Friday, January 23, 2015

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Starting line with fireworks
Next up in my series of Florida recaps is my Walt Disney World Half Marathon experience. This was most definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. So was my 10k race that I blogged about earlier this week, but overall the half marathon was even more exciting! The non-exciting part...the middle of the night wake up call that comes along with Disney races. I believe this day I work up at 2:53 in the morning, making it the third day in a row I was up by three. After throwing on my race clothes, along with some throw away clothes, and making some breakfast we boarded the bus to the starting corrals. 

After checking our bags and finding some additional Virginia friends we made the long walk to the start. I'm not really sure why they make you walk miles to your corral before they have you start a half marathon, but they do. On our way to our corral this day we spotted the BEST costume EVER. A lot of people come dressed as Disney characters. There are some really dedicated friends that put some work into these costumes too. My absolute favorite was this guy dressed as Peter Pan and then there was a guy with him completely covered in black. HIS SHADOW! So funny! As my friend and I were walking to our corral we wondered if the shadow would run behind him the whole time. 

Peter Pan and his shadow
Once we made it to our corral we still had waiting to do since there were a bunch on corrals in front of us. With every corral that started there were fireworks that went off. I was thankful when we started approaching the start. I was ready to start so that I could warm up. As our corral's fireworks went off we started running. Like the 10k, the half marathon starts off on highways outside the Disney parks. There is some entertainment the first few miles, but not much. There were some marching bands and volunteers cheering, and big screen playing some disney cartoons. Somewhere around mile two or three we were on an off ramp of the highway. This was terrible. Your legs are uneven and everyone is cramped together. I was not a happy person. Thankfully it felt like it ended quickly. Once we were back on normal ground we saw the pirates and their pirate ship and passed the Walt Disney World Speedway around mile four. 
Mile Four-ish!

I was excited about making it to mile four because we knew our friend Julie would be cheering around there. Races are so much more fun with spectators, especially ones you know. I was so excited to see her face when we found her! So exciting! She quickly snapped our picture and we were off again. 

We were now headed toward the Magic Kingdom. I was excited to get to this part because it would actually feel like we were running at Disney instead of just on highways. We ran down Main Street where there were tons of people cheering. That was a pretty fun part. From Main Street we went into Tomorrowland. We ran past Space Mountain, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyear, and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Next we got to run through Cinderella's castle. I think Elsa was there and I think she was making snow. It was very crowded and hard to look to really see. After coming through the castle we stopped to take our picture in front of the castle. After our quick picture we ran through Frontierland. This is where my friend and I separated for a little bit. I went ahead of her until I saw the 10k split mat and a water stop. After I ran through those, and was about to exit the Magic Kingdom by Splash Mountain, I waited for a quick minute for her to catch up. People were very concerned about my stopping, but I reassured everyone I was going to make it. 

After exiting the Magic Kingdom things get a little crowded. There are a lot of people in a little space. This was annoying, but also one of the highlights of my race. They were playing some music over big speakers. The song that was playing was Taylor Swift's Shake It Off. I sing all the time in my car, sometimes I sing to my running partner. That day I sang to all my crowded friends. Some people even joined me, and some other people danced while running. It made a more annoying part of the race much more enjoyable for me. Miles eight and nine are back on the highway and you pass The Grand Floridian and The Polynesian resorts. There was also a wedding singer on the side of the road. This part of the course had some people cheering as well. 

Everything was going just great during the race. The weather was pretty perfect, I felt mostly good physically, I was having fun, Kathy was great. Then came mile 10. I got mental. Really. My hip was hurting and there was this ramp. Similar to the early slanted ramp from around mile two, but this was also uphill. I was starting to lose it. I remember being mad at myself for not being able to get my mental game back together. On this ramp there is also a green army guy from Toy Story yelling at people, and making them do push ups. Not humane. Seriously. We finally made it to the top of the incline and ran the downhill, but I was upset with myself still. I struggled through mile eleven too. I knew I must have been looking pretty mental when Kathy started singing to me. Not something that would normally happen. I was grateful to have such a fabulous running partner. Mile 11 also included our last uphill which was also that stupid slanted ramp business. After reaching the top and being able to run down it, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. That might have also had something to do with the fact we were now at mile twelve. Only a little over one mile left. 

