Monday, March 31, 2014

The Odds Weren't In My Favor

At least not with today's run. But, I adapt, overcame, and improvised.  I got off work early today, typically I am at work until 6 on Mondays, but since I started school three weeks ago, I expressed my desire to get off early once a week so I can get homework done and have some extra "Me" time. Much to my surprise, I was offered to leave at 1. Today is the first day in a while that it has been not only sunny, but somewhat warm. There was some wind out there though. I decided that once I got home I would get situated, lace up, and try out my new Garmin. I had planned on running six miles roughly, to a friends apartment and back, but once I started going I could tell this was going to be a short trip. And it was, I was out for a mile.

What could have gone wrong:
New Insoles: In Florida at the Fit For A Princess Expo I got on one of the machines that shows how you distribute your weight. Turns out that I put all of my weight on the ball and the heel of my foot, meaning my toes gets absolutely nothing. Seriously, when I was standing on the thing my toes weren't even showing up on the reading. I went ahead and took the girls advice who was working the area and got a pair of Lynco/Aetrex Orthotic Insoles that are supposed to be good for high arches (you can see my arches over the side of some of my flats). Today was the first day that I ran with them. There is a raised support on these insoles that hit right in your arch area to support it, the girl that sold them to me told me there would be a transitioning period where I would have to get used to them, and she wasn't kidding. It just feels weird, not necessarily uncomfortable, but not fully comfortable either. It is more of a foreign feeling at the moment. I am, however, going to give them their fair chance, and in a month or so you can expect a full review on them!

The Wind: I ran into the wind today, I also pushed myself, pretty hard. I was trying to get a sub 12' mile once I realized I realized that this just wasn't happening for me. Did I mention there is a crap ton of pollen here just being blown around and thrown in my face?

My Lungs: The more I think about it, the more I realize that maybe running the Glass Slipper Challenge last month when I was sick wasn't the best idea. I don't think my lungs have fully recovered or maybe I have developed exercised induced asthma? I don't know, but whatever it is I was coughing the whole time, and still am. If this continues over the next week or so while I'm training I'll likely go to the doctor and see if I need an inhaler. :(

Down To The Nitty Gritty
So, did I meet my goal of a sub 12 minute mile for my run? Not quite. But, I did exponentially better than I have in the past. It's pretty amazing to see the difference that training (and not even consistent training) can do. Also, considering all the things going against me today, I was proud of my time. Running is a sport against yourself. I know this.

The Difference Between Runkeeper and Garmin
I know to expect a difference between two different pieces of technology. RunKeeper tracked me around 12:12 while Garmin tracked me around 12:25. Honestly, I'm going with Garmin's time. I'd rather go with the idea that I am slower than falsely think I am faster than what I am. It's 13 seconds difference, and I figure I can always make my next goal to be 12:12 on Garmin. I'm proud of both times, I'm proud of my run, I'm proud of myself.

So What Does This Mean?
It means, as always, there is room for improvement. There is room for me to grow as a runner and continue to get my time better than before. It means that by the time Monster Mash rolls around in October that maybe I'll be able to do a sub 2:30 half. If not, sub 2:45 is still impressive, running a half marathon in general is impressive, and I won't let anyone tell me otherwise. Especially when I used RK for the first time in a long time today and my pace was "4:39 faster than your usual pace for this distance". I'm getting there, slowly but surely. Every mile is another accomplishment, and every second off my time is another celebration.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Mind Game That Is Running and Making Big Decisions

For me, a large part of my problem with running can be the mental state that I'm in. If I don't think I can do the distance I have planned, I can't. Plain and simple, my head gives out, my heart gives out, my legs give out, I just stop. And for the most part, I know I can do 13.1 miles. I can't always run it in it's entirety, but I can do it for sure.

I've been trying to overcome my doubts, I keep telling myself that I want to do a full marathon within the next two years... I've been telling myself that for two years, guess what I still haven't done? Yep, you're right. Today I made a decision, by January 2016 I am doing a full marathon, at least once. Because come January 2016 I am doing the Dopey Challenge during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. To those unfamiliar with the Dopey Challenge, it's four races over four days. A 5k, followed by a 10k, followed by a half marathon, followed by a full marathon. 48.6 glorious miles of running. When I told my CJ (Brother Dearest) about it, the conversation went like this:

Me: I'm debating death by running in January 2016
CJ: hahaha oh yeah? Is that when you're gonna knock out a full marathon?
Me: ...5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon, over the course of four days in Disney. Dopey Challenge.
CJ: Jesus.. lol
Me: Right? But the bling! Six pieces of bling!

Little bit of information about my brother, he's two years older than me, and was always the more athletic of the two of us. He has also always been my biggest cheerleader. When I wanted to do my first half marathon, he was the one that would send me loving "nudge" texts asking how training was going. Yeah, he's the supportive without being over bearing type of brother. Especially since when he found out that half marathon number one was finished in 3:30, instead of telling me I was slow, that I could've trained more, or whatever else some people told me, his text read: "Congrats sis, I knew you could do it. Work it, make it, do it, makes us, harder, better, faster, stronger." Yeah, we have that kind of relationship.

