Saturday, May 14, 2011

5.14.2011-Expedition Everest Challenge race report

First off, I have to say I LOVED this event. Yes, it’s just a 5K (and one that cost $95 to boot!) but the theming, obstacles and scavenger hunt turned the “just a 5K” into a really fun event that I’ll definitely be going back for again.

I left Friday morning before the sun came up (trying to miss all those icky lovebugs that like to get smushed all over the car this time of year) and so I arrived early enough to check in to my room and grab a snack before heading over to packet pickup when it opened. No fancy expo...even the outdoor tents they had set up had to be taken down as a storm was rolling in so they moved the tables into the stadium breezeways at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There was a big board set up before you went inside where you could check for your bib, I knew I was going to be in wave 1 since I was doing the race as an individual and we got to start before the teams...but I didn’t know I’d be bib #95. My number was even lower than my (MUCH) faster ROTE friends that were I got a kick out of that, ‘cause you know for a normal Disney race with normal corrals I’m never going to have that low of a number-let alone be in the first wave of runners LOL. Pickup was quick and after I went back to my room for a nap while the storm passed, then met a ROTEr over a Epcot to wander around and watch Illuminations (thanks Dan!).

Saturday I decided to sleep in, then had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the pool for a couple of hours of relaxation. Met up with Dan and Tricia (with her cute twin sons) for a late lunch/early dinner over at Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom. Afterward, Dan and I headed over to the race staging area to hang out and look out for other ROTErs. We finally found Megan who was there with her family and then Steve. Eventually it was time to line up so we headed for the front of the corral where I took a picture of the start sign with the “wave 1” sign for posterity (HA!). In the corral we met Monica, then Dan left us to move up closer to the front-since ya know he was going to be a heck of a lot faster ;-) and then we were off. And I of course went out too fast and had to walk a bit more than I wanted to during the first mile. Our first obstacle were lines of hay bales (maybe 3 or 4 sets) that we had to jump over like hurdles. I must have looked a sight doing that as I could feel my legs flying out to the sides as I jumped. At least the pic they got of me during that part looked mostly normal.

We went back through the park and out through a backstage area to a turnaround point after which came our second obstacle-rows of tires on the ground (again 3 or 4 rows) that we had to navigate through (though some people were just hurdling over them like the hay bales). Made it through, saw only one person fall. Back in the park for a bit, then backstage to our way back out where the last obstacle was. For the last one, we had a choice--go up and over one of those rope net tent-shaped climbing things, crawl under a rope net that was about a foot above the ground...or you could go around both. I was not about to do the crawl one-it was through a ton of loose dirt and I could see the kids that were doing it were coming out filthy (no thanks, that’ll be me if I ever agree to a mud run). I was going to do the climb one, but it was filled with people and I would have had to wait to take a turn...and so I just went around...which was hard to run through since it was all loose dirt too so I just walked as fast as I could through it. Right after that was the finish to the 5K portion.

As we finished through there were volunteers handing out our first clue, a small flashlight and mini-marker to write our answers on the clue cards. On the cards was listed the location where we were to show our answers, so since mine said Oasis-Palms, I headed for The Oasis which is the first set of animals after you get in the park. But I couldn’t find where to go. After wasting about 15-20 minutes going back and forth between the entrance and almost to the big tree, I found out the station was BEFORE you went in the park. Nice. So I went back out, found my area, and tried to figure out my clue...finally got it with some help from the volunteer who then gave me my next clue.

Off to Camp Minnie-Mickey I went...with another really hard clue that I couldn’t figure out how to start...turned out to be a substitution code to figure out the answer (again got help from the volunteer).

Got my next card which sent me to Africa...easy clue this time, just elongated letters and had to figure out what the word said.

Quickly got my next clue and ran all the way to Asia with it, another really easy one.

Got my final clue which stumped me at first but with a little hint from a volunteer (who was enthusiastically going from person to person trying to help as many people out as he could) got it done and raced over to the finish.

