Brace Yourselves…Fall Race Season Is Coming.

It’s just about that time of year again: the air begins to cool (unless you’re up here in D.C. and you’re still sweltering in 90+ degree weather), kids are going back to school, the leaves begin to turn, and pumpkin spice begins to dominate the shelves.

Oh yes, one more thing…

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IT’S TIME FOR RACING SEASON!!!

I don’t know about you all, but the relentless sunshine and humidity has wreaked havoc on my initial training plans for this summer. Some days were definitely better than others, and I relished the cool, cloudy days. (I found myself ironically doing my longest mileage on the hottest days with the worst humidity. Ha.) Just like back-to-school season has a sense of newness with an aura of new beginnings and a clean slate, I consider September the start of the new racing season; this past weekend was the Disneyland Half/Dumbo Double Dare weekend, along with Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach. From there, a whole slew of races and their shiny bling will be dominating our social media feeds until probably…mid-April-ish, after the Boston and London Marathons?

I’m rather excited to get started on my journey. I feel more like a legitimate runner with the lineup of races that I have on the horizon. I also got a terrific steal on a Planet Fitness membership…$99 for an entire year! You seriously can’t beat that! 🙂

I kickstarted this upcoming lineup of races back in August with the virtual National Park Series 100th Birthday race/#NPS100VRC. Props to the Virtual Running Club for heading it up! There were three options and I chose to run the 5K. My time may seem super slow…but I did have a lot of speed bursts throughout my time on the treadmill, and that I really can run up to 8 mph.

I am very much looking forward to getting this 3D ranger hat medal!

 

My IRL running schedule will be the busiest it’s ever been. Here’s the current rundown for the next six months, with possible additions along the way:


September 18th: Navy/Air Force Half Marathon (#NAFHALF)

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Running through the nation’s capital has always been a treat; there’s so many things to look at, you definitely won’t get bored on the course! I’ve been looking forward to the NAFHALF since I signed up for it way back when. The course map eerily reflects the Marine Corps Marathon route, so 95% of the terrain will be insanely familiar. I feel like this will give me a decent advantage. The projected weather, however, is calling for scattered storms and a high of 82 degrees. I really hope the heat and humidity hold off until after we’re done.

I’m still chasing my first sub-3:00 half marathon (current PR: 3:06:48 from PHM ’14), and am hoping to use this race as a POT update for Goofy Challenge weekend in January.


November 19th: Inaugural Everglades Half Marathon (#EvergladesHalf)

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Chris and I have a goal to complete each of the Vacation Races, which take place at National Parks. There are currently nine, and we decided to get a jump start on completing our mission by signing up for the Everglades Half! This will be Chris’s first half marathon; I’ll be playing pacer while he plays tour guide. (He’s a Floridian with extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna, and all things National Parks related.)


January 7th and 8th: Goofy Challenge (WDW Half Marathon and WDW Marathon)

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I told myself in the beginning of the year that I would be kicking my fitness up a notch, and what better way to do so than to train for one of the toughest runDisney challenges? For those that are unfamiliar with Goofy, it is 39.3 miles over two days. 2017 will be special, in which the half marathon will be the 20th anniversary edition (bring on the special bling!). I originally wanted to sign up for the half solely, but something inside of me said, “Go Goofy!” After having such a blast at the WDW Marathon this year, I decided to give it another go around. Plus, Chris and I will also be running the WDW Half together! (We’re going to focus on the half as a legitimate time race.)

A word to the wise: 39.3 miles is definitely not something to screw around with. I’ll be following Hal Higdon’s Dopey Challenge training plan, and it just so conveniently begins for me on September 12.  The first long run of that week is…a half marathon (aka NAFHALF)! How perfect!


February 22nd and 23rd: Glass Slipper Challenge (Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon)

Fifth PHM, fourth GSC, and a potential Belle theme. As much as I wanted to say no to this challenge this year for a variety of reasons, the thought of being so close to legacy status excites me. The development of my PHM Survival Guide last year gave me a closer attachment to this race weekend as I connected with so many runners over the topics covered.  I definitely want to come back and have a better performance in 2017; major stomach issues kept me from achieving my A-goal PRs in 2016.

(And no, Chris is not running this one with me. Haha.)


March 11th: Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon

RnR D.C. was my first ever race in this series, and trust me, I fell in love with it. Not only was it my first 5K ever (and first time being a pacer!), but it was also my first race expo volunteer experience.  Rock ‘n’ Roll really knows how to put on a great performance. I truly look forward to completing more of their events and eventually going for Hall of Fame status, probably in 2018.

Speaking of pacing, this will be Chris’s first FULL marathon! It’ll be my job to make sure we don’t die on the course; the course cutoff is at 5 hours and 30 minutes, or a 12:35/mile. (Rather quick for an RnR marathon, but D.C. has strict road close/open times.) If all goes well, we will also be running the Marine Corps Marathon later in 2017.


The only race that I have a TBD on at the moment is the London Marathon. I put my name into the Goblet of Fire…errrr, the race lottery, way back in May. I’ll find out in October if I get to begin my World Marathon Majors journey!


By looking at this list, you may think that I’m way over my head. A 10K, four half marathons, and two (possibly three) fulls in six to seven months?

Like most runners, I’m crazy.

But you know what else? It’ll also make me accountable for my training and nutrition. If I am to come out on top and be successful, I have to be more diligent, dedicated, and disciplined. After all…

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What is on tap for your fall/winter racing season? Any specific goals that you’re trying to achieve?  Will I be seeing you at any of these races?

 

See you at the finish line!

*~*Christina*~*

runDisney: The Beginning of Improvement?

Seems like it’s been a big week for runDisney!

First, the Castle to Chateau medals were revealed. So. Freakin’. Adorable! I adore the colors and the designs. (I’m a huge fan of the Remy medal!)

Yesterday, runDisney debuted new 5K medals. Many runners have complained about the lack of “medal-ness”, for lack of a better term, from previous races. (For those just jumping on the runDisney bandwagon, they were rubber medallions.) Material-wise, it’s an incredible upgrade. Design-wise, however, they’re a bit lackluster. I can hardly distinguish WHAT is happening on the medal because there is little to no color contrast. The lanyards look super sweet, though!

Also, runDisney is shifting towards digital event guides. I’m at a crossroads with this. While they’re doing their part for the whole “Going Green” movement, I personally like to have something in my hands to flip through and reference at a moment’s notice.

Now that it seems like runDisney is actually starting to listen to the complaints of the consumers and are slowly, yet surely, acting on them, I am curious to see what other changes are coming our way. Personally, I’m hoping for changes in the following areas:

  1. Quality vs. quantity with regard to runner perks.
  2. Race-day transportation fluidity for those on-site.
  3. Providing a map of character stops for those racing solely for pictures.
  4. Bringing back the oldie-but-goodie runDisney aspects, such as the night races and better perks for Wine and Dine after-party in EPCOT.

 

Any other thoughts from the peanut gallery on these recent changes?

