Posts Tagged With: disney princess half marathon

Weekly Workouts and 4th of July Racing!

Hi all! Sorry I was such a bad blogger last week, the days just sort of escaped me! But since we’re starting a new week (and a new month), I figure I’m due for a fresh start, anyway, right?

Photo credit: Christine "Hopper" Nelson

Photo credit: Christine “Hopper” Nelson

I already got a little bit of a head start on this week’s holiday celebrations; my hometown holds their fireworks the weekend prior to the 4th of July!

So, here’s what last week’s workouts looked like.

Monday (24th): Rest

Tuesday: 6 miles and Taekwondo class

Wednesday: 3 miles and Thai Kickboxing class

Thursday: 2 miles (this was supposed to be a rest day, but, I just got the urge!)

Friday: 8 miles and Taekwondo class

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class

Sunday: Thai Kickboxing class

Total weekly mileage: 19 miles

I was excited to get in my longer run this week, and surprisingly, I felt better than I thought I would. I’m still not loving long runs in the summer, but since my strategy for the Dumbo Double Dare is purely to finish and, oh yeah, HAVE THE TIME OF MY LIFE, I’m taking them nice and easy. I think my body is finally adapting to the heat and humidity in general, because running didn’t feel quite as torturous this week, so that’s also a bit of good news!

Firecracker 4-miler, 2011

Firecracker 4-Miler, 2011

Since my piano teaching schedule lightens up A LOT in the summer, I’m able to get to my karate studio a bit more often for classes. So I’m finding myself sometimes working out twice a day…which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing for now, but I know I’ll have to chill out a bit as Dumbo gets closer. Taekwondo is really an ideal cross-training activity for me because it forces me to stretch (good lord, how something can hurt SO bad and feel SO good at the same time, I’ll never know), but Thai can be really quite brutal on the body…and the last thing I need is an injury right now!

This week, I’m gearing up for the annual race hosted right in town where I live (and the park where I always run!): the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-miler. This will be my third year running. The first year was my absolute first race ever (I skipped the 5K distance and went straight to 4 miles for some unknown reason), and the second year was my wake-up call.

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Firecracker 4-Miler, 2012

I finished the race in almost the exact same time both years (and at over 40 minutes!), and last year, I had to ask myself whether or not I was going to commit to running and actually improving…otherwise, why waste the money on race fees? Just days later, I took a leap of faith and signed up for the Princess Half Marathon, and the rest is history!

So, needless to say, I’m hoping to crush my two previous times this year. I shaved 5 whole minutes off my time at the last 4-miler I participated in, but that race took place almost a year ago, so I’m anxious to see what I can do this July 4th! I know one thing for certain — I’ll definitely be more festively-dressed this year! (Hint: my race-day attire will definitely feature something sparkly…)!

I never, ever could have predicted that a holiday that used to be celebrated by stuffing my face with cheeseburgers and boozing in someone’s backyard would someday become all about waking up early to run a race! Who knew?!

Who else is racing this 4th of July? 🙂

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Getting Back to Business

731267-1049-0041sFirst, I want to apologize for being MIA for the past few days, and thank you all for your kind words and support with regards to the news I shared in my previous post. I really do appreciate all of your well wishes and words of encouragement, and they really have helped me a great deal in making this transition. I’m so incredibly grateful to be part of this community. So, thank you!

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I’d be lying if I said that my running has been a bit off schedule, at best. After taking on the Superhero Half Marathon last month as my third half over the course of six weeks, I decided I deserved a bit of a break. I was EXHAUSTED, and each race seemed to become a whole lot harder than the last. I’ve been keeping up maintenance runs — 3 miles here, 4 miles there — but my training plan has sort of fallen by the wayside.

However, my crazy half marathon streak did earn me acceptance as a Half Marathon Fanatic! Meet Half Fanatic #4358!734267_3145089682661_410711098_n(1)

Now I’m getting back to business, and have jumped right back on the training bandwagon to get my butt in shape for Dumbo Double Dare! I’m pretty much going to follow the same beginner plan as I did for the Princess Half Marathon (since we all know I don’t participate in runDisney races to set PRs), but I’m incorporating some back-to-back longer runs on Fridays and/or weekends to help gear up for running the 10k followed by a half.

As for cross training, I’m continuing with martial arts (Thai Kickboxing and Taekwondo) and cycling. I’m supposed to test for my gold belt (FINALLY) in Taekwondo this month!

