Friday, April 28, 2017

STAR WARS DARKSIDE CHALLENGE – April 22 & 23, 2017



I was hoping to join the Rebel Force…Instead, I had to succumb to the dark side.

Let me state for the record that I love Disney.  We have always had passes for the parks, and it is truly the “happiest place on Earth.”  That being said, I have never really had a burning desire to run a Disney race.  I know lots of folks who are obsessed with Disney (I’m not judging), and will enter any and every race they put on.  I had entered the Disney Half Marathon in 2006, but had to come home before the race even started (read “Meet Me Half Way” for the unfortunate details).  Disney races are extremely expensive, and I never had any real motivation to register…until now.

Since Lindsey has started running, she approached me about venturing up to Orlando.  With the Disney Half Marathon (in January) already sold out, we checked to see what was next.  In 2016, the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon was introduced.  The race takes place in April, and it was not yet sold out.  We registered for the “Dark Side Challenge,” which consists of a 10K on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday.  As the weekend approached, we could definitely feel the power of the force.

We left at 6:30am on Friday morning and drove right to the expo, which was held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.  We arrived just as the expo opened, and picked up our race packets.  We received three shirts, which of course were all Star Wars themed.  After a bit of shopping, we drove to the Pop Century Resort and checked into our room.  We took the bus to Epcot, and took advantage of the International Flower and Garden Festival.  Knowing that we would be getting up several hours before the crack of dawn, we left the park early, and went to bed around 8pm.  Race time was 5:30am, and we needed to catch our bus no later than 4am.



 I was impressed that there were several buses waiting for us, and we got on right away.  Both races started in the parking lot at Magic Kingdom, and we arrived at 3:50am.  When I got off the bus, my first thought was “Dang…. I’ve never seen so many porta-pottys in one place.”  It was like a giant port-potty conclave.  We struck up a conversation with some folks from California, who ran the Star Wars Light Side Challenge in Anaheim.  Lindsey had not yet run a half marathon when we registered, so we were placed on one of the last corrals.  There was a stage set up at the starting line, with entertainment, and clips from all of the Star Wars movies.  The start of the race was very organized, especially with 10,895 Disney fanatics chomping at the bit.  Each corral started in several waves, with fireworks and lots of fanfare.  The roads were very wide, with large screens showing movie clips along the way.  There were also characters on the side of the road for those wanting to stop for photos.  We ran through Hollywood Studios around the four-mile mark.  We came into the park near the Tower of Terror, and out through the main street.  The race finished up by running around Boardwalk, past the Disney Beach Resort, and in through the back entrance of Epcot.  After a quick visit to the United Kingdom and Canada, we crossed the finish line.  It was a very enjoyable run, and the bus was right there to take us back to our hotel.  We showered, ate lunch, and spent an eventful day at Hollywood Studios.





We knew the drill for Sunday morning:  Up at 2:30, on the bus at 3:30, and in our corral by 4am.  You could tell that there were a lot more people running the half marathon (16,311) than the 10K.  Our main entertainment was watching one of the volunteers in our corral.  Her responsibility was to make sure that none of the runners tried to enter a corral other than the one they were assigned to.  You are allowed to move back as many corrals as you want; just not forward.  We were assigned to “F,” which was the penultimate corral.  She was taking her job way too seriously.  At this point, everyone is so slow; what did it really matter?  There were more waves on this day, but it still took us less than 30 minutes to start (the Miami Marathon can learn a lesson or two on organization).  The route was different than from the day prior, as we ran on some service roads rather than on the main drag.  Around four miles in, we approached Animal Kingdom.  Even if you didn’t know that, you could smell the animals a mile away.  My knee was still sore, which surprised me that I had not worked out all of the kinks by this point.  Then out of nowhere, I got this sharp pain in my TFL.  This stands for Tensor Fascia Latae, and is a small muscle found on the outside of the hip.  It felt as if someone threw a baseball at me.  I walked for a little bit, and it seemed to feel better.  Once I started to run, the pain intensified.  It was very cool running through Animal Kingdom, which helped me deflect the pain for a brief point in time.  As we left the park, my walking times became more frequent.  I did not want to risk further damage, so I told Lindsey to take off and meet me at the finish line.  After several more attempts to run (especially with my knee hurting as well), I made the decision to shut it down.  This was the first time in my running career that I would be walking to finish a race.