Turn Of Events…

PHM 2017 II

Without going into too much detail, I’ve decided to reverse my decision from my previous blog post. I will be pursuing my fourth Glass Slipper Challenge and fifth Princess Half Marathon!

PHM 2017

Will I be seeing you in February?!

 

 

There’s a First Time For Everything

Ladies and gents…I’m heading back to Washington D.C.!

(…not like I wasn’t just there in December or anything…)

It seems like every time I turn around, I’m in the nation’s capital for some reason or another. Yes, I will be running a race. No, I haven’t landed a job there. Not yet, anyway.

So, what’s the race, runDisneyBelle?

I’m so glad you asked…

 

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Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C.! I will be running the 5K on Saturday morning! It is also the fifth-year anniversary of the RnR D.C. race!


 

I’m elated about this coming weekend because it will check off many “Runner Firsts” for me, including…

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–Running a 5K. (Yep. FINALLY running 3.1 miles as a race and not as an addition to other mileage en route to finishing another distance! And since this my first 5K, I get a PR! Woohoo! And the medal is SO stinkin’ adorable.)

–Running my first race in the RnR series. (I haven’t raced much in the years I’ve been running, yet when I do, I’ve done the runDisney/MCM races. Time to branch off into other series, and it looks like a TON of fun from all the pictures. This year’s bling is super cute, too!)

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–Volunteering/being on the Race Crew (I’ll be at the expo on Friday from 9-7:30 in some capacity or other. I’ll update the socials when I know!) 428448_441581312600190_149554978_n

–Pacing a fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother/running friend to the finish! (You may remember Lauren from my 2015 Almost-MCM recap. She paced me twice along the course and even met me at the finish in Rosslyn when I got off the bus. Hugs all around. She’s amazing.)

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In addition to all the firsts, there are other things about RnR D.C. weekend that I’m looking forward to:

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–We Run Social will be at the expo on Friday for a meetup! Granted, I’ll be Race Crew-ing somewhere, but knowing that they’re there is a fabulous feeling.

–Reconnecting with some of my favorite vendors; Sparkle Athletic and SparklySoul being two of them!

–The potential to run into fellow runner buddies as they traverse the expo. (As you can tell, the potential social aspect of the weekend is raging right now.)

–Washington D.C., in general. Not only does my amazing cousin, Adriane, and her husband, Robert, live here, there is something about this city that just draws me in (besides its ability to draw runners in with its multitude of events). I had contemplated moving here right after graduation in 2015…then life happened. (As always.) But I am highly reconsidering going hardcore on applying to places. Suggestions/leads are always welcome!

I will also be spending four days with my KKPsi Big Brother, Chris, sightseeing and touring and running around the city with. I have yet to formally introduce him on the blog yet, but I will! He’s super cool and adopted me as his Little Brother. (Charter Members don’t get big brothers; we are our own big brother, essentially.) He adopted me right after WDW Marathon weekend and we’ve been super close ever since. Due to said coolness, he deserves a highlighted post or five. I also got him into running, and he’ll be running the Star Wars Dark Side 10K as his first runDisney [and 10K!] race! He’ll be meeting Lauren and I at the finisher’s area (and this will also be the first time I’ll have someone actually waiting for me at the end of a race!).

Speaking of sightseeing…

(photo cred: americaslibrary.gov and washington.org)

CHERRY BLOSSOMS. Holy crap, people. How about this amazing warm weather we’re having right now in the Northeast?! The National Mall Park Service originally announced on March 2nd that the CB peak was to occur March 31-April 3.

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Yeah, no. That isn’t happening now.

It has now been bumped up!img_3295

Peak Week is now projected for March 18-23!  If I’m playing my cards right, I’ll be able to get some halfway decent pictures this coming weekend of everything just about to peak.

The Cherry Blossom Festival will still take place March 20-April 17 in Washington D.C. (Head over to http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/) for information about this annual tradition!


 

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Will I be seeing you in a few days at Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Weekend?!

2016 Princess Half Marathon Recap

I’m so going to PR this race…

I’m on track to PR this race! WOOOO!

…and there goes my PR for this race…right out the window…


 

The above dialogue essentially explains, in a nutshell, what happened during the Princess Half Marathon for me. But let’s backtrack for just a minute. After all, there’s more to a race recap than highlighting a failed PR attempt…


 

Just like the previous day, I woke up at 2:30 to get ready for the race. I think I stayed in bed until 2:40, but was immediately up and at ’em. My tummy was STILL giving me problems (as it had all week), so I was curious to see what would happen when I got out on the race course.img_2851

En route, it was just a teeny bit busier heading to the starting area at EPCOT than it was for the Enchanted 10K. However, I saw the first round of buses heading there, as well, and I’m fortunate that I didn’t leave a minute too late.

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After having pre-security “veg out in the car” time, I made my way through security and to the bag check. I ran into friends (including my fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother, Chelsea!) and Team Shenanigans members along the way, which made the time go by much faster.img_2857-1

(^^space blankets for days!)

My BRF, Jess, and I made our way to the corrals together and we arrived around 5:15. (It is literally at 20-minute walk from Runner’s Village, just so all you future princesses and princes know. Don’t leave any later than 4:55 to make it there on time.) We were entertained by Carissa and Rudy, and the multitalented Miss America, Betty Cantrell, sang the national anthem (which I totally approved!).

Soon after, the fireworks were launched and the corrals were moving (much faster than they were for the 10K). Around 6AM, Corral I was sent off!

There were a lot of parallels between my 10K and half marathon. Among other things, I once again didn’t run with music, and I was completely fine with it. I had far too much fun listening to the on-course entertainment and chatting with other runners to really miss it much. img_2889

Miles 2 and 9 run next to each other on the out-and-back portion of the course. The elites were coming back up the road as I was heading down into Magic Kingdom. I couldn’t help but cheer for all these amazing athletes, including one of my running idols, Heather Schulz! I saw her running past the Mile 9 aid station, and I ran over to the left side of the road, stopped and shouted at the top of my lungs, “GO, HEATHER, GO! YOU GOT THIS! WOOOOOO!”

Just cheering like this for five seconds boosted me up, and I continued on through to Magic Kingdom. I crossed the 5K mark with a pace that would land me my B-goal PR of 2:45…just like last year. I was also taking advantage of Biofreezing the hell out of my knees since there were still a little funny from the 10K. Even with these quick stops, I was making great time.

Hot damn! Let’s keep going! 12743766_956465967742157_9141701034162605066_n

But that spirit boost didn’t last long…

My tummy started rumbling. Just like the 10K…

…hello, bathroom stop. Again. Stupid Mile 4/5 Curse…

Waiting for the bathroom added ten minutes to my time. SO FRUSTRATING. I kept staring at my watch and making mental calculations for what my pace needed to be to still be on track for a PR. At this point, I was even ahead of the 3:00 pace group by about 5 minutes. I stood in line and simply watched them run on by…

When I did get into the bathroom, almost nothing came out. Phantom pains? Perhaps. Needless to say, I was not happy.

