Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#24 - Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon and 5K

I spent November 8th - 11th at Walt Disney World for Epcot's Food and Wine Festival and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  It was a quick weekend trip, but completely worth it.  Saturday morning began with walking the 5 K with Mom and John.  Well...we started out together but I really wanted to get ahead of them so that I could take photos of them finishing.

Mom started walking 5 K's shortly after I ran my first half marathon in Baltimore.  She needs a double knee replacement, so I believe that walking these 5 K's helps her feel a sense of control as well as accomplishment.  She gets the same rush that I do at the finish line when she receives her medal and has done so many 5 K's now that she is on her 2nd medal bar.  As a result of her new decor, John wanted to start walking 5 K's too.  Now the majority of our vacations revolve around races, just like the Wine and Dine weekend.

This was half marathon #24 for me, and the warmest half marathon I have ever run.  I have run "winter" races at Disney, but never a fall race.  The weather was nice considering I was coming from the Midwest where we had highs that week in the lower 40's.  The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is run at night so one would assume that it would be nice and cool.  This particular weekend, the highs increased with each day that passed.  At the starting line at 10:20 p.m. the temperature was in the high 70's.  Perfect November weather but when you run, it feels 10-20 degrees warmer.  Our race shirts had long sleeves.  As I mentioned before, I NEVER wear a race shirt before I complete the actual race.  I am convinced it is bad luck.  But I also knew better than to wear a long sleeve shirt during a race where the temperature was in the 70's.

I felt really good throughout the race, even though I had been nervous all day about how I should eat for a night race.  The course was fairly well lit, but you did have to pay attention to the road and other runners, especially since the course can often get crowded with the 12,000 + runners.  Mile 12 I was still feeling awesome and the adrenaline was starting to kick in.  The problem was, my trusty satellite watch was off by a bit over .1 miles.  I have run half marathons before where they do not put a mile marker 13, since you are so close to the finish that you can usually see it.  So when my watch said I was at 13 and I saw the laser lights and heard the music booming, I started sprinting as if I were being chased by a lion.  Then I passed mile marker 13.  I silently said a few curse words and kept moving as fast as my legs would allow me towards the actual finish line, .1 miles away.  Finally I crossed the finish, proceeded through the shoot to get my medal, food......and wine.  Once I found my parents I sat down to stretch and proceeded to drink my hard-earned wine.  As I did so, I had one of my personal trainer/co-worker's voice in my head reminding me that I am dehydrated and that I should take it easy with the wine. I was ready to get to the after party, so I didn't listen to that voice for very long.

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon exclusive after party makes the race worth the cost, the flight, and the hotel stay.  I finished after midnight and they kept Epcot open until 4 a.m. for half marathon finishers and family/friends who buy tickets.  I can't remember seeing any kids.  There was always less than a ten minute wait for rides.  You started with a $10 gift card to use at the various vendors and the "tastes" at each vendor were very reasonably priced.  I can't put to words how amazing those few hours in Epcot after midnight were.  Somehow we made it until closing at 4 a.m. and I vowed to run this race again.  AMAZING!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

#23 Rock and Roll St. Louis Half Marathon 10.27.13

I am quickly realizing that I am superstitious when it comes to running races.  I have trained with various running store groups in DC and St. Louis and have gone to many running-related workshops.  It is from other runners talking about their experiences and quirks, that I have picked up these superstitions.  

I go to a chiropractor who is amazing, and also happens to be a runner.  We had a discussion last week about compression socks.  He does not see the need for them while I have been using them since I started running in 2009 (based on a runner's recommendation), so I can't imagine going without them.  I typically only wear them during a race if it is a marathon, but will often wear recovery compression socks after half marathons.  I just can't imagine not packing them for a race weekend.

One of my former running buddies told me that he never wears the race shirt during the race so that he doesn't jinx himself.  I agreed with that and I also wanted to earn the shirt before I wore it.  So at the big races with nice shirts like the Rock and Roll races, thousands of runners wear the race shirt, yet I never will.  

I also try my hardest to not stop at the porta potties during a half marathon.  I have only stopped during a race twice out of 23 half marathons, but each time it threw off my momentum and the remainder of the race just wasn't as smooth as it was before I stopped.  As a result, I tend to eat and drink the same things the days leading to and the day of the race.  I find what works and I tend not to stray from it because of both fear and superstition.  I am not sure if all of this makes me crazy, or just a typical marathoner.  Either way, I don't see it changing.

My 23rd half marathon was last weekend, the St. Louis Rock and Roll race.  This is the 3rd year that this race has been part of the Rock and Roll series and the 3rd year I have participated in the half. As I was running Sunday I also realized that this was my 5th Rock and Roll race, the other two being Rock and Roll USA and Rock and Roll San Antonio.  I like these races because they are just massive like Disney races.  They bring in runners from all over whereas the other St. Louis races tend to pull primarily from the immediate metro area only.  The course took us through many of the great St. Louis neighborhoods and there were always runners and spectators around me.  This year's medal is probably my favorite Rock and Roll medal because of the cardinal.  Although I always enjoy this race, I will most likely not run it again in 2014 unless I also end up running the Rock and Roll USA race so that I can get the extra medal for running two in one year.  Materialistic?  Maybe.  But until you get one in your hand or around your neck at the finish line, you just won't understand.  