 

It was a very interesting perspective seeing how “the other half lives.”  It didn’t hurt to walk, so I was able to really concentrate on the surroundings, the other walkers, and the extravagant costumes.  Many of the participants way back in the pack were nowhere race ready, but their love for the Disney “bling” kept them motivated.  I spoke with one woman who was doing her first half marathon.  She was very much overweight, and was wearing a very cute Yoda hat.  She was from Boston, and the heat was really wearing her down.  I kept giving her motivation, which she really seemed to appreciate.  Six miles out of Animal Kingdom, we finally entered Hollywood Studios.  It is one thing to run 13.1 miles…walking it takes forever!  The route was a little different than the day before, especially when we ran around Boardwalk.  We also ran the countries of Epcot, starting with France.  With less than one-half mile to go, what else could go wrong?  How about my knee brace snapping in half?  It had cracked a few weeks prior, but this was a full-on explosion.  At this point, it didn’t really matter.  There were wall-to-wall walkers, with no room to run even if you wanted to.  As I crossed the finish line, I was getting pushed and shoved by everyone around me.  Apparently, none of the Mouseketeers got the memo that you don’t just stop at the finish line.  It was like a multi-car crash on the highway.  The moral of the story is…don’t walk…be fast.  That way, you don’t have to deal with all of this mishegoss.  The medals for both races (and the Dark Side Challenge) were very nice, but you would expect nothing less from Disney.  My feet were really hurting me from walking, and we went back to the hotel for a well-deserved power nap.  We grabbed dinner at Disney Springs, and made our way home on Monday morning.




 It was a great weekend.  Despite the injury, I enjoyed both races.  It’s unfortunate that only around 3 of the 13.1 miles are actually through the park, but I don’t know what can be done about it.  As long as there are Disney “geeks,” the races will flourish.







KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON running apps

Thursday, April 6, 2017

RACE FOR WOMEN’S WELLNESS HALF MARATHON - MARCH 25, 2017

As previously stated in past posts, this is probably my least favorite race.  That notwithstanding, I would never miss a race for anything other than a medical issue.  The Wednesday before the race, I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning.  My hygienist Claudia (whom I absolutely love) told me one of my crowns was loose.  I came back on Friday to cement that bad-boy back in, and received the worst news possible.  Without going into the gory details, the tooth had to be extracted, followed by a bone graft (I will need an implant in a few months).  Besides the fact that it was very painful, I was advised not to run this race on Saturday.  I was disappointed, but it did not break my heart.

The show must go on, and so must Lindsey.  She would be “flying solo” for the first time.  Therefore, I turn the keyboard over to Lindsey, my celebrity blogger, for the recap:

Running Solo
Over the weekend, I ran my third half marathon, and my first half by myself. This one was the Race for Women’s Wellness in Coral Springs. My dad signed us up a few weeks ago and we were both “meh” about it, because from what I had been told, it’s an overpriced race, boring course, and had overall “mehness.” The race is on a Saturday, which is rare for a half, because the course goes by the megachurch near my house and this way the runners don’t have to deal with churchgoers. The shirts were okay, pink because of women’s wellness and all, and the goodies that came with the race packet were nothing exciting.
The day before the race, I received a text from my dad, who I would like to point out wanted to do this race more than I did, saying, “I’m not going to be able to run with you tomorrow.” From the moment I spoke to him to the moment the race started, I was internally freaking out. My dad had to have his tooth extracted and apparently was not allowed to do physical activity. Usually I rely on him to deal with the logistics of race day: when to leave, how to get there, where to park, etc. but this time, I was in charge. The race began at 6am at the Coral Springs Sportsplex by the Tennis Center (which is where I took my SAT tutoring classes, fun fact), and to come a different way than I was planning because the street was blocked off.

