Race Recap: Vermont City Marathon 2018

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Just over a week ago I took on my fourth marathon, the People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon. It took me a little while to get my thoughts together enough to put together a decent recap!

I’d been dreaming of doing this race for years – I almost signed up in high school but I got hurt running my first half marathon. Thank goodness I waited! I was going into this race with a big goal: a time beginning with a 4. This would be my 4th marathon, my 4th race in Burlington (I previously set an old half PR on a section of this course), 4 years after I started running again after 4 years off. It wasn’t just all the number 4’s lining up – I had trained hard and well. My training showed that I was very capable of a 4:59:59, if not closer to a 4:50. So what happened?

Friday – Travel Day 1: Being from Maryland, my trip to Vermont took a little while. I multitasked and also went home to visit family. I flew to Manchester, NH on Friday morning and went to my hometown in northern NH for the night.

Saturday – Travel + Expo Day: After a short (and soaking wet) shakeout run, I headed to Burlington with my mom and nephew, CJ, whom my mom was babysitting for the weekend. It’s just under a 3 hour ride, and was mostly relaxing. We got to the Expo at the Doubletree Hilton just before 2. The expo was small, but mighty. I can’t say I checked out everything, but I was still pleased. Bib and shirt pick-up was quick and easy, then came the fun – meeting Meb!! I waited in line for almost an hour (CJ slept the whole time!) but it was so worth it. I got my bib signed for good luck and he gave me some confidence in my experience. I finished off the expo by checking out the Untapped energy booth and visiting my old bosses at the Fleet Feet Sports Burlington/Plattsburgh booth.

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After the expo we checked into our hotel – we stayed at Trader Duke’s in South Burlington. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and had race day shuttles. We went to Olive Garden for a post-race dinner, as I knew that their pasta and meat sauce would agree with my stomach. CJ’s cuteness helped distract me from what I had to do the next day! After my pre-marathon routine, I was asleep just after 10!

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Yes – I had newspapers in my shoes because I got caught in a downpour during my shakeout!

Sunday – pre-run: I woke up just before 5 and successfully got ready without waking anyone up. I forced down a leftover breadstick (I never got a bagel the day before) to make sure I wouldn’t be too hungry, forced down some water and was out the door to make the 5:30 shuttle. The shuttle was quick and easy – I was to the start in Battery Park just before 6. It was a breezy and cool morning, but it was definitely humid. The humidity made me nervous so I drank another 8ish ounces of water along with my Generation UCan and a banana. In-between porta-john stops (there were so many – thank you RunVermont!) I met up with the other BibRave Pro’s Jessica and Vanessa and also met some wonderful other runners. The vibe was so electric and it definitely helped keep my confidence high! Before I knew it, it was time to go!

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Miles 1-5 brought us up through some neighborhoods, down Church Street (a Burlington staple) and out on the Beltline. Our first pass down Church Street was one of my favorite moments of the day. There were so many people who were out having brunch and cheering everyone on. Going out onto the Beltline, I was aware that I was already running at/above my “perfect day” goal pace. I tried to slow down, but I had a hard time doing so. The Beltline was very slanted which made me nervous. However, you can only adjust for that so much during a race so I just kept moving. Around mile 3.5ish I got a high five from the one and only MEB while he passed me the other way. DAY. MADE. I also got so see my cousin Dani killing it while running the first half of the 2-person relay! Splits: 11:24, 10:52, 10:45, 10:52, 10:47

Miles 6-10 had us coming back on the Beltline, down Church Street for the second time, and down towards South Burlington. I made a quick porta-john stop (lost about 1 minute?) and kept on trucking. Mile 8-9 was a moderate uphill, but it didn’t bother me too much. Church Street was great the second time but not quite as energetic. I was familiar with miles 9-15 of the race, so I was feeling cool, calm, and collected. Around mile 10 Dani’s husband passed me going the other way, but he was going way too fast for me to get a word out! I refilled my water bottle for the first time somewhere in here – but I can’t remember when (this will be important later). Splits: 11:25, 10:50, 11:43, 11:22, 10:32

Miles 11-15 finally brought us to the halfway point! We climbed the hill I dreaded during my two Burlington half marathons just before the halfway point and it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore! I crossed halfway at 2:25:26 – right on pace for a 4:50! I was feeling really good at this point and was running really steady (the splits don’t totally show it due to my intervals). Splits: 10:56, 11:10, 10:55, 11:09, 11:30

Miles 16-20 – I knew right after mile 15 was the “Assault on Battery.” I always avoided this hill when I used to run in town, and when we drove it the night before I almost freaked. Man – this hill is HUGE. I was thrilled to see my mom and nephew at the bottom, screamed a few expletives, and climbed. When I made it to the top I filled my bottle again, and kept going on just like before! But, I didn’t feel so good for very long…Around mile 18 I started to get a headache and my right hip started to tighten up. I had slightly altered from my typical fueling strategy so I played around with things – took a freezer pop or two, drank some extra water, ate some chews. But nothing helped. By mile 20, I started to feel super nauseaus. In all honesty I think I would have felt better if I puked, but I was too afraid to be seen and get pulled from the course. I felt so bad that I didn’t think I’d finish going at the same speed, so I shortened my intervals and kept moving, albeit, very slowly. Splits: 12:14 (hill + water stop), 11:22, 11:21, 12:21, 12:16

Part of the “Assault on Battery,” but it doesn’t do it justice!