I left and headed past the Contemporary and Space Mountain en route to the Mile 5 marker. At least I caught the sunrise at this point, and another runner and I took pictures for each other.

Running down Main Street wasn’t really fun this year. First of all, it was rather quiet. The music was playing and some spectators were cheering…but most of them were just dead. Not sure if the early-morning wakeup call had them all still sleepy or what, but it wasn’t the most exciting thing to do. Hanging the right and heading into Tomorrowland was nearly identical to 2015: the sun was beginning to rise. I knew the temperature was going to spike.img_290110670177_956466177742136_4471090198474420962_nimg_2906

Running through the castle was THE LEAST CONGESTED I HAVE EXPERIENCED IT, EVER. I was absolutely shocked at the ease I could maneuver through and still come out the other side unscathed. (Dark and blurry shot above, but notice the non-congestion.)

Right after Liberty Square, I could feel tummy rumblings making themselves known. Seriously. Not again. I ducked into the Adventureland bathroom.

I ran out and crossed the 10K timing mat. This was 1:31, and the second slowest 10K split I’ve ever run. I was halfway…. and I had to stop again.

-____________-

This all happened within the first half of the race. Three bathroom stops and my chance for PR-ing completely shot to hell. At this point, I was just hoping to finish.


 

The next half of the PHM course begins with the menace known as Cone Alley. As you can see from the picture, it is self-explanatory. img_2909

(^^Cones for miles. Yeahhhh…)

According to my Garmin, my Mile 7 pace was 20:00. #MiddleOfTheFieldProblems

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During Mile 8 (the Clif Shot mile), the sun came out strong. It was another “Blinded By the Light” moment as we ran past the Grand Floridian and golf courses. In addition to the Biofreeze, I was taking advantage of dumping ice cold water over my head and enjoying the fact I was running in a sports bra and not a shirt or tank top. Trust me, it felt great. 12715388_956466261075461_556184075146420519_n

I hit Mile 8.7, and grabbed my traditional Vanilla and Mocha Clif Shots. The sucky part about this section is that there isn’t a water station immediately after. Don’t take your Clif Shots without water; they’ll dry your throat out and you’ll have sticky residue all over. You have to wait about another half a mile to get water to wash it down, so carry them with you until this point.

I was still feeling incredibly grouchy at this point. My mile pace had increased significantly and I was watching my chances at even tying my original half PR of 3:06 sliding away with every step. I started up the Mile 10 overpass, and something in me changed…

 

I thought back to the Survival Guide, and how it had been a key resource to those that were running this very race. Around me, thousands of runners were striving to reach the finish line, and I knew that the last 5K of this race can be a total bitch. Now, more than ever on the course, walls were going to be hit, spirits would sink, and we would have to pick each other up if we were going to accomplish our goal of finishing for free bananas and lots of shiny bling, in addition to bragging rights.

This overpass makes or breaks runners. Even if I can just boost up one person, knowing that even I wouldn’t achieve my goals, maybe I can help them achieve theirs.

I ascended the overpass, passed the Army Men shouting orders for us to, “Stop texting and run!”, and ran over to the left side of the course. Peering down over the side of the overpass, I shouted to everyone below me…img_2917

“YOU GUYS ARE DOING GREAT! KEEP IT UP! WOOOOOO!”

In those five seconds, my entire demeanor changed. As the response from my cheering erupted below and all around me, I accepted the fact that making these types of memories on the course is what makes a race what it is. It’s not about times and being hell-bent on PR-ing (although that’s always a plus). It’s making that difference for runners, even if it is only one out of tens of thousands, that can give them the boost to keep going and not give up. I had been there four years ago in my first race. Giving back to the running community in that fashion was absolutely priceless.

I dashed over to the Mile 11 med tent to re-Biofreeze, and the medics there said we were about 1.9 miles away from the finish. Woohoo!12717844_956466281075459_2684787305172947717_n12744045_956466284408792_5474967127571428553_n

Catching Spaceship Earth on the horizon and descending into EPCOT at Mile 12 is probably my favorite part of the PHM course (even more fun that running down Main Street in Magic Kingdom and storming the castle). The crowds are ample and the encouragement is electrifying. Plus, it was really shady in some spots. (Thank you, Spaceship Earth!)

Round the corner, pass the gospel choir, and head down the last straightaway to the finish line!img_2926


 

My time? Heh…3:26:19. Slowest half marathon to date. (Even slower than my very first PHM which was a 3:25:41.) But hooray for earning my Triple Slipper! (Three GSCs down, lots more to go!)img_2939

I wasn’t very happy immediately post-race. (Even when I was in line to do my GSC picture, I was fighting being grouchy.) I really stewed in my emotions for most of the day. Tack the slow-as-mud time on top of it, and there weren’t many positive feelings left.

It took a few days, but I’m at peace with my performance now. Surprisingly.


 

Christina’s Post-GSC Thoughts:

  1. Even if you don’t achieve your overall goal, there will always be more races to compete in to better your time. I’m very happy that I managed one PR out of the weekend. (Just goes to show that you CAN PR in a runDisney event!)
  2. Runner’s etiquette…ugh. Come on, y’all. Read the manual you’re given at expo time. Don’t be hogging the course by walking 4-6 abreast. That’s annoying as hell. And don’t get snarky when other runners say, “Coming through!” and split the middle of your group because it’s the only way to get around.
  3. Copious amounts of Biofreeze will make your eyes burn.
  4. You only get water on the course during the 10K. Electrolyte drinks are provided for the half.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with a little cold water over the head during the sunny parts of the half…until that water mixes with sweat and runs in your eyes. Many owies.
  6. Be sure to cheer your fellow runners on and say hi to those you do know! I had the privilege of running into some of my Team Shenanigans ladies on the PHM course and that was a very happy fifteen seconds of my race day. I also met more blog readers during PHM and those interactions kept me going.6A. Even the elites need love, too. If you’re in the position to cheer for those vying for the win, DO IT. I spoke with Heather during the expo and she said that it can get really lonely at the front of the field. These runners are just like us, and they deserve our support!
  7. Regarding diet...fiber is good for you, especially in the days preceding the race. Make sure your food contains an adequate amount of the stuff, or you’ll end up like me with stomach pains raging.
  8. No matter the race, RESPECT THE DISTANCE. I refuse to be cutesy and nice about this (and other topics) any longer. If you don’t train for the race, you’re going to be the one who is hurting like hell afterwards. Don’t come crying to those that HAVE done this before and complain about how much you didn’t train, and then try to go out and run it solely to say you did it. That’s not how racing works.
  9. HAVE FUN. I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is listening to fellow runners get so worked up over getting swept and worrying about the Balloon Ladies that they throw any chance of having a great race out the window due to this anxiety. Throw your cares to the wind and just race. The majority of you that were concerned about it probably didn’t get swept, anyway.
  10. I’m glad I only heard “Let It Go” only once on the course this time.
  11. The runDisney Easter Egg Hypothesis is raging strong on social media, where the Mile 13 marker is the theme for the next year’s race. If this holds true…next year’s theme will be Snow White!

