Wine and Dine Half Marathon {race recap}

In November, Heather and I ran the Wine and Dine Half Marathon! This was my second Run Disney race and yet again, it did not disappoint.

I headed down to the expo on Friday night after work. I went by myself which gave me some time to browse the booths and do a little bit of shopping, but the expo closed at 7pm, so I didn’t have a ton of time.

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It was a good thing I didn’t have the kids, because there was a lot of walking involved between picking up the race bib and the race shirt. I’m talking two completely different buildings here…in the rain.

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We did not stay on Disney property for this race as Greg had to work the whole weekend. Thankfully, my mom came to town to watch the kids while I ran. We started the morning around 3:30am and headed down to the Epcot parking lot and finish line to park the car. From there, we hopped on a bus to take us to the Magic Kingdom parking lot to start the race.

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Since I registered for this race well enough in advance, I was able to submit a proof of time earning me a spot in corral C. We started the race after about only 20-25 minutes of waiting. Oddly enough, it started raining when we were in the corral.

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Our first park was Animal Kingdom! We took a slightly different route through the park and were able to run through Pandora at dawn. It was the perfect amount of light, but it was also dark enough to see the glow of the lights through Pandora. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

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From Animal Kingdom, we had several miles of open road before reaching our next park. Along the way, we saw a toy soldier! We were in line to get our picture with him, but then he started making the runners do push-ups, so we were out!

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We entered Hollywood Studios around the ten mile mark. It’s amazing how the worst part of the race (miles 10-13.1) is filled with the most fun stuff! It’s such a great distraction. We ran through the back of the park by the Tower of Terror and saw Mr. and Mrs. Incredible just as we entered. Hollywood Studios is our favorite park, so we stopped a couple times for some pictures before heading out.

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We made our way through the Boardwalk on our way to Epcot and most importantly, the finish line. We saw the Swan and Dolphin resort, the Boardwalk resort, and lots of spectators!

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We entered Epcot at the entrance coming from the Boardwalk and ran down through England. We circled back towards France to run through the rest of the countries around the world.

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As we made our way towards the finish line, we passed the giant golf ball and headed into the Epcot parking lot.

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We unintentionally timed our finish perfectly and headed into Epcot as soon as the park opened at 9am. We celebrated with mimosas in the Wine & Dine Festival Center.

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One of the best perks of the race this time around was that I was able to download all of my race photos since Photo Pass is included with our annual pass. We made every effort to get our picture taken by every Photo Pass photographer we saw!

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It ended up being my worst race on the clock, but my best race on the course. I absolutely love running though the parks, seeing all of the Disney characters, hearing all of the entertainment, and enjoying the entire Run Disney experience!

Chicago Marathon 2017 {race recap}

On the one year anniversary of my first marathon, I figured I would finally share about my race experience.

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My alarm went off at 4:45am on race day. I surprisingly slept pretty well but I woke up anxious that the day had finally arrived. I met the girls downstairs at 5:15am and we were off. We were on a tight schedule to pick up Jamie at her hotel, then head over to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) tent in Grant Park. I was super amped up at this point. I was jittery because of the nerves and the chilly air at 5:30am. The walk didn’t seem too bad at the time, but looking back, it was a long walk before having a run a marathon.

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We arrived at the tent to find a full breakfast spread, the DJ pumping up the runners, and an area to stretch and foam roll. I had breakfast, used the potty, stretched, and finally checked my bag at the tent. We took a large RMHC team photo then waited until it was time to head over to the corral. Majority of the RMHC team was in corral H since that was the charity corral, but the tent cleared out a little bit from runners in the faster corrals.

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The volunteers led us to the corral around 7:20am. We headed in through the security check points and continued to walk until we found corral H. There was a lot of walking before the race ever started! We waited in the corral until about 8:10am when we finally started moving up to the start line. The nerves were really setting in at this point.

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I started the race with Heather and Julianna and we made our way across the start line. The start of the race was pretty congested and we were in the city surrounded by the tall buildings. The weather was amazing since we were in the shade of the buildings and the crowds were insane. My adrenaline was pumping hard. Right away, my watch lost signal and my first “mile” clocked at the 7 minute mark. I expected this to happen due to my last Chicago race, but I was hoping my new watch would be a little better. I shouldn’t have been worrying about my pace at all, but I immediately wish I had a pace band since I knew my watch was going to be completely inaccurate.