Miles 21-26.2 were terrible, just so terrible. Once I slowed down, my feet cramped up, as well as my left hip. I was barely keeping at a shuffle. There’s not really much else to say. I stopped drinking so much water which helped my stomach, but I couldn’t get myself moving any faster. Every time I started running again after a walk segment, I would grown in pain from my right hip. It literally felt like I had an impinged nerve and if I could have moved it, it would have been better. I also had terrible arch pain, which I’ve never felt in a marathon! It was really hard watching everyone I’d passed pass me. It was even harder when I saw 4:48 pass. Then 4:50. Then 4:55 and lastly 4:59:59 pass on my watch and I was just past mile 25. That sucked. But it wasn’t stopping me. I originally wanted to finish the race with the word “victor” flashing above my head, but instead if was “fighter.” I spent much of the last mile running/walking backwards and slogging with my head down.

Coming into the finisher’s chute – looking pretty rough.

But goodness gracious. Coming through that finish line – seeing my mom and (sleeping) nephew and THEN the crowd. The crowd was 5-6 deep on both sides and was just screaming. With my name being on my bib, I heard so many random people screaming my name. I very well could have been choking up from disappointment. However, I got choked up because of how loud these people were screaming for me (and other finishers), no matter how slow I was or how beat up I looked. I’ve experienced some really amazing moments, but that race finish is among the top 3. (Splits: 12:40, 14:22, 14:07, 13:46, 14:01, 13:34, 5:01 for .41 nubbin).

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When you try to smile for the free race photos…

Final time: 5:13:15. Not my sub-5. Not even a PR. 10 minutes above my PR.

I went to Burlington to get that sub-5. Naturally, I thought I would be crushed with how I did. While I’m not pleased with my performance, I’m not totally crushed. I ran an awesome first half, first 18-20 miles really. I made the mistake of drinking too much water, which was, I think, the main reason why I felt the way I did the last 10K. I also don’t think the slant of the road on the Beltway did any favor for my hips. But, it is what it is.

 

Each marathon is a unique experience. While May 27, 2018 was not my day, it will come. It could have come on this course – aside from the major hill at mile 15, the course was nice and flat-rolling in terrain. The crowd support was incredible, the volunteers were amazing, and the race organization and communication was impeccable. There were many unique, Vermont-like touches to the race like the Untapped maple syrup as fuel and Ben & Jerry’s at the finish line.

Post race was a nightmare (and not due to RunVermont). My mom freaking forgot where she parked her car and I ended up walking 2 miles with her to find it because I was familiar with the area and she was clueless. We ended up cancelling dinner with my cousins because I felt so crappy and we didn’t get to somewhere for lunch until 2:00. Ugh. (BTW, the car was parked only 5 BLOCKS away. Near a major landmark. Oh Momma – you’re lucky I love you). I was really hurting that night (obviously), the next day wasn’t horrible, and my Tuesday I was feeling about 85%.

The verdict: The Vermont City Marathon was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone! I think I even enjoyed it more than Marine Corps Marathon, and that is an amazing race too! Check out more of my thoughts on the race itself on my Bibrave review.

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Rock N Roll DC 2018: Race Recap

On March 10th I ran my 19th half marathon, which was the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon! I ran this race last year as a training run and had a fun time. This year, I went into this race hoping to see where my fitness was two months post-marathon. I also tend to have mixed results running “repeat” races, and was curious as to how I would do!

Expo day: The Rock N Roll races require you to go to the expo, so I headed in mid-day on Friday. Packet pick-up was a breeze. When I entered the expo floor, I was very underwhelmed. Last year, I had an amazing time and spent 2 hours there. I even fell in love with one of my favorite snacks, Krave Jerkey, there. This year I was very disappointed. I was in and out in about 20 minutes, pretty perturbed at the half-empty floor, no music, and overall lack of energy. The only money I spent was signing up for  next year because you can’t beat a $59 half marathon. After the expo, I went into race day very under-enthused.

Friday night: For dinner I went to one of my favorite restaurants – Nando’s! I had grilled chicken wings and mashed potatoes with tons of yummy sauce and a glass of red wine. I was thankful to spend the night at a friends’ house to cut down on some driving on Saturday morning. After a glass of wine and some game-playing, I was upstairs at about 10:00 to “lay out my flat Sam” and was asleep around 11. I ended up choosing to go with three layers on top (thermal Nike layer, Oiselle flyte long sleeve, and Oiselle Volee singlet) due to the projected start temperature of about 30 degrees with some wind.