Meanwhile, the thought of my impulsive decision to sign up for the Dopey Challenge is still looming over me. As thrilled as I am by the prospect of taking on my first full marathon — and, let’s be honest, scooping up so much runDisney bling in one weekend! — as the weeks pass, the thought of ramping up my training FOR REAL becomes more and more terrifying.

Deep down, I know this is something I can do. I know this is something I WANT to do. All I can do now is make a plan, get psyched, and hope my body cooperates when I begin my official training!

I also have to admit that I’m definitely toying with the idea of registering for the new Glass Slipper Challenge. Held on Princess Half Marathon weekend, the new challenge means I’d get to run the new Disney Enchanted 10K and the Princess Half Marathon (i.e. same idea as Dumbo Double Dare) in the same weekend. And, since the Princess Half was my fiHalfFanaticrst half marathon ever, I thought it would be pretty cool to make my triumphant return one year later to celebrate an anniversary, of sorts. It’s especially significant to me seeing as how I was CONVINCED that I’d never be able to finish my first 13.1!

But, of course, I realize it’s slightly INSANE to head to Disney World for for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November, the Dopey Challenge in January, and the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. Or…is it? 😀

What’s everyone training for? For all of you Dumbo runners (that sounds rude, but, you know what I mean!), how are you training?

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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!

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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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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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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?

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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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Fear of the Unknown

It’s hard for me to believe that it was just a few short weeks ago that I was terrified of not being able to finish a half marathon.

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A little preview of my St. Patrick’s Day race attire!

And yet last weekend I ran a 20K (which, come on, is pretty much a half marathon!), and yesterday I registered not for a St. Patrick’s Day 5K, but instead decided to go for a freakin’ 10-MILER: the Freehold Area Running Club’s 24th Annual St. Paddy’s Day 10-Miler. Because, you know as someone who is actually Irish, I feel it’s a holiday that’s worth celebrating with more than just green beer (blech).

And then I also just registered for another half marathon in May — the Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown — which, admittedly, I’m very much looking forward to because runners are actually encouraged to wear costumes. SCORE!

I’m toying with the idea of doing the Long Branch Half Marathon because it sounds like a great race — and who doesn’t love running along the shore? — but it’s also in May. We’ll see!

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here staring at my favorite race sites and actually having a hard time narrowing down the other races I want to tackle this year…I’ve got everything from 5Ks to halfs on my list, but I know I can’t do them all!

Well, unless I want to risk my legs falling off or — far more likely — going completely broke.

And then there’s a teensy weensy little part of me that is ever-so-slightly entertaining the idea of registering for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January of next year. Yes, that’s right. A year ago I was afraid of 5Ks, and now I’m Googling marathon training tips. I figure I’ve got plenty of time to train, right?! The only thing I don’t have is plenty of time to think about it…registration for runDisney races open up super early, and sell out super fast!

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Think I should run my Superhero Half Marathon dressed as this fetching woman?

Oh yeah, and then there’s the small matter of taking on Disneyland’s Dumbo Double Dare challenge (a 10k followed by a half marathon) in less than six months!

Even though I was less-than-impressed by my overall performance at the Disney Princess Half Marathon (recap here!), crossing that finish line in an upright position turned out to be all I needed to let go of my fear of the unknown. I was so afraid that my training wasn’t going to be enough, or that I’d somehow discover that I really, really just wasn’t cut out to be a runner.

I’ve spent a lifetime doubting myself and my abilities in just about everything — and running just so happens to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally — so I really struggled with self-doubt throughout all of those months of hard training for my first half marathon.

DSCF3043But as it turns out, all I needed was to prove to myself that I could finish that first 13.1, and now I’m chomping at the bit to put myself and my training to the test in longer distance races.

It just amazes me how I can waste so much time letting fear keep me from doing the things I want to do. NO MORE!

So…tell me about the races you have coming up! 😀

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Race Recap: Miles for Music 20K

DSCF3029Yesterday I took on my first 20K, and I did it for time — unlike my first half marathon in Disney World last month. It was a race organized by a local music teacher and runner that benefits music education in schools, and I thought that was a great reason to get out of bed at 6:45 on a Sunday morning — even after losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time! — and see how I would fare in a 12.4 mile race. I’m a piano teacher, and plus, I’ll take any excuse to race in a themed outfit/costume — even if I am the only one! — so I was looking forward to participating in Miles for Music.

