Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Join our challenge!

Maybe it's a lack of upcoming races.  Maybe it's a looming Hawaii vacation.  Maybe it's all the snow on the East Coast that makes morning workouts impossible.  Or maybe we are just super jealous of all of you Princesses and Princes heading off to Disney World this weekend. 

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've seen those 30-day challenges on Facebook and other social media.  Well, today some members of this family are exactly 30 days away from a Hawaii vacation (and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with running). You know what that means--bathing suits!  So in order to shape up and do something fun, we are embarking on a 30-day Squat and Ab challenge!  We thought this would be a good boost to our regular workout routine (and let's face it, who couldn't do more abs!)

Of course, though, like everything this challenge is better with friends and family!  You are all cordially invited to join us!  We will be following the plan here:

Start with us today!  10 sit-ups, 10 crunches, 25 squats!  We can do this!  Don't forget to connect with us on social media to share your progress and to cheer each other on (I need it).

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

So...I'm not running Boston

Okay, let's be honest.  It probably wouldn't have been the smartest thing to do anyway. 

About two weeks ago, my Facebook feed was swamped with people sharing the news that Boston University was giving 5 spots to this year's Boston Marathon to those somehow linked to BU.  Yes, I jumped at the chance.  Looking back, probably a little too soon to be honest.  I quickly wrote up how this opportunity would be amazing and an honor and blah, blah, blah.  I didn't use my usual conservative approach; I had no one read it; I didn't even really proofread the passage.  I just hit send less than an hour later, and honestly, I didn't even save the essay. 

I had been hopeful, but didn't think for a second that I'd be chosen.  Then the deadline passed, I assumed I was not chosen, but still held onto that little glimmer of hope.  Okay, okay, I really wanted it.  I'll never be fast enough to qualify for Boston.  Never.  Like, never, ever, ever in a million and two years.  I had never even considered running Boston until this year. 

Yesterday I received a heartfelt message from the Dean of Students, stating that I was not chosen.  There were 211 applicants and they expanded the field to 7.  Thinking back, I second guessed my application, but then decided that this just isn't my year. 

Maybe I wasn't chosen because this is my time to focus on family, to vacation to Hawaii just to go on vacation, to go to Colorado on a girls trip without running, to continue to bask in the glow of the Dopey Challenge.  I have been so hyper-focused on running the past year, and I think I need a break--okay, maybe not a full-on break from running, but a break from training for an event. 

So there you have it!  I'm not running Boston, and that's okay! (and yes, I'll still be glued to my computer watching it at an obscenely early hour here on the west coast!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Race Report: 2014 WDW Marathon--Marathon

Nothing short of MAGIC
Okay, here it is!  The final chapter in the race reports from the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the Marathon, and the end of the Inaugural Dopey Challenge.  Check out the first four parts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. 

So, we had been in Disney for five days already; I had already run 22.4 miles and walked who knows how many more.  I’d been lucky enough to feel amazing through the first 3 races and had followed my race plan exactly as I had laid it out.  Today, though, was different.  It was the marathon.  This is a no-joke distance that had quite honestly given me a lot of trouble.  I have never run the marathon even close to my “projected pace” based on my half marathon time.  I have never really been proud of my marathon times.  I know, I know, just finishing is a huge accomplishment.  Yes, it definitely is!  But as I continue to run and work hard at this hobby, I was really wanting a success as I would define it.  I had secretly hoped for a marathon PR; no, my previous time wasn’t great, but still, who would hope for that as part of the Dopey?  I think I had mentioned it in passing to my hubby, but that was really it.  I had outwardly set out my goal to be “just to finish” (just…yeah right…that’s 48.6 miles…no “just” for sure!). 
I look terrified!

My morning routine was the same…I’m sure you’ve read enough about peanut butter and jelly.  This morning, though, our room was very quiet.  The bus ride was very quiet.  The walk to the bag check was very quiet.  I was scared.  Really, really scared.  Like, almost in tears, scared.  I had worked so hard for this moment; I don’t think I can do this again if I don’t succeed.  My hubby took some starting area pictures quickly and I went straight through to the starting line.  The bus was a lot later this morning and I was feeling rushed.  2 port-o-potty stops and the fireworks were being released.  I only got into my corral as the race started.  No extra time this morning!  I think this is a function of this race being heavily local.  People just don’t get there as early and it’s just more congested. 