Pre-race: I was “up an at’em” around 5:30, out the door at 6, and in the parking lot at the New Carrolton metro station for 6:30. Once on the train, I met two other runners who kept me occupied until just around race start! I almost ran with one of them, Marie, as it was her first half marathon and she asked if she could pace with me. Unfortunately, right before our corral was about to go, I really got the urge to use the restroom so I left the corral and sprinted the two blocks to the porta-john’s. I’m so glad I made the choice to do so, although it meant leaving Marie. The sprint to/from the porta-johns worked as a good warm-up, as it was cold and I didn’t stretch well!

Game plan: As I mentioned, my goal for this race to see where my fitness was at. Following the strategy of Elizabeth at Running for Robert I put tape on my watch so while I could hear each mile ding, I would be just running off of feel. I set my interval timer to 2:00 run/:30 walk intervals and hoped to keep that up for the entire race.

Miles 1-5: The first few miles brought runners past some of DC’s famed monuments over and under a bridge, and into Rock Creek Park. There were some slight ups and downs, but nothing too hard. The worst part was the crowding, especially between miles 2-5. From watching the clocks, I knew I was running around a 10:00 mile pace, and didn’t feel like I was taxing myself too hard. I wanted to make sure not to expend too much energy because I knew the dreaded hill was coming up at mile 6. Splits: 9:55, 10:00, 9:52, 10:01, 9:49.

Miles 6-10: These were some more interesting miles. First, mile six brings a giant hill with about 150 feet of gain in a quarter mile or so. YUCK. I did a little better on this hill than I did last year and wasn’t as dead at the top. While climbing up the hill I caught up with Marie! I was happy to see that she was doing well. I told her she could follow me but I lost her quickly as I was boogying. Once at the top I started to feel super over heated from my physical exertion as well as the sun. I ended up stopping on the side of the road to de-layer. After losing about two minutes, I got about a mile before there was a fire truck ripping down the street – as it was coming behind me I lost about 30 seconds stopping to the side to be cautious. After those two events, mixed with some rolling hills, it took me a while to get back into a groove. By the time I hit mile 10, I was feeling good again but also felt like I had to push harder to keep my speed where it was. Splits: 9:52, 12:23 (de-layer and fire truck), 10:03, 9:50, 9:43.

Miles 11-finish: This is where I made myself proud. My legs felt so tired, I had no clue what time I was running, but mentally I fought through the pain and the doubt to keep going. I had never truly tapped in to my mental power like this in a race before. I kept telling myself that I was strong and I could do it. Passing the Volee’s cowbell corner around mile 11.5/12 or so, someone yelled “You look so strong!” I’m glad they said that because I was afraid I looked like I was riding the pain train – which I totally “thought” I was.

Mile 11.5ish of RNR DC! Thanks Holly (The Thrifty Runner) for the picture!

Around mile 12.5 I found someone from NP DC that I talked to before the race. That was a nice distraction for a bit as I was curious how she’d picked up a whole box of girl scout cookies! (LOL). I tried to kick it in to keep up with another Bib Rave Pro who I started with, but in the last .25 mile she had a better kick and came in before me (nice job, Vanessa!). While I was bummed I didn’t have the kick I wanted, I was happy with a 2:14:45 finish, my 3rd fastest half marathon ever! (Splits: 9:55, 10:07, 9:49, 3:29 for .36 nubbin).

My finish experience was so much better than last year because I wasn’t stressing about finding someone else who had my warm clothes. I sat for a few minutes with some water and chips before grabbing my bag. I was so impressed with the presence of changing tents – being able to completely change from my wet shirt was a game-changer! While it was a bit chilly, I stayed long enough to enjoy (most of my) post-race beer. I was pretty sore after, but a mile walk to the post-race brunch with the Oiselle Volee helped me loosen up a bit! I loved meeting other Birds (some I’d talked to/followed online for years), the food was delicious, and the mimosa(s?) were wonderful. Another mile walk back to the subway was needed for the legs, and I spent the night relaxing! (Actually, I went on a date? But alas, he “disappeared” shortly after that night).

2018 Goofy Challenge Part 2 – Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday January 6th, I ran my first marathon of 2018 and my 3rd marathon overall! This was the second part of the Goofy Challenge (13.1 + 26.2) and I was so excited to see what I could do over 26.2 miles after having a pretty strong training cycle. I was slightly nervous because my legs definitely weren’t feeling “fresh,” and I had been sick just the week before.

Saturday, Post 13.1: After the half marathon on Saturday, I took a short nap before my mom and I headed over to Disney Springs. We had a delicious lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, which is a regular spot for us during our visits. I had great parmesean chicken + pasta to keep my levels up for the next day. After a couple of hours of shopping around, I was starting to feel tired and very nervous for the day ahead. At this point I had put over 20 miles on my legs that day. We headed back to the hotel for a similar routine as the night before. Dinner in the food court (chicken, rice, and brussels sprouts), a warm bath, feet on the wall, and putting out my gear had me ready for bed!

