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?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Challenges, Setbacks and Heartbreak

Ah! It is so good to be home!!

While I love traveling, I enjoy it most when I am on my own, and can do what I want. For the past month, I have been a "caged" woman, and it feels so good to finally escape!!

Don't panic! I haven't been abducted, or held against my own will, but instead I have been chaperoning a group of 16 teenagers in Germany and Austria! Many of you would probably rather be in that cage, am I right?

I successful completed my 7th trip with students, everyone came home in one piece, and with a lifetime of amazing stories! We traveled through Berlin, Bremen, Munich and Salzburg, on our month-long exchange. It was crazy, it was fun and it was tiring, but I am proud of my students, and overall had a nice time. It wasn't a vacation, it was definitely work, but it was fun.

During the trip, my students get to live with German families for 2 weeks. During this time, I am also living with a German family, attending school each day, and teaching. This year, I was able to plan a little side trip (sans students!) to Ireland. It was a much needed break, and gave me a small look at a country I would love to visit again in the future!

The trip was a challenge for me, as I didn't ever have enough time (or energy) to respect my training plan, and I was able to only run once during the entire month! Yikes!!! I can assure you that, while my running was on vacation, I was walking on average 6+ miles a day (not including the BIG city days, where milage could reach 10+!!).

I felt like I was constantly busy during this trip, and when I actually did have the time to run, all I wanted was a nap! It was a real challenge!

In hindsight, I wish I would have had more willpower to put through, as I am struggling now to get back to what I once had!

My first day back to running was July 5th. My sister took me out on a 4 mile run. My legs felt great! Perfect in fact! But my lungs were screaming at me! I was really struggling to breathe, so much so I had to walk way more than my legs needed.

Luckily, I have time to get back into things before my next 1/2 marathon (end of August). Getting back into a routine, and giving my lungs a chance to function again will be my goal for the next two months!  I am excited to get back into a training plan, and to challenge myself again! I need the release of running in my life.

Running has always been for me a release of anxiety, and stress. Without running for the past month, that anxiety and stress has really built up, and with everything that is happening (or should I say: not happening) in my life, I am a big ball of emotions, and we are not talking about the good kind! I am a total mess!

First, I got my hopes up way to high for a job that I applied for at the beginning of June. It was the perfect job for me, and I was beyond excited even thinking about it. I received an email from their HR, letting me know that they would interview me via Skype while I was in Germany, and that they would be scheduling the interviews the next week.

I haven't heard back from the HR since then. I even emailed inquiring if the position was filled: no reply.

I am heartbroken. Seriously.

I wanted this opportunity so badly. I just don't understand what happened. I can fully understand that someone was more qualified than I am, but I need some closure. I just don't get it.

Second, and this may seem petty, but I didn't make it into Nike SF. This is now the 3rd time I have been rejected by the SF area (the job was in SF, the other rejection is coming…). Ugh! I am going to contact "my people" at Nike and see what I can do, but I was really banking on this race….so I am bummed, and the rejection just came at the wrong time.

Third, I feel like I am losing a friend. (Who lives in SF ….what the F is wrong with this town?!). It is a very long story, and I really don't want to get into it here on my blog, but it hurts. Being ignored, being forgotten, it hurts. I have always been the asshole-type of friend, the one who doesn't need you as much as you need me -- you know the one, right? I am more of a loner than anything, always have been. Don't get me wrong, I love people and love my friends, I just am not the type of person who worries about losing friendships, or is necessarily good about "keeping in touch". Its just not my style.

I think that is why this particular situation hurts me so badly. I needed this friend more than he ever needed me. I just want t throw rocks at him, or something. Ha.

Again, all of these things, while small and pretty petty, are coming at me at the same time, stacking on top of each other and breaking my heart.

Hopefully this is nothing that a good 10 or 12 mile run won't cure. Time to tie up my shoes and beat the hell outta that road!

