Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Beginner's Guide to Disney's Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon Weekend

So, you are running or planning on running the Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon or brand new Pixi Dust Challenge for the very first time and it is your very first visit to Disneyland? Then you probably have some questions! I hope this beginner's guide helps answer some of your questions about the race weekend. I am by no means an expert, but I want to pass along what I have learned!

Last January was my very first visit to Disneyland, I have always gone strictly to Disney World. Let me tell you first, that while bearing the name Disney, they are two very different creatures!! :)

You can read my race re-cap here:

Expo and Neverland 5k
Tinkerbell 10k
Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon

When planning for your Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon weekend, the first thing you need to think about is the amount of time you wish to spend in Disneyland.

The Race Expo opens on Thursday, and because I am one of those people who like to be there right when the expo opens, we decided to fly in on Wednesday night, which allowed us to play in the park on Thursday morning and then hit the expo in the afternoon when it first opens. Many people who live in the area arrive to the expo, depending on which races they are running either late Thursday or early Friday. The expo is much less crowded than the Princess 1/ 2 Marathon Expo and offers much of the same merchandise, however, I think it may be a bit smaller.

Since my sister and I ran all three races, we planned on staying until Monday afternoon. This was enough time to do everything we wanted to do, as well as have time to just relax. There was not a minute of this trip that I felt rushed or like I wasn't going to miss out on something.

If you don't care about getting to the expo right when it opens, or if you are passing on any of the races,  I suggest arriving later in the week, as you will have plenty of time for parks around the races!

There are a few different airports that you can fly to in order to get to Disneyland, this is a big difference from Disney World. You can fly into LAX, John Wayne, or Long Beach. The John Wayne airport is the closest to the parks, but for me is usually the most expensive and always has the dreaded layover!! We found that flying into LAX was the cheapest and the most convenient for us.

Now, those of you who are Disney World regulars, are used to getting off your flight and onto the Magical Express. There is no such thing here. The closest thing is The Disneyland Resort Express which provides  transportation between LAX and the Disneyland Resort area — including Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Resort hotels. Reservations are not required, but there is a fee to ride.

We did not take this option as our hotel was not serviced by this bus. We instead took the Super Shuttle
which costs only $17 one way! You will have to make reservations for this shuttle, which you can do online. It was very easy to use, and only took about an hour to make it to our hotel. 

There are lots of other companies that provide shuttles to the Disneyland area, most with competitive rates. 

You can also, of course, rent a car and drive, but please note that you will pay around $20 a night for parking, and we did not really find it necessary to have a car during our time in Disneyland!

This was the question that I found hardest to get an answer to when I was first planning my trip. Because I am so well versed in the ways of Disney World, I was completely lost when it came to figuring out where to stay in Disneyland. 

The reason is, there are so many options!! Of course there are the Disney Hotels: the Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian. These are great hotels to stay at, and one day I would LOVE to stay at the Grand Californian, but I am a budget kinda girl, so we stayed "off property". 

"Off Property" is kind of a funny term here, because everything seems to be really close to the parks. When choosing a hotel I took a lot of care in finding the right location. I wanted a hotel from which I could easily walk to the start of the races, I don't like surprises on race mornings, and I wanted to know that I could make it to the start of the race easily on my own. I also wanted to be close to the parks, even though there is free transportation to the parks for racers that weekend, I again wanted to be able to get around on my own. Lastly, I wanted to be close to a grocery store, or somewhere that I could stock up on water and pre-race food. It is so nice to be able to eat what you are used to eating on a race morning (one of my pet peeves of Disney World races!). 

I really hate sharing my hotel, as it was the perfect hotel for the race, and I don't want it to be sold out when I want to make a reservation for 2015, but I have to share, because I love you guys and because the location of our hotel made for an amazingly easy race weekend!

We stayed at the Best Western Stovall's Inn, which was to our surprise quite a nice place! From the outside it looks old and gross, but the rooms are actually very nice. They all include a fridge and microwave, and plenty of space for a couple of racers and all their race gear (costumes!!). 