The 2014 medal with the prominent cardinal.

The swag bag, probably the best in the business!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Those 13.1 Miles Are Calling Your Name.....Again

I received this in the mail a few months back, literally days after discussing running this race again with my mom. It was like they read my mind!  Tonight I finally registered.  This time I will have to stop, drop, and kiss the bricks.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#22 Go St. Louis Halloween Half Marathon

I wasn't sore after this race!!!  I am so excited that I am starting to see results with my increased training.  The course was a lot hillier than the Cowbell race and I could feel it halfway through the race.  The course overall was nice and different from the spring Go race, which allowed me to see different parts of town that I have yet to venture to.  Next year I am determined to find a costume that I can run 13.1 miles in and I think that I have convinced Mom and John to dress up and participate in the 5K.

I also found out that you can earn free tech shirts or race entries when you volunteer at the Go races and expos.  The half marathon requires 20 volunteer hours while the full marathon requires 30 volunteer hours, but they never expire.  It will take me a couple years but who wouldn't want to volunteer a few hours for a free race entry?  What a great idea!  I also LOVE the fact that Go St. Louis is a non-profit, so your race entry directly benefits a good cause which is not the case with the larger races that are for-profit.  Looking forward to #23.....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Missouri Cowbell Half Marathon - October 6, 2013

I liked this race.  It was right in my backyard, it had a good expo (or they call it an ExMO), the medals are nice, the course is relatively flat and scenic, course support was amazing, plenty of people finished after me, and the post race festival was great as well.  The only complaint I have is that there were not enough porta potties at the start/finish line.  I also managed to shave 6 minutes off of my Roots, Blues, and BBQ Half Marathon time....which only means I was slightly less slow.  I have a few more races in Missouri before I head to Florida.  I have started taking my training more seriously and am starting to care more about my finish times rather than just simply finishing.  Anxiously awaiting #22...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Running under-trained..

Half Marathon #20 - Roots, Blues, and BBQ 

Yesterday I ran the Roots, Blues, and BBQ Festival Half Marathon in Columbia, MO.  I had originally had my eye on another September half marathon to be my first of the season but I saw pictures of their 2013 medals and I was less than impressed.  I chose this half to be the first race of the fall season.  I had paid for this race one to two months ago, yet I allowed too many distractions to come into my life and derail my training. Even the week of the race I was ill for two days yet I did not want to lose the money I had invested, so I was determined to run under-trained and not at 100%.  Needless to say I was nervous Friday night and Saturday morning.  My stomach was in knots and I hardly slept Friday night.  It wasn't until I was at the start line that I got really excited.  I told myself that regardless of what happened to my training, I could finish this race.  I would walk if I needed to, but I would finish and get that medal at the end.  

So here is my rundown of the race:

Pros -
  • Amazing weather!
  • Columbia is beautiful and the race course takes you through several parks and quaint neighborhoods.  Their trail system is quite extensive and the majority of the course is on their trails.
  • There is bbq at the finish line.
  • The medals are large and heavy.
  • You didn't have to worry about traffic because most of the race was on trails.
  • Columbia is a nice town to visit for a weekend - home to plenty of quaint shops and restaurants.
Cons - 
  • This race was the hilliest I have ever run, no joke.  I have run in Baltimore, DC, St. Louis, etc. and I really can't remember a race being hillier than this.
  • I train on the Katy Trail which is crushed limestone for the most part, but this is the only half marathon I have run primarily on trails.  I tend to avoid races that are labeled as trail runs and this one wasn't labeled that way, yet it was primarily on the Columbia trail system.  I just wasn't mentally prepared for the soft ground rather than asphalt or pavement.
  • Because much of the race was on trails, some parts were VERY narrow to where you could not pass.
  • Most of the spectators were at the start/finish only due to the nature of the course. 

So today I am sore, very sore but this race has gotten me excited for the fall race season!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I blinked and all of a sudden I had run 19 half marathons!

I decided to start a blog because I feel like I blinked and all of a sudden I had run 19 half marathons and two full marathons.  Granted a lot has happened between 2009 when I started running and now, but I can't say that I remember something specific about each race.  I also must admit that I tend to be under-trained, often throwing in a half marathon when I have not even been running beyond five miles on my weekly long runs.  I am at the point now where I actually want to improve my time and fitness level, rather than just winging it.  So here it is, the end of July and I am planning on running a half at the beginning of September.  It is time to get serious and train but digging out the medals that I have acquired so far is serving as great motivation. 

Half Marathon #2 - DC.  This race has since been acquired by the Rock and Roll series.