After some issues getting out the door on time (because, you know, that’s new!) and then having parking difficulties — my tardiness meant that all the lots near the park where the race was being held were full, so I had to park at the nearby university and jump on a bus to the registration area — I made it to the start line with just minutes to spare. Note to self: Do NOT cut it that close to the start of a race EVER AGAIN; I was nervous enough without having to worry about missing the entire damn race!

As you may have read in my last post, I had signed up for the Miles for Music 20K with the strict intention of putting my half marathon training to the test: I didn’t get a chance to run “for real” in Disney World, so now I wanted to see exactly what I could do. I was placed in the first corral at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which was designated for runnDSCF3041ers who had submitted a proof of time that indicated finishing the half marathon in 2:15 or less.

Based upon my most recent 10K, I had submitted an anticipated finish time of 2:05, but photo ops and character visits — not to mention unseasonably warm temperatures — had caused me to cross the finish line in 3:30! I was determined to use this race as an opportunity to prove to myself that I could have done so much better.

However, since this was my first time running anything longer than a 10K for time, I was pretty much terrified of what it would feel like to run more than 12 miles without stopping — my long runs always include brief walk breaks and pit stops, but I try my best not to walk during races. I know there’s no shame in it; it’s just a mental thing.

When the race began, I put my race day plan into action: in my sleeplessness the night before (will I EVER reach a point where I can actually sleep the night before a race?) I had decided to try my best to maintain a steady pace that would help me reach my goal of completing the 20K in under two hours. I figured a sub-2 hour 20K finish would be more than enough evidence to prove to myself that I had belonged amongst those Corral A runners in Disney World! My normal pace is pretty much a solid 9-minute/mile now, but I know I tend to slow down quite a bit in the latter half of my long runs, so I also wanted to see if I could practice maintaining a steadier pace.

DSCF3043The course all took place in one park: we completed 2.5 loops. It was a really nice park and all, and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to know exactly what to expect in the second half of a longer race (read: I knew after the first loop that there would be NO HILLS to climb!), there are definitely some cons when it comes to a race that takes place all in one location. For starters, you get lapped by all the faster runners — yes, there were some crazy fast people headed for the finish line when I was just starting mile 7! — and secondly, the scenery can get kind of boring. Not to mention, once you know just how long it takes to run that first lap of the park, you might not be so thrilled about having to do it all over again. At least I wasn’t!

Anyway, the first three miles flew by, and I was maintaining a solid 9:05-9:10 pace. According to the 5K clock, I beat my 5K PR (27:59) by a few seconds, so I was feeling pretty good.

As I pounded my ways through miles 4, 5, and 6, I consciously fought to keep my pace to about 9:15-9:20. It was in these miles that for some reason, my right foot decided to go numb. Yes, that’s right…suddenly, I was getting these sharp pains in my foot, but there was no way that I was going to allow myself to slow down or walk when it was this early in the race. My left foot is a little sore after a long run from time to time, but I never had any issues with my right foot…and now I was dealing with this tingly pain that was making me EXTREMELY uncomfortable as I finished the first 10K. Admittedly, the time on the 10K clock did help brighten my spirits a little bit — I had beaten my last previous 10K PR by almost 40 seconds!

DSCF3047(Side note: My feet felt completely fine after the race, and my sneakers are only about two months old…any guesses on what could have happened here? And how to avoid this happening EVER AGAIN?)

Here’s where things got tough — in addition to the physical discomfort I was already experiencing, I knew the second half of the race — uncharted territory for me — would prove to be a serious mental challenge. I felt my energy levels starting to take a nosedive, so I reached into my Spibelt to cram a few Clif Shot Bloks into my mouth right before the first post-10K water stop.

I was planning to allow myself to walk through the water stops after the first 10K, but a quick glance at my Garmin and some simple calculations told me that I really didn’t have all that much extra time to play with if I wanted to finish this thing in less than two hours. So I changed my “walk through water stops” plan to a “stop briefly to gulp water/Gatorade if needed, but then start moving again IMMEDIATELY” plan.

I’ve already started to block out my memories of miles 7, 8, and 9. I had come so far already, but I found myself agonizing over just how much further I still had to go. My foot was really bothering me, and although the temperatures were great for racing (40s), the sun was shining and I was starting to feel pretty hot in my long-sleeved shirt. My legs had already been a little sore froDSCF3052m Friday night’s Taekwondo class, and now I could really feel my muscles tightening up. I tried my best to ignore the pain and instead focus on enjoying my race day playlist and keeping my pace steady — I had slowed down to about a 9:40 pace by the time I was approaching the 15K mark.