     

Congrats to everyone who had a magical race weekend! You’ve earned your medals and bragging rights, so show that bling and post those pictures! Shoutout to everyone who I met on the course and for everyone who benefitted from my PHM Survival Guide. I hope to see you all at a future runDisney event!img_2933

 

Until next time…see you at the finish line!

*~*Christina*~*

Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide, Ep. VII

Hey princesses and princes…

SURPRISE!!! *confetti cannons and fireworks*

That’s right! There’s one more Survival Guide episode for you all!

I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to release this episode, and I figured that it’s about that time. We’re less than a week out from when all of the Princess Half weekend excitement goes down, and the energy is ramping up on the social media feeds. Outfits are being displayed, encouragement being passed around, final training miles being run, and the taper crazies running rampant, as always. There’s a certain electricity that amplifies any runDisney event. With Princess Half weekend, however, I have noticed that it seems to be more prominent with this race than any of the others.

This final episode will be filled with motivation and positive thinking and pretty pictures. (runDisney released an album of motivational running pictures and quotes several years ago, and I’m glad I saved them to share.) Think of this episode as the narration to your weekend.

Got your snacks? Yay! Let’s go!


 

PHM Survival Guide, Ep. VII: The Race Awakens: Final Thoughts From Christina

I have mentioned this before: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. For many of us, that happens when you cross the finish line and can officially say, “I Did It!”

But the truth is, it happens far sooner….407811_580612858631347_62542001_n

 

Life begins when you make the decision to toe the line…to commit to the distance, the training, the long hours of pounding the pavement or track or treadmill to put the miles under your legs. To say, “Yes. I’m going to do this”, and follow through all the way until race day.

There is a lot of sacrifice when training for a race, as you all know: Giving up sleeping in on the weekends in exchange for greeting the sunrise of a new day with a workout… replacing your comfort foods with something more healthy that makes your body happy and fuels you…deciding to head home early and rest up instead of staying out with friends on a Friday night.

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Or on the flip of the coin…battling runner grumpies when you’re trying to find this thing called a runner’s high that everyone sems to talk about….fighting waves of apathy, sadness, and a disinterest in running….thinking, “Ugh, I have to wake up at X- time and run X-miles for a long run?” and promptly hiding under the covers. Your training may have been derailed by life or illness or other variables, and you might be discouraged and frustrated, thinking, “Why the hell did I even sign up for this?”

(All of this I have experienced before. You’re not alone.)

It can suck sometimes. It really can.

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But it will pay off. Even if you can’t see it now, showing up on race day is your dedication in action. Your costume/outfit is on, the feelings of excitement and anxiety churning in your stomach (it’s all those butterflies that are back again!), and you know there’s no going back. You’ve made it this far. Whether you’re a Perfect, a veteran, a firstie…the love is there for everyone. Everyone is sharing thoughts, feelings, anticipation…your hearts are in sync and eyes are on the prize.

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Everyone that toes the line has a story to tell. And these stories, while most remain unspoken, drive these races to be what they truly are: the gathering of athletes of all abilities to chase their dreams and accomplish their goals.

Next week, it’s go time. It’s time for your victory lap.

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The Fairy Godmother counts you down, the fireworks go boom, and you’re off on a magical journey of whichever distance you’ve signed up for. Take in the experience. The atmosphere and sights are unlike any other race you’ll ever participate in.

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For the firsties…no matter the distance, you’re accomplishing a feat that thousands before you have done. You’re following in the footsteps of even the most elite runners in history; they’ve all been there. Everyone has run their first race at some point in their lives. You’re now partaking in that tradition. Embrace your first race.

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On race day…race your race. This phrase may reflect many things: You may be running for a new PR…you may be running just to complete the distance to say that you did…you might be running miles in memory of someone…hell, you may be racing for an age award, or even for the win. Whatever your reason is, you’re here. You’re going to go the distance, just like the song says.

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When you cross the finish line, throw your hands in the air and cheer. You deserve a celebration. All the weeks and months, trials and tribulations, struggles and successes you’ve endured will culminate into an explosive euphoria that will rival anything you’ve ever felt before. Your life is going to change forever. Smile, cheer, cry, hug your friends. This is your time. Take it in. Enjoy it. By the time you get home, you’re going to want to do it all over again.

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See you at the finish line.

 

*~*Christina*~*

Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide, Ep. IV, Part II

Hello, runners! We have about three weeks ’til Princess Half weekend! *listens to the cheers* As event guides and waivers are being released over the coming days, the excitement is going to increase tenfold. I know some of you are freaking out…please don’t be. This is why I take hours out of my week to write these guides for you. If I can assuage your fears even just a little bit, then I’m doing my job.

Time for Episode IV, Part II! I consider this the heart of the race weekend, and the meat and potatoes of this Survival Guide. (aka, you better get cozy; this is gonna take awhile!) I have mentioned before: Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Before every race, I sit down with the course map and analyze where all the points of interest are. If you have an idea of what is ahead of you (especially with water and aid stops), you will go into the race a little less stressed. And we all need a little less stress! I will be providing visuals along the way with pictures I have taken and additonal resources from other bloggers and photographers.


 

Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide, Episode IV, Part II: A New Race…Pees and Sees Along the Course

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You’ve crossed the start line and you’re on your way to many magical miles in Disney World! Woohoo!

So, what will you encounter along the routes? Places to pee and things to see, of course! Let’s return to the course maps from the last episode, shall we?…

Enchanted 10K

10k PHM Map

You have an idea of the elevation changes on this course. (Not many. Yay!) You’ll traverse through EPCOT and the Boardwalk. There are characters along the course for picture stops. (These change every year, and there’s no list available before the race to know this, so it’s all a big surprise!) Your water/aid stops/general road map is as follows:

Mile 1: Flaaaaaaaaaat.

Mile 1.25: Up the overpass. (Biggest elevation change on the course.)

Mile 1.75: Water….just over the downward part of the overpass ramp. I do believe there is a character stop over here.

Miles 2-3: This gets a little dull, but Disney has music and videos playing on the jumbotrons.

Mile 3.3-ish: First Aid tent (this is the ONLY med tent for the 10K)

Mile 3.6-ish: Water stop as you’re coming into EPCOT by China.

Mile 4: WOOOOOO EPCOT!! You’ll burst through and be greeted with all of the torches lit up and music playing in the background. It is my absolutely favorite part of the weekend. So many feels.

Mile 4.75: Water again

Mile 5-Boardwalk and Yacht Club.

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Mile 5.4-ish: More water.

Mile 6.2 = finish line!