I woke up at 5, and my dad was nice enough to wake up then as encouragement. I stretched, and packed my belt and bib and left for the starting line. I got there a little early and just wandered not knowing anyone who participated. As I was standing at the starting line with 398 of my closest friends, I noticed that my watch battery was low even though I thought I charged it the night before. I knew it would probably die on me at some point, but I would deal with it later. I did have the watch set for 4 x 1 intervals, which I now know was a mistake. After the national anthem was sung, it was time to go. I always start really strong and fast and usually slow down by the end, and this was no different. My first mile and a half was very strong and it was then where I took my first walk break that my watch notified me at. I skipped the next walk break and I was feeling great. Around mile 3 is when I started to get bored. I had no running companion to chat with and honestly, music doesn’t keep me entertained even though I had a great playlist comprised of 80s hits such as “YMCA” and “Panama.” By the time I got 5.5 miles in, my watch notified me that I had low battery. I decided when I got to mile 6 to start Run Keeper so when my watch died I would have the time saved somewhere. Mile 8 is where you run through the parking lot of my high school and it was here that my headphones started acting up. I have the iPhone 7 which stupidly has no headphone jack so I used the adapter piece to plug in my headphones and in the parking lot of my high school, my music suddenly stopped playing through the headphones. I had to stop running to figure it out. It happened again about a mile later. As I left my alma mater, I texted my mom to let her know I was close to our house which the race runs right by and asked if she would bring me a cold water bottle; I had Gatorade in my belt but it was warm. As I came up to the entrance of my neighborhood, I saw my parents standing waiting for me, my dad with his camera, in which the pictures he took turned out blurry, and my mom holding that gloriously cold water. Right after I passed my parents and turned the corner where the megachurch is (mile 10), I started to board the struggle bus. My legs were just killing me and I wasn’t even sticking to intervals because I was just so tired. Mile 11.5 is when that bus took off full force: my watch died and my headphones acted up and I just decided to abort the music all together. My time was pretty good at this point and I knew I could walk the rest of the race and still PR. I didn’t walk the whole mile and a half, but definitely more than half of it. By the time I was coming down the home stretch, I had no idea what my time was so I just kept chugging along. The race does a 5K as well that begins an hour and a half after the half does so by the time I was about a half a mile to the finish line, all the walkers from the 5K were finishing around the same time. Personally, I think this takes away from the accomplishment of running a half marathon when you have walkers from a 5k finishing at the same time, but that’s just me. I also think they should just make this race a 5K. As the final steps were upon me, I sprinted my ass down that very last tenth of a mile and crossed the finish line.
Because this was a solo race, I had no one to celebrate with. I had PR’d by 20 minutes even by walking a good majority of the last few miles. The medal was “meh.” I went to grab a banana which has become my post-race tradition, and they were days from being ripe enough to eat. I took one bite and threw it away. After I got into my car, I decided to get a bagel at my favorite bagel place, Brooklyn Water Bagel, after the race because in the emails, it encouraged runners to go there for breakfast after the race and to bring your bib in to show you did it. I assumed that meant there would be some sort of discount, but when I went to order my food, they looked at me confused. I showed them the email and they informed me there was no such deal and didn’t understand why it would be advertised that way.

I got home, was able to finally see my official time and pace, and see the one and only photo of me from the race, because of course this would be it.

 

As I said, this was the most “meh” race I think I will ever participate in.
I would like to take this time to give my mom a shout out because I didn’t during the post about the Miami half. She sent me encouraging text messages during both of these races, which I was able to read on my running watch and they really helped keep my energy and spirits up.


KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON running apps

Thursday, March 2, 2017

GASPARILLA DISTANCE CLASSIC - FEBRUARY 25 & 26, 2017


I’ve been told that there are only two certainties in life…death and taxes.  Allow me to add a third…A total kickass time at the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

This was my third year participating in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get onboard?  That notwithstanding, I was excited once again to spend an enjoyable weekend with friends from far and wide.  Okay…Ocala, Belleview, and Titusville may not necessarily be considered “far and wide,” but you get the drift.  Lindsey wanted in on the action, so the two of us made our way up to Tampa on Friday.  Our hotel room was not ready when we arrived, so we made our way to what would be many stops to the expo.  Lindsey, Doug and I signed up for the Michelob Amber Challenge, which consists of the 15K & a 5K on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday.  Mary was registered for the Michelob Ultra Challenge, which included the 8K on Sunday.  We had learned the day before that our challenge jackets would not be given out at the expo, due to a “factory error.”  With the temperature in the eighties, we were okay with getting them in the mail in a few weeks.  The shirts for these races are always great, but this year they really outdid themselves.  We met up with our squad (Robin, Judy, Sharon, Stephanie, Jennifer G., Mary, Doug, Jen, and Mary) as they all tricked in, and moseyed our way over to the Champions Sports Bar at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina for an early dinner.