Sunday, pre-race: Because I spent so much time just standing around on Saturday, I didn’t get up quite as early. Thankfully I slept much better and I slept until around 2:45. Unlike my first two marathons, I felt very calm as I got myself ready and out the door. After grabbing some cereal at the food court (it was perfect the morning before) I was onto the bus and on my way to Epcot once more. This morning was warmer than the previous but because I was dressed in less clothing for the race it felt much colder. I sat in the starter’s village for probably a good 45 minutes before making “the trek.” I stayed pretty warm in my sweatpants, fleece blanket and mylar blanket but I was wishing I had my bathrobe from Saturday!

Getting to the corrals felt much longer this day. I happily chatted up some other  marathon runners to help feel less alone in the sea of people! I started to share my 5:00 goal out loud, and that started to scare me. I ended up sitting in front of the porta-johns for a while so I didn’t have to get in and out of my corral. TMI but I couldn’t just do the deed, ugh! Thankfully I packed an immodium (#runnersprobs). I entered my corral (D) just before 5:00 and was still towards the front. Unlike Saturday, I didn’t stand to see the pre-race show. I sat to save my legs and try to stretch a bit. At 5:30 the race started, I began to de-layer and of course, had to go to the bathroom. Yesterday there were no lines at the porta johns at .8 miles. I was sure I could make it that far!

They released more “mini-waves” in the corrals during the marathon, 25 starts for 25 years. I actually loved that they played music from each year. For the 3rd corral they played Mmmbop! Around 5:20, my corral was off!

Miles 1-5: Let’s just say it now – every single porta john area had lines bigger than the corrals. WTF People?! But honestly, that sucked. I was still working for that 5:00 time, so I told myself to hold it until I could get to one without lines). Nevertheless, these miles were the exact same as they were the day before. I was calmed when my mom said that she made it to the Magic Kingdom and set into a good rhythm. I was running 60:30 intervals at a very even, easy pace. My watch was almost right on with the mile markers. (12:01, 11:43, :47, :48, :42)

Miles 6-10: Once again, the Mile 5 marker was right at the Magic Kingdom entrance! I slowed to call my mom to make sure that I saw her, and I was so happy when I did! I also turned off my interval timer to enjoy the Magic Kingdom. After stopping to see my mom, my #1 goal was to find a bathroom! The first two in the park had bad lines, but thank heavens, I finally found some with no line. Sweet relief! I felt so much better after. I made my way through the castle again and found my mom once more! I was on cloud 9. After mile 6 we were out of the park and back onto the roads to head toward Animal Kingdom. It seemed much more crowded than the day before and I had a hard time finding a spot to run/walk. Eventually, the 5:00 pace group (which started about 3-4 minutes behind me) caught me and I made it my goal to stay with/ahead of them as we headed to Animal Kingdom. (12:29 (stop for my mom and bathroom!), 12:28, 11:30, 10:55, 11:08)

Mom was much more successful than during the half!
Attempted the jump shot…

Miles 10-15: The first half of this segment had us heading past the water treatment plant (so smelly!), through boring “cone alley” and towards Animal Kingdom. These few miles were pretty boring – there were a few things on the side of the road, but not really any characters. Around mile 12 I was starting to get some chaffing under my arm, so I stopped to get some vaseline from an aid stop – what a godsend! I was stoked to see the animals when going into the park. I really wanted there to be a warthog! I was disappointed when I only saw two mules. Maybe the good stuff was on the other side of the road?

Anyways, around mile 13 we finally entered the Animal Kingdom park – my favorite! I regret not stopping for a picture with Timon and Rafikki, but was making good time and wanted to keep trucking. At this point I had my watch taped, so I didn’t know how far ahead of the mile markers I was. When I arrived at the 13.1 marker I took off the tape to see I was already .5 miles ahead of the mile marker, crap. I can make up some time, but that’s a lot of time to make up! At that point I decided to keep running 60:30 intervals at the same comfortably-hard pace, but understood that even with that, a sub-5:00 wasn’t happening. Since I was running so fast (for me) I decided not to up my intervals to 90:30. Anyways, after about a mile that brought us through backstage AK and the parking lot, we were back on the highway for the trek to ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS). I was thankful to stop at another aid station for them to have sunscreen. Not only sunscreen, but the kind I normally use! (I’m allergic to many. As a redhead, this sucks). (11:08, 10:50, :41, 11:03, :11)

Miles 16-20: I was dreading this part of the race, due to race recaps I’d read. It was 2.5 boring miles on the highway, then another 2.5ish weaving through the (WWOS). I was doing really well until about mile 18. I had just stopped for a quick picture with Pluto (my first of the day), but when we hit mile 18, I started to feel a little off and depleted. Since my 5:00 goal was out the window, I decided to just have fun. Between miles 18-20 I stopped for pictures with Minnie, Goofy and Mickey/Donald. I also had a banana – I’ve never done this in a race but it was seriously a lifesaver and I felt so great after! I will definitely take advantage of them in future races. I was thrilled running through the baseball stadium and through the mile 20 marker. “Just” a 10K (or 7 miles) to go! Physically and mentally I was feeling great! (10:59, 11:00, :19, 13:52 (Minnie), 15:14 (Goofy))

Miles 21-26.2 (or 27): Coming out of ESPN WWOS felt so good! The course widened and we could see runners behind us and cheer them on. I was completely giddy when I saw Jeff Galloway ahead of me just before the 21 mile marker. I knew he started with the A corral and must of fallen back (his wife and I went back and forth during my WWOS stops). **Back story: I obviously run using Galloway intervals. I passed him at mile 8 of MCM 2016, and then he passed me at 24 when I was struggling hard. It felt like redemption to pass him.**  I shared my gratitude for his training methods, and sped by. Anyways, then I just felt super strong heading up “the hill” and towards Hollywood Studios. I started chitchatting with some other runners which was great and helped pass the time.