After navigating the medal line (crush of people, not enough space for the crowds that were coming through at the same time I was) and getting snacks (Powerade, bananas, Clif bars and huge liter-sized bottles of water), met up with Steve and we walked over to Dinoland USA where we met up with Dan and eventually Becky. Found out that Becky finished second in the individual female category and Dan finished fourth for individual males---Congratulations!! Got a picture with Mickey and Minnie-line moved pretty quickly, only had to wait maybe five minutes, then we headed over to ride Expedition Everest (WAY cool to ride in the dark!). After that I was pretty tired so headed back to my room.

I was not last...I finished 183 out of 193 for the individual female women. Would have been a lot better if I’d known where to go to turn in that first clue. My 5K time was 47:17, about average for me right now for a 5K but considering there were obstacles as well, even better I guess (I’m actually better on pace for longer races, go figure) and my scavenger hunt time was 53:30 for a total of 1:40:46. Which I’m fine with since this was my first time and I wasn’t sure how everything would be set up. Now I know to keep an eye out for clue stations right away and not assume they’ll all be in the park itself (*kicking myself for that one*) and I have a better idea of what to expect...because I will certainly be returning to do this again, whether by myself or teamed up with someone. I really enjoyed this event and would definitely recommend it to others. Plus getting to hang out in Animal Kingdom after dark when the park normally closes around sunset was a nice perk.

Next up, Weston Memorial Day 5K...another walk-to-the-start-line-from-my-house race.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

4.17.2011-My Favorite Things-Gear Talk Part 2

So, on one wrist I’ve got my fantastic Garmin 305. On my other is something more important (though not quite as tech-cool-fun) RoadID. While my Garmin is my favorite and one of my most useful pieces of gear, my RoadID is the most important for safety. It has my name, city and state plus the names and phone numbers of my 3 emergency contacts in case something should happen while I’m out logging miles. I’ve also got a “motto” on it-”Making it Happen!” It fastens around my wrist with velcro (have I ever mentioned how much I love velcro?) and I got it in basic black since that would match everything. It also has reflective stitching to up the safety factor when running while it’s dark out. If you’re not a fan of wearing something on your wrist, they also have ankle ones, dog tags and ones to go on your shoe. I picked the wrist one since a) I’m used to wearing things on my wrist anyway, and b) I’ve heard stories about people being hit by cars where they were knocked out of their a shoe one wouldn’t really help if the shoes were missing. Interested in one? Check out .

Another item I have for safety is my headlamp. I haven’t used it much since I’m normally doing miles while the sun is out, but with the sweltering SoFla summer almost here, I know I’ll be waiting for the sun to set before heading out during my summer training runs so I’ll probably be using it more. Mine is made by Eveready and I picked it up for somewhere around $15 at Walgreens. It has really bright LED lights and 4 settings-area, spot, flood and red lights for night vision (pretty cool but I haven’t found a reason to use the red ones). It has an elastic headband that just goes around the head, not over the top...I don’t even feel it when I’m wearing it since it just slips right over my hat. It also pivots so you can aim the light where you need it to go. It uses 3 AAA batteries so I use my rechargeables. It is available on Amazon as well.

When it comes to safety, I also always run with my iPhone and when I head out I use an app called Glympse. It allows me to send a “Glympse” to my hubby which shows him where I am the whole time I’m GPS. He normally uses it when he’s on the road so I can see where he’s at while he’s driving. I send him a Glympse so he can see where I’m at when I’m if I say I’m going out for 3 miles and I’m not back within a certain timeframe, he can use the app to see where I am in case something’s happened. The app is pretty cool and really accurate...and it’s FREE! Gotta love free apps that are really useful :-)

So that’s it for safety right time hydration on the go.

Oh, and right now I’m in the midst of training for Disney’s Expedition Everest Challenge on May 7th...a 5K with integrated obstacle course (nothing too hard since this is Disney after all) plus scavenger hunt through Animal Kingdom. From all the feedback I’ve heard about the event, it should be a whole lot of fun...I can’t wait, only 3 weeks to go!