** Photos to come……my life is a mess right now! :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lola's 1/2 Marathon Recap

For the last week, I have been in Germany, and have had a lot to do and a lot on my mind, which I will write about in a few days, but first, I wanted to recap my last "two" races!

On June 1st, I was slated to run the Team Ortho Minneapolis 1/2 Marathon. Unfortunately, due to thunder and lightening, the race was cancelled. It was the first race of mine to be cancelled and I was quite upset about it. It would have been my 7th half this year and the 10th of my life. It was pouring rain before the race start, and the race was delayed for an hour. About 50 minutes later, all the runners were called to the starting line, only to find out that they organizers cancelled the race. I have to admit that with the rain and the delay, I didn't really feel like running a half marathon. I was upset that the race was cancelled, but in the end, it just wasn't my day for a race! Unfortunately for others, the weather didn't get worse, it actually got better and the race really could have gone on as planned. 

The very next weekend, Anne and I had another race. We ran the Lola's 1/2 marathon in Lake Waconia, Minnesota. I was very excited about this race, because the shirts and the medals had mermaids on them! (It's the little things!). 

After taking to co-worker, who ran this race last year, I was freaking out! He is a BQ runner and said that the course was a killer for him!!!! "Extremely hilly" were his exact words! Hmmm. We all know that I am not the biggest fan of hills, while I don't mind them at all on training runs, and never avoid them, they freak me out in a race situation! So, needless to say, I went into the race pretty nervous. 

We woke up really early (5am) to drive to the start of the race, about 45 minutes from where my sister lives. It was POURING rain!! I was having flashbacks of the weekend before, and wasn't feeling so excited about running 13.1 miles in pouring rain, and brutal winds (not to mention the hills!!!!). 

After arriving at the race parking lot, we noticed 2 things: first, there were very few people, second, they all looked very fit and fast!!! 

Anne and I sat in the car, as the wind whipped the flags on the buildings, and the rain poured down in sheets. We both feared that this race would be cancelled. About 15 minutes before the start of the race, we were given word that the race would be delayed for 30 minutes. We continued to hang out in the car, staying dry and warm. 

Five minutes before the "New" race start time, I was pretty sure that this race was going to be cancelled. But, it was not and all runners were asked to make their way to the starting line. Anne made a quick stop at the port-o-potties, and we didn't get to the starting line until after the gun went off. I think there were only about 5 people behind me when I crossed the timer!! Overall, I think there were about 300 people running this race, the smallest 1/2 marathon I have ever run. 

It didn't take me long to catch up to the 2:30 pacer, and I stuck with him and his group for about the first 8 miles. It felt good to run with other people and to have someone to chat with. The pacing group was made up of about 4 others! Again, there were very few people behind me!

The hills weren't actually that bad for me. For every uphill there seemed to be a good downhill. But this course is not for someone who "never runs hills" there were some pretty long and steep ones!!! At mile nine we hit the steepest hill and I was forced to walk. I was soaking wet, since it was still raining, and I was very happy that I had decided to wear a long-sleeve shirt: the wind was chilly!!

I was feeling really good until around mile 10. At that point, I started to notice fewer and fewer volunteers on the course, which was poorly marked!! A lot of the course (about 80%) was run on open highways, and it was pretty dangerous. There were lots of side roads, and w/o proper signage, I really had no clue if I was going the right way. 

When I reached mile 12 (according to my Garmin), there were NO VOLUNTEERS!! At this point the course leads to a path, that then turns into a fork. I was running with 4 other women at the time, and none of us knew where to go. We actually stopped dead in our track, not wanting to run extra miles. Nobody was around to help so we chose a path and stuck with it. We were lead back into the town of Waconia, and felt like we were on the right track. The roads were open (even though they were supposed to be closed for 3.5 hours and we weren't anywhere close to that time), and we had to stop and wait for cars. Again, there were no signs pointing the way, and no volunteers. Other runners were making their way back to their cars, and we had to shout out for help. We took enough wrong turns to finally cross the finish line having run 14.5 miles total!!!! I was beyond mad!!! 