Around mile 23 (I think?) we headed passed a candy stop (skittles, YESSS), I stopped for a picture with Oswald as we were heading in for our short jaunt in Hollywood Studios. Honestly it was so short that I hardly remember it aside from the fact that I took more candy (nerds) from strangers and it was incredible.  After Hollywood Studios, we headed towards the Boardwalk. The course got so narrow here and it was really hard to keep going at a decent clip. When we got onto the Boardwalk proper, it did open up and on my god it was beautiful!! I was completely taken away by the beauty, as well as the crowd support. When my watch dinged for 25 miles (well, like 24.4) I knew we were almost to EPCOT! It took so much not to cry. I was almost there and feeling FANTASTIC!

EPCOTTTT!!!!

And then we crossed “international gateway” and were in Epcot, running around the world!! We made it! There were so many people everywhere and seriously I’m surprised I didn’t ugly cry. I totally cried a little but thankfully I was wearing my sunglasses :P. I turned off my interval timer to just enjoy the experience. The mile 25 marker was special for the anniversary, and it really hit me then that I had met this goal that I set when I was in high school. One bummer was that I really wanted to get a wine slushie (France), beer (Germany), and/or a margarita (Mexico), and I had reached the World Showcase before it officially opened at 11:00, so most of the stations were closed! I also was bummed that many of the princesses weren’t out yet. I did get pictures with Snow White and Mulan just as they were coming out though! Then it was the rest of the jaunt through future world, under the ball, past the gospel choir, and to the finish!!! (15:15 (Mickey/Donald), 11:26, :40, 12:58 (Oswald), :17, :14, 10:53)

I DID IT! My official time was 5:21:36. Even with all of my stops and running .8 miles over, it was still 12 minutes faster than my first marathon! I was so proud. I ran this the day after a half marathon, with tired legs and having been sick the week before. I felt freaking fantastic. Sure, I was a little stiff, but nothing on me hurt or felt injured. Unlike my first two marathons, I didn’t feel like I was going to puke after. It was a success.

Just for kicks and grins, I looked at Strava to see what my time was without stops. With stop time taken out, I ran 5:04 for 27 miles. This equates to a 11:18 pace, which if I ran only 26.2 would have been around a 4:58. While my 5:21 was my time, I was really happy to see that my average running pace was a sub-5:00 pace while running 60:30 intervals the entire time. I can run a marathon. I can do it. And now I have the confidence to know that I have a sub-5:00 in me.

Post-race celebration: My mom and I got on the bus quickly, showered, and were off to the Magic Kingdom ASAP! I had been dreaming of post-race nachos from Pecos Bill’s Tell Tale Inn Cafe since I registered, and boy, was I ready! I seriously went savage on them. My mom and I really enjoyed our half-day at Magic Kingdom. By 8:00 I had walked/ran a total of 38 miles for the day and I was DEAD. When we got back to the hotel I finally had one last Mickey ice cream sandwich, my post-race beer (there’s no alcohol at MK), packed, and collapsed in bed.

My last celebration was breakfast at Chef Mickey’s the morning after the Marathon. This was a complete surprise for my mom to end our trip and it was definitely one of the highlights!

This was a long post, so if you made it this far – thank you! I plan to share one more post on my big takeaways from the trip, highlights, and what’s next. I can’t believe the experience is over but I’m so thankful that I took the risk and signed up for the Goofy Challenge!

2018 Goofy Challenge Part 1 – Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday January 6th, I ran my first half marathon of 2018 and my 18th half marathon overall! This was the first part of the Goofy Challenge (13.1 + 26.2) and I was so excited to finally run at Walt Disney World.

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Just a little shakeout at my hotel. Yes – I wore my new hoodie because it was only 30 degrees!

Friday, pre-race: I woke up early and got in a shake-out run around Hourglass Lake (Art of Animation/Pop Century property) before heading to Animal Kingdom for the day. Unlike at Epcot on Thursday, I ate enough (not necessarily healthily, though) and didn’t have too much to drink (although I did have quite the cocktail in Pandora). My mom and I headed back to the hotel to have a pasta dinner around 5:00 and settled in for the night. I had done almost 11.5 miles of walking and running during the day and the back of my right knee was realllly stiff. I took a warm bath,  put my legs up on the wall, and foam rolled as I got ready for bed. I was finally in bed to sleep around 9:00.

I ended up leaving the water bottle and trading out the pants for capris.