Mile 12
Kathy's husband was waiting for her at mile twelve. He had already completed his own half marathon much earlier. Mile twelve also leads you into Epcot. This is another exciting section since you are actually feeling like you are in Disney. This time entering Epcot we were right by Spaceship Earth which was a little confusing for me since that's also where you finish. I decided not too think to hard about it and just keep moving. I had a goal for this race. Well really I had like a multi-level goal for this race. I really wanted to beat my Pittsburgh half time, which was very possible but I was worried about crowds. I knew the whole race that we were doing OK and would beat it. As a second part of that goal, I also wanted to be under a certain time and knew pretty much the whole race we would be, but I was also getting mental about that during my break from reality a mile earlier. So once we were nearing the end I just wanted to keep running. That, plus there was a lot of professional photographers and I always like to look like I'm having the time of my life when they are around. 

Just before the finish line we saw the Gospel Choir singing. That was fun! After we turned the corner we could see the finish just like the day before. It was definitely a better feeling this day, though. I was very excited that I beat my Pittsburgh time by almost 15 minutes and had met my goal for the race. After crossing the finish line and collecting my medal we went to get ice. I needed some for my hip. This was quite the adventure. When they wrap ice on your hip, things get interesting. I looked like I had a saran wrap thong. 

Post race complete with beverages, medal, and saran wrap thong
Just like the 10k, I thought this race was awesome. Obviously I had a rough two miles, but they really weren't totally terrible. I was a little disappointed in the lack of entertainment along the course, but at the same time that's not really what completing a half marathon is about (to me at least). Mostly I am sad that my half marathon is over, and that I am not going to Florida for the Princess race in February. I need to win the lottery and just run fun races all the time. That would be the life.

Half Marathon medals

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Walt Disney World 10K

Friends, it's been forever! I have been so, so busy this month. First, getting home from NYC, then going back to school for a whirlwind three days, during which I wrecked my car in our first snowfall. Soon after that I was off to Orlando for six days for my races (and some fun vacationing), and most recently I have been playing catch up on school and life. I can't tell you how great my sleep was this weekend. It really felt like the first time in weeks! Apparently it wasn't enough because I was thinking I would be posting this on a Monday (like Marathon Monday), but really it's Tuesday. In any event, today I will be recapping the Walt Disney World 10K that I did on January 9th!

In all my Marathon Monday posts I never really mentioned that I was doing the Disney 10K because my bigger goal was the half marathon. When I originally half decided I was going to Florida this year I had only registered for the 10K. I wasn't for sure that I would end up going, so I decided the 10K was very doable if training didn't go well and it was a lot less money to lose out on if I didn't end up making the trip. I am happy I registered for this originally. I hadn't ever done an official 10K before, only lots of six milers in training, but 10K is just a great distance.

Virginia Friends
The Disney races start very early. We had to get on the bus at 3:30 in the morning! This means I had to get up at 3:03! This was the second in a string of mornings I was up by 3:00 and had gone to bed late. There was no rest in Florida. The bus drove us from Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we were staying, to the parking lot of Epcot where the starting corrals were. While we were waiting, we found some of our other Virginian friends and tried to stay warm. This included wearing a stained sweater and a garbage bag.

After waiting for the first few corrals to start it was finally our turn. A little over half of the race takes place outside of the parks, through a parking lot and on highway. The first mile or so was nice and open and we ran into Elsa who was on a bridge above us blowing snow and playing Let It Go. The next two miles were a little bit crowded, but not as crowded as I had prepared myself for. There are a lot of people that do the Disney races, so I was worried I would be getting run over, or that I wouldn't be able to move around. There was only one really crowded time I wanted to throw down on a lady dressed in full firefighter gear. I got over it quickly. The good news is that my friend and I decided to take it easy for the 10K and save our legs for the half the next day. I think this decision made it so much more enjoyable. It was kind of like we were just hanging out, doing a 10K.