With the decision made today, I decided that since there are still three half marathons, two 10k races, one 5k race, and one ten miler on my schedule for the year, that I would just start doing the "Beginner Marathon Training" On RunKeeper. And that's what I did. My "training" starts on April 7th and ends with me supposedly being able to go the distance on July 25th. I'm excited to see what my body can do, and just how far I can take myself.

How did you train for your first marathon?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The (Tentative) Schedule for 2014

I think I went a bit overboard this year, I went from doing 2 races in 2012, no races last year to doing 4 half marathons, 1 ten miler, 3 10ks and 1 5k this year. (As of March 29, 2014 at 10am). So what am I running?

Enchanted 10k - Florida
Disney Princess Half Marathon - Florida

Nike Women's Half Marathon - Washington DC

Zooma Half Marathon Annapolis - Maryland

Wyoming Buffalo Stampede 10k - Delaware

The Green Turtle Run 10k - Delaware

Disney Happy Haunted 5k Train Run - Florida
The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror Ten Miler - Florida
Monster Mash Half Marathon - Delaware

Monster Mash will probably be my last official race of 2014. I think I've shelled out enough money on races for this year, and this summer I will be forking over the registration money for next year's Princess Half and Tinkerbell Half. That's right! With 2015 I will be going Coast to Coast and checking Cali off my list of states for my race to 50!

Where are your running shoes taking you this year?

Every Once In A While You Have To Treat Yourself

Garmin Forerunner 210
And so I did. After a few years with my Forerunner 110, I decided it was time to upgrade. I started my research on a new GPS watch with heart rate monitor. I was torn between getting a new Garmin or trying the new on the market Tom Tom Runner. You can see my decision here. When it came down to it, while I liked the looks and features of the Tom Tom,  it is still new. And I'm sure once it's been out for a while I'll be excited to maybe get my hands on one and try it, but Garmin has never done me wrong. So I went for my old standby.

I really wanted the 220, but I have this thing called a budget, and I really only wanted it so I didn't have to plug it in to my computer and could just sync via Bluetooth to my phone. But really, that was the only thing that kept making me go "I really want that 220!" And logic outweighed desire.

I haven't run with the 210 yet, it just came in the mail yesterday and Friday is typically my rest day. Today it's raining cats and dogs so I'm letting my Garmin charge before I take it out for a spin and hopefully we'll have a reprieve from the rain in a bit.

You can buy the Garmin 210 just about anywhere, on Garmin's website they are running in the $249.99 bracket if you get it with a HRM, I found mine on eBay with free shipping for $169.99 brand new in box. Always do your research! Once I start doing some runs with it, I'll be more than happy to review and answer any questions that might come up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sparkle Skirts: First Hand

Find Sparkle Skirts at their Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Before arriving to the Fit For A Princess Expo I was unaware of what Sparkle Skirts were. Ali (who can be found on her own blog here) had mentioned then, but I kind of disregarded any idea of buying one. Once I talked to a few people and saw the product in person, I was interested.

Sparkle Skirts were one of the vendors on Ali's infamous list of people to see at Expo, up until this point I was planning on tackling the 10k in a Under Armour shirt and some compression pants and calling it a day. Upon entering the Sparkle Skirts area of Expo we were greeted by some of the most friendly staff I have ever encountered, seriously, they were genuine and took the time to explain everything that I had questions about in regards to their skirts. Our of the corner of my eye I saw this beautiful specimen staring at me, and I knew that despite my attempts on being frugal in Disney, I was going to have to try it on. 

Grotto Sparkle Skirt
I'm a natural redhead who decided to enhance my red a bit in order to portray Merida for the half marathon. Ariel has always been one of my favorite princesses sine she too had ginger locks, and there aren't that many of us. The skirt that caught my eye was the Grotto Skirt, I eagerly asked the girl if they were true to size and the response that I got was that though they typically are, she wanted me to try on my usual size, and one up and one down, just to be sure. The next part made me giggle: "Now, when you try this on, don't be afraid to jump up and down, run in place, shake it, or do whatever to make sure it isn't going anywhere!". I took the advice to heart and shook my groove thing in the little fitting room area. For me, it was true to size, in Victoria's Secret yoga pants I'm typically a large, along with FILA running shorts and pants, the same went for this sparkle skirt. 

The best thing about Sparkle Skirts? Unlike some running skirts that you have to throw compression skirts under, the SparkleTech skirt that I ended up with had them built in. No muss, no fuss. 

The thing that sold me on the skirt was the pockets. There are three in all and they are all on the large side:

The first pocket is in the waist band, it is 12" in length and zippers shut. With Sparkle Skirts they are designed to be worn with the zipper pocket either in the front or back, whichever is more comfortable for the runner. Even though I am typically a pocket in the back kind of girl, I went for the front approach for the Enchanted 10k. During the run I hid away a couple of necessities in my front pocket, drivers license, cash, and hotel room key. They stayed secured in there the whole trip, safe, sound, protected. 

Each side of the compression shorts house a 4"x5" open pocket. The whole race I ran with my cell in one of the side pant pocket. I didn't want to have to worry about possibly having my license or room key fall out when trying to get to my phone for whatever reason during the race, so even though I was a skeptic, I put the phone in a side pocket. 