The best part however, was that the racer's village was right across the street. SERIOUSLY!! We were able to wake up, get race ready and walk to the bag check area in less than an hour. We only had to walk across the street and less than a block away was bag check and…..wait for it……wait for it……THE FINISH LINE!!!!!!!!!!! It was so amazing to finish a race and be back at your hotel (in the shower!) in less than 10 minutes!! 

The start of the 10k and the 1/2 marathon were only about 2 blocks from the staging area/finish line/bag check. Which made getting to the races a piece of cake! 

This hotel is located about 2 blocks from Paradise Pier, 3 blocks from the Grand Californian and about 4 blocks from the Disneyland Hotel (where the expo is located). 

We chose this hotel mainly because of its location to the finish/start lines of the 10k and the 1/2 marathon. The 5k, however, starts on Main Street in Disneyland, which is a bit of a walk from our hotel. 

In order to get to the parks from our chosen hotel, we had to walk to the Disneyland Hotel (about 4 blocks) and then through Downtown Disney. The entire walk takes about 35 minutes (?) but is very enjoyable! We loved walking through Downtown Disney everyday, and planned most of our meals in this area. There is also a Monorail station located in Downtown Disney, which takes guest right to Tomorrowland. 

I have to say that the walk from our hotel to the start of the 5k (and to the parks in general) is not nearly as long as the "death march" from the Epcot parking lot to the start of the Princess 1/2 Marathon! It is much more pleasant too!! :)

There are lots of hotels located around Disneyland, and it is very important that you research the location of the hotel with the location of the start and finish of the races. I didn't mind walking further to the parks, because of the easy walk to and from the races. It was for me, of course, a race weekend! The parks were just a perk!!

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are the two parks that make up the Disneyland area, and if you are, again, a WDW regular, you will be shocked by the ease of visiting these parks. Both parks are small in comparison to WDW. I have heard that you can fit 3 Disneylands into the Magic Kingdom parking lot and still have room to park 300 cars!!! 

That being said, it is very crowded! I never feel too crowded by people in Disney World, but in Disneyland there were times I felt almost claustrophobic! 

While the layout of Disneyland is very similar to the Magic Kingdom, there are slight differences and some different rides! We spent a few hours each day in this park. But we really enjoyed Disney California Adventure. I think because it was something completely different! 

Disneyland and CA are separated by a plaza, which I would compare to the size of the bus depot at the Magic Kingdom (maybe?). You can seriously walk from one park to the other in a matter of 2-3 minutes, which makes getting a park hopper ticket completely worth it!

We went with the park hopper at the very last minute, and I am so glad we did! It is so easy to move from one park to another, and it is nice to head to the more open spaces of CA when Disneyland gets too crowded! We purchased a 4 day park hopper pass, and were very pleased with the our decision. Of course, because Disneyland and CA are so much smaller than Disney World, we had plenty of time in the parks, but it was nice to be able to take it slower and just have a relaxing visit. I think that you could see both parks in one day, but you would feel really rushed. If you are concerned about spending too much money, I would buy a two-day pass (not a park hopper) and visit one park each day. You will have plenty of time. If you can afford it, do the park hopper! :)

During this trip I completely fell in LOVE with Disneyland, I hate to admit it, but I think I like it more than Disney World (gasp!!). I like the smaller size of the parks and the general area, and this being my first Disneyland race weekend, I have to say that it felt more relaxed than WDW race weekends, and I felt much more in control of myself (I didn't have to rely on Disney as much!). Overall this was my favorite RunDisney weekend ever and I am looking forward to heading back in 2015!!  

If you are visiting Disneyland for the first time, I suggest you do your research, I know I spent at least a month researching all of my options, and I am sure that I came away with the best trip for me. My flight and hotel together were less than $500, which made me very happy (more money to spend at the expo!). 

Please leave me any questions, as I want this is be a living document, I will update and add answers to your questions!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Minnesota 1/2 Marathon Race Re-Cap

It's been almost 2 months since my last race, the awful Lola's 1/2 Marathon, where I got lost!!! Then I spent a month in Europe, not running and have been trying to get back into my training routine all of July! It has been rough, but I built myself up to a 10-mile run two weeks ago, and that same day I signed up for the Minnesota 1/2 Marathon. This is the closest to race day that I have ever signed up!