I will say this several more times, but the crowds were unbelievable. I was so happy during the first miles of the race, I was running with a huge smile on my face the whole time. The city was so loud and I was taking it all in. Greg texted me the first time around the 5k mark to tell me where they were set up. It was a whirlwind and I was so happy to see them so early in the race. Unfortunately, I did not give proper hugs or hang out as long as the kids would have liked and they were sobbing after I ran off.

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I was cruising for the first nine miles and feeling good. Greg texted me again around the 15k mark to tell me where to look for them. Just knowing which side of the street they were on was so helpful. The streets were absolutely packed for the entire race! Greg said that the spectators were so amazing and would let them get to the front when they knew I was close. I lingered a little bit longer this time. Greg rubbed my calf and I was texting with Amanda to see where she was in the race.

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Amanda and I texted for a little while. She offered to hang back so I could catch up, but I felt like that was a lot of pressure for me to get up to her quickly. My calf was starting to ache pretty bad. Around the half marathon mark, I stopped at the medical tent for Biofreeze. I stopped at a second tent a little bit later for Tylenol. My half marathon split was 2:23:21.

I kept an eye on my pace, but I knew that I just wanted to finish. I kept calculating in my head what my finish time would be if I kept my current pace. However, the likelihood of me keeping that current pace was slim. Towards the end of the race, I was running slower and walking more.

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I saw Mary Beth and Mandy (who flew in from Kansas City to surprise me!) in Chinatown, which was such a great motivator. They were so positive and it was so good to see their smiling faces! Just down the road, I saw Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. My parents had taken the kids back to the hotel by this point. I thought it would be the last time I saw them and we discussed how and where we would meet up after the race.

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I was down to the last five miles or so which seemed to last forever. I knew some of the other girls would be finishing the race soon since they were ahead of me. As it was reaching the middle of the day, it was insanely hot. Unseasonably hot for Chicago actually. I thought it would be fine since I had trained in the humidity and heat all summer, but we never ran at noon in the middle of the day, so this was all new territory. As I made my way into the last couple of miles, I spotted Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. I almost started sobbing. They had gotten ice water from Starbucks and refilled my Camelbak. I gave them my headphones and prepared for the last couple of miles. After they saw me in Chinatown, they decided to go ahead and find me again. Bless their hearts. I so needed it.

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I probably walked more than I should have in those last couple of miles, but I made my way back to the city and the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 5:23:14. I was emotional, but also so hot and so happy to be done. My finish time was slower than I anticipated or hoped it would be. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed with how the race went, especially the second half. I was bummed about the weather and aggravated that my calf started bothering me so early in the race.

On the other hand, I was extremely proud just to have finished the race! I joined the 1% of the population that has completed a marathon and that was something to be proud of!

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After crossing the finish line, I grabbed a banana and a beer. Like before the race, there was an obnoxious amount of walking after the race to get back to the RMHC tent. My feet hurt and all I wanted was to sit down. I was so happy to see some of my cheer squad waiting for me at the tent.

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I will say again how amazing the entire race was. The crowds, the city, the support. So many spectators looked me in the eye, called me by my first name, and said such encouraging words to me. I was overwhelmed with emotion throughout the race. I will never forget how the city rallied around every single one of the runners out there for the entire race. I will definitely be back Chicago. I am coming for a redemption run.

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I also cannot express the gratitude that I had for my own cheer squad that day. They conquered that city for me showing up at the most needed spots during the race and wearing the most appropriate shirt of the day. Each time seeing them gave me that boost of courage and energy that I needed to keep going.

Finally, I trained with the best runner friends that anyone could ask for. These girls made the 16 weeks of training not only bearable, but fun! We spent countless hours together before the sun came up. They were there for me in the good times and the bad times. I was so grateful to have run this race with them.

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Cheers to 26.2 miles!

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Chicago, you did not disappoint. See you in 2020.

USA Beach Running Championships {race recap}

On Cinco de Mayo we loaded up the SUVs and headed to Cocoa Beach for a girls night 10k race. We spent the afternoon getting settled in the hotel, picking up our race packets, and shopping at Ron Jon Surf Shop before heading to the port for dinner.

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We listened to live music, enjoyed some margaritas, and had dinner before heading back to the hotel. Once we arrived back, Vanessa and Juliana were ready to join in on the fun! We stayed up way too late laughing and enjoying our time without having to worry about bedtime routines, considering we had a race the next morning.

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5:45am came very early and we all reluctantly rolled out of bed to make our way to the beach for the 10k. The race had a half marathon option and a 10k option, both entirely on the beach. We all were running the 10k, so we waited for the half marathoners to be on their way fore it was time for our race to start.