I collected my medal, found my sister. I was so tired, and so upset about the end of the course, all I wanted to do was leave and take a warm shower. I felt really bad about the entire race, even though it was actually a really good race for me, and I would have PRed, had I not run an extra 1.4 miles!!!!

Overall, I probably wont run this race again, unless they change a few things. The end of the course needs to stay closed to traffic and have volunteers or at very least signs showing runners the way! It was crazy, having to stop and wait for cars so I could cross the street. 

In hindsight, I was proud of myself for running and finishing this race. My training in the last month has not been very good, and I very much dislike running in the wind and rain. The hills were KILLER and I am proud that I got "up and over" them!!

Now, I am taking a break, getting my training back on schedule and will race again in August (unless I am able to run the SF 1/2 at the end of July!). 

Have you ever gotten lost during a race? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When fate knocks….you answer!

Do you believe in fate?

I do. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that we need to keep our eyes open to the wonders of the world around us. Fate has granted me a pretty wonderful year thus far. I have traveled, and had experiences that I can only give fate credit for. I have been living my life, this year, with my eyes wide open to the possibilities around me, I have been pretty in tune to fate this year.

Fate knocked me completely out about 2 weeks ago, when I came across a job posting. I have no clue how I happened upon this posting, I can only call it fate, but in a split second the thing that had been missing in my life, the thing I couldn't quite put my finger on, but has been nagging at me for so long was filled. In reading this job posting, I felt whole.

Now I know that sounds completely crazy, I mean, I wasn't even looking for a new job, in the grand scheme of things, I am happy with the job I have, or so I thought. When I read the job posting, it was like a light bulb was turned on inside of my soul, I could see everything clearly, at that minute, I understood what had been missing: a new challenge, a way to combine my passions, a new start.

Reading the job description, I found myself saying "That's me!" or "I can do that!" to every task listed. It was as if the job description was actually written about me, as if it was my resume! It took my breath away, it literally knocked the wind out of me, and had my whole body shaking. My physical response was something I had never expected. I almost started crying!

How I came across that posting, I have no clue, I have looked through my browser history, trying to figure out what I was searching for, but I cannot figure it out. I have to just admit that fate was knocking at my door.

I have to admit that I was scared at first, I mean, I have been working at my current position for 12 years. I needed to completely re-work my resume, request new (up-to-date) letters of reference, and write a cover letter. And since the job was closing in a week's time, I would have to do this all very quickly!

As I re-wrote my resume, and my cover letter, I was drawn in even further to the possibility of this position. This is my dream job. In my dream location.

I struggled a bit to write the "perfect" resume and cover letter, the pressure was on me, because it is not all that often that one applies to one's dream job. The pressure I was putting on myself was enough to cause me some sleepless nights, and some AMAZING dreams!

Once I finished my writing, and had collected all of my materials, I sent them in. It was such an amazing feeling! I was giddy.

Now, all I can do is wait, wait for a phone call, or an email. Wait and pray and hope. I have never in my life wanted something as badly as I want this position. And while there are still so many "what-if's" I feel a certain sense of calm, knowing that I am following fate, fate knocked, and I opened the door, whatever happens now is again up to fate.

And I am ready, when fate calls, I am ready. I am ready to take on every aspect of this challenge, and I am looking forward to it, completely!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fargo 1/2 Marathon Race Re-Cap

 Yesterday I completed my 6th half marathon of 2014 in Fargo, ND. It wasn't not my finest hour, (I am not sure what is happening to me during races), but it was a fun experience and a really well organized race!

Fargo is about 5 hours northwest of where I live, so it was quite a drive to the race. My sister and I left for Fargo on Friday. It was a LONG drive, but we made the best of it, and I tried to keep Anne entertained with my AMAZING singing!! At one point, I was laughing so hard I was crying, mainly because my singing was just that bad! Haha!