The Minnesota 1/2 Marathon took place in St. Paul Minnesota on August 2nd. It was organized on by the same people who organized Lola's and I have to say that I was a little nervous about the races being run properly! After looking at the course map (just a out and back), my fears of getting lost again went away, and I was ready to get back to racing!

The five days in between signing up and race day went really fast, I did a couple of 3-mile runs, but mainly tried to just relax and stay calm. I was really nervous about my comeback.

I spent Friday night before the race with my sister in Minneapolis, where I hard slept because of my pre-race jitters (this hasn't happened to me for a long time!).

We woke up early (5am), got dressed and headed to the race. The race didn't start until 7:45am (!!!!!), so of course we were really early, but we have come to enjoy relaxing in the parking lot, over the panic of trying to make it to the race on time!

Before I knew it, and before I was mentally ready, we were walking to the start of the course. This race is run on Shepherd's Road, where multiple other races are held. I have already run 3 races on this course, and have another 2 coming up soon!

In my opinion it is a very BORING course! It does however follow the Mississippi River, which can be beautiful. It is super hilly (in my opinion) and there is no shade or tree cover.

This race was a little different that other races, as it was also a rollerblade race. The rollerbladers started about 20 minutes before the runners. There was also a Du (rollerblade and run), a 1/2 marathon relay and a 5k.

I lined up with the 2:30 pacer, knowing that I would probably fall back, but hoping that I could keep up. There were only about 400 runners, so it didn't take very long until I was crossing the starting line. The first mile felt really good, but I knew we were pacing faster than 2:30. When my Garmin beeped, I looked down to see that we had maintained a 9:34 mile, way too fast for me!! I am in the camp that believes in starting slow and running negative splits. I needed to slow down!!! The first two miles were long rolling hills, run right into the blazing sun! and I tried to fall into a good pace for me, but I just couldn't get my right leg to feel good. It was cramping up and making me feel nervous about the next 11 miles!

The day was already hot, over 80 degrees and 70% humidity, no breeze. By the time I made it to the 2 mile turn around, I was really working myself up, I was scared that I wouldn't finish!! Sweat was pouring out of my head, and my skin felt like it was on fire. I was cursing the race director for not starting the race a couple of hours earlier, like most summer race here in MN!

Back up the hills, at mile 4, which was the starting line, I met up with the 5k walkers. It didn't really bother me, the course was wide, and it was easy to move through the walkers. What bothered me was that I wasn't sure who was part of the 5k and who was running the 1/2. It felt weird. After passing the start line, the course took me 7 miles down the road. This time the sun was at my back, which was better, but my skin still felt like it was on fire.

By mile 5, I finally fell into a good rhythm, and felt really good, considering the heat! At every water stop I took 2 cups of water, followed by a cup of Powerade and another 2 cups of water. It wasn't enough, and it was warm!

At mile 8, I saw Anne, who checked in with me, and let me know she wasn't feeling great. At this point, I was still moving forward, and feeling okay. I told Anne to slow down, and be careful as I grabbed more water. Here I also met up with a woman who was running her very first half. She was struggling, only having trained to 10 miles, she went out with the 2 hour pacer, even though she ran her 10-miler in 2:35. The heat and going out too fast had really caught up to her and she was in need of a person to talk to. I chatted with her for about a quarter of a mile, wished her luck and then somehow powered myself up another hill!

Mile 9 was the next turn around point, and I was ready to be done. The sun was blazing at this point, and there just wasn't anything to cool me off. My shirt was soaked through, and my visor was doing it's best to prevent the sweat pouring out of my head from running down into my eyes. I wiped my face with my hands, and noticed that my face was completely dry and crusted over with salt. Yuck!!

From mile 9 to mile 11 I pushed myself hard, I just wanted to be done! I was very proud when I looked at my Garmin at mile 11 to see that it had taken me the same time to run 10 miles just a week before!! That was encouraging!

At mile 11, I really slowed down. I walked way more than I wanted, and the hills seemed much bigger than they actually were. I actually stopped at a water stop to pour water over my head! My fingers were swollen and aching. I know it is dramatic, but I really did think about quitting. I was just that hot!! But I knew I could get the last 2 miles done and I powered through.