Throughout the race my phone stayed put, right in the bottom of my side pocket, and didn't move one bit. It was snug, it was secure, it was stationary. 

After the race I was hooked, even though at first I was a little unsure of my new investment, I quickly became a fan. The SparkleTech Skirts have an inseam that range from 6" Inches for the Extra Small up to 7.75" for the 3XL, yes you read right, 3XL. That is the other thing that I love about SparkleSkirts, they cater to all sizes of women, because it doesn't matter your size, if you are working out you should be able to look good and feel good doing it. 

In Conclusion
I absolutely LOVED running in a Sparkle Skirt, and even though the pattern I chose is clearly themed towards a Disney/Mermaid theme, I have run in it since returning back to Delaware. I intend on expanding my collection of Sparkle Skirts, as they are worth the investment. To care for my specific Sparkle Skirt the directions state to machine wash cold and line dry. Easy enough!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And Then The Week Ended

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

My Alex and Ani collection that doubled in Disney
The original plan for our last full day in Florida was to head to Universal Studios so I could go to Islands of Adventure and visit The Wizarding World Harry Potter. Not everything goes to plan, after a look over of our finances and the bus schedule to Universal, we opted to take a bit of a rest day. After some much needed catch up on sleep (We both took NyQuil and just let it happen), we were ready to spend some time by the pool. And then we got out there, realized it was ridiculously hot and decided to come inside.

We had some time to kill before we headed back to Downtown Disney for one final huzzah and dinner on the town, so we took our time for the first time in a week and just went slowly. Finally we were on a bus and headed to Downtown yet again. On tonights menu was Bongos. Just like all the other food in Disney, Bongos was amazing. I had a margarita that was to die for and Cuban Style Milanese Chicken (Cuban Chicken Parm). I really could have gotten more adventurous with my dinner, but I enjoyed it.

After dinner, we finished up some shopping, I may have been slightly intoxicated thanks to my giant margarita, but Ali kept me from spending too much money. Then it was time to catch the bus back to Shades of Green to pack. Packing was the most horrible experience. For one, we both were leaving with SO much more than we had come with and for two, I couldn't believe that just as quickly as Disney came it was over. Our attempt to go to bed early that night was thwarted by distractions, food, and a $3.49 "cup" of Moscato. I forget what time it was, but finally we made it to bed.

The car was at the hotel around 8 am to pick us up for our flight, which ended up having an almost two hour delay, and just like that we were gone and headed back to Delaware. Both of us left to prep for our next race and look forward to our next trip to Disney in October.

Disney Princess Half Marathon 2014

Merida and Elsa
 Preface: Let the record show that I wasn't as trained for this race as I should have and could have been. For those of you from the Mid Atlantic, you know that it has been a heck of a winter, actually, as I write this it is snowing again here in Delaware. And for me, treadmill running is a form of torture. With that being said, I went into Princess Weekend KNOWING I wasn't fully prepared. And if there is one thing I know about running, it is that it is quite possibly the biggest mind game that you can play with yourself. If you don't think you can do it, you can't do it. And that mindset was kind of lingering in my head a bit as the hour approached.

The Morning Of
I'm pretty sure that my anal retentive tendencies in regards to time may have been a saving grace all weekend. I'm one of those people, if I know I have to be somewhere by a certain time I like to be early. And when I'm not early, anxiety sets in a bit. This can be great when you have to catch a bus at an obscene hour of the late night/early morning, but, I think there may have been times Ali wanted to kill me. Ali, if you're reading this, I'm sorry! At 2:15 my phone was going off. It was time to get up, get ready, get dressed, and go run. I slowly got together all my clothes, socks, spi belt, clif shots, hair tie, etc and then grabbed myself a little breakfast consisting of a protein shake and a protein bar. This race I was dressing as Merida, a more premeditated costume, that was ordered from iGlowRunning on Etsy, the intricate sewing detail put into my costume was amazing and I could easily recommend Wanda to anyone looking for a cute running outfit.

At The Start

With time to kill, Ali and I were able to go around and see everything that was offered pre-race. The DJ was doing an excellent job getting everyone pumped and ready to be there. We were able to pre-hydrate with water and Powerade while we waited to hike to our corral. Speaking of hiking to the corral, if you read nothing in this post read this: be prepared to walk about a mile to your corral/the start line itself. Seriously. All week we had heard people talking about the distance from the pre-race festivities to the corrals and start line and I thought they were over exaggerating. They weren't. I know it sounds silly for me to tell you to prepare to walk a mile when you're about to take on 13.1, but if you aren't ready for it, you can be taken by surprise. We got to our corral pretty early which was fine, it gave us the chance to get towards the front of the pack. It also gave us the chance to meet new friends. Ali found her "Sister". Seriously, a girl came up and wanted her picture taken with Ali since they were dressed as Elsa and Anna. It was adorable and made me wish I could find a bear to take a picture of as I was dressed as Merida. We also met up with another woman who later we ran into again and we're now all Facebook friends. Jackie, if you are reading this, Hi!