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Race Etiquette Pointer:

**When you’re going through water stops, grab what you need and keep going. Don’t always stop at the first volunteer. There are about a dozen volunteers with cups in their hands, and make sure to thank them! POWERADE IS FIRST, WATER IS SECOND. And try your best to get your empty cups into the trash cans.**


 

Princess Half Marathon

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Before I start, one of our teamRunDisney members, Chris Mel, took photos along every mile of the PHM last year. His photos are on Facebook:, and are a fabulous visual representation of what you’ll find on the course: https://www.facebook.com/Triangleoutdoors/media_set?set=a.1306562266027933.1073741883.100000225167545&type=3

Mile .8 = water. Yep, you’re getting water pretty quickly.

Mile 1.5 = elevation change. It is one of two changes that are significant in the entire course. Don’t go out too fast and burn yourself out before you hit this point. There’s a downhill part to the uphill, so it’s be a nice relief!

Mile 2.9-ish = water and first aid.

Mile 3.1 = 5K split timer

Mile 4 = there is a DJ over the tunnel by Bay Lake with the big Mickey hands at this part (you may have seen him in others’ pictures before). This is also Cone Alley #1. It is a downhill section (largest negative elevation change of the race), so be mindful of where you’re running and who is around you.

PHM 2013 people

Mile 4.6-ish = water and first aid.

Mile 4.9-5. Passing by Contemporary Resort and Space Mountain. You’re almost on Main Street USA! **Note: watch the trolley tracks  while going down Main Street USA. You might roll your limbs on these if you’re not paying attention.**

**Storm the Castle**

When you’re going through the castle, you may encounter a bottleneck and it may feel like a dawdle through the castle. Typically, you will exit to the right once you’re out of the castle, BUT…during the WDW Marathon, they opened up the left side of the castle exit, allowing for the flow of runners to be far more smooth. If you plan on going down the left side, watch the terrain. I heard that some runners ate it here during the marathon. Plus, don’t stop without checking to see if someone’s behind you if you want a picture. It’s great way to get hurt.

You might need to go to the bathroom in MK. Just gonna warn you now…the lines may be atrocious. Don’t always stop at the first one you see. Your three options are Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Adventureland/Frontierland. I have included a supplementary blog post by Julie of runwalkrepeat.com at the bottom of this page.

Mile 6.2 = water and first aid. This is right outside of the MK backstage area. Your 10K split will also be recorded here.

Mile 6.5-8 = Cone Alley #2. This is a very literal term: coming out of the backstage area, runners will be funneled into an obnoxiously tight section of the course. I absolutely abhor this area. It is a two-way street, and you’re running on one side of it. There is a barrier of cones on the center line. Do not cross the cones, because you’ll get yelled at. The road is flanked by these cones to the right and a grassy hill to the left. I do not recommend running through the grass. Wet shoes + wet socks + potential for rolled ankles = no thanks.

For those planning race strategy, I would bide my time and patience during this part. The road will open up soon.

You will also be passing by the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts along Mile 7!

You will also reach the halfway point during this time! Woohoo!

PHM 2013 halfway

Mile 8.7 = Clif Station. You’ll see these from down the road by their gigantic flags waving in the wind. There will be four types of gels being offered, if you wish to take them: Vanilla, Raspberry, Citrus, and Mocha. (The Mocha has 50 mg of caffeine in it. Take this with caution if you’re prone to pooping after caffeine consumption.) There is a water/First Aid station just beyond this at Mile 9. I HIGHLY suggest taking your gels and getting to the water station BEFORE consuming them. Taking gels without water will dry your throat out and not taste good. And I think it says somewhere on the package that you should consume with liquid, anyway….

Mile 9: Long. Long and flat. There is a water stop right beofre you tackle the overpass. Mile 9.3 is the 15K split timer.

PHM 15K

Coming up the overpass you will see the Mile 10 marker. Make it up the hill, and it’ll go flat for a bit.

EPCOT! Seeing Spaceship Earth is a joyous site, and it means you’re almost to the finish line!

Mile 11: Water and your last First Aid stop. The spectator support will begin to grow exponentially for the final two miles.

Mile 12.25: Last water stop.

*insert EPCOT goodness…loop back around to Spaceship Earth….gospel choir….*

FINISH LINE

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Alrighty, so that’s a basic rundown of the course. Time to talk about other things that are of serious importance…


 

Balloon Ladies…Love ’em or Hate ’em, They’re Still Here

In order to keep a sense of order regarding pace, runDisney incorporates a small group of ladies (they’re professionals) to maintain a 16 mpm pace throughout the course. So many runners dread seeing them, but rest assured, they want to see you finish. runDisney only has a certain amount of allotted time to keep the roads closed to the public so we runners can finish safely.

The balloon ladies’ job is to adhere to the 16 mpm pace once the last runner in Corral P crosses the timing mats. The time that you see on the clocks at each mile marker is the overall time for the race. For example…if you get to Mile 4 and the time says 1:18, that is the amount of time that has elapsed since the very first corral was launched.

Obviously, the farther up in corrals you are, the more of a time buffer you’ll have for photos and potty breaks. Heed this warning though…don’t get so caught up in taking pictures that you lose track of time and get swept. Yes…this has happened before. Many runners have to make the choice between photos with their favorite character or getting swept. Think about this before the race as a possible scenario.

I have read for the past few months that people are paranoid about being swept. You won’t get swept if you stay ahead of these ladies. There are several sweep points along the route that have big yellow charter buses next to them. I believe these points are around Miles 4 and 8, possibly 10. Officials hate to sweep, but must to maintain course safety.

If you happen to get swept, don’t try to fight about it. It is going to suck, and there will be a lot of emotion coming from your fellow runners as you board those busses. (I was swept at MCM this year, and it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced.) You’ll be taken to the finish and still be given a medal. What you do with this medal is entirely up to you. Some save it as motivation to train harder, others may not accept it at all.


 

Mile Markers and Split Timing

Many of you are firsties, so the concept of mile markers and splits (not the delicious banana kind) may be foreign. Here’s the quick rundown of how to interpret them.

Mile Markers: The second that you cross the start line, you are beginning the first mile. At the end of the first mile, you’ll see the first mile marker. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ALL THAT DISTANCE BEFORE YOU WAS A FLUKE. Think of seeing a mile marker as a reward: ”I just finished the first mile, yay! Let’s see what character it is and take a picture.” Then you do to mile two. And so on. Each mile marker indicates how many miles you have finished. (Example below: You’ve reached the mile 11 sign. You have finished 11 miles. Woohoo!)

PHM 2013 Mulan

Splits: A split is how races are broken up for timing, or your pace per mile. For runDisney, there are several splits that your runner tracking will record: 5K, 10K, and 15K splits, plus your start and end times. Make sure you step on the timing mats so your chip transfers the data! You’ll see these areas marked by distance flags. (See 15K flag above.)

Once waivers are released, you can sign up for runner tracking that can post your progress and results across Facebook, Twitter, and text message. Before I bought my Garmin, I had my splits sent to Twitter and my phone. This was a great way for me to stay in tune with my times and gauge if I could afford to take an extra picture or spend more time in the bathroom.


 

First Aid/Course Safety : How to (Literally) Survive a Race

Time to get serious. Yes, I get serious sometimes, and this is a topic I will not be light on. Surprisingly, there is something far more important than getting a shiny medal, and many runners ignore this.