When we got to Fargo, we went directly to the expo and packet pick-up. Picking up our race packets was the easiest thing ever! They just wanted your bib number, and didn't even ask for any identification, not a waiver in sight! 

Lines were short, but there were a TON of people at the venue. After picking up our bibs, we made our way to pick up our race shirts. Again, there was hardly a line! The race shirts are probably some of the most unique shirts I have ever seen! They are very colorful (remind me a little of the 80's), and have the official race artwork on the back! This war the 10th anniversary of the Fargo Marathon, and everything had a giant 10 on it to celebrate! 

We also received an Under Armour backpack with the Fargo logo on it! This was a great "extra" and was nice for carrying everything around the expo!

Under Armour had a huge area at the expo with all of their clothing, and lots of race specific merchandise. It was fun to see another brand representing at a race! 

We made our way into the expo area, and while the packet pick-up and shirt pick-up areas were wide open and spacious, the expo area was jam-packed with people. It was really just too small of a space, for all of the vendors and people. It was hard to enjoy it because you were literally just being knocked around. It was VERY hot in the arena too. 

There were 2 Fargo based running stores at the expo that were selling some really cool race merchandise. One (I completely forgot the name of!) had everything printed on Nike gear, and had some really unique logos, etc. I was going to buy a DryFit shirt with really cute Fargo logo, but the crowds were making me crazy, and I just wanted to get out of there.

Before leaving the expo, we just had to stop and see my hometown girl, Stacy, from Punkeelove Headbands! She is always so much fun, and such a sweetheart! I seriously love this lady, and love her headbands!! They are made in the U.S.A and her business is located right in Kato! We talked racing for a bit, and I found out that she will be running Wine and Dine in the fall!! Woot! This is amazing news, and I am so excited to see her down there and have her meet a lot of you! 

After buying a couple of Punkeelove headbands, we headed to our hotel. During check-in we asked about the possibility of a late check-out, so we could come back to the room and shower after the race. We were met with a big "NO!" which meant that we would have to figure something else out. We were, to say the least, a little put out. 

After studying the maps for parking, we decided we better drive around and figure out how we would be getting to the race the next morning. The map provided to us was so messed up!! We drove around in circles for quite sometime. Google maps on my phone would not recognize Fargo, and kept telling me I was in California (I wish!!). My sister's Garmin seemed to be drunk and also would not accept the addresses we tried to feed into it. So, we were stuck with the map, and my navigation skills. 
We did eventually figure out how we were getting to the race, and where we were going to park. I felt better knowing we had a plan, because race-morning-Anne can be quite a stress, and I don't need anymore stress pre-race then I already have!!

We ate dinner, got our race clothing set and went to bed, after watching a little "Say Yes to the Dress". We had decided to get to our parking spot early, so we would miss the traffic and be sure to get a spot, so we were up really early, and were one of the first cars in the parking lot. It was only 37 degrees and I was worrying about my outfit choice. Luckily, I had saved my space blanket from DC and happily napped under it while we waited in the car. 

According to our map (the one Fargo provided us with) we were only about a block away from the starting line…hahahaha! We were about a mile away! It was a nice walk to the Veteran's Bridge, the sun was shining, which is something I have not seen since I was in DC two weeks ago!!! 

Runners needed to be on the bridge an hour before the start of the race! It was super crowded, and the whole corral-system they were using was pretty much not working. Anne and I decided to just jump the fence into the corral, instead of walking another 2 blocks in a hugs crowd in the wrong direction! 

                                                                                             I followed Anne up to her corral (there were no formal corrals), this was mistake #1 for me!! Anne is trying to run a sub-2 hour half, so we lined up there…. I am nowhere near this! The wait for the start of the race was so long and so cold! The wind was blowing and my tinfoil blanket wasn't providing enough warmth. I was freezing! I was also super nervous! I had suffered charlie horses in both calves throughout the week, and my calves were so tight! I have also been battling allergies, and am just really run down from trying to breathe in enough oxygen to survive!! I knew from the start it was going to be a rough race! 