The Race Is On
It never goes as planned, you can have the idea in your head to stay with your running buddy, but realistically, you know it won't work that way entirely. Besides, Ali was considerably faster than I was and there was an understanding that though we are starting together, there is no commitment to stay together. That's what cellphones are for at the end of the race. The people you meet along the course are some of the most interesting, kindhearted people out there. A group of girls saw I was by myself and invited me into their crew at one point, and when I told them I wanted to try to run ahead after a while they had nothing but support and cheered as I ran away. Another group that I encountered had started as a husband and wife. Their goal was just to finish. They had done two Disney half marathons before and hadn't finished either of them. The husband was the most supportive person I think I had ever met, he was telling me that he ran one on his own and finished in 2:45, but he wasn't leaving his wife behind if they were together. They were following a run/walk, after results were posted I followed up on them. Guess what? They finished. 
Another one of my friends from back home, Rachel, was also running the HM, and when I got a text from her I decided to hang out and wait by the castle for her to catch up with me. Knowing I wasn't going to hit a PR or even come close to one, I figured I may as well have fun and wait for a friend. It was nice catching up over some injured running, me with my cold, Rach with some shin splints. After a while Rachel wanted to push herself and run the last leg of the race without stopping, we said our farewells and off she went.

That right there is a genuine "holy crap I did this" smile
I can't lie, at Mile 12 I was ready to give up. I was tired, I was sore, I couldn't breathe, and no where did I read that the last part of this course involved so many overpasses and exit ramps. I wanted to seriously just sit on the guardrail and wait for a medic to come and drive me to the finish line. There were tears in my eyes, and I was choking back a full on sob. And that's when I saw spectators. Let me just say, runDisney spectators are the BEST spectators I ever met. Seriously, they are sweet, they are kind, and they hold on until the last person crosses the line. Finally, I saw it glistening, shining bright, staring at me, taunting me. The bittersweet Mile 13 marker. I say bittersweet because, for me at least, whenever I see one it is a flood of emotions. All at once in my head I'm hearing "you got this" "only a tenth of a mile left!" "you've come so far" "you know this is going to be the longest tenth of a mile in your life" "don't get too excited yet, you aren't done".

As we made our way up to the finish line, I ran. I ran even though my lungs ached, I ran even though my legs were jello, I ran even though I didn't know how I was powering my own body. And after I crossed the line, smiled ear to ear. Even if you finish slow, even if your time is the longest you have ever finished a race (hi, that's me), you're still doing a half marathon. Or in my case, a Glass Slipper Challenge. Once I got my medals I shot Ali a celebratory "I did it!" text, and we figured out where we would meet. After collecting my post race food, we made our way to the buses to get back to the hotel.

After All Was Said and Done
Enchanted 10k, Glass Slipper Challenge,
Princess Half Marathon
Back at the hotel the plan was simple: eat something, shower, nap. Two days in a row of a 2:15am wake up call can lead to two exhausted princesses. So, remember how earlier in this post I made note about how I am slightly anal about time? Imagine the anxiety I felt when Ali and I overslept and could have possibly missed our dinner reservations. Yeah, it happened. With a quick phone call, Ali explained to the staff at Raglan Road about what had happened and we quickly got dressed and headed down to catch a bus to Downtown Disney. The staff at RR held our reservation and was incredibly understanding about the whole ordeal.

Dinner for me consisted of the most delicious bread with a Guiness dipping sauce ever, a house salad for an appetizer, Mammy's Roasted Chicken with mashed potatoes, and a side of cauliflower au gratin. Oh, and then a ridiculously large thing of to die for bread pudding. And I may have had an adult beverage with dinner. Once we stuffed ourselves we made our way around parts of Downtown Disney before finally heading back to our room for the night.

OH BY THE WAY: After an amazing time in Disney and my new found love of runDisney events, I may have done something crazy like register for the Tower of Terror 10 Miler, on the bus, back to the hotel. Yep, I'm headed back to Disney!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Enchanted 10k 2014: Glass Slipper Challenge

And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what it looks like when you put together all your stuff for a pre 10k picture the night before your race! Not featured is the DayQuil and Claritin. Oh yeah, I probably should mention that when we got to Florida I came down with a sinus and upper respiratory infection/illness/death, and yet I still had every intention on running 19.3 over the course of two days.

Cinderella and Ariel pre race

 Ali and I were up by 2:30 Saturday morning, on a bus by 3:15, and at Epcot by 3:30. Our excitement outweighed our sleep deprived state, and as people began to fill the area everything finally seemed so real! I must say, the intricate work and detail that some people put into their costumes was some intense dedication! My favorite on Saturday was Merida and a bear, yes, a guy dressed as a bear to run with a girl. It was adorable.

Megan, Ali, and myself
When we made our way to our corrals, Ali made the decision to drop back a corral to be on my level, and then we also met up with another one of our friends who dropped back to join our corral party too! The execution of how the corrals started was very well timed. For the 10k about every ten-fifteen minutes they would start the next corral. This eliminated congestion on the race course, and allowed for a pretty amazing opportunity. Given the fact that this was a six mile race, before we were even heading out the first finisher was starting to come back. The cheers that we heard were so inspirational and it made for excitement among all of us.

For the first part of the race we pretty much stuck together, Megan, Ali and I. Then thanks to my cold/sinus problems, I fell back and started a coughing fit. Can I just tell you that running in Delaware where it had been 26 degrees and snowy then going to Orlando where it was 80 degrees and humid was a fun/interesting experience. Running through the Boardwalk area and Epcot was awesome, it was great to see everything in the parks and the different areas.

