is relatively affordable…especially when I have a coupon!

Though they’re not a sports company, per se’, I actually like Lily of France sports bras (also from Kohls); call me crazy, but I’m not a fan of uni-boob, so instead of the ones that squish everything down and make me look like a 10-year-old boy, I prefer bras like these.

I have amassed more running clothes, with tanks in every color of the rainbow — and pants to match — than I care to admit. Yet, somehow, I’m still doing more laundry than I have in my life! My workout wardrobe practically exceeds my regular wardrobe now…and I kind of love it.

As a bonus, it wasn’t until I upgraded my workout wear from $5 cotton tanks from Walmart that I started to feel like a “real runner.” There’s definitely something to be said for dressing the part!

2.) SPIBelt

I can’t believe I just discovered these! For so long, I was jamming everything from keys to money to snacks into my bra (super cozy, by the way), or simply neglecting to take my cell phone with me on runs (never a good idea), because I had nowhere to store my essentials when on-the-go. After Googling around for a solution to my problem, a blog by 30 Something Mother Runner turned me on to Spibelts — small personal item belts — and I am officially hooked.

They’re practically microscopic (when I first saw it in person, I thought it was some kind of joke), but they do, in fact, expand to fit quite a bit of stuff — even my clunker of a smartphone. Fortunately, my camera — also on the larger side — fits in there beautifully, so I no longer have to worry about how I’m going to capture all those magical moments when I run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February.

Best of all, it doesn’t bounce, move, or shift at all when I’m running…you can hardly even tell you’re wearing what’s essentially a mini fanny pack (but way cooler). Also, they’re affordable (around $20) and come in lots of different colors and patterns, even polka dots — my fave!

3.) Bondi Band

I recently won two Bondi Bands in a giveaway on Road Runner Girl’s blog, and just tried these out for the first time yesterday. To say I’m a heavy sweater would be an understatement — no matter what the weather’s like, I’m literally dripping wet at the end of a run, and I perspire more than any of the women (and most of the men, for that matter!) in my kickboxing classes. It’s gross. I’ve been wearing my RunDisney hats all summer (I may or may not have ordered all four…), which do have the added benefit of shielding my face from the sun while absorbing excess sweat, but the Bondi Band is truly the answer to my prayers.

It’s essentially a large, thin headband made of sweat-wicking material; like the Spibelt, they  come in all sorts of colors and styles, but the best part is that they’re super effective. It covers almost my entire forehead, which means no slipping or re-adjusting, and it was lightweight enough that I didn’t even remember I was wearing it — it’ll fit nicely under my helmet when I’m biking. Best of all, I wore it on a mid-day run on a humid August day, and didn’t get so much as a drop of sweat in my eyes!

I’m ordering more today — and they’re going to be a welcome replacement to the stinky old men’s sweat band I’ve been using for kickboxing class, too! I’ll just have to stick to basic black, though — the karate master would surely kick me out of class for wearing something like these fun and fashionable designs.

4.) Sneakers

Of course, there is no running without sneakers. Well, unless you’re one of those minimalist barefoot runners, I suppose (still can’t get on board with that one). I’m a size 10 wide, so when it comes to choosing running sneakers, it’s basically a matter of finding a store that even carries my size. I rarely have a choice of style or color…I’m lucky to find more than one pair of running sneakers in a wide-width in any given store.

I was wearing Nikes for ages, but finally hauled myself to my local running store for a proper fitting, and it turns out they were doing nothing for my pronation type — or, at least that’s what the sales associate said after watching me stroll around the store in my socks.

They carried precisely one shoe that would accommodate my massive feet, and I’ve been in love with Saucony ever since. I just got these for my birthday!

5.) Garmin Forerunner

This was my first real piece of running gear (other than sneakers). Anyone who has even the slightest interest in tracking their speed and distance — which is pretty much all of us — has to invest in one of these watches. They’re definitely on the pricey side (in the neighborhood of $200), but I’ve been using the 405cX for a few years now with no issues.

Short of counting laps on a track (boring) or timing yourself with stopwatches (tedious), it’s pretty hard to train for any kind of race, whether it’s a 5K or marathon, without tracking your pace and distance…or, even if you’re not training for races, just to keep tabs on your overall improvement. Some of the watches are even compatible with heart rate monitors, for those of us counting our calories in and calories out!

6.) Ipod

I can’t run without music. So last but certainly not least, I never head out for a run without my iPod. I don’t run in the dark, and I always try to stick to well-populated areas, so I figure it’s okay to jam out while I get my sweat on.

I’m partial to the iPod nano…pretty much because it’s small and has a clip that attaches right to my top, and don’t have to fuss with arm bands.
What are some of your running essentials?

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