Saturday, pre-race: Disney World races are known for their early mornings, and mine arrived earlier than planned. Jeez, I forgot how badly my mom SNORES! I was woken up around 1:15 and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. Also, I was starving! I gave up falling back to sleep around 2:15 and got dressed in my running clothes and throwaways. I hit up the resort cafe for some cereal and was on the bus just after 3:00.

I arrived at the pre-race village around 3:30, which was obviously plenty early for the 5:30 am start time (we were told to be in our corrals by 5, I think). I was super happy to get my picture with Goofy before heading to the corrals. I checked my bag then started “the walk.” Seriously, it was a walk. Before I started the race I had already logged 2 miles of walking! It was really cold waiting in the corrals (low 30’s), but I was warm enough with a pair of sweatpants, a bathrobe and blanket. Around 5:00 the pre-race entertainment started and before I knew it Donald was starting the race! I was in Corral D and started about 15 minutes after the first gun went off.

Miles 1-5 started on a highway and brought runners to the Magic Kingdom, first passing through the Ticketing and Transportation center and past the Contemporary Resort. After stopping for a porta-john during the first mile, I settled into a very easy pace while running :45/:30 intervals. There were times where the course was wide and spread out and others where it was pretty cramped and hard to keep up with intervals. I ended up being on the grass alongside the road a lot in order to stay out of others’ ways. I ran pretty steady 12:30ish miles from miles 2-5.

Mile 5 happened right at the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom and brought us down main street past the castle!  At this point I dropped the intervals for a while to just enjoy running through the Magic Kingdom. I also stopped 3 times to try to find my mom (finds out she was back at the Ticketing and Transportation Center – ugh). After Main Street USA, I started stopping for characters: first the White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts, then Sebastian the crab. Then it was time to run through the castle!! You couldn’t have paid me $1,000,000 to stop smiling. We hit Mile 6 running towards Splash Mountain and left the park shortly after.

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Miles 6-10 had us exiting the Magic Kingdom, past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts and around the back side of the Ticket and Transportation Center. I stopped for a pit stop and a couple of character stops, penguins from Mary Poppins and the Genie from Aladin, but otherwise these miles weren’t all that special. They were pretty cramped as we were down to 1-2 lanes on the highway. There was also entertainment about every .5 miles, whether it be a DJ, marching band, or a mile marker with music. These really helped the miles fly by. Despite the landscape not being all that exciting, I was still having lots of fun. Around 15K we passed this awesome Mickey hot air balloon (we also saw him at 5K) and we headed back towards the Epcot area. My pace during these miles varied due to stopping for pictures but I started to run a little faster when I was running (mile 6: 23:30 LOL (2 character stops and the castle), mile 9: 12:01).

Miles 10-13 brought us back towards Epcot, into and out of Epcot’s Future World and of course, to the finish line! Around mile 11 (I think) there was a short hill with entertainment by a green army man from Toy Story, which was super fun. At this point I realized that I wasn’t sweating, but instead of that being due to dehydration/hyperhydration it was because I really wasn’t working that hard! My paces dipped into the low 11’s (like 11:40ish), which would have been nervous about if my heart rate wasn’t so low (yay!). I found myself feeling a little “let this be over!” around mile 12 as we were coming into Epcot and sped up a bit. I was happy to run mile 12 in 11:00 and run the final .48 mile nubbin at a 9:40 pace. Not only did I finally break a little sweat but I also FINALLY saw my mom and crossed a RunDisney finish line!!

I was so happy at the end of this race. I met my goal of running a 3:00 half marathon (official time was 3:03 and my actual moving time was about 2:40), I ran super easy (147 average heart rate), and had so much fun! I ended up relying on water stops (which I never do in a race) and was plenty hydrated. The back of my right knee was still pretty tight, but it did not bother me while running as I kept good form. Before getting back on the bus I ate my potato chips and beef jerky that I’d put in my gEAR check bag. When I got back to the hotel I get a Mickey ice cream sandwich for breakfast 😛

My mom also got me a rose – how sweet!

After a shower and a short nap, I was up and ready for an afternoon at Disney Springs! I had an amazing time with my mom but the more we walked, the more it hit me that I had a marathon to run the next day.  Was I really in good enough shape to do this? Would I succeed? More to come with my marathon post…

Lunch at Rainforest Cafe – we seem to always go there when we visit Disney! (“No I’m not tired at all, but I AM f***ing starving)

 

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2018 Part 1

Hello from somewhere above the southeast. Yes, I’m totally starting this from the plane on Monday evening because I simply have so many feelings to share from this amazing weekend. Yes, I just said amazing. That may be a spoiler but if you saw my instagram you already know that the WDW Marathon Weekend was full of smiles. My heart is so full and I’ve never smiled so much while running.

I met all of my goals for the half marathon and while I didn’t clock that sub-5 for my full, I am probably happier than I would have been if I did. More will be coming up about the races soon but first I would like to share some thoughts on the RunDisney experience. Not everyone had/will have the same experience as me, and I’m sure other race weekends are different but this is how it was through my eyes.