Let’s get some numbers out of the way as far as participants:

15K – 6,479
5K – 13,588
Half Marathon – 6,483
8K – 5,401

The 31,951 entries were announced as the largest participation in the history of this event.

As Mary, Lindsey, Doug, Jen and I made our way from the hotel to the start of the 15K, we were greeted by a gentleman who appeared to be less fortunate that us in terms of his mental stability.  He was having a one-sided conversation with us in a language unknown to anyone on this planet, except for one sentence: “LICK MY A$$.”  With that going for us, how could we not have a successful run?  The race started at 7am, and our running strategy was as follows:  I would run with Jen, Lindsey would run with Mary, and Doug would try to figure it out.  It was around 73 degrees when the gun went off, but the cloud cover throughout the entire race masked the warm temperature.  We all finished within ten minutes or so of each other, and met up at the finish line for some photos.  The 5K started in several “waves” to accommodate the large number of runners, so this give me some time to go back to the hotel room and change into a dry shirt.  Sadly, I did not see my homeless friend to receive more inspiring words of encouragement.


Initially, we stayed back in the last wave with the ladies and all of the walkers, but Lindsey, Doug and I decided to move up one corral.  It was a mistake either way, as we spent most of the first mile trying to dodge all of participants who were planning on walking for the entire race.  Lindsey and I made the executive decision to walk most of the race, and conserve our energy for the half marathon on Sunday.


We went back to the room for a quick shower, and then met up with the rest of our squad at Jackson’s Bistro for a well-deserved lunch and adult beverages.  It was then that we found out that Mary may have done some serious damage to her knee during the 15K, and would not be able to run the half marathon & 8K on Sunday.  This was obviously a major disappointment for her, and graciously offered her bib to Amy, who was there with her family.  After a quick trip to Publix, we relaxed by the pool for a few hours, with great friends and great adult beverages.  Dinner and sangria took place at Columbia Restaurant, followed by an early bed time.  Or was it?


  Around 2am, we heard a sound that could only be described as a sonic blast.  Were we under attach?  Was it thundering?  No…it was Doug snoring!  At the risk of over-exaggerating, I honestly thought the plaster on the ceiling was going to fall on my head.  It went on for so long, we actually had to resort to throwing pillows at him, in an effort to make him stop.  Since I had set my alarm for 4am, I did not think I would be getting any more sleep for the rest of the night.  45 minutes later, it was mercifully over.

The temperature Sunday morning was a little cooler, so at least we had that going for us.  That and a 6am start time, the only unknown was how sore we would be during the race.  Lindsey and I decided to do 3 x 1 intervals, but we ran the first mile without walking.  We kept a relatively steady pace throughout the race; unlike yesterday, the sun was out in full-force.  We decided to sprint for the last quarter-mile, but of course I had to stop right before the finish line for a photo opportunity.  The ladies met us as we picked up our medals; it was bittersweet that the weekend was coming to an end.


This is a first-class event, and a first-class weekend.  I would encourage everyone to participate at least once, even if you are there just to party (not that’s there’s anything wrong with that).



KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON running apps


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MIAMI HALF MARATHON - 01/29/2017


Wet…cold…windy…but always exciting.

For some reason, this is the only race that comes with an internal countdown clock built into my brain.  Maybe it’s because it’s the biggest race I compete in.  Maybe it’s because I usually have friends who travel far and wide to stay with me.  Either way, the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon is a very high profile race.  This year, I was super excited for two reasons: First, my friend Elaine was coming down from North Carolina to run with me.  Second, this would be Lindsey’s first half marathon.  Most runners want their “first” to be something special, and Miami certainly qualifies.  I was actually thinking of “supersizing” to the full as a surprise to Elaine, but Lindsey entering the race changed those plans.  Part of me wants to get back into full marathons; part of me does not want to go through all of that training.  Miami was my first half marathon back in 2007, so I guess we were keeping it in the family.  As if that weren’t enough to make your toes tingle, Pam was coming down as well.  Pam had not run a half marathon in close to two years, but I knew it would be no problem for her.

I picked Elaine up from the airport on Friday morning, and we went right over to Runner’s Depot.  In what can only be considered a strategically great decision, they set up their own “South Florida Running Show” at the Davie store instead of purchasing a booth at the expo.  All the reps from the major shoe manufacturers were there, and everything in the store was 20% off.  I purchased three pairs of running shorts, since Glenda said all of mine were too baggy.  In a very ingenious move, ReneĆ© arranged for round-trip bus service to the expo at a cost of only $10 per person.  What a deal, and what better way to get folks to come to her expo?  Pam had to work that day, and arrived at our house around 11pm.