Monday, April 4, 2011

4.4.2011-My Favorite Things-Gear Talk Part 1

You’ve probably heard many times that running is the cheapest way to get fit-all you need is a good pair of shoes, right? Yeah...but then you decide to try a local 5K race or two; which then leads to more races and then longer races. A 10K here, a 10-miler there. Then you think, let’s go for that half marathon! And of course after a bit you want to start doing races out of your area to see new course and such...and after several half marathons you finally decide to try a full marathon. And all you need to do all of this is a good pair of shoes, right? Right??? Uh-huh, sure thing.

If you’ve ever been to a decent-sized race expo, you’ll suddenly find that there are TONS of things you really, really need (read “want”, “covet” or “desire”) and just can’t train without. And while a lot of the stuff out there may seem like (or actually is) overkill, I’ve found many items that have proven quite useful to me. So I’ve decided to do some blog entries highlighting my favorite pieces of running gear.

First up-my absolute favorite piece of running gear-my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch and heart rate monitor. When I first started adding running intervals to the walking I was doing to try and lose weight, a friend had given me a Polar F11 heart rate monitor watch which, when worn in conjunction with its chest strap, would calculate calories burned when I was exercising and it was a great way to keep track of my calorie burn on my exercise tracker. Then I started to read about the different GPS watches and many of my running forum friends recommended the Garmin 305 so I put it on my holiday wish list...and my hubby kindly put it under the tree for me.

I love my 305. You can set it up to view several things at once on the large screen; I have mine set up to show elapsed time, distance covered, current pace and heart rate. I can even set it up to beep when I’m supposed to change from walk to run. It has cool software that you can download so when you connect the 305 to the computer, it can show you how fast you did each interval (I have my intervals set up as 1 mile so I can see my per-mile stats), elevation, calories burned, average heart rate, maximum heart it shows you your route on a map. There are so many things you can do, like marking certain points on regular routes and such, that I haven’t even tried everything on it yet and I’ve had it for over a year. You can even you it for multiple sports, so if you want to try your hand a a duathlon or triathlon it will measure the different sports (run/bike/swim) for you---yes, you can swim with it on.

Nowadays I almost never run with the chest strap to monitor my heart rate as I tend to have chafing issues with my sports bra even without the strap on. The 205 model is basically the same as the 305 but without the chest strap/heart rate monitor...but I like having the HRM available to me if I want to use it (and I did use it all the time for about the first 6 months or so). Amazon runs some great deals on the 305, I’ve even seen it as the Deal of the Day on the Gold Box page a couple of times. This is one piece of gear I’d highly recommend, it really is a great training tool and one thing I’m really glad we splurged a little bit on (well, DH did since it was a gift LOL).

Since it is a GPS, normally you’d be using it outside so the satellites can track you to provide the feedback, but if you want to use it for indoor training (like an indoor track or treadmill), they do sell a foot pod accessory so you can use it indoors. I do 99.9% of my miles outside and when inside use a treadmill which measures my distance anyway so I haven’t gotten the foot pod. Also, another accessory they offer is a quick-release kit which has a velcro wrist strap and quick release bracket and bike mount. I’ve got this on my Amazon wish list as my current wrist strap is starting to crack between the holes a having a velcro-adjustable strap is just more comfortable...and I eventually would like to get a bike and then I can use my 305 while biking too.

Tune in next time for more Gear Talk...and feel free to post your favorite things in the comments, you may see them in one of my future Gear Talk blog entries :-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Disney Full Marathon Race Report

Warning you now...this is pretty long...

Last January I completed my first half marathon at Walt Disney World. Not even two weeks later I had made the decision that I was going to register for the Disney full marathon for 2011. I figured I had a whole year to train so it should be no problem. Yeah...