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As you would know/expect, running at Disney is freaking expensive. But in all honesty I found that it was worth every single penny. The races themselves were impeccably organized. Transportation to/from the events from my resort (Art of Animation – on property) was as smooth as butter. I was back to my hotel within a half an hour of finishing, which was huge for recovery between the half and full. The aid stations (medical and water) were plentiful and well stocked with products and amazing volunteers. The course entertainment when not in the parks was fantastic and made the miles fly by. While I know many Dopeys had a bad expo experience, I went on the second day and it was very smooth. And obviously, the swag is top notch.

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The actual of running this race was just as positive as the energy that I found at the Marine Corps Marathon. I was afraid this was going to be my view coming out of this weekend, but I’m not sure anything can beat the races themselves. Even if I wasn’t at Disney World, this would have still been a top EXPERIENCE. However, I as at Walt Disney World. Nothing beats running down Main Street USA and through Cinderella’s castle. I didn’t dress in costume but I love seeing everyone who did. Seeing the Mission Space ball and knowing that you’re almost there is just incredible. This was the best running experience ever. I will do other marathons, but nothing will compare (until I run NYC, London, or Boston (someday) ). The energy, camaraderie, spectators and volunteers were simply incredible.

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Yes, I’m on THE BIGGEST runners high right now. I’m expecting quite the post marathon/vacation blues to hit within the  next few days. It’s taking all I have not to scrap all other race plans for the spring and sign up for a marathon. After the races are over I’m still spending #allthemoney on merch (which I did not think I’d do). 

 

Running in 2017: A Look Back

With December almost halfway over, it’s time to reflect on the year that has been 2017. I can’t put into words how good 2017 was to me in many ways. In terms of running, it was my best year yet. I’ll be sad to see it go, but 2018 also has a lot in store for me!

Throughout the year, I stayed healthy and injury-free for the first time. GUYS. I RAN A YEAR INJURY FREE!!!!!!!! Sure, I took extra days off here and there for aches and pains, but I was never hurt. I ran more miles than I ever have. I started to cross train regularly (then stopped, oops). I also experienced my first period of “burnout”, but I made it through.

January – March: In late 2016, I signed up for my second marathon. I started training the week before the new year began. Aside from a cancelled half marathon I ran relatively consistently. The worst part of these months was stepping away from November Project due to work-related stress. I remember one, 18-mile run that went very poorly but besides that, running was great. I ended up running 93.8 miles in January, 98.4 miles in February and 125.1 miles in March.

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With two of my fave pals (who run) at the trail half!

Races: Little Patuxtent River Run Trail Half (2:32), Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon  (2:19:35), Shamrock 5K (27:01 – PR), Baltimore Road Runners Club St. Patrick’s Day 5K (27:51)

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April-June: April brought peak week for the New Jersey Marathon, the taper, and of course, the race! I was so proud of myself for setting a huge PR. It took longer than I had hoped to recover from the marathon and I kept a pretty low running profile in the following two months. I ran my personal worst half marathon at Zooma Annapolis on a very challenging course. I also started to ride my bike more in preparation for my first Duathlon! I ran 134.1 miles in April, 46.4 miles in May and 74.8 miles in June.

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Sole of the City 10K (easy run before a 20 miler)

Races: Oldfields Half Marathon (2:12:43), Sole of the City 10K (1:12:22), Columbia 5K (aka Hangover 5K – 33:19), New Jersey Marathon (5:03:42 – PR), Stoneleigh Stampede 5K (28:52),  Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon (2:33:27), Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K (38:56)

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*don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry*

July-September: Once July hit, I really started to get back into the swing of things. My mind started to get back into training. I worked really hard to set a PR at the Charles Street 12 miler and went straight into training for the Goofy Challenge. I also completed my first multi-sport race and won an age-group award for the first time. Things got a little funky when I started my new job, but I was able to keep going strong. Summer seriously felt like it would never end, but it made me a stronger runner! I also ran my first RAGNAR! I ran 81.9 miles in July, 125.4 miles in August and 106.8 miles in September.

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Post Ragnar DC leg-3. I ran so hard my bib belt broke!

Races: Towson 4 on the 4th (39:44), Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon (2:29:08), Maryland Sprint Duathlon (1:43:04), Too Hot To Trot 10K (58:55 – short), Charles Street 12 Miler (2:03:33PR).

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October-December: These were, without a doubt, my hardest months of the year. In September and October I went full force training for Goofy. I was running doubles and putting in a lot of strength- and cross-training time at the gym. That, combined with work and putting tons of pressure on myself in my relationship, led to getting really burnt out. I thought about giving up on Goofy and just not running any more after. I stopped cross/strength work and really minimized my training – I began to do just enough to make it to the finish line but took all pressures off of myself. It took 3-4 weeks, but I finally found my way through it. During these months I’ve experienced some quad pain, but it’s nothing that made me take more than one extra rest day a week. I ran 121.6 miles in October, 116.8 in November and I have run 54.8 miles in December as of December 13 (I have 35 more on the plan for this week – HAH!).

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Favorite race photo ever – my nephew’s first finish line!