Once corral G got off (pretty quickly, just like the day before), the course was the same as the half marathon to start.  Streets around Epcot, running in the dark.  My race plan for today was a 3:1 run/walk ratio.  Again, I’m not usually a run/walker, so I had to squash the urge to run that first mile.  My head was filled with the voice of Jeff Galloway saying “You’ll be passing people the last 6 miles with a smile on your face.”  I wanted to be that person, so I did it.  I started slow.  I stuck to my intervals. I squashed the urge to run to get out of the crowd.  It was also much cooler this morning, almost perfect marathon conditions.  I was sweating early, but it didn’t feel too bad. 

Our first stop, just like the day before, was the Magic Kingdom.  I was really pushing my running intervals to stay on pace (my Garmin may have been my favorite Christmas present in a long, long time…I love knowing my pace at any given time).  I was keying into my music and quietly watching runners around me.  I talked to a few people, one of my favorites was a woman with Autism, running as part of Autism Speaks.  WOW—she was awesome!  We entered the Magic Kingdom through Main Street USA, same as the day before.  Still magical.  No matter how many times you do it.  As we went through the castle, I saw my mom and hubby cheering as part of the ChEAR Squad.  I slowed for a moment, but they didn’t see me.  I was right on pace and it was too early to stop the momentum.  We were out of the Magic Kingdom quickly and on the road again.

We passed by the Grand Floridian, my favorite hotel that we stayed at many times when I was a kid.  I have so many amazing memories with my family there.  Someday Bill and I will splurge and stay there (we are actually thinking about a 10-year anniversary trip).  There were still parts of the course that narrowed here, and I tried my best to signal for my walk breaks and stay to the right side. 

Quickly, we were at the Speedway.  Actually, it was really quickly.  I hadn’t missed an interval, and was maintaining the same pace, feeling great!  Just like in Disneyland, the cars aren’t my favorite part, but it definitely broke up the course.  The owners of the cars were there, and some of them were very spirited.  It was a lot of fun!

After the speedway, we were off to the Animal Kingdom.  On the way in, I met another runner in the same costume.  We chatted a bit, but she was doing the pictures/experience thing (I did that last year during Goofy) so I ended up losing her within the park.  I love talking to people on the course, but sometimes I get a little shy J  I will say it again, the Animal Kingdom is not my favorite park to run through.  I don’t like the uneven surfaces and the up and down of the course.  I feel like that park is a love/hate relationship with many, and I know of a ton of people that LOVE it.  I’m just not one of them.  On the way out of the park I saw Ali Vincent’s mom waiting for her to come through (she must have been pretty close behind me).  I love Ali Vincent—I got to meet her last year at Disneyland and she is an absolute doll; so inspirational!

Back on the road, and we were halfway there.  I felt good, but I knew that this is where the race started for me.  I feel like I’m at the point where I can run a half marathon any day, but 13.2, that’s HARD.  I had to keep pushing, even though my head was starting to drift.  At the front of the park, there is a lot of narrowing of the course, so I had to slow down a bit, which just meant I had some time to make up.  More miles on the road.  I knew our next stop was the Wide World of Sports, and I knew I’d see my family. 

We entered WWoS around Mile 17, I think.  We wound through a bunch of fields.  It was a great distraction.  I knew my family was at the baseball stadium and was really looking forward to seeing them.  This is also around the time you get the wet sponge/towel…ahhhhhh…it felt so good.  This year I decided to keep it on my neck so I could continue to cool myself down.  Sooooo, this is where it gets emotional.  I looked at my Garmin.  I was doing it.  I was on pace to crush my previous PR.  I mean…crush!  It was that moment that you hope no one is looking, because I totally got the ugly cries.  Get it together, there is still a long way to go!  I had to actually do self-talk because I was having trouble catching my breath, trying not to cry.  I finally took the sharp turn into the stadium, and I saw the great signs my mom made.  I couldn’t stop smiling, and I could tell they knew how amazing my run actually was going.  I was feeling so strong (and for the record, yes, I’m tearing up again even as I’m writing this).

After the stadium, you loop around to hit mile 20 and start to see the waves of runners entering where you just left.  Those runners looked awesome and it was great to cheer each other on.  I know this course well and knew that mile 21 was tough (it’s a killer overpass), and I also could hear the words of many saying “the race starts at mile 20.”  I was running strong, and must have looked good too, because even the green Army men said so!  We were on our way to Hollywood Studios, I kept my intervals, and I passed the straightaway that had given me a ton of trouble on previous races. 