And then, finally, it was time for the last 5K. Every time I’ve done a longer race, I always take the time to reflect on how much I look forward to that last 5K — it’s a distance that seems so easy to me now, and yet it was less than a year ago that I ditched a local 5K I had signed up for because I was convinced I wasn’t trained properly and wouldn’t be able to finish it.

Still, the last 5K was brutal. I was tired, I was hot, and I was ready to stop on the side of the road, yank my sneakers off, and throw them in the garbage. My right foot was KILLING me, and I was so ready to be done with the race.

In fact, I believe it was in mile 11 that I started to seriously ask myself if running half marathons was something I REALLY wanted to do.

DSCF3053I kept pushing myself to go as fast as I could, especially since my pace was now averaging about 9:50-9:55 and I knew I needed to keep the remaining miles under 10 minutes in order to meet my 2-hour goal.

I wondered why I had willingly decided to put my body through this kind of discomfort, and started to doubt my ability to ever run anything longer than a half marathon…or if I even actually WANTED to run another half marathon.

The Disney Princess Half Marathon had so much excitement and fun along the course that I just sort of forgot about the distance…but this race showed me just how long 12+ miles can be.

But then I finally — FINALLY — saw the group of volunteers directing us to the finish line, and suddenly and amazingly and magically, all of the pain disappeared. I saw that the clock read 1:58, and I knew I was about to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finish time…and prove to myself that I most certainly could have finished my first half marathon in under 2:05. And as soon as it was over, I could not WAIT to do it again. Please, SOMEBODY help me make some sense of that! What kind of sick and twisted addiction is this?

I crossed the finish line, refueled with a soft pretzel, hot chocolate, and some Gatorade — LOVE — and took some photos with my race day swag: a baseball cap and winter gloves — which I also loved. Overall, it was definitely a well-organized event.

DSCF3080In closing, I assure you that I will not giving up on running any races longer than a 10K. After you stop running and the pain and soreness subsides,  it becomes abundantly clear why I cannot and will not give up on running future 20ks or half marathons — or maybe an even longer race someday, if you catch my drift.

Yes, running can be hard in the moment, whether you’re hobbling through a long run or forcing yourself to ignore your legs or your feet or your knees when they’re screaming at you to just stop running in the middle of a race. But I don’t think it’s any secret that the hardest things in life are, more often than not, also the most rewarding…and to me, running makes me feel as though I can do anything. My foot pain went away, and my sore, achy legs will eventually feel normal again, and then all I’m left with is this incredible sense of pride and accomplishment…and like anything in life, achieving your goal suddenly makes all of the obstacles and the hardships and the adversity you face along the way so very, very worth it.

Okay, so who has long race tips for me? Please tell me it gets easier!

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New Challenges, New Distances

IMG_4424Ever since I returned from my Disney Princess Half Marathon trip (recap part one here; recap part two here), I’ve been anxious to put my half marathon training to the test. As you may recall, I didn’t exactly perform at my best in Walt Disney World — namely, because I decided to make photo ops and character visits more important than my finish time.

I don’t regret that at all, but I almost feel as though my months and months of hard work in training for my first 13.1 will be wasted if I don’t give a “real” race a shot…that is, one where I’m not tempted to stop running and stand in line for a photo with a Disney princess every ten minutes!

I’m looking into one or two local half marathons later in the spring (April and May), but I really didn’t want to wait that long. Call me crazy (no, really, I have seriously lost my damn mind), but I just had to sign up for another longer distance race RIGHT AWAY.

So…that’s why I just registered for a race with a brand new distance (to me): the Miles for Music 20K. In its second year, its an event that supports music education in schools, and as you may know, I moonlight as a private piano teacher…so I felt the cause was definitely worth pushing my body through 12.4 miles!

Photo credit: Miles for Music (milesformusic.org)

Photo credit: Miles for Music (milesformusic.org)

Still, I’ve been mulling over this decision for almost two weeks now, constantly vacillating between the excitement of testing out my training on another long-distance event and the fear of falling flat on my face without those built in rest periods (read: standing in ungodly long lines for character photos) that the runDisney event provided. I’ve proven that I can run straight through a 10K, but I have no idea how I’ll fare in a race that’s double that distance.