Along the race course I came across a girl who had fallen, I wasn't going for a PR, I wasn't going for anything really, my goal for Princess Weekend was to cross the finish line. Anything else was an added bonus. Especially given that I could barely breathe thanks to whatever ailment I had come down with. I stopped and asked her if she needed help, turns out she was sixteen, and this was her first race ever. She wasn't even a runner, honestly. That was her father's passion, and he had run Boston the year prior and was near the explosion when it happened, she was running this race because PTSD was preventing him from running it. She just wanted desperately to get to mile five, around there is where her family would be.

It was appropriate, I was running Disney after all
I look at the running community as a family, when Boston happened our hearts were heavy. Boston is a long term goal of a lot of us out there. And the fact that something so terrible could happen to our little community, something that a lot of us use as an escape had been harmed. Being a Disney race, the quote from Lilo and Stitch played through my head. I "ran" with her for the extent of her time on the race, and when she got to the part of the race where her family was her father extended his gratitude that I kept an eye on his daughter. And with my teenaged running partner no longer by my side, I pushed to the finish.

I didn't stop for any character photos, looking back on it now I regret it. I wish I had gotten at least one picture with a character. But, there is always next year to get pictures with some princesses! As I crossed the finish line it was a moment of victory. I was excited to get my first Disney bling, and excited to find Ali to hear how her race went. And to get my hands on a post race snack box. After brief search, I found my travel buddy and we snapped a picture together! We were definitely both very excited to have our first medals of the weekend, and to get back to the hotel to get ready for our adventure in Epcot that day.

Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger

Pasta In The Park: A Run Disney Necessity

Ali and I before Pasta in the Park
February 21, 2014

Okay, okay, perhaps "necessity" is a strong word. Because, admittedly, Ali and I both were skeptical about spending $52 on a "spaghetti dinner". Even if it was an all you can eat buffet style, but, our shopping problem and excitement for the race got the best of us and we both hesitantly shelled out the money to be on the list. Easily one of the best decisions of the weekend. We chose to go Friday night as opposed to Saturday night working under the assumption that we would be better off having a late night the day before a 10k as opposed to a half marathon.

I wish I had gotten pictures inside of the event, I got too excited and too distracted by food. Also, let it be known that Ali and I were the first two people with purple wristbands on for PitP. That was one of the perks of getting buddy buddy with one of the Disney Event workers, who was incredibly informative and sweet!

Once we got inside we picked a table near the buffet lines, I think all total there was about 20 buffet tables. You never really had to wait in line to fill your plate, which was exciting and almost worth it all on it's own! Another perk of the PitP party? Character meetings. They had some of the princesses on hand to do pictures with the runners and their families and since it was a limited number of people at this dinner, the wait wasn't that long!

We met some really amazing people at our table, including a 63 year old woman who was training for her first half Iron Man. It turned out her and her husband had both run Boston before (a goal of both myself and Ali, one day, down the road, after a full marathon is done at all). Another woman was there alone, she wanted to do something for herself, and this was it. I couldn't imagine! I give her credit, maybe I'm too much of a people person and like to be surrounded by others, but I seriously don't think I could have done this week(end) without Ali. And finally, once again we found ourselves with Delaware roots. The other couple of girls at our table were University of Delaware students, and it was their first half marathon.

For your food you had pasta with either a red or alfredo sauce, chicken, and some fish, you also had salad, bread, and roasted potatoes, for dessert there was ice cream, and for some gluttonous reason I thought it would be a good idea to eat both a Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich and a Mickey Bar. Yeah, I don't know why I did that either.

Illuminations light show
After dinner there was another added perk! Everyone who attended PitP was granted VIP seating to the Illuminations light show! This was my first experience with a Disney fireworks show, and it was nothing short of amazing! The only downside was Illuminations started at 9 and by the time it ended and we got back to our hotel and settled it was already approaching the 11 o'clock hour. That normally doesn't seem like that late, until you take into consideration that we were waking up at 2:30 to go run. Well, you know what they say, you only live once. And we were in Disney after all. 

Conquering Disney World

I think I have managed to skip over the fact that this was my first trip to Disney! As to be expected, I was beyond excited. I'm a Disney Addict in terms of the movies, I have my favorite princesses (Belle and Ariel, and now Merida), I have my favorite movies, and I'm that person that will use Disney quotes and puns in inappropriate situations. I'm sorry, most people hate when I do it, I find it hilarious.

Instead of breaking up my posts about the different days spent in the parks, I'm just going to tackle the Disney Parks in one big post. So, if you are on this blog specifically for running, product reviews, or things like that, this is your warning. A twenty-six year old is about to get in touch with her Disney Geek side.

Day 1 In The Parks: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Rockin' Roller Coaster!
After we did the Expo on Thursday the 20th, we headed to Hollywood Studios. I absolutely loved the backdrops designed to look like you were in different cities. As you can see, I was geeking about being in my first park. The plan for Hollywood Studios was simple: ride as many rides and see as many attractions as possible before we had our dinner reservations at the Sci-Fi dine in theater. We got to HS around 2 in the afternoon, our dinner reservations were at 7, five ish hours would totally be enough time to get things done in the park, right? Right. We had a plan, and Ali a list of attractions that we needed to see and get done in our short span of time that we had in HS. But first things first, snacks. Can I just say that Disney food is amazing? Like, everything from the pretzels, to the ice cream, to the hummus, it is all amazing. Maybe it was because I was in the park and excited about everything.