We woke up early on Saturday and made our way to Runner’s Deport.  I had scheduled the four of us to take the 10am bus to the expo, which would put us back at the store around 1pm.  My only concern was there would not be enough time to totally peruse all of the merchandise, but past experience told me it should be fine.  Boy…was I wrong.  In previous years, the expo had been held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  It was a fine venue, with a good amount of parking.  Last year, the Convention Center underwent renovation, and the expo was moved to Mana Wynwood.  Apparently, this was not received well at all, and the expo was moved this year to Marlins Park.  What a disaster!  We waited on line at least 15 minutes just to get in.  The packet pickup was on a different floor than the race shirts.  We were shuffled along like the lines in Disney.  All the vendors were on the concourse area, and not of the field.  This made for very tight quarters.  Once we picked up our stuff, there was only 45 minutes left to get back on the bus.  I scored a really nice jacket, and Lindsey purchased a shirt.  We did not have time for much else, and hit the road after that.  A delicious lunch at Bento, an early dinner, and I was in bed at 8pm.


As I have mentioned in many previous blog posts, I like to get to this race super early.  This way, I avoid all of the traffic, and get a primetime parking space inside the American Airlines Arena.  I woke up at 2am, and we were out the door by 3am.  The forecast called for rain all day, and the hour-by-hour projection did not look favorable.  On the good side, the temperatures would be in the fifties, with no mention of cancelling the race.  We arrived in Miami around 4am, and the parking garage was empty.  We sat in the car for about an hour before we made our way to the corral.  Since this was Lindsey’s first half marathon, they put her in the last corral (K).  Pam and I moved back to her corral, but we told Elaine to move ahead, since she was running the full marathon.  We stayed in a strategic corner in the American Airlines Arena to avoid the cold draft that was coming off the water.  Since it was chilly, I knew I would have to pee more than usual, so I tried to “empty out” as much as I could before the start of the race.  Once we positioned ourselves inside the corral, it started to rain.  Lucky for us, Pam had brought us all ponchos, but we were now shivering.  It didn’t rain hard, and it only lasted ten minutes, but the damage had been done.  17,093 runners participated in the race (14,136 did the half; 2,957 did the full).  Since 24,000 people registered for the event, I’m guessing around 6,900 runners decided to stay home and keep dry.  We did not get to the starting line until 7am, which was one full hour after the official race start.  It was windy, overcast, 54°, but the rain had totally stopped.  We decided to do 3 x 1 intervals, in an effort to protect Lindsey’s LCL as much as possible.  The intervals also allowed me to take strategic pee breaks during the walk times.

 

Everything was going smoothly.  Lindsey felt good, and was really enjoying the sightseeing during the race.  It’s a totally different perspective when you are running the streets, as opposed to being in the car.  We stopped a few times to take photos, and really appreciated the cooler weather.  Glenda sent her a few motivational texts along the way, and Elaine kept us updated on her progress.


We ditched the ponchos with about two miles to go, but of course that would come back and bite us in the ass.  Lindsey had a finishing goal in mind, and it was going to be close either way.  We decided to sprint the last mile, and forgo the walk break.  Of course it started to rain, but we would have not taken the time to put the ponchos on even if we still had them.  I was running so strong, I definitely felt as if I could have completed the full marathon.  In the end, Lindsey missed her goal by about 22 seconds, but you could see the tears of joy rolling down her cheeks as she crossed the finish line.  It was quite an accomplishment, and I was proud and happy that I had a part in making it come true.  Especially since she suffered her injury early in her training.


We went back to the car to change into dry clothes, and told Elaine to meet us there when she finished.  Originally, we had planned to watch her cross the finish line, but the rain and the cold made us rethink that idea.  Since she had started in a few corrals ahead of us, the wait was not that long.  Her finishing time was excellent, but she missed her goal by about three minutes.  Pam drove back to Ocala once we got to my house, and I took Elaine to the airport on Monday morning.



The race was very nostalgic for the three of us, with an injection of new blood.  Elaine wants to do the race again next year, and I hope that Pam and Lindsey will follow suit.



KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON running apps