It’s called taking care of yourself. It’s listening to your body when it’s telling you to slow down and take in more electrolytes. It’s not fighting through an injury should it crop up during the race. It’s adhering to the weather and dressing appropriately.

I mentioned this in the last episode, and it needs to be repeated until the end of time: runDisney may be deemed as “fun races”…but they are still races just the same. You will be putting many miles on your legs and your body will go through a grueling test of endurance, no matter what the age or ability level. If you have not been training and eating properly, and you think you can just wing it…you are sadly mistaken.

I had friends telling me that the saw people doing the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half, and full) for the first time (undertrained) during Marathon weekend, and after the 10K, they were in rough shape. How they were going to survive the next 39.3 miles (and two more 2 AM wake-up calls)?

I saw someone getting put on oxygen during the marathon; ambulances made their way down the same path that the runners were on, and we all had to shift to the side of the road. Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah last November, when the heat was so bad that runners died on the course? People pass out in the heat due to overexertion and dehydration, heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

Guys, the danger of all of this is very real. You need to stay alert at all times. The temperature soared last year during the half. I gradually slowed my time and made it to the end safely, albeit sunburned and tired. I knew that a PR wasn’t worth fainting over. Slow your time by thirty seconds for every five degrees the temperature rises. Your body heats up fairly quickly once you start moving, and you will feel naturally twenty degrees warmer than the air temperature. Add humidity and even higher temps, and it’s a recipe for potential disaster.

There is also a Medical Information section in the Event Guide (pages 48 and 49). Head over to rundisney.com and click on the Princess Half Marathon section (it’s under “Runner Information”.) Take some time to go over this, and all of the other sections. This will give you some advice on what the aid stations will be like and how to take care of yourself during the race. The first aid tents on the courses are stocked with all the things. If you need to be treated for something, do NOT hesitate to stop in. If something feels achy, Biofreeze is your friend; if you need to slather it on, there’s plenty of it. Same with Vaseline. The Vaseline will be on popsicle sticks…do NOT, under any circumstances, eat this. (Some think it’s a treat. Then they eat it…and find out it isn’t…)

Again, I implore…please take care of yourself while you’re out there running. You may not be aiming for a PR (I will be…that will be a later post closer to race day), but you’re still exerting yourself with the same intensity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a 6 mpm or a 16 mpm…miles are still miles. We will have all covered the same distance in the end.


 

Spectators

If there is one thing that runDisney events are known for, it’s the amazing crowd support. This is especially prevalent along Miles 1-2, Magic Kingdom (4-6), and EPCOT (11-13). They’ll be cheering for you, and the energy will give you that push to make it down Main Street U.S.A., or past Spaceship Earth. Cast members will also be out in droves. Make sure to give out high fives and take note of the runner signs! Some of them are quite hilarious.

If your squad has a ChEAR Package, or need ideas for places to go, refer to pages 52-54 of the Event Guide. A Spectator Viewpoint list can be found here, as well.


 

After the Race…What’s Next?

You rounded the final corner coming out of EPCOT, raced down the last straightaway, high-fived Mickey, and have crossed the finish line! Woohoo, you did it!! Now it’s time to go down the finisher’s chute. This is where celebration and recovery begin.

-Tell your guests in advance that they are NOT allowed down the runner’s chute. This is for runners only. They can meet you at the post-meetup areas in Runners Village.

-First stop is medals. Find a volunteer and get medaled! Admire it for a minute. It’s shiny, isn’t it?

-Water, Powerade, bananas…they’ll all be here.

-Get your picture taken (if you wish!)

-Head by the tents for your recovery box and probably another banana or five.

**Glass Slipper Challenge participants….there is a seperate area just for you to get your challenge medal. I will cover this, and all GSC-related things, in Episode V. That episode is reserved just for you!**

-Get your gEAR bag and smile. You’re done!! Head to the celebration area in Runners Village. Stretch out, take a few selfies with your new bling, congratulate other runners that are around you. You all worked hard to make it here.

-There are additional First Aid tents at the end if you need assistance.

The most important thing to keep in mind while traversing the finisher’s chute is to KEEP MOVING. Don’t let that lactic acid build up in your legs by stopping and plopping on the ground. You’re going to be tired, you’re going to be hurting…but you’ll hurt worse later on if you don’t fuel up during this window of opportunity.


 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. I know this post was insanely long, but there’s a lot of information to be covered. I’ve probably missed something, so if you have questions, please ask them and I’ll do my best to answer!

On a seperate note…

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WHO IS RUNNING THE GLASS SLIPPER CHALLENGE?!? *sees hands going up*

Woohoo! Whether this is your first GSC or your third, I’ve been waiting eagerly to write the next portion of this guide. Episode V: The Glass Slipper Strikes Back, will be tailored to GSC-specific details of race weekend!

Until next time….


 

P.S. If you’re still feeling nervous, take some time to scour the internet for PHM and GSC recaps and other runDisney blog posts. Thousands of other runners have done these races before and are happy to share their experiences. Pinterest is also a great resource.

Supplementary Blog Posts for this episode:

http://www.runwalkrepeat.com/2014/01/princess-half-marathon-potty-time-where-are-the-real-bathrooms-avoid-using-the-port-o-potty/

http://www.runwalkrepeat.com/2014/01/princess-half-marathon-dont-fear-the-sweepers-or-balloon-ladies/

Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide: Episode IV, Part I

*buzz buzz buzz*

What’s that? A swarm of bees? Or dogs? Or dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?

(If you got the Simpsons reference, give yourself five gold stars.)

Nope. That’s your alarm.

Today is the day! You’ve trained for many miles, traveled to get here, and are totally excited for race day! No matter what race you’re running, you’re going to have a fantastic experience. This episode is going to dive into the heart of race day. I’m going to give you the 411 on the before, during, and after aspects of what you may encounter. Since there are an umpteenth amount of variables that are associated with a runDisney event, I will be splitting this into two parts. So grab your snacks and tiaras…it’s time to race!


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PHM Survival Guide, Episode IV: A New Race: The Ins and Outs of Race Day!

Part I…

You wake up full of excitement and anticipation. You bounce around the hotel room in your race day costume, doing all the wake-up things and nibbling on your pre-race food. You board the bus at 3AM (or jump in your car at 2:30 AM), and soon you’re taking off for the staging area! But as excited as you are, you feel like you’re forgetting something…

Okay. Rewind.

The primary thing you need to do is focus on logistics. RunDisney races are fun, I get that. But they are still races, and should be taken seriously as such. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, and go down through the list:

Before the Race….

  1. That outfit you layed out last night? Are you wearing it? Good.
  2. Do you have your bib?! Yes? Yay!
  3. Are you planning on music/pictures/etc.? How about your fitness watch? Do you have those electronics? Good.
  4. Did you grab your check-in bag that was hanging on the door to your room? You better have!
  5. Did you have a beverage other than coffee (aka water)? You will want to do this. Try to have at least 8-16 oz of water pre-race. Whether it’s going to be hot or cold, you’ll want the extra hydration.
  6. Got your hotel room keys? Don’t lock the door until you check!