It seemed like an eternity until the starting gun went off, but once it did we took off fast!!! There was no way to slow down, the course was very tight, and since there were cars parked on the sides of the road, there was really no place to pull over and try to get into my pace! I was just pushed along. My legs were burning, and I was having trouble breathing already by mile 1. I knew I was going out too fast, but there was nothing I could do, there was simply not enough room to slow down! 

Miles 1-6 went by really fast, but I was suffering, I was hurting and I was getting scared, knowing that I would never be able to keep this pace up for the rest of the race! 

The course was really interesting, it is mainly run through residential areas, and was TONS of crowd support! Lots of people were having parties on their lawns, and the course was lined with music and bands! It was quite a scene!! There were many corners on this very flat race, which made it interesting because you never really knew where you were headed.

At mile 7 the 2:15 pacer ran past me!! Holy shit! I was going TOO FAST!! This is where I mentally fell apart! Running for me is such a mental struggle, always has been, and I have a lot of negative self talk that I have to block out. I was unable to block it anymore and it kind of took over everything. 

I stopped to use the bathroom at around mile 7.5 and thought I had pulled myself together a bit. Mile 9 came and I was feeling better, I was finally settling into my own pace and relaxing a bit. But by mile 10 I was done, I just didn't have anything in me, nothing left. 

I glanced at my Garmin and was on point for a PR, if I could maintain a 10 minute mile for the next 3 miles. Normally this would have pushed me, but I was seriously done. Mentally and physically, I was beat, I just wanted to lay down in the street and take a nap. 

I ended up walking a good majority of miles 11, and 12. I just couldn't get my body to go….it was so frustrating! 

I made it to mile 13, and was overcome with joy that soon this race would be over! I powered through the finish line with mixed emotions. I was proud that I finished, but upset, knowing I could have done better. 

Anne was waiting for me at the finish line, she had run a PR..again!! I am so proud of what she has accomplished, but at the moment, it only made me feel worse about my poor finish. 

All I wanted to do was sit down and get away from the crowds. 22, 000 people ran this race, and it was super crowded from start to finish. I just wanted some space. BUT… we had to walk to our car, which thanks to the fucked up Fargo map, was over a mile away from the finish line, even though the map shows it being just across the street!!! 

After finally sitting down, I was happy to have finished another half marathon, and proud of myself for pushing through all of my negative self talk. I was very proud of Anne for her strong finish (2:03). 

The day had heated up really fast, and it was in the upper 60's and very sunny when I finished. We both stunk, and needed a shower! Remember that we couldn't get a late check-out at our hotel? Yeah. It would have really sucked to drive over 5 hours home in stinky! Being very resourceful, the night before the race I decided to see if Fargo had a Planet Fitness, as a member I can use any Planet Fitness in the country!! Luckily they did, and we were able to shower at the gym before having a quick lunch and heading home!

Overall it was a good experience, and a lovely race. Both the course, and the weather were beautiful, the race gear was amazing, and the expo, while too crowded was plentiful! 

Now it is back to training for me, my next race is in 21 days!! After completing that, I will be 1/2 finished with my 2014 goal of running 14 half marathons! Woo!! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon DC

After an amazing and very full day in Washington DC with my BRFF Meg, it was time to settle in, get things prepared for the next day’s race, and get some sleep!

This is where everything started falling apart for me! Pre-race I stick to a very strict routine, LOTS of sleep, LOTS of water, and LOTS of bland food! I pretty much threw all of my rules out of the window, and did not prepare for this race in the way I would if I were at home.

After eating a very heavy Mexican meal, I laid out my outfit for the next day, noticing that I had forgotten to pack/buy my very important pre-race food!! ACK!! I was nervous about fueling on different foods in the morning, but knew I needed to eat something! Meg had a package of crackers with peanut butter, and I figured that would have to get me through the race.

I did not sleep very well that night, I was nervous about the run, and my stomach was acting up – nothing new, as it has been a complete wreck for about the last 3 weeks! Grrrr.