After getting pretty burned out after doing my first three half marathons plus some shorter races in less than 90 days, I wound up taking much of the summer off and started training for the full around mid-August. Training went well until I hit my 16 mile LR...when I first found out what sore feet REALLY meant. Same thing for my 18-miler. I was reassured some when my 20-miler went well with almost no soreness but still was nervous in the days leading up to the race.

I left for WDW on Thursday after work but was too late to check out the expo so just headed to Pop Century to check in and crash. Friday morning I got up early to get some walk/jog time in before heading over to pick up my race packet. I was at the expo when it opened so was able to get in and out pretty quick. The goody bag didn’t really have a lot of “goodies” in it, a lot more flyers and ads for other races...and I was disappointed it was just the plastic bag that we could use for bag check and not like the nice mesh drawstring bag we got last year. I did pick up the “I did it” shirt and a cool t-shirt that said “Runner by day, Park Hopper by Night” which I just LOVE. Spent the rest of the day at Epcot with my husband who was able to finish work early and come join me for the weekend. Saturday I decided to just take it easy with a leisurely breakfast and just spent the day reading and relaxing---I didn’t want to be on my feet at the parks all day. Went to bed about 8pm with my alarm set for a 2:30am wake-up.

DH got me up just before the alarm was supposed to go off and stayed up until I left for the bus (HUGS to him!). I was on the bus by 3:15am along with some of my Running of the Ears friends and we made our way over to the “H” tent to meet others from our group before the race. I had my pre-race PBJ sandwich while waiting to head to the start, then tried to remain calm so it would stay down. Walked to the start line with Julie, Mark, Nancy and Tricia...Julie, Mark and I entered Corral H and made our way as close to the front as we could get. As each wave was sent off I felt a little more nervous, then finally it was our turn and we were off!

I started out running for the first thirty seconds or so, then settled back to walking for the first mile and a half until I started my walk/run intervals. I was doing a 30 second run/90 second walk which had been working well for me during training (that summer break totally put me back at square one after working my way up to a 3 min walk/2 min run before the Disney Half last year). I was able to keep that up through a little more than 8 miles. My back had started to bother me around mile 6 so I popped some Tylenol to try and keep it in check. With the exception of mile 1 when I was getting warmed up (cause you know standing around in the corrals for 45 minutes before our start just killed any kind of warm up you might do before), I was doing between 15:22-16:05 minute miles. I was confident early on that I’d be able to keep that up so I stopped for some pictures with Pluto, Chip and Dale then again with Eeyore and Tigger, then Woody and Jessie and finally the Pirates of the Caribbean (and boy, that last one it really looks like Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa!). I got to see Tracy at the #7 water stop which was a lift!