Hollywood Studios flew by.  To be honest, I don’t remember most of it (darn…should have written this sooner).  Yes, I was starting to get tired, but I kept up on the intervals, even if I slowed a few times.  We ran out the front of the Studios and the crowd really perked up.  I cannot thank those who show up to cheer on these mornings enough—it’s a great pick-me-up.  As I ran, passing people, I couldn’t help but hear Jeff Galloway’s voice again…and he was right!  I was passing people all over the place.  People were cheering and were excited watching me fly by.  Wow…I must really look good!  Okay, ugly cries, ugly cries.  Yes, it happened a few more times.   I was keeping on pace. 

Yacht & Beach Club, then the final leg: Epcot.  This was really about to happen; I was about to finish the Dopey Challenge.  Yes, you guessed it, the ugly cries, and this time there were tons of people around.  Hard to hide it.  The countries ticked by and we were off to the finish.  What is that I hear?  The Gospel Choir.  YES!  This was it!  The finish is just around the corner. 

There is was: the finish line.  I tried to catch my breath and gave it all I had to cross strong.  I stopped my Garmin.  Try to hold it together, Aly.  YOU JUST PR-ED THE MARATHON!!!!!!!  Holy *&^% (this is a G-rated blog, but be creative).  My final time: 4:42:12.  Yes, that is a 26-minute improvement over my fastest marathon.  (For the record, my PR was from my first marathon in 2005)  No, I’m not qualifying for Boston or anything, but this was amazing for me.  Talk about trying not to cry too much.  I still can’t believe it. 

I really rushed through the finish chute to get to my family.  I collected my medals, thanked every volunteer I could find, and hugged the volunteer who put the Dopey medal around my neck (while apologizing for my sweaty, smelly self).  I collected my bag and met up with my hubby and mom.  Yes, I cried when I saw them too.  They got it.  My husband has spent many weekend mornings alone while I pounded the pavement.  My mom had to listen to me obsess over training during our daily phone calls.  My hubby kept snapping pictures; I guess I’m not one to show emotion too often, so he had to document this event.  I took many pictures with my medals, and with two of the many people who had supported me on this journey.  I posted on Facebook.  I checked official results, just to be sure that I wasn’t dreaming. 

I could really go on forever; this was one of the best experiences of my life.  I felt amazing through all four races, and I have to give one person credit: myself.  I know that sounds a bit conceited, but I think it’s an important message.  I made this happen; I made this dream come true.  It was a lot of hard work, but I would not have done it any other way.  To be able to get to that finish was amazing.  To feel great at the end was even better.  To be able to walk away with a PR and memories to last a lifetime; it’s indescribable.  To sit here, writing this post, and still tear up, that speaks volumes to how much this experience has meant to me. 

Being a bit Dopey!
I have a feeling I’ll be writing more posts about Dopey, how I approached the challenge, and the many things I did to find success.  Thanks for coming along on my journey to 48.6.  I hope if you took on this challenge, you, too, found success.  I hope that if you are looking for inspiration to run your first race, run a new distance, or finally get that PR, this story has made you smile and realize that it’s all worth it.  I am in no way done, as I whole-heartedly believe we are all a work in progress.  I’m not sure what my new running goal will be, but I do know that it will be hard to beat my experience at the 2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge! 

My hard-earned BLING!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meet the family: Chris

Hi everyone, my name is Chris Stater. I am 37 years old.  I live in Nipomo, CA, which is on the central coast.  I am currently a radiology student at Santa Barbara City College and will be graduating in May 2014.  My wife Katie and I have 2 wonderful kids, Kevin, 17, and Kourtnee, 14.

What got me started into running was when my brother and his wife decided to run the 2010 Disneyland Half Marathon and invited us to go watch and cheer them on.  Having never seen a race like this I wasn't sure what to expect.  It sounded like a lot of work (training, getting up early for races, etc), but my wife talked me into to doing the Disneyland Half Marathon the next year.  I really liked the way other runners and crowd really cheered you on.

I would have to say my favorite Disney character now is Woody from Toy Story. As a kid I would have to say my favorite character was Goofy.  I like Woody for some of his lines that most kids would not understand but adults would definitely catch and love.