The alarm clock went off at 4:30, but we stayed in bed until just after 5am. It was nice not to have to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn for a race! We quickly dressed and made out way to the metro. It was crowded, as I suspected it would be, and we stood the entire ride to the race. I ate my crackers and tried to convince myself that I would be okay without my normal oatmeal and banana!

Things went really fast once we got to the starting line! This was definitely my very favorite and least nervous wait for a race I have ever had! There were so many people to talk to, and so many hugs as friends found Meg and I. It was really exciting, and my normal corral-panic never set in!!

We met the 2:30 pacer group, and had a blast chatting it up with him! This diversion really helped me calm down and not think about the race! I had decided that I would run with Meg and Carolyn for the entire race, I really wanted us to finish together. It would be my first ½ running with someone, and I was excited to have some running buddies!!

It wasn’t long until our corral was at the front of the start line and off on our journey through Washington DC! 

It was a beautiful morning, about 55 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze. I was loving life for the first 3 miles. I was running slightly ahead of Meg and Carolyn, trying to fall into a pace that was comfortable, but allowed me to stick close to the girls.

We had decided on taking “Monumental Selfies” along the course, pausing, but not really stopping for the major sights! I tried to fall back and get in the pictures, sometimes waiting for a short time on the side of the road for my girls!

The first 3 miles flew by! We didn’t walk even once, but I just couldn’t find my stride. My stomach was acting up by mile 4 and I knew a bathroom stop was in my future. Even with the pain I was feeling in my gut, I was loving this race, and the company of Meg and Carolyn!

At mile 5, I decided it was time to stop and use the bathroom. I told the girls to keep running and that I would catch up. I didn’t think it would be a long wait, there were about 10 people in line ahead of me. Unfortunately, the first two people took over 10 minutes to use the bathroom, and I was getting nervous that I would never catch up, plus I really didn’t want to lose anymore time! I left the line and started sprinting, this was probably the second mistake I made during this race! I sprinted until mile 7 according to my Garmin, I was running 9 minute miles!! ACK!!! Sprinting like this is NEVER good during a ½ marathon…..especially when you are only ½ way done!!

I caught up to Meg and Carolyn around mile 7, and we took our first walk break. I was beat and my stomach was screaming at me!! I actually felt sick, I have never, ever felt like throwing up during a race, but I was pretty sure that I was going to make this my first. We walked for awhile, they were so sweet allowing me to catch my breath and relax for a bit, I knew they wanted to get running again.

Once we started running, I knew I would not be able to keep up unless I USED the bathroom!! I was bent over in pain, and feeling so sick!

At mile 8, I was lucky enough to find a REAL bathroom and again told the girls I would catch up! The line I got into was only about 8 people long, YES!! I soon discovered that it was the men’s bathroom and that men were using it as well as the ladies! Haha! Waiting in line, I was in a lot of pain, but it was amusing watching the men run to the bathroom and get nervous when they discovered they would be using the urinals in front of a line of women!!

The line went fast, and I was quickly out and sprinting again (didn’t I learn my lesson?). I still felt sick, but I wasn’t in pain. Sprinting was not as easy as it was the first time, it actually sucked… a lot! I started panicking that I wouldn’t catch up, and that made me feel even worse.

At mile 10 I was finally able to catch up, it was such a relief, but I was shot, I was ready to be done.  It kinda put a downer on the entire rest of the race for me. I didn’t want to hold Meg and Carolyn back, I didn’t want to finish the race without them but I was feeling so awful, I didn’t think I could keep up.

Mile 11 was the Whole Food’s Chocolate mile! Sounds wonderful, right? It would have been amazing, had I not felt like throwing up! Meg and Carolyn enjoyed the chocolate (which was given out the entire mile!! So cool!!), while I tried to get my shit together and finish the race!!

I know Meg was ready to run faster, and Carolyn was looking strong, but again, they were so sweet and slowed their pace for me.