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While others have run this race in previous years, it was my first time (spoiler alert, also my last time). Heather and I started off playing catch up with group because it was pretty packed at the start of the race. We ran pretty quick for the first mile and caught up with Cristina and Tracy. That was the end of the quick running. Once we caught up with them, we decided to switch to intervals, which eventually turned into more walking than running.

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It was a beautiful day at the beach. The ocean and the waves were gorgeous, but the part of the beach where the sand was nice and packed was covered by the tide. As we were running, we would creep down to the packed sand only to be dodging the incoming tide in order to keep our shoes dry. The dry sand was loose and slanted. From what I’ve heard, the hurricane really impacted the beach and the race conditions in previous years weren’t as bad.

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The race was 3.1 miles out and 3.1 miles back. As usual, the way out felt longer than the way back. By the time we were at mile 5, I was just ready to be done. The finish line was pretty far up the beach away from the water so the sand was very loose making it that much harder to get the seahorse medal. But alas, we finished, snapped a quick picture, and headed straight for the food.

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We headed back to the hotel for a quick shower before our families arrived to enjoy the rest of the morning at the beach. Overall, the beach race was a great experience. I am so glad that I did it. We had such a great time the entire time we were there. But, with that being said, I’ll be okay not running it again! I think I’m going to stick to road races.

Best Damn Race 10k {race recap}

In March, I ran one of my favorite races, the Best Damn Race 10k. This was my fourth BDR race and the third time running the 10k after switching to the half marathon last year. The race this year was just as good as it was in previous years. The weather was crisp and cool, but I decided to run in my tank top and save my long sleeve for after the race.

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As we got started, it was really crowded so the group broke up a bit. I ran with Amanda for a little bit in the first mile, then found Cristina in the second mile. I ran the first two miles straight through until we caught up with Heather and Tracy. For the last four miles, we switched to intervals. The intervals were so nice. I was pushing myself on the runs and enjoying the recovery on the walks. We ran, walked, and chatted the rest of the way.

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We finished in 1:02.09 which is not a personal record, but I felt really good about my finish time. This was my first race since the marathon and coming back from my injury. I finished with a runners high, which I hadn’t felt in a while. I remember how much I like racing (and running, to be honest). I am excited to continue running, recovering, and getting faster this summer.

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As usual, the after party did not disappoint. We all enjoyed bloody mary’s and each other’s company until we had to leave for the Smile Mile.

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It was such a fun morning! See ya next year, BDR!

Smile Mile {2018}

On Saturday, Kenley ran her first Smile Mile! The races were broken down by age and gender, so she ran with the other six year old girls. She ran representing her school, TLE, which had the third most runners out there on Saturday!

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We were excited to see her head out of the corral. She did a good job hanging towards the back of the pack at first to avoid the chaos. In the race prior, several six year old boys got trampled out there!

We didn’t get to see her run the mile so we headed over to the finish line to wait for her to come in. She came in jogging, looking all confused about why we were cheering for her, in just under 11 minutes!

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It was so fun to see several of her friends out there running! The weather was also amazing. It was a great morning of running.

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We’re already looking forward to the Smile Mile next year!

Lady Track Shack 5k {race recap}

The last weekend of January was the Lady Track Shack 5k! This is one of my favorite races and I have ran it for the last four years (I had to look back on the blog in order to fact check that statement). This year was extra special though because it was Kenley’s first 5k! Last year, she ran some of it, jumping in and out of the stroller, but this year there was no stroller! Kenley was excited about the race, but also very excited to see her friend Livie.

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We didn’t do any official “training” so I had very low expectations. I knew she would need some encouragement along the way and that there would certainly be walking breaks. I was hoping we would finish under one hour, only because we were heading down to Magic Kingdom afterwards.

Kenley ran almost the entire first mile before we needed to stop and walk. She asked for water many times leading up to the first water stop, so I will remember to run with a water bottle next year. There were times during the race where we would “run to the stop sign” then we would take a walk break.

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Towards the end of the race there was more walking (and whimpering), but there were so many encouraging women along the way cheering for her. It was seriously amazing!

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She finished the race running and we came in at 44:13! She did such a great job and I am so proud of her for getting out there and running her first 5k!

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She earned that medal!

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Thanks to the Orlando Track Shack for another amazing race! We’re already looking forward to next year!

 

Dark Side Half Marathon {race recap}

A few weekends ago, I ran my first Run Disney race, the Star Wars Dark Side half marathon! The entire weekend was quite an experience and unlike any other race I’ve done, so I’m going to try to hit on all of the different aspects.