Let the record show, never, ever, underestimate the power of two girls that are excited about everything around them and feeling the Disney Magic. Because they will find a way to fit in almost everything that the park has to offer in an absurdly timely manner. During our short stay in HS we managed to accomplish: The Great Movie Ride, Muppetvision 3D, Rockin' Roller Coaster, Star Tours (where I got yelled at because a girl could tell that I contemplated hopping a divider, oops), Tower Of Terror (my favorite!). Honestly, we lucked out with our wait times in HS. By the time we got there the Fast Pass+ for the day were all accounted for, so we used the Disney Experience Apps to try and plan out the best order to take on our attraction wish list.

We waited in line for about 40 minutes to get on Rockin' Roller Coaster, which gave us time to talk over the plan for the rest of the day. Want to know something exciting? As soon as we got off Rockin' Roller Coaster we headed over to Tower of Terror, where there was only a TEN MINUTE WAIT. you heard me right. Ten minutes. We waited TEN MINUTES. I can't lie, those two attractions were my favorite. The Muppets3D was cute, but I have been waiting to ride on Tower of Terror most of my life. As luck would have it, not only was our wait short, but we got to ride in the front row.

Sci-Fi Diner, photo taken from Disney's Website
After our attractions we headed over to the Sci-Fi diner. Would I recommend it to other people? Yes, especially if you are there with family and kids. You are seated in little cars that have counter space for your plates and drinks. During dinner they show cute short films from the 1950's. It is dark, and the waitresses have flashlights, I helped ours out with my phone flashlight. For my first "Disney" meal Ali and I shared Spinach and Artichoke dip as an appetizer, and for my main course I went with a Bacon Cheeseburger. I know, really exciting. I did, however, get a delicious Habanero Lime Margarita. By the time we finished dinner, the park was closed. It was eerie but interesting to see the park completely empty with the exception of a few lingering people that were also finishing up their dinner reservations. But, with an empty park and perfect lighting I did manage to score this beautiful picture of the Sorcerer Mickey hat. For a first day in the parks, we got a lot accomplished, and I was ready for a night of sleep before our second day in the parks.

Day Two In The Parks: Disney's Animal Kingdom and part of Epcot
Africa in the Animal Kingdom
Mickey Pretzel. 
Friday brought us on two separate missions: Animal Kingdom to start, and Epcot to finish. We mainly were headed to Epcot for Pasta in the Park. Remember how I said food in Disney just tastes better? Well, Ali's more convinced that Mickey shaped food tastes better. I figured I'd see if she was right. Taste tests conclude she might be on to something. I also may be craving a Mickey Pretzel as I type this. And I mean, isn't it adorable? While in the Animal Kingdom, we actually got to use Fast Pass+ for the first time! The attractions we hit in AK were: Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. We also got to see some of the bands that were playing throughout the park. Our stay in Animal Kingdom was short, and thankfully we managed to get out of the park before it started to rain. I know we didn't accomplish much in the park, but those were the three things that we wanted to do. And I ate hummus with veggies. DELICIOUS. Let's just take a minute to talk about how excited I was to be this close to a giraffe. I love giraffes. They're my favorite. EVER.
Dressed for Pasta in the Park
Giraffe, because, Giraffe. 
 As we got ourselves situated and ready to get on our bus, we started to get excited. The main reason we were going to Epcot on Friday night was to go to the Pasta in the Park event that is associated with many Run Disney Events. We also took this as a sign to get a little glammed up. Also: If you never thought about doing it, the best thing you can do when you are wearing a dress in an amusement park/anywhere you are walking a lot is wearing compression shorts under your dress. It can seriously be a life saver. You don't have to worry about an accidental flashing, it can also prevent any sort of chafing if you aren't use to the climate and are hiking around an amusement park with what would otherwise be exposed thighs.

AH! Spaceship Earth!! I don't know, maybe it's because it was such a long wait for me to be in the Disney Parks, but every little thing excited me. I was hyped to be on the Monorail, I was ecstatic to be in Epcot, even though we were only there for dinner, I really was just overly excited about EVERYTHING that was happening. I may have gotten a little teary eyed seeing what I had previously known as the "Epcot Sphere". I was feeling a bit emotional, and everything was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. So, with a little time to kill, Ali and I decided to walk around part of Epcot a bit before eventually settling in and waiting for the doors to open for Pasta in the Park. PitP will be a post all of it's own, because I have nothing but good things to say about it, but, afterwards we were able to go have a special viewing area of Illuminations. But again, more on that later!

 Day Three in The Parks: Epcot Part 2
Saturday after the 10k we went back to the hotel, got shower, got changed, and headed to Epcot. We had lunch reservations at Biergarten in Germany, I LOVED it! Biergarten is a buffet style restaurant that has live German entertainment. And to live up to the "Small World Feel", you are seated family style. Somehow, we ended up with people that had family from the same town that Ali and I are from. Cute, right? Anyway, the food was delicious, especially the bread and the cheesecake.