It was amazing to me that I actually passed about 40 people during those last two miles! It made me feel great, and even though I could feel the fresh sunburn on my shoulders and chest, I powered to the finish  line!! I wasn't proud of my time, it wasn't my best finish, or even close, but it was a finish, and after taking a month off, it felt good to be back at it!! The announcer even gave a shout out to my Team Sparkle visor!! :)

Anne was, as always, waiting at the finish for me. She had a bag of ice (HEAVEN!!!) for me, and that helped so much!! I felt like I had jumped into a pool, I was that sweaty!! My legs ached, and I was ready for a cold shower!

We didn't stick around for the post-race party, but instead got into the car and drove home. After the most amazing shower, Anne and I headed out for some lunch.

We ended up at a new restaurant in the very trendy 50th and France area. Agra Culture Kitchen and Press  was amazing! So delicious! I had the beet and citrus salad and a egg sandwich! We sat outside and somehow enjoyed some more sun!

Overall the race was really well run. It could have started earlier, and they could have had more volunteers at the water stations, but…

I am very happy that I have another race under my belt (#8 of 2014!!)! Now it is back to training, and gaining some speed!! I'm am definitely looking forward to some cooler temps!! :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Monster Inside

Coming back from an injury, or from a extended break is hard for even the most seasoned runner. A once deemed "easy run" can feel like running a marathon, both physically and mentally. Lacing up your shoes and heading out for a run can be such a struggle, just because you know that at this point, every run is hard. Having to walk, or take it slower than what you have been able to do in the past is something that can mess with your head and make each step just a little bit harder.

Why, when we are coming back to running from and injury or a break,  do we mentally beat ourselves up so much?

I have always struggled with the mental part of running. My head is my own worst enemy. Doesn't matter if it is a slow recovery run, or a major race, my negative self-talk can make any run pure torture.

Even before my month-long break from running, I had issues with my head. I have talked myself out of so many races while waiting in the starting corral. Though I have never actually left a race, I did down-grade from a 10k to a 2-miler because of my negativity in the starting corral. I somehow always find a way to pull myself together, and get excited about the event. It is however, a real struggle for me, and one that I have not yet figured out how to deal with, aside from arriving pretty late to the corral.

 The beginning of a race is full of questions: Did I train hard enough? Did I train too much? Did I fuel right? Did I hydrate enough? Where is the closest bathroom?  Am I going to finish? Is my costume going to chafe? So it seems natural that we all struggle with some sort of corral anxiety, either nerves, extreme excitement, or in my case pure panic.

But training runs is where my negative self talk seems to rear its ugly head the most. I should have a law degree, because I can argue myself out of any run, any day of the week. I have found that it is best for me to just jump out of bed, and throw on my running clothes before my head knows what my body has planned. This is the way I am functioning these days, in order to get my training runs in.

Thanks to my little break, getting back into top running form (top? hmm.), has been a real challenge, and because it is physically harder than I thought it was going to be, there have been too many opportunities for my head to get into the mix and mess things up even more.

The 3 mile runs I used to enjoy so much, have become a struggle. Physically they are hard, I am not going to lie, this last month really hurt my cardio, and I feel like I am breathing in fire! But mentally I am struggling more. When I should be cheering myself on for getting out there and training, and not missing workouts, I am beating myself up because I cannot run as fast, or as far as I used to. When my lungs start screaming, and I know I should push through, my head tells me to stop, to walk to give up.

It is so frustrating to be plagued by such terrible negativity. I try to tune it all out by listening to music, but that doesn't help. I repeat positive sayings in my head, and tell myself that I can do it, and that I am strong. But that awful voice keeps popping up, telling me I can't.

I am not bi-polar, nor do I have multiple personalities, I just have some pretty awful self-talk, that I need to take care of. I have races to run!! I have to get back at it, and start feeling good about my run again!

So, why do I do this to myself, why put myself down? I am not sure I have the answer to that right now. But I know that I am going to keep pushing myself, and keep battling this little negative voice, until I have made my comeback and it has nothing else to say.

How do overcome your negative self talk?