The last three-ish miles are through Epcot and the Boardwalk area. It was so much more fun to be able to do this part of the race. It was still kind of dark when we entered the World Showcase part of the park. All the countries were lit up and Spaceship Earth was glowing :) There was also some music playing. This was probably my favorite part of the course. After the World Showcase we crossed over to the Boardwalk. I couldn't believe how quickly the race was going. I decided to stop at mile marker 5 for a picture with Nemo. There were some spots for photos with characters throughout the race, but they were always so busy. This was one of the only non-busy mile markers. Plus it was on the sand so I decided to stop.

Mile 5
After Nemo we only had a little over a mile left. We soon crossed back over into Epcot, ran across the park, around Spaceship Earth, saw some large Little Mermaid puppets, then turned the corner and saw the finish line. I collected my medal and my snacks. It was super fun to complete my first Disney race. Like I said I was really liking the 10K distance and our approach to the race. The first three miles could have been a little more exciting entertainment wise. Overall, though I really liked this race! I'm excited to tell you all about my half marathon experience next. Stay tuned.
Finish Line
Walt Disney World 10K medals

Monday, January 5, 2015

Marathon Monday

This week was weird. It was sort of productive, yet not. And also slightly painful. Not my favorite. I saved my long run to do on Monday since we were still on break from school. Within the first quarter mile I could tell that something was wrong with my foot. I was also just feeling a little sick. Not a good combination. I stopped to try to fix my foot, and it seemed OK so I went on. I decided very quickly that I would have a distance only goal that day, I wouldn't care about my pace. I was also worried about not being able to make it the full eight miles I had planned because of my foot so I did a lot of loops to stay close to my house. Thankfully, I did all eight miles, even if it was a little slower than usual.

After the eight miles I was really regretting things. My foot was not good and got progressively worse over the next couple days. I was in a little bit of a panic. I decided to take it easy the rest of the week. I did notice that my foot and walking was way better when wearing shoes. I took the rest of the week off from training until Friday.

Friday while I was in New York City, I decided that the weather wasn't looking so great for the weekend so I decided to do my last six miler in Central Park that morning. I was a little nervous about the whole thing, but at the same time I so wanted to do it. I knew I would regret it if I didn't. I was worried about the unfamiliar territory, big city, usual running problems, my foot, etc. It turned out to be a super easy thing to do logistically. I was happy for that. I was not happy about how surprisingly hilly the route was. It was still really cool, despite the hills, to run through the park. I started at the south end running clockwise on the Outer Park Drive Loop up the east side's rolling hills, past the reservoir and then up Harlem Hill. I had read about how steep Harlem Hill was, and it was, but after the reviews I was expecting much worse. I also thought the endless rolling hills of the east side and one or two of the bigger hills on the west side seemed worse. Still, I can't believe how hilly Central Park is. I just thought a park in the middle of the biggest city would be flat. Wrong. The second half of my run was down the west side. I looked at all the museums and also got another nice view of the reservoir. Toward the end I was ready to be done. I was pretty excited about finishing with a decent pace, especially with all the hills and the reviews I read warning people to expect a slower time than their typical pace. So my two runs this week total 14.22 miles. Not as many as I had hoped, but still OK considering I was a little hurt and traveling.

GREAT NEWS! This is the LAST Monday before my race!!!! I have been counting down until the Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, but I have hardly mentioned that I am also doing the Disney 10k on Friday. So this weekend I will do 19.3 miles in two days. I hope to live. ONLY 4 days!!!!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, friends! We are spending the first days of 2015 in New York City. Last night Matt and I stayed home and quietly rocked in the new year. We packed for our trip, watched The Wolf of Wall Street, and at midnight went through our bean pot. I think this might be my very favorite tradition that we have started on our own. Throughout the year we wrote down funny or happy things that have happened to us on little scraps of paper and dropped them in the pot. We do it independently, so neither off us know what each other puts in there. And a lot of the times we don't even remember what we wrote. It's fun! I suggest you try it for 2015!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014, In Review!