I love running Disney because of the atmosphere that surrounds the entire weekend.  The Expo kind of kicks it all off with craziness.  Then there is the  music pumping as you arrive the morning of the race and begin getting in to your corral. The cheering, and the support from spectators and performers that line the streets of Disneyland and Anaheim during the entire race is something that is unlike any other race I have competed in.   

My advice for training is work on your distance.  The faster times will come.  If you've done a race or two then you understand what I mean.  The 16 minute per mile pace seems like it can hard to keep ahead of and that you might get swept up, but don't worry its not that bad.  Find a good jog/walk ratio whether it be 2 min jog / 1 min walk or even 1:1.  If you put in the work, you will be rewarded with both goodies (medals and such) and the feeling of accomplishments.

Races Completed:
2011, 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon
2012  Giants Race 5K
2013  Giants Race 10K 
2013  Color Me Rad 5K

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Race Report: 2014 WDW Marathon--Half Marathon

Okay, okay…this took way too long to write!  We’ve been really busy this month, but here it is—better late than never, right?

Day 3: The Half Marathon.  Things just got serious!  For me, the 5k and 10k were not a big deal, more like warm-ups (and trust me, I don’t say that lightly—I know they are real distances and can be challenging, but for the Dopey, I had logged so many miles in training that they just felt like nothing).  I knew today would be different, though, and I knew that my half marathon performance would dictate how I felt the next day. 

Another early morning of the same routine.  Today I paid homage to the official race ConDUCKtor, Donald, and dressed as his main squeeze: Daisy Duck.  I didn’t go too crazy, though, knowing that I had a lot of miles to log.

We opened the hotel room door, and the heat and humidity slapped me in the face.  Crud.  I hope this is not going to be as bad as last year.  No need for a jacket this morning.  We got in line for the buses, and I panicked a little.  The line was huge!  Last year, there were a few issues with the bus, so I was instantly nervous.  Gotta give credit to them this time, though, because they had the buses lined up, ready to take all of us to the start—not much waiting at all.  

Having run this race before, I knew I was in for a long walk to the starting corrals.  I didn’t stir around too long at the start; Bill took some pictures and wished me luck.  It was time to get to the corrals.  Warning here: this path is dark and has cones through the middle.  I say this because I saw a woman trip over a cone and face-plant into the concrete.  People were there to help her, and a few feet ahead they were already alerting race staff for help.  I hope she was okay and it didn’t ruin her race experience.  It just is another reminder to be alert at these races.  They are very crowded and the early morning makes visibility low at some points.

I arrived in my corral pretty early and was able to sit for a few minutes.  I whole-heartedly believe in getting as many minutes off your feet as possible when doing these back-to-back races.  The start was buzzing, and unlike previous days, there were a mixed group of runners: Half Marathon participants, Goofy Challengers, and Dopeys, like me.  The usual fanfare ensued: DJ, National Anthem, Fireworks, etc.  To be honest, even being way back in G, we got off pretty quickly.  There was about 3 minutes between each corral.  
(Okay, I cheated-this was from last year)

Corral G was off, and I was committed to a 1:1 run/walk ratio.  It’s tough!  I’m usually not a run/walk/run-er, so to halt the urge to run straight out the gate was mentally challenging.  I knew I needed to, though, because my success in the marathon was almost entirely dependent on my pacing today.  My goal was 2:30. 
The first few miles were pretty dark and uneventful.  I didn’t stop for pictures, but I do remember some long lines for Pirates.  Around mile 4 you start to see many more people, hotels, and the buzz of a park approaching.  Mile 5 loops you around to the entrance and you are finally running down Main Street USA.  It really is a highlight—the castle looked beautiful all lit up and it was still dark enough to enjoy those lights.  I love running this part in Disneyland, but I really, really love running this part in Walt Disney World.  I’m a Cinderella girl—what can I say?!?!  Quick trip around the park and you are running through the castle, back to front, for that awesome picture (that I never buy…).  I scanned the crowd, slowed down, and really tried to look for my mom and hubby.  Hope they saw me, because I never saw them (turns out they never made it in time).  

Back to the streets for a few more miles.  It was hot and HUMID.  My Vegas running body was not used to this, but I kept to my race plan and hydrated often.  To be honest, I don’t remember much about these miles.  They actually went by pretty quickly.  