Half Marathon #4 - VA

Half Marathon #5 - IL

Half Marathon #7 - TX

Half Marathon #8 and Marathon #2 - The Goofy Challenge - FL

Half Marathon #9 - IL

Half Marathon #10 - IN

Half Marathon #11 - OH (and the 5k)

Half Marathon #12 - MO

Half Marathon #13 - FL

Half Marathon #14 - DC

Half Marathon #15 - IL

Half Marathon #16 - MO

Half Marathon #17 - IN

Half Marathon # 18 - IL

Half Marathon #19 - MO

I also have a tendency to run combinations of races for the additional medal(s).

Half Marathons #3 and 6 - Plus Maryland Double medal

My partner in crime for the 2010 Baltimore Half Marathon

Extra medals from Pacers for running various 5k's and 10k's

Rock and Roll Encore for running DC and St. Louis Rock and Roll in the same year

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The beginning....

When I was in junior high and high school, I participated in several sports.  I was in volleyball and swim team all the way through my junior year of high school, but I wasn't an elite athlete by any means. In fact when it came to volleyball, I was what people affectionately call a bench warmer. I continued to participate because my school was small enough to not have try-outs, it kept me in shape, and it was something to occupy my time in a small, rural town.  Training for volleyball involved a lot of running, which I hated with a fiery passion.  I was on the track team in 8th grade and because I completely lacked speed and strength, I was trained to run the 1600, otherwise known as the mile.  My track career did not continue into high school because I did not like to run. This is probably also the reason I was a bench warmer on the volleyball team.

When I got to college, I obviously was not athletic enough to play sports and I had no desire to play on inter-mural leagues either.  I basically stopped working out and took full advantage of the food suddenly available to me 24/7.  Obviously this is a recipe for disaster and it caused a lot of weight gain.  By the time I graduated with my Master's degree, I was over 200 pounds!

The summer after graduation, I packed my bags and moved to Washington, DC.  One of my high school classmates and his brother were already living there and their lease was up soon.  I had several interviews lined up and the future was looking bright!  Within a month of moving to DC, we had a new row house on Capitol Hill, I was a pro at using the metro, I had my first full-time job with great benefits, and I was loving life. Around this same time, my roommate was training for his first marathon.  He would tell me how many miles he ran that day as part of his training, and I just thought he was absolutely crazy.  It made sense somehow for him though because he was tall and lean and had been on the crew team in college.  Living on Capitol Hill you not only come across the masses of tourists, but you also come across masses of runners and there seemed to be 5k's and 10k's somewhere in the city every weekend.  People looked happy and relaxed while they were running, but I just thought that couldn't ever be me. I was too heavy and I hated running, hated it!

A few months into my new job, a brand new gym opened between my office and the metro station.  They offered amazing deals on membership and personal training sessions if you would sign up to be one of their charter members.  I took this as a sign that I needed to start a weight loss and fitness journey, and I signed up!  I quickly began tapping into my personal training package and I was paired with a female trainer who happened to be a marathoner.  We talked about how I would like to start running because I loved being outside and DC had so many trails to explore, but I hated running and just physically couldn't do it.  She told me that most people think they can't run because they start off too fast, wear out, and then just quit.  That sounded like my experience so I let her train me to run using a treadmill.  Each session we would start off walking and then gradually increase the speed so that I was jogging at a pace that would not completely exhaust me.  Then we increased the duration each time.  Within a few weeks I was up to five treadmill miles!  At this point I decided it was high time to take the running outdoors, which is what appealed to me in the first place.  I am a morning person and the streets and sidewalks were quiet before 7 a.m. so I began running before work.  I instantly fell in love! My morning run included passing my the Supreme Court, the Capitol, running down the hill onto the mall, turning back and running up the hill which seemed so much steeper suddenly, and then stretching in Stanton Park.  On the weekends I started doing longer runs on this amazing trail along the Potomac River. I would literally forget that I was running when I was on that trail; it was amazing.

By the spring of 2009 I thought it was time to sign up for a race.  One of my co-workers had been a runner since junior high and we signed up for the George Washington Parkway 10 Miler.  I was somehow able to stay with him until mile nine.  There was no medal at the end, but I was just so excited and surprised that I  finished a race. That was what I consider the beginning because at that point, I was bitten by the race bug. I literally remember thinking, "what can I sign up for next" at the post race party.  I thought that if I could finish a 10 mile race without stopping, why not try a half marathon?

My first race

Shortly after the GW Parkway race, I signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon.  I convinced my mother to fly out for it from Illinois because I wanted my emergency contact on-site just in case.  I told her my goal was just to finish before the sag wagon came to pick up the runners and again I surprised myself by having a decent time and not stopping at all on the course.  So what is the next LOGICAL step after completing a half marathon?  Most people would say sign up for another half marathon....I thought, "let's double the mileage and sign up for a full marathon."  In January of 2010 I ran my first marathon at Walt Disney World.  After receiving the medal at the end of this race, I decided I wanted to run more races and earn more medals. And that is how this journey began.....  

Baltimore Half Marathon 2009

Walt Disney World Marathon 2010