Oh 2014, what a year it's been!  We've had so many highlights. I went back through my blog to pick out a few of my favorites from this year. Enjoy this year's summary, and enjoy your last night of 2014!

A big theme throughout my posts from January, February, and even March was SNOW! We were lucky enough to enjoy many snow days last winter. I am beginning to wonder where they have been this school year. I hope they find us soon! During one of those early January snows I remember binge watching episodes of Orange is the New Black. I recently heard somewhere that Netflix is one of the biggest game changers of 2014, and I have to agree. Binging on OITNB and Breaking Bad were great breaks from reality. And our Breaking Bad finale party was a fun night to begin our fall.

Spring was full of big achievements! Matt graduated with his Masters in History from George Mason. It was a great celebration of a lot of hard work, late and stressful nights and weekends. Also in the spring, I completed my first ten mile race and half marathon! In the realm of big accomplishments might also fall my relinquishment of coffee, not to say there haven't been some cheat days :)

The summer of 2014 was my best in a long time. For the first time in a long time I chose not to work during my time off from school. We started the summer off with a trip to Dewey Beach for a few days. Soon after we drove to Boston to celebrate Matt's sister's wedding. The rest of the summer was filled with lots of funsies with friends around town and by the pool. I also very pleased with the amount of leisurely reading I did. There was also some time spent being tourists in our own town. Most recently, as DC tourists, we were able to get up close and personal with the White House.

Of course no year would be complete without our families or our friends. We had plenty of game nights and other events to keep us occupied on the weekends in Virginia. Visits to Massachusetts and Pittsburgh, or visits from our families, for holidays and other exciting times, are always our favorites.

Going back to school after a fun summer is usually a little bit of a drag, but this year I have had some exciting things going on to make my time at work a little more pleasurable. I was given my own classroom to use for my lessons! And I have also been enjoying holding some book clubs with my fifth graders. This fall Matt and I also found the illusive Bull Run Mountain and hiked to the top not once, but twice.

I am so looking forward to going through our Boston Baked Bean Pot tonight to find some more happy memories. I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us! If our plans for January are any indication, I know it will be a great year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Marathon Monday

My goal this past week was simple. Just remember to do some miles. I knew things might get a little lazy around here having checked off my last really long run, combined with winter break, combined with traveling for Christmas. Not the most motivating factors coming down the homestretch. Thankfully, I kept up with my training schedule pretty well.

Monday and Tuesday, while still in Virginia, I did two 5k runs around my neighborhood. While I was running I realized I hadn't done any short runs in my neighborhood in forever because of daylight savings time. It was nice to be done so quickly compared to my weekend long runs. Wednesday I took a walk around my parents' neighborhood with my mom. This is when I was seriously thankful I don't have to do training in Pittsburgh. The hills are ridiculous.

On Friday I wanted to do four miles, but the thought of having to run the hills in my parents' neighborhood was way too much to handle. I dragged my mom and Matt to the Franklin Regional High School track to make things manageable, and reminisce about the class of 2002 (kidding). After about five laps on the track, things got boring. I then decided to 'run the complex' (a favorite of any former FR Lady Panther, kidding again) to get a little variety in my life. After my second mile around, I opted to finish out on the flat track. I ended my 13.51 miles for the week with a walk to the grocery store on Saturday afternoon. I can't believe how quickly time is passing, time off work will do that. Only 11 days until the half marathon, and less than that until Florida!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Recipe of the Week!

Bacon Wrapped Dates
Matt and I made these little treats after being inspired by a night out at Founding Farmers. We ordered them as an appetizer and decided they could be easily replicated at home. We made ours without almonds, but I recently had some at a Christmas party with almonds, and they were good as well. These are super easy to make, and are a nice addition to any party. It's also something a little different than the usual party food.

12 pitted dates
12 pieces cream cheese (I cut the cream cut to match the size of the dates)
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise in half
12 almonds (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Stuff 1 piece of cream cheese and 1 almond (optional) into each date, then wrap one piece of bacon around each date. Arrange dates, bacon seam down, on a shallow baking pan.

Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper towel.