The last mile was run in a tunnel, and this is where I almost lost it completely. In the tunnel there were drummers, and it was loud!! The beat was fast, causing me to quicken my pace, and the constant pounding was only adding to my nausea! I wanted out of that tunnel so fast!!

The tunnel ends at a hill, and even though I had powered up each and every hill before then, my legs were just dead. I had to walk. It was depressing.

I don’t really remember the rest of the race, besides Meg actually stopping before the finish line to wait for me. I was focusing on not passing out in a pool of my own vomit! Meg and I crossed together, holding hands. It was an amazing feeling! I was beyond emotional that she had waited for me, it was a really special moment.

I was so happy to be done! It was finally time to collect that Tiffany necklace!! Woo! We were first handed chocolate milk – my favorite post race recovery – and then we picked up Nike bike bottles of water. There was all kinds of food to pick up, and as we moved through the line, we received space blankets to warm up in.  The volunteer who wrapped me in my blanket, was the only one to see my complete break down! I just started bawling as he wrapped me in my blanket!! I have no clue what triggered that response, but it was such a release of emotions!

I think the epic-ness of the entire weekend hit me all at once, with this man’s kind act of wrapping me in a sliver blanket. It was truly a dream-like weekend, something I never thought I would experience, the wealth of friendship, the ability of my body to carry me through, and the sense of accomplishment. Words fail me when I try to express how much this weekend means to me, it was honestly that awesome.

Luckily, I was able to pull myself together, the sun glasses hid my tears, and no one knew about the embarrassing break down I just had!

We made our way through the finish chute, and collected our Tiffany medals/necklaces! I still wasn’t feeling the best, but I was living in the moment and soaking in the experience! It was so much fun receiving our little Tiffany boxes from the tuxedo-clad men!

We waited in a photo op line to get lifted by two of the men and hold a platter full of Tiffany boxes, this line took FOREVER!! I started feeling sick again, and drank my chocolate milk. I knew the sickness was partly being hungry! I had not fueled well before the race, and it was a good part of the reason I was so sick.  The milk helped, but I was getting impatient and just wanted to get back to the hotel room.

The next part of the finish chute was the ONLY part that I disliked. Finishers were funneled through a “Finisher’s Tent”, and everyone was excited, saying that we were getting finisher shirts, this was not the case, the tent was packed with women using foam rollers, stretching and freshening up at the mirrored stations. We were like a herd of cattle moving through the tented tunnel, it was hot and sticky and stinky!! We did not take part in any of the stations in the tent, and I wished we would have been given the opportunity to walk around the tent. The tent, however was BEAUTIFUL!! Again, Nike really knows how to impress and there were chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the atmosphere was really posh/VIP.

After exiting the tent, we got in the HUGE line for finisher’s merchandise. This was again, not the best use of our time, as  we found out (after waiting in line for about 25 minutes) that we could just go to the Nike store (on even online) to buy our finisher’s merchandise!!

We met up with some #Runnerslove ladies, and congratulated everyone on their finish! It was nice to end the race in the way we started!

After saying “hi” to a few more people we know from various facebook groups, we made our way back to the metro and back to our hotel room. Meg showered right away and I ate my cupcakes from the previous day. I was starving!!

We ended our day by visiting the Nike store in Georgetown again, and eating lunch at a WONDERFUL Irish Pub! Yum!!

We then made the LONG (9 hours!!) drive back to Meg’s house in CT. While the drive was super long, it was nice to have time together! J

Overall this race was fantastic!! I made some mistakes that hurt me (not fueling properly before the race, and sprinting!!), but the race itself was amazing! There were water/Nuun stops every 2 miles, orange slices, ShotBlocks, and Luna bars were given out along the course, and then there was the chocolate mile!!

The weather could not have been better and there were spectators at all points along the course. The course was beautiful, and the on-course entertainment was really fun! This is one of my very favorite courses ever!  It was well organized, and the finish line moved quickly!