After I hit mile 9, my body said it didn’t want to run anymore so I switched over to just walking but still doing 16 minute miles...then after mile 11 my back really started to howl at me so again with the Tylenol and my pace started to slow a bit. That’s when I started to see those people on the bikes with the little orange flags in their packs. They were all very encouraging to everyone, letting us know we were still X minutes ahead of pace every mile or so. I lost enough time though that a little before the mile 17 sign, the TNT coach/pacer that was at the back of the pack was telling everyone, “come on everyone, pick it up, run for the next mile sign” because the infamous lady wearing the balloons to signal the 16mm pace point was almost upon us. So about thirty of us just started running all-out until we crossed the 17 mile sign...this happened again at mile 18 and when I realized how much I’d dropped off, my brain just blocked out what my back was saying (the Tylenol helped with that too LOL) and I really started to pick it up. I also saw fellow Running of the Ears members Colleen and Dawn just after leaving Animal Kingdom and they were there cheering away---thank you ladies, that REALLY gave me a boost!!! To the point where mile 19 was actually my fastest mile of the race!
The dreaded orange flags!
I actually was still trying to get back ahead at mile 20 where I saw my first orange flag (ran to get past that one!), then kept booking it to make up time-I didn’t want to see those bike people and their little flags anymore. Heading in toward Hollywood Studios I heard a car horn honking and people yelling my name, and there were Colleen and Dawn again, cheering me into DHS as they were driving by! You two were really spurring me on, thank you so much!! (((HUGS))) There was a guy next to me when you were driving past that said “hey, they look like they know you, you should ask them for a ride”. I was actually passing people I hadn’t seen the whole race since they had always been way up ahead of me! I even caught up to Santa (did you all see him? Santa actually did Dopey!) which was fun with the spectators that were calling out to him and the kids with the wide eyes and open mouths so surprised to see Santa in the race, just more to keep me excited even though by this time my feet were starting to hurt. I got to see Tracy again and she walked with me for a little bit to make sure I was doing good (THANKS Tracy, HUGS to you too!!).
Once we exited DHS, I saw one last place they had the special “Parade Buses” for those being swept in the parking lot...after that though I knew there was nowhere left they could sweep...I was SAFE! I must confess, I did slow a little here as I was really feeling it in my feet-my brain was still blocking out anything my back was saying. Saw more ROTErs along the walkway to the Boardwalk (I remember Cath offering me water and was that also Chris there? I can’t remember anymore, it’s all becoming a blur, but believe me, you were ALL very appreciated!). Then suddenly, I was re-entering Epcot! I was almost there! A little more than a mile to go! More ROTErs! Erica giving me Twizzlers and walking with for a bit making sure I was doing good, thank you so much! Around the world I went, then heading toward Future World and there’s Joey telling me I’m doing it!
How good it feels to see this sign!
And suddenly, there’s the turn and that 26 mile sign, I can hear the crowd and the announcer ahead...I straightened myself out and suddenly I could see the grandstands and finish chute...and my DH, best friend and godson (who was ringing the cowbell Julie gave me during the half to cheer with like mad) were right there at the fence before the bleachers started----I beelined straight over, slapping hands while they cheered as I headed to the finish line where I got a high five from Donald as I stepped across and heard the announcer calling out my name and city (since by that time there weren’t tons of people crossing together so he could call out people individually)! OMG I just finished a MARATHON! Me! I kept wandering along and saw a ROTEr (Snowball/Anita I think?) handing out mylar blankets so headed straight for her...and then there were the people passing out the medals. My Mickey medal. For finishing a FULL marathon. Me!

Finally I made my way to the H tent where I found Julie waiting for me, she wanted to make sure there were ROTErs at the tent to greet me when I finally finished. A HUGE HUG for you Julie! We both did it! DH, BF, her DH and my godson made their way a kiss from my godson (“Eww, tastes like sweat” he says) and then said goodbye to the ROTErs before heading to the car (which by the way was located at the opposite end of the Epcot lot way past the monorail station...I must’ve looked a sight waddling all that way LOL). Finally back to the room where I rested for an hour, then showered and headed out for a great steak dinner to celebrate (cause by then I was seriously craving the protein!). Finished up the trip on Monday with a delicious ROTEr lunch at Via Napoli, then it was finally time to head home.

All in all an AMAZING weekend, accomplishing something I never dreamed I’d ever do...what, me-run? You’re joking right? Nope, I’m not just a runner-I’m a marathoner. Yes, me. And to all of the Running of the Ears friends who were cheering me on, you are the most fantastic group of friends anyone could wish for! I would have never made it without all of you...the support you have given and continue to give has made (and is still making) such a difference. Special shout-outs to Colleen, Dawn, Julie, Erica, Tracy and Joey...and I know I’m forgetting people but it’s all starting to fade to a dull roar, but believe me, I knew everyone was there and was profoundly grateful that you stuck it out until I passed! It may be a while before I try a full marathon again (now don’t you all start talking about Goofy, I may be a little nuts but I haven’t hit the insane mark...yet) but with this group, I’ll still be doing lots of races if for no other reason than to enjoy the ROTErs!

I know this has been long, but I just had so much I wanted to put down about this experience. Oh, and in case you were wondering? 6:59:09.