Soon we were ready for the finish—a short trip through Epcot around Spaceship Earth (there’s a quick U-Turn at the International Gateway) and the lovely sounds of the gospel choir.  13.1 was done!  And my time: 2 hours, 31 minutes.  I pretty much paced it perfectly!  I gathered my medal, my food & drink, and headed to meet up with my family for a few quick pictures.  I didn’t spend too much time at the finish line; I wanted to get into an ice bath and start my recovery.

When we arrived back at the hotel, I quickly got into my ice bath with some hot coco.  Perfect combination!  I showered, and then put on my compression gear to wear in the parks.  I felt pretty good, a bit tired, but pushed through the Animal Kingdom.  Luckily, we planned the day well and were able to get back to the room for an early night.  The time had arrived: I was actually getting ready for the last leg of this journey—the marathon! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Journey to a Fit(bit) Me....

Attending a software conference in San Francisco last year, I was curious about the number of Fitbit Group and Challenge invitations I was receiving.   I had not heard about it before, but I was intrigued.  By the time I returned home, I wanted one.  Happily, I had enough “Christmas money” to cover the cost.  I decided to purchase my second favorite gift of the season, the Fitbit.  (Only second to the New Balance Sorcerer Mickey runDisney sneakers I received from my kids.)

I ordered the Fitbit Flex from Amazon (a few dollars cheaper than other places).   I chose the Flex vs the Force because the band was a little narrower and I’m not sure I need the immediate feedback the Force gives.

Fitbit Flex and Mickey!
What is a Fitbit? For those of you who have not heard of it, it is basically a fitness tracker.  The Flex is a wristband you wear all the time.   You receive a small USB device, which allows it to sync with your computer.   It also syncs with several smart phones once you download the app.   I have it on my iPhone.  It will track your steps, convert it to miles, calories burned and you can log your food.   You can even set alarms for reminders.  In addition, it tracks your sleep.  It counts the times you wake up and the amount of “restless” time you have.   It times how long it is in sleep mode (you have to tap it to put it into sleep mode and then do the same in the morning).  All this comes with the cost of the Fitbit.   You can purchase a premium service called Benchmark for a yearly fee.   Not sure what comes with that as all this is still new.  The Fitbit syncs with several popular apps such as My Fitness Pal and Map My Run.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m planning to try it with My Fitness Pal once I start logging my food. You can check it out yourself at the Fitbit Website.

My package was delivered 2 days before I was leaving for WDW Marathon Weekend in Florida.   Not having much time to explore all the features, I quickly set my goals and started wearing it.  There are 5 lighted dots that show your progress as a percentage of your goal.   When you reach your goal, they all light up and the device vibrates.  The phone app and computer version both give you an easy to read dashboard showing your current progress in numbers.

Day 1, I set my goal to 10,000 steps and was really surprised that I did not reach it – very eye opening.  It was a busy day at work.  I didn’t start the day by going to the gym and spent a lot of time at my computer.   The next day, I made sure I started with a workout.  On Day 3, I was on
Half Marathon steps on iPhone
my flight to WDW.

Day 4 and 5 were spectating days at the WDW half and full marathons.  At dinner on Saturday, I showed Bill the number of steps and miles we accumulated watching Alyson do the half and walking around Animal Kingdom in the afternoon. We decided not to show Dopey Aly, since she still had 26.2 miles to go!   On Sunday, I was amazed that I registered 6.5 miles just going from hotel, to start line at Epcot, to the Castle, back to Epcot to board bus to WWoS, and then back to the finish line at Epcot.   After a short rest for the Dopey girl, we walked around the Magic Kingdom and then headed to Downtown Disney.   At the end of the day, I checked my dashboard to see that I did over 34,000
Full Marathon Dashboard on Computer
steps!  Ok, this will be hard to beat on a daily basis. 

My goal for 2014 is to “stretch” the limits in my life.  Now that I’m back to my normal daily activities, I am using my Fitbit to make sure I stretch the activity in my day.   I’m challenging myself whenever I can.  I’m going to start logging my food and see how that works.   I also am thinking about joining a challenge group.  There are so many groups, by age, location and/or interests.  Yes, you can even join a Disney group!

Do you use a Fitbit?  Is it helping you reach your fitness goals?  Have you joined any challenge groups?