I am so sad that this race is over, even though I felt really sick on the course, I have quickly forgotten the pain, and only re-live the pleasure it was to run this race! I would go back in a heartbeat!! I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a beautiful course!  It would make a great first ½ marathon!!

This race has inspired me to put my name into the lottery for the Nike Women’s ½ in San Francisco! I cannot wait!

Thank you to Nike for giving me the ability to run this race, you are an amazing company and I am truly grateful for this opportunity!
I have to thank Meg and Carolyn for hanging in there with me, even when I felt like I couldn’t finish. I had a blast running with you two, and hope we get more opportunities to run together in the not so distant future!!

Meg, my RBFF, you made this weekend so special! Thank you for everything, and for being my friend! You are my inspiration! Love you girl!!

Thank you to all of the #Runnerslove ladies, you are an amazing group of women to call friends! I love you all so much and cannot wait for our next meet-up (where ever that may be!! J)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

#RunnersLove DC

After a very successful #Runnerslove PHM Weekend Meet-up, and after being given the unbelievable opportunity to join my bestie Meg in DC for the Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon, it was a given that we would hold a #Runnerslove DC meet-up!

It took Meg and I a long time to figure out when and where to hold our 2nd meet-up. In fact, for awhile I questioned if we would even make it happen! Neither one of us knew anything about the DC area, and we were at a loss for a place to hold our meet-up.

Thanks to Google Maps, and a little inspiration, I searched the area in which the expo was being held and happened to find Sprinkles Cupcakes just a block away from the Nike expo and store!! A meet-up was born!! I was so excited to put together the meet up and start advertising it!

A bunch of #Runnerslove ladies were running in DC, and they were so excited about another chance to meet-up! I could not wait to see all of these amazing women again, and have a smaller meet-up than our HUGE PHM meet-up!

This meet-up was going to not only be smaller, but without prizes to giveaway, Meg and I would have a chance to just visit with our #Runnerslove friends!!

Our meet-up was scheduled for 10:45am, a cupcake brunch, if you will, and Meg and I arrived right one time -- toting our freshly purchased Georgetown Cupcake bags…ha!

There were already quite a few girls at the shop! It was a complete hug-fest, as we all greater each other! Meg and I are BIG huggers!!

We headed into the TINY shop and took over one of the two tables in the store! Many of the #Runnerslove ladies had brought their husbands and boyfriends along, and it was great to see them being so supportive of our meet-up!

What happened next, makes me LOVE this group of ladies even more, everyone claimed that it was a "no judgement zone" and ordered at least 2 (some ordered more!) cupcakes! LOVE!!!

The cupcakes were HUGE and delicious!!!  In my opinion they were better than Georgetown, and the people working at the store were MUCH nicer!!
I ordered a Chocolate Marshmallow and a Vanilla cupcake. We ate, laughed, talked running and blogging, and had an amazing time!
Jj wasn't even running the race!
She just wanted in
on the #Runnerslove!

As more runners arrived, it got crowded and hot! We moved our little party outside to a neighboring green space, and enjoyed the warm sun and each other's company.

I kept looking around at all of the amazing women surrounding me, each with their own running story, and I felt so blessed to have them as part of my running community. It was very special.

Meg and I created #Runnerslove out of the love we share for running, but more importantly out of the love and support we have for each other, and we want to share with other runners. Sitting in that park, laughing and smiling with people who I probably never would have met w/o #Runnerslove, I was beyond happy!

We took some pictures, wished everyone good luck on their race, and went our separate ways. Meg and I had planned on heading to the Alex & Ani bracelet store, and both Lauren and Cheri followed. It was fun to spend more time with them, and get to see all of the bracelets!!

This meet-up was so perfect and so sweet. I loved every minute of it, and am so excited for our next #Runnerslove meet-up at Disney's Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon in November.

If you are interested in our meet-ups or becoming part of this amazing group of runners, please let me know, I would LOVE to have you join us!!