Races: 4 Miles for Eli 4 miler (38:XX – short, but with a stroller!), Baltimore Running Festival 5K (38:06) and Half Marathon (2:31:12), Towson Homecoming 5K (37:17 – short), Towson Turkey Trot 5K (31:50).

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October + November = 3 5Ks with friends!

In 2017 I ran 1 marathon, 6 half marathons, 1 10K and numerous other races. I set PRs in the marathon, 5K, and 12 mile. I will also hit my big goal of 1200 miles for the year in mid-December! It’s hard to pick out a favorite moment from the year, but if I had to choose it would be the entire New Jersey Marathon. I trained well, trusted my race plan, and ran my race. Or maybe hitting the 1,000 mile mark for the with friends by my side – it was amazing to share it with others, even if they were just a small part of it.

I also loved being a Bib Rave Pro in 2017! I ran three great races with them and tried numerous great products. I’m really looking forward to another year as a Pro!

As you know if you’re a regular reader, my 2018 is going to start off with a huge bang with my 18th half and 3rd full. I’ll be back soon with racing plans for 2018 as they are largely set in stone already. Crazy – right?!

What were some of your running highlights this year? What was your favorite race?

Ragnar Relay DC Recap Part 2: My first-time experience

As I shared what seems like forever ago (sorry….I have a life!) I ran a very random, unexpected Ragnar back in September! I loved so much of the experience, but there were also parts of my experience that I didn’t love. While my race recap shares how the running went, this post will share more of the emotional and all-around team experience.

What I LOVED:

– I loved being part of a team. It doesn’t matter that I had just met these people the night before. I loved how we cheered for each other, supported each other, and talked about running a lot.

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– I loved the organization of the Ragnar race itself. The logistics that go into a 200 mile relay that runs into Washington, DC cannot be easy. The race “bible” directions got us to where we needed to be (except for when I was giving directions at night, whoops). Race command also was very helpful with finding ways for my team to make it to the finish in time. I also appreciated that some of the exchanges were near stores so we could get food! Also, having porta johns at almost every exchange was a LIFESAVER!

I loved the atmosphere of fun that really took a forefront over the weekend. I had no idea that “tagging” vans was a thing, but I thing it is a genius idea!

 

What I didn’t love:

– Not competitive enough (at least my van): By the time I was done my second run, I was a bit over the “fun” aspect. Not because Ragnar wasn’t about fun, but it is also a race. While we may not have ever had a chance of winning, it didn’t mean that we didn’t need to stop for 10 minutes to chat in the middle of a leg to chat and sit. We were behind pace the entire time (although there is a published average you need to keep) and it caused me a lot of stress. While it’s nbd that we weren’t going to win, I wish that people still gave their all, because I sure did my best to hit my expected paces. I felt weird when my team thought it was surprising that I was running my estimated pace, because I put in a good, honest estimate.

– (Our) organization (with my legs): Seriously, having hand-off after both legs 1 and 2 made me dread leg 3, especially because it was so short. While I was fine with not getting/needing support on my legs (2 were non-support, one was full support but I can run 6 miles), it sucked for my team not to be there/ready after giving my runs my all. Everyone else seemed to have seamless hand-offs except for me. And I know it’s selfish, but it was really annoying.

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“fake” handoff. Womp.

– Rule following seemed to be an issue for my van. If you know me, I’m a strict rule-follower, so this was really hard to deal with. Peeing in the woods is one thing, but pooping in someone’s yard (when it was shared MULTIPLE times that it was OBVIOUSLY against the rules, and just RUDE/GROSS) is just wrong. Also my van was very adamant to always support the runners. Great, awesome, support our teammate – on legs when it’s allowed. There were reasons why certain legs were “non-support.” I, once again, wish rules were followed for the safety of all participants.

– The finish line: We finally finished around 7:30pm on Saturday, and the cutoff was 8:00. When we got to the finish line, there was no pizza left, the vendor tried to make us pay for our “free beer” (I did NOT, tyvm), and there was seriously no energy left in the experience. We finished within the timeline, and felt that we deserved the same experience as the “fast” teams that finished earlier in the day. I was really looking forward to the finish line experience, but by time I got there, I straight-up wanted to leave.

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Us: “We can’t wait for pizza and beer!” Ragnar: “JK LOL JOKES ON U!”

Things I would change: 

– Actually build a team, or find one in advance! It was quite the experience running with a random group. I met a lot of great people, and had an overall fun time. However, stresses such as how I was getting home (that was a fiasco) and running differences definitely caused more anxiety than I was hoping for. I’d love to be on a team with runners who are there for fun, but also to run their best efforts and to try new things! (I think only 2 or 3 of us on the whole team ran our night legs alone).

Will I run again? OH HECK YES. I loved the experience as a whole. Most of my team was all, “I’m never doing this again!” I was the complete opposite. I was having the time of my life when I was running and at the exchanges, cheering everyone on. The night run was seriously one of the best running experiences ever. I’m definitely hoping to run Ragnar Pennsylvania in June 2018, and I’m trying to form a team with Bib Rave Pro’s for that. I would also love to run a trail Ragnar and/or Reach the Beach in 2018!