Once you have all the things, it’s time to move to your transportation method of choice…

disney-bus

On-Site: If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, there will be shuttles to take you to Runner’s Village. When I was driving to EPCOT on WDW Marathon morning, the fleet of busses was departing EPCOT around 2:00 AM to their respective resorts with first runners boarding around 3 AM. If you are paranoid about missing anything, OR want to go through bag check with minimal people around, I would HIGHLY suggest getting in the queue for this around 2:30 AM. It sounds obnoxiously early, but drivers have been known to get lost and/or delayed. It makes for some interesting tweets to read later.

new car
My wheels for race weekend!

 

Off-site/driving: If you’re planning on driving yourself, you may have it a juuuust little easier. Since you don’t have to rely on someone else for a ride, you can easily get to EPCOT on your own. Woohoo! Heed this warning though: Leave earlier than anticipated. Once that first fleet of busses starts heading back to EPCOT, traffic is going to be positively dreadful. Like, Master Gracey and the Haunted Mansion dreadful. I left at 2AM and got there about 15 minutes later. Even though I sat in my car for awhile, I was fine.

Driving directions, taken from the Event Guide:

-If you’re traveling I-4 (barf), take exit 64 to 192 West and follow the signs to EPCOT. DO NOT USE EXIT 67.

I repeat: Exit 67 = bad. Exit 64 = good!

-If you’re already on 192, you can use your GPS. I did and had no problems.

I will warn you again…expect significant delays if you’re not in the parking lot by 3 AM. Traffic is gnarly. Also, you are NOT allowed to access the corrals from anywhere else except through the Explore Lot at EPCOT. If you try to jump the fence at Bonnet Creek Parkway or Buena Vista Drive, you’ll get disqualified and definitely yelled at. Public embarrassment is not on the agenda for today, folks! It’s for your own safety. There is a runner dropoff in the Taxi Lot in EPCOT.

If you’re driving, you don’t have to pay the $20 to park. (It’s about the best perk runDisney is going to give you this weekend.)

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Alrighty, so you’re traveling..and traveling…maybe singing songs with those on the bus or in the car…and then you’re here! Yay! Here’s what you do next…

Security: Anyone who has a check-in bag will have to go through security. If you have ANYTHING with a zipper (this includes arm bands, belts, etc.), you also have to go through security (be prepared ahead of time by opening the zippers on your items). This may sound overly unnecessary, but for those that are safety-minded, it will put you at ease. Anything is subject for additional searching, and there are K-9 units.

Once you’re through security, it is time for…

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Runner’s Village

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, and now it’s time to explain what exactly this mysterious land is.

This is where everything goes down before the race. Once past security, you will encounter the charity tents and some bathrooms. There will be the Race Retreat/breakfast tent, concessions to buy coffee/bagels/pre-race breakfasty deliciousness (be prepared to sell your kidneys for these, because Disney), info tents, and a main stage where pre-race music will be pumping and people will be dancing. (No lie, this actually happens.) Many running groups and friends will be meeting up during this time, and there are many visual landmarks you can use for a pre-race meetup.

Checking your stuff: Your gEar check tents will be in alphabetical order. Find your tent and drop off your stuff. Easy peasy.

Portapotties: There are about 592 of these all around. Make sure you have your PRPs before you head to the corrals. Potties will be scarce from this point on, and then you’ll have to resort to nature being your toilet.

Race Retreat/Breakfast: (Something that I have yet to experience. If you have experienced this, I’d love your input!) If you purchased tickets, you will head to a large, white tent in the Imagine Lot. Make sure you have your wristband! (You would have received this at the expo). Times for this is as follows:

-Friday: 7AM-9AM (breakfast)

-Saturday: 6:30AM-8:30AM (breakfast)

-Sunday: 3AM-10AM

Sunday Race Retreat:

3AM-5:30AM (This includes breakfast, stretching areas, portapotties, private gEAR check, etc.) ONLY RUNNERS CAN ACCESS THE TENT FOR THE RACE RETREAT.

5:30AM-10AM: Platinum ChEAR Squad guests ONLY, with breakfast from 5:30AM-6:30AM.

7:30 AM-10AM: Breakfast Service.


Stuff About Spectators:

Since I have never had to do a racecation with spectators in tow, I really don’t have a lot of personal experience to share. I do, however, have the Event Guide pages with this information! (If anyone else has experiences to share, please share them! Shoutouts and cupcakes for all that do!)


 

Oh yeah…one more thing…

MarathonFoto Paparazzi.: I find this to be the most annoying part of the pre-race. As much as I like taking pictures as a photographer, I’m not one for getting in people’s faces about it. I understand that they’re doing their job, but I don’t really like to be bothered. I politely decline and give an outward impression that I have things to do and places to go. Others may choose to ham it up, and that’s fine. To each their own.

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Your stuff is checked in, you’ve peed, you’re hanging out with friends. Awesome! Now it’s around 4:45, and people are starting to meander towards the corrals. Now it is time to pay attention. This is when I will begin the great divide between 10K and PHM differences…

10K Corrals: There are five of these (as of 2014 and 2015; 2016 may be different). You don’t have to go far to find these. They will be in one of the parking lots. (The event guide doesn’t have a map for this, unfortunately…)

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PHM Corrals: Far more fun. It is about a 20 minute walk to the corrals, and it really is a distance away! Floodlights will guide your way and booming music will accompany you. (Some refer to this as a Princess Death March, or the Herding of the Cows. All in good fun, of course!) Pay attention to the sign at the median: this will tell you which corrals go to the left or right. Follow the road and find the big corral light bulb thingie that has your letter on it. Show your bib to the volunteers and hop on in!

(^^ They’ll look something like this!)


So you’re in your corral and trying to figure out where to start. Line up where you think you’ll be most comfortable. Here is a little guide to help you:

*If this is your first race, start somewhere in the middle to back of your corral, in the middle-ish. If you’re more of the observing type, this will give you a few extra seconds to gauge what everyone is doing in front of you so you can plan your moves. This is also good for anyone planning to start slow and aim for negative splits later on.

*If you plan on running the whole thing, or are a veteran runner who got screwed with your proof of time submission and are a little speedier, go to the left. (Runners on the left.)

*If you’re going to do run/walk intervals, hover around to the right. (Walkers to the right.)

*Line up in the front if you’re absolutely crazy and want to get out ahead of everyone!

Race etiquette:

There will be many runners committing etiquette faux pas. Stay ahead of the game with these tips (and more throughout additional sections)!

-If you want to run with a friend and you’re in two seperate corrals, you need to move to the slower corral. You’re not allowed to move UP, only BACK. (Corral jumpers will attempt to hop the fence, and they have done this in the past. If you see this, report it to security immediately.)

-No more than two runners abreast across the road. Go single file in the Cone Alleys because it’s gonna be tight enough already. Don’t be hogging the road for people wanting to get around you.