I’m trying so hard to stop doubting myself, but I still can’t help but feel just a teensy bit terrified of, say, coming in last or, worse, not being able to finish the race. It is, after all, almost the length of a half marathon…and this will be my first time attempting to run such a long distance for time.

Photo credit: Miles for Music (milesformusic.org)

Photo credit: Miles for Music (milesformusic.org)

More importantly, I think the main reason I want to do this — and so soon — is because I have this incessant need to prove to myself that I could have run the race that I told Disney I could run when they placed me in corral A. My 10K proof of time (56:17) was good enough to put me in the front of the pack at a half marathon that included 26,000 runners, and yet my Disneyfied silliness on race day caused me to finish the race amongst the slowest runners and walkers in corral H.

I had the time of my life, but at the end of the day, I know I could have done better…and I want the chance to prove it.

I really, really want to see if I can finish this race in under 2 hours. I still hesitate when it comes to announcing time goals to anyone I know in “real life,” for fear that I won’t live up to them.

But I feel safe in announcing it here: I am running this weekend’s 20K race with the strict intention of a sub-2 hour finish time. Wish me luck! 😀

Have you ever run a 20K (or some other less-popular race distance)? Any tips?

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Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part two)

Just in case you missed my previous recaps from the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend: check out my expo recap here, and race recap part one here.

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When I left off, I had spotted my ChEAR Squad in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Now I know what they mean by the power of the spectator in a race, because it really did provide an instant boost that I needed to face the second part of my first half marathon. I stopped for some castle pictures and then waved good-bye to continue my journey.727412-1008-0014s

I will say that the second half of the race wasn’t quite magical as the first for me! Once we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom, I no longer had that BIG MOMENT of running through the castle to look forward to…and now that the sun was out (although there were plenty of clouds, thank goodness), the heat was starting to affect me more and more.

I continued my race day plan of running until I spotted a character I wanted to pose with, and vowed not to let myself stop to walk at all. I mentally gave myself permission to slow my pace down as much as I had to in light of the weather conditions, but I had worked so hard and trained for months and months to RUN a half marathon — and that’s exactly what I intended to do.

I’m proud to say that even though I was definitely tired, and did slow down through one or two water stops and took an unexpected potty break in mile 9 (let’s just say I was suddenly hit with some stomach issues that simply would not wait until I finished), I kept that promise!

DSCF2788However, all of my silliness and photo taking in the first half of the race had really started to catch up with me. The second half of the course is marked by some very narrow paths, and as I looked around at the runners around me, I saw that there were a handful of women who started in B and C…but a whole lot more with E, F, G, and yes, even some H’s, printed on their bibs.

I seemed to be the only A left, and for a brief moment panicked about spotting those dreaded buses that would whisk me to the finish line.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to time, and was pretty much only using my Garmin to gauge my pace at that point (I kept starting and stopping it for character/water/bathroom breaks)…so I was getting worried about just how far back in the pack I had fallen. My proof was right there in front of me, when I spent the majority of miles 7, 8, and 9 just trying to weave around the walkers and slower runners.

I can’t complain — it was my own fault that I was now amongst the slower princesses — but it was frustrating and pretty much impossible to “make up for lost time,” as I had hoped. I couldn’t quite find my pace as I tried over and over again to politely DSCF2787break through walls of walkers who, unfortunately, were taking up the entire path. Some of my more dangerous maneuvers included running on the grass, which was very uneven and muddy and I feared slipping or twisting my ankle…and, I’m not proud of this, but I definitely took on a few stretches of road in the oncoming traffic lane with several other runners who seemed desperate to get ahead of the pack — despite the warnings of the cast members telling us to stay on the other side of the traffic cones.

By the time I reached some of my the character photos I definitely planned to stop for, including Genie and Stitch, I knew that I could pretty much count on tacking on a solid hour to my anticipated finish time. The lines for characters were getting a little shorter — I think everyone was just ready to finish the race! — but it DSCF2795was still eating up some significant chunks of time. Worst of all, though, I found myself really struggling by miles 10 and 11, especially as we had to make our way over some hilly overpasses on the way back to Epcot…and I really, really just wanted to finish. I scarfed down the remainder of my Clif Shot Bloks in those last few miles, and that helped, and I felt fortunate that my body wasn’t aching or in pain. I was just tired.