You pay to play.

I’ll get the only con out of the way. Running is an expensive sport and this race is no exception. The Run Disney race fee was the most I’ve ever paid for a race. I also chose to stay on property the night before the race which was an added cost. All in all, it’s a commitment.

Race expo.

The race expo was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It started on Thursday since the 5k and 10k races were on Friday and Saturday. I originally wanted to go out to the expo on Thursday, but Kenley ended up having a soccer game. Based on what I have heard, I was anticipating long lines to pick up all of the pre-race goodies. We arrived at the expo a little later than I wanted around 2pm on Saturday. The expo ended at 4pm and I was surprised to find no lines at all! Kenley and I left the boys in the car and walked (and walked) up to get my stuff. The bib pick up station was located in the HP Field House, then we headed over to the Jostens Center. Since there were no crowds, Kenley got her picture with a Storm Trooper before heading in. The t-shirt pick up was at the very back of the expo. There were so many vendors selling so many great things. I wanted to buy ALL the Run Disney gear, but left without anything. Overall, the expo was great and the pick up process was quick and easy, aside from a lot of walking.

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Setting my alarm for the middle of the night.

The race started at 5:30am in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. The start time wasn’t that early considering I’ve ran races that started at 6am. However, we were taking advantage of the Disney buses since we were staying on property and we had to be ON the bus by 4am to ensure we were at the start line in time. Therefore, I set my alarm for 3:00am which was a first for me! We walked down to the bus stop and got right on the bus putting us at the start line around 4am. Transportation was a breeze. There were buses full of people pulling in, one after the other. We joked that if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, Disney should be in charge of the evacuation plan. It was like we were all zombies at that time too, considering it was the middle of the night.

We had more than enough time at the start line before the race started. One thing that surprised me the most were all of the the lines for the characters. There were probably 8-10 characters there for photo opportunities and each character had a publicized wait time. The wait time for Darth Vader at 4am was 70 MINUTES!

We had some breakfast, stretched, went potty, then headed into our corral. We were in corral G based on when we signed up for the race (late!) and corral G was the very last corral. While we waited, they played Star Wars movie clips and did trivia with the participants. The race finally started at 5:30am with fireworks! Each corral that was released got their own fireworks show. The start of the race was a big deal! Unfortunately, we saw a LOT of fireworks. We finally started the race at 6:20am, 50 minutes after the first corral started.

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Course map.

The race course map was released a couple weeks before the race which I studied intently. I don’t normally look at the course map before a race, but I was really excited about this one. I knew the first few miles would be pretty boring since the course took us from the Magic Kingdom parking lot along the back roads into Animal Kingdom.

Around mile 4, we entered Animal Kingdom as the sun was starting to come up. We stopped for the potty by the safari ride when we got into the park then ran around the entire park and out the entrance.

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The course then took us through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and up the main roads for the next couple of miles. After one large on-ramp just after mile 9, we entered the back side of Hollywood Studios and ran through the park.

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We passed mile 10 while in Hollywood Studios are were only another 5k away from the finish. At this time, the sun was up and blazing. It was hot! We headed out of Hollywood Studios and made our way towards Epcot and the finish line. Along the way, we ran pass the Swan and Dolphin Hotel and along the Boardwalk.

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We finally entered Epcot in England just before the mile 12 marker. The International Flower and Garden Festival was happening so it was great to see all of the fun foliage! We ran through all of the countries and out the entrance of Epcot. The finish line was in the Epcot parking lot which was lined with spectators and fans as we ran out of the park.

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Final verdict.

During the race, the course was insanely packed. I was bummed that we had to start in corral G because we were bobbing and weaving through people the entire race. We started behind the 3 hour and 30 minute pace group while our goal time was around 2 hours and 15 minutes. I now know the importance of submitting a time during the registration process for Disney races. I know the experience on the course would have been completely different if we were running with others who were our same pace.

Overall, the race was amazing! I was shocked by all of the entertainment along the way. I knew there would be characters to meet and greet, but I was surprised to see all sorts of other entertainment, such as sound effects, light shows, music, and movie clips along the way. What I thought would be the boring part of the course was actually just as fun as the rest of the course. We didn’t stop to meet any characters since there were lines at each stop. I also am too competitive with myself to think about stopping during a race. This was by far the most fun race I have ever done. We finished in 2:31.44 which I am considering a great time for a Disney race. It may not be anytime soon, but I will definitely be doing another Disney race in the future.

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