After lunch we headed back out into the park. I think out of all the parks Epcot might have been my favorite, or it is tied with Magic Kingdom. I loved the ability to see the different countries and cultures, and the fact that there were so many food options. Our attraction list in Epcot included: Maelstrom, Soarin', Spaceship Earth, and Mission Space. We wrapped our night up fairly early at Epcot, but made time to head to Downtown Disney before settling in our hotel with room service for the night.

Day Four in The Parks: Magic Kingdom!
Main Street USA
So, remember how I told you never underestimate the power of two girls who want to get things done? How about I top that with the fact that on Monday, Ali and I spent twelve hours in the Magic Kingdom. Yep, Twelve. Talk about getting stuff done.

"It's a Small World"
Once we got in the Magic Kingdom, we found somewhere to get Fast Passes for the day. We pretty much knew that we would be there for the entire day, we got there early and wanted to see not only the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle, but the Electric Parade. But, in the mean time, we had food to eat, places to see, and rides to ride. Our attraction list for MK consisted of: Astro Orbiter, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Haunted Mansion, It's a Small World, Monsters INC Laugh Floor, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Stitch's Great Escape, Swiss Family Tree House, and Under The Sea.

Unimpressive Dole Whip
Yeah, we were busy! For lunch in MK we went to Colombia Harbour House, which offered counter service. The food was reasonably priced, and pretty tasty too, I would definitely recommend Columbia Harbour House if you are looking for a quick lunch or dinner in the Magic Kingdom. For dinner we went to another counter service restaurant, Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant. I really was impressed with TTR, I had chicken alfredo and it was surprisingly delicious, and I can be a hard critic of alfredo. For snacks we ended up getting waffles at one point and Dole Whip.

Maybe we did it wrong. Maybe I should have gone with the original and gotten Pineapple on Pineapple, but I felt adventurous, I got the pineapple juice with orange sherbet, ice cream, whatever it is.  I just wasn't impressed. Maybe when I go back in October I'll try it again the "real" way, but it just wasn't doing it for me. Anyway, back to the good stuff. We did get to see the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle, and the Electrical Parade. By hanging out for the later parade and watching it in Sleepy Hollow we were able to get front row seating for the event!

 After the parade was over, the crowds cleared out and we were able to ride on several of the rides without much of a wait at all. It also gave us the opportunity to ride Space Mountain a second time for the night. Filled with Disney Magic and luster, Ali and I started to make our way out of the park for the evening and back to the Monorail. As we were leaving I started to get that feeling inside, I knew it was our last night in the parks, and that the magic would be ending soon. But, so far it had been an amazing time. The best part about leaving the park so late? No one to get in the way when you snap one last late night picture of the castle on your way out.

Cinderella's Castle at Night
Sorry for the length of this post, this was more of a "for me" post than a "for you", but I hope someone found this at least the slightest bit useful! Recap on Pasta in the Park, Enchanted 10k, and Princess Half Marathon coming soon!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fit For A Princess Expo

I lucked out with my travel companion. While I was the planner with things from the hotel room, transportation, tickets, flight information, and things that our hotel offered, Ali was the ultimate Disney planner. On the flight down she was explaining everything that we would want to see in the parks, what we would want to go to first in the Expo, and where things were that I wanted (you know, those Alex and Ani bracelets that I'm now obsessed with). Honestly, after hearing of Ali's in depth research about the Expo, I was a little ashamed of myself for not planning ahead. I mean, I am the girl that typically will study the menu of a restaurant that I know I'm going to before hand. What I'm saying is, if you aren't an Ali, make sure you're traveling with an Ali.

The night before Expo, we weren't quite sure how we were getting there. Our resort wasn't certain on transportation, nor was the Polynesian, which is the closest "Disney" resort to our hotel. So, we had decided that we would, if necessary, hike to the Expo by foot. Obviously we aren't always the most rational girls. Oops. Much to our surprise and delight, the next morning, there was a bus waiting out front with a sign that said "RunDisney Event Transportation". Yes!
Glass Slipper Challenge sign in front of the Expo

We arrived at the Expo right as it was opening, giving us the upper hand on all the official Run Disney merchandise. With Ali's list of vendors at the ready, we took on the Expo before we went about grabbing our race packets. The amount of money I spent at the expo will not be disclosed, however, I will present you with some pictures.

 Three of those shirts were included with the race registration, and the Merida inspired outfit came with me. Other than that, I bought everything else pictured. So, we can just sum that up to a Sparkle Skirt, four pairs of Feetures socks, a Sparkle Athletic shirt, three Sweaty Bands, a SPI Belt, some Clif Gel Shots,  Body Glide, and official Princess Half Marathon Weekend garb including a long sleeve tech jacket, a short sleeved tech shirt, one of the Glass Slipper Challenge Sweaty Bands (pictured below), a Glass Slipper Challenge Bondi Band, and a window cling (that has yet to make it onto my car). Yep, I went a bit overboard. 

 Three hours later, we were leaving the Expo, we ended up going back the next day. And I bought some insoles for my shoes to help with my running form. Overall, I was OBSESSED with the Expo. And it was an amazing experience!