I kept wishing I had gotten just a few more hours of sleep, or didn’t eat whatever it was that hit my stomach with a vengeance in mile 9. I cursed the weather over and over again for being so hot and humid, and I cursed myself for not incorporating more speedwork into my weekly training runs…I now felt as though I was crawling, and my Garmin showed me averaging about a 12-13 minute/mile.

By mile 11, I was mentally and physically DONE — so much so that I decided I wouldn’t stop for any more characters or photos. I kept texting my ChEAR Squad to let them know I was on my way, but that the heat was really getting to me. I argued with myself about stopping to walk a bit over the hills (in defiance to the the green army man from Toy Story shouting at us to “move, move, move!”)…but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Mind you, I was moving at a ridiculously slow pace (for me) at that point…but I just kept running.DSCF2799

When I finally saw the mile 12 marker, I knew I was going to be able to do this. The last two miles had taken a lot out of me, but with just over one mile left to go, I decided to push myself and pick up the pace as much as I could. Running into Epcot infused me with some refreshed Disney excitement, and even though I was struggling, I knew that I would be finishing my first half marathon in just a few minutes…and that it would all be worth it in the end.

727332-1150-0038sAnd when I finally saw the shiny “13” mile marker and the finish line in the distance,  suddenly, all of my physical discomfort seemed to disappear. I sprinted towards the bleachers at the finish line and started waving like a loon at my sister and boyfriend (I never did spot my mom!), and of course felt compelled to run over for a quick photo with Princess Minnie Mouse before hopping back into the throngs of people crossing the finish line for my ultimate BIG MOMENT.

Another quick review of ChEAR Squad: There seemed to be plenty of room for spectators at the finish line, but if you have someone in your party who has trouble standing for long periods of time (that would be my mom) or if you want those aerial shots of you crossing the finish line that can only be taken from the bleachers, you may want to consider the additional expense. My personal ChEAR Squad also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the complimentary beverages and bathrooms while they were waiting 1,000 years for me to finish the race!

I threw my hands in the air and finally, it was over. I had finished my first half marathon.

I thought back to all the training runs I had done in the sweltering summer heat or the pounding rain or in three inches of snow. I thought about all the times I was busy with writing assignments or too tired or not feeling up to running, but still forced myself to lace up my sneakers anyway. I thought about all the 5Ks and 10Ks I had pushed my body through in preparation for this very moment.

IMG_3960And somehow, all of those hours upon hours of pounding the pavement were made so very, very worth it in those two seconds I spent crossing the finish line.

Even though, as anticipated, my participating in the Disney hooplah along the course cost me A FULL HOUR of time, I have absolutely no regrets. I Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 12.21.25 PMwouldn’t have done this race any other way, and now I will forever have all of these photos to remember the time I did the impossible. The girl who was too overweight and out of shape to run a mile had just completed a half marathon, and I don’t care what the stupid clock at the finish line said — nobody can ever take that away from me.

A large part of the reason that I’ve always loved Disney is that, to me, it represents dreams. Yes, of course I realize it is, at the end of the day, a multi-zillion dollar entertainment corporation, but I do believe at its core that the heart of the Disney message is not being afraid to chase your DSCF2803goals…not matter how unlikely or “impossible” they may seem (everyone knows the famous Walt Disney quote about doing the impossible, right?!). I have spent my entire life being put down by others, and being told that I couldn’t be a writer or that I would always be overweight. It took me a long time to wake up and realize that none of those things were true…and that I had the strength inside me to pursue my dreams all along. I never could have known that, someday, one of those dreams would include running a half marathon — or that I would not only become a writer, but also successfully learn how to live as a healthy, active person. 727388-1012-0018s

That’s why I feel there was no more appropriate place to run my first half marathon, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to the serious competitive runner looking to PR because it would probably prove just a bit too darn crowded, I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon experience. If anything, this race has reminded me to stop doubting myself, and taught me the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone — and now that I’m no longer afraid of the distance, I’m already registering for my next half marathon (which I WILL run for time, to see what I can REALLY do!)

727340-1011-0027sOh, and after I was sprinkled with pixie dust and handed my very first half marathon bling, I did manage to get my photo with my favorite princess…and went on to enjoy a few more magical days in Disney, where I reveled in my accomplishment. I cannot WAIT to take on Dumbo Double Dare, and I’m already planning my next several RunDisney races — consider me an addict.

The best part of all is that now I KNOW I can do this…so there’s no stopping me now! 😀

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