Day One: Disney Princess Weekend 2014

This will be divided up into several posts, as this event was a HUGE freaking deal! This post will be the information about what I signed up for, our hotel accommodations, and the other random things that aren't actually race specific. We'll see how it goes.

On February 19, 2014, my friend Ali and I boarded a plane and headed to Orlando, Florida. After taking a year and a half off from half marathons due to unfortunate circumstances, I decided that I wanted to see what the hype was about. I decided to spend a lot of money and do my first RunDisney event! And what better way to do it than to go big or go home. $288 later, I found myself registered for The Glass Slipper Challenge. Which included a 10k on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday. 19.3 miles over two days.

Our stay was from 02.19.2014-02.26.2014, and while most people plan their vacation for a week before/after the event, ours was a Wednesday to Wednesday vacation. I can honestly say, I think I preferred it that way, and plan to hopefully do it again next year. With the way our stay fell we were able to do parks before and after the races, and had a day to kind of recover/visit Downtown Disney all over again. I'll touch on that later.

We flew out of the little airport in Delaware via Frontier Airlines and landed at Orlando International around 10 am. After much debate as to whether or not we should get a rental car (and by we I mean me, since Ali was 20 at the time of our trip), I finally decided that I would skip the rental and just spend the money to get private transportation to and from the hotel by Sunstate Limo. Smartest decision ever, our driver, Alfredo, was the most polite and informative person that we could have encountered fresh into Florida. He gave us all the tips and tricks about how to go about our stay in Disney, and the transportation from our hotel to the parks.

We reached our hotel, Shades of Green (SOG), about four hours before check in actually started, upon arrival we left the majority of our luggage with the front desk and explored the hotel. SOG is a government owned and operated facility. What does that mean? Only military members, retired military, and/or dependents with a military ID can stay at SOG. SOG offers a golf course, spa, on site ticket sales to Disney and the other parks in the area, two pools, an arcade, a fitness center, and a couple of restaurants. Oh! And Ali and I's favorite place in SOG, the AAFES. For those of you unfamiliar with AAFES, it's like a mini Wal-Mart/Target feel, but kind of nicer, and tax free. The one in SOG had food, liquor, water, protein shakes, bathing suits, Vera Bradley, some Disney souvenirs, and I can't remember what else. We probably stopped in the AAFES at least once a day for SOMETHING. It got to be ridiculous.

Pond area near the Golf Course, ignore the algae, apparently that's normal in Florida

While we waited for our room to be ready so we could get changed before heading out, we went to the Italian restaurant, Mangino's, for lunch. Best. Pizza. Ever. The girls at the front desk managed to get us checked in about 45 minutes ahead of time, and since we waited, they got us into a room on the fourth floor, garden view, right outside of the elevator. Definitely worth the wait.

Our room, with Ali unpacking in the corner

View from our room

And again, view from our room. 
Once we were settled, we headed to Downtown Disney to shop some and explore. Favorite store in Downtown Disney? Fit 2 Run! So many running things, so little time. I was overwhelmed and can't wait to get back to Orlando to visit this beautiful Narnia like place. We also grabbed a bite to eat at a wonderful place called Earl of Sandwich.
Thanksgiving on a roll. 
But after a while we headed back to the hotel to rest up, because the next day we were hitting the Fit For A Princess Expo!

Monster Mash Half Marathon // Dover, Delaware // October 20, 2012

Registration for this race can be found here

For my second half marathon I found myself in my home state, with the starting line just seven short minutes (via car) from my house. A couple of facts about this race:

  • This race can either be registered as a half marathon or a full marathon.
  • The full marathon is a USA Track & Field Certified Course as a Boston Qualifier. 
  • It benefits Wounded Warrior Project
  • 2011 was it's inaugural year.
  • Flat, fast course, seriously, there is minimal elevation along this course.
  • The First mile is around The Monster Mile at Dover Downs!
Now, to my second half marathon. Start time was 7 am, I got to Dover Downs at 5:30 so I could get checked in and start meeting some of the other runners. 
The ridiculously blurry picture my Mother took Pre-Race
I was more prepared for this race than my first one, I knew what to expect of my body at which mile markers. I knew that, even if I didn't feel like I needed to, I should drink at each water stop. I knew that I needed to stretch before and immediately following the race. I knew not to push myself too hard in the beginning and to try to keep a steady pace. 

Around Mile Marker 1.5, with my ankle tracker.
My legs are so pale. So, so, pale. I loved this course, I loved being near home and running roads that I typically drive on a daily basis. I drive along this pathway all the time, and I smile. Races can do that to you, make you happy. Even just the memory. 
Approaching the finish line

Overall, I loved this course. I loved the race, the organizers of the event, and the way they handled the after affair. For a small event, it was nice, with your wristband you were able to get one meal from the food truck, I opted for a burger and a Powerade. 
Cheesin' with my finishers medal

My only complaint about this race was somehow the year I did it, the people in charge of the mile markers dropped the ball. Only the first three miles were marked. Thankfully, I used my GPS app and was able to see roughly where I was. This past year I heard that they fixed that problem, here's hoping it's still fixed come October when I take on this race again. 

xx Heather