-This one is huge: If you’re planning on run/walk/run intervals, nonverbal communication to your fellow runners is just as important, if not more, than verbal. In addition to verbally stating, “Run” or “Walk”, look behind you and move accordingly while giving a hand signal. This is when all runners should be outfitted with a belt that has turn signals on it. Don’t just stop in the middle of the freakin’ highway; someone WILL run into you and you both may be hurt. Also…there are a few runners that are deaf/hearing impaired that run this race. You never know who out there is, so just be mindful of those around you.

-Get those around you excited! You’d be surprised how many runners will be cracking jokes along the way. Interaction is key to staying sane, and you’ll make new runner buddies!

The announcers, especially Carissa and Rudy, will do their best at cracking jokes and keeping everyone engaged in the minutes prior.. The National Anthem will be sung (one of my goals in life as a professional anthemist!), and the Fairy Godmother will wave the corrals off one by one…

PHM Countdown
(^^ Photo courtesy of runningatdisney.com!)

 

“Salagadoola… mechicka boola…three, two, one, GO!”

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Christina’s Thoughts:

You may think that your life changes the second you toe the start line. In reality, this happens far sooner. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and that starts the second you decide to sign up and say, “Yes. I’m doing this.” You’ve put the miles in and are ready for your victory lap. Enjoy every moment, and take it all in.


 

You now have an idea of what happens before the race. Now that you’ve crossed the start line, you’re on a journey that’s fit for a princess! What will you encounter on the course besides elevation changes and a lot of other people in tutus and tiaras? Stay tuned for Episode IV, Part II!

2014 Marine Corps Historic Half Recap

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So here we are once again. Today’s adventures will take us to the 2014 Marine Corps Historic Half. If you recall, I signed up for the HH while I was in Disney for the 2014 Glass Slipper Challenge. Like the previous races, this one will come with its own set of lessons learned and whatnot. Sooooo let’s get started!


 

Out of all the races I have done, this one may have been the most complicated driving-wise. The Historic Half took place in Fredericksburg, VA, which is about an hour from Washington, D.C. Once again, Adriane (my cousin) had come to the rescue and provided me a place to stay. However, since I was still in school at Edinboro at the time (far NW corner of PA), there was going to be a LOT of driving to do in a short amount of time.

About 7 hours’ worth in one day. But I finally made it!

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I left Edinboro early, didn’t die on the way down, and made it to the Expo to pick up my race packet and other goodies, then took off again for the city. I arrived around sunset, and my cousin-in-law, Robert, decided to take me out for dinner and a little nighttime sightseeing. The Washington Monument had just reopened the week prior due to the 2012 earthquake that left the structure a little no-so-sound for tourists. (This provided a perfect topic for my Crisis Managemnt class on geologic crises and D.C. tourism later that week.)

I finally got to bed around midnight, and I knew I was going to be hurting in four hours when I had to leave for the race. I got up around 4:00 AM, and got on the road shortly thereafter. I was pumped as I was driving down, jamming out to some tunes and eating EnergyBits. I was a little shaky about where I was going, but the traffic was VERY tame and rather sparse. I soon found other cars with their various race stickers on them, and followed them to the starting area. I parked over in the Wegman’s parking lot, caught a couple more zzzz’s, ran in to buy some breakfast, and waited patiently for more time to elapse before exiting my car.

Lesson 1: Parking lots at the start/finish area, with a Wegman’s RIGHT THERE, is like heaven for a runner. Get there early for prime parking.

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The race started at 7 AM, and by comparison to the PHM, the field was tiny. Maybe 7,500 runners at most. This was fine by me; I could actually run without getting trampled!

I blazed my first 5K in 38:36. For me, a 12 mpm was relaxed, steady, and fast by my standards. As the course began to weave its way through the little suburban towns, I couldn’t help but notice that EVERYONE BRINGS THEIR PUPPIES. CUTEST RACE SUPPORT EVER.

Lesson 2: Take time to pet the puppies. And shake the hands of the veterans that cheer you on. Your time may drop a bit, but that’s okay. It’s worth it.

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Around the halfway mark, I started feeling incredibly fatigued. More Energybits were consumed and more miles were checked off with more walking than running, of course. Thank you, Jeff Galloway, for ensuring us turtles that it’s okay to walk during a race without feeling lousy about it.

Lesson 3: Seriously, if you need to walk, go ahead and walk. You’ll save your legs and prevent injury.

Then…Hospital Hill came.

What is Hospital Hill? Well, I’m glad you asked…

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This feature is the crowning glory of the Historic Half, and it is constantly talked about online in the months and weeks leading up to the race. At the HH expo, there is a treadmill you can jump on that simulates its 12% gradient. The hill lasts slightly over half a mile, but let me tell you, it seems like an eternity. And there are no trees for shade. This hill makes or breaks runners, but you have to conquer it in order to get that medal!

Lesson 4: Do NOT shy away from hills and stairs during your training. Running these will seriously help your overall fitness and your VO2 Max levels, plus you can make it up Hospital Hill without dying (as much).

I sloooooooooooowly made my way up the hill. I was so tired and achy at this point, all I wanted to do was sleep. But I was almost finished, so I couldn’t just crash in the middle of the street for napnap time!

I finished in 3:10:04, and got medal #5 for the collection! (This medal is made of pewter, I believe, and it is heavy!)

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Post-race adventure:

So, remember that fatigue I was talking about earlier? Yeah, all of the Energybits in the world couldn’t quell it. I ran into Wegman’s, bought lunch, and sat down for about an hour eating it. On my way back to D.C., I could barely keep myself awake. It was warm outside, I was exhausted, and coupling those things together meant that it was prime sleepytime.

Result: I almost rear-ended a car on the beltway. I swear, I was about an inch away from its back bumper. Squealing tires and all.

After this, I knew I had to pull over somewhere. So I found a parking lot and parked under a big shady tree, where I proceeded to nap for about 1 ½ hours.

Lesson 5: DON’T DRIVE WHEN YOU’RE TIRED. BAD THINGS MAY HAPPEN. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your backseat nap-ready.


 

After-race thoughts…

If you’re looking for a serious challenge, do this race. The variations in elevation make the course really interesting. The course support is wonderful, from spectators, Marines, and puppies alike. The field is NOT as large as other mega-races as aforementioned, so it’s nice to attempt a PR at. To this day, this race is my second-fastest half marathon time, and still reigns first for 5K and 10K splits. (38:36 and 1:20:15).

I’m still aiming for a sub-3 hour half marathon, which has eluded me thus far in my running endeavors. I guess my new theme song should be, “Someday My PR Will Come”.

Thanks for reading! All past race recaps are now complete. Until next time…

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge Recap: Part II

If you didn’t read Part I, scroll down and read it. Then come back up for Part II. ‘kay? Great!


Alrighty, now on to the races! Here is GSC 2014, Part II. I will admit, some of the details are really fuzzy, but I’ll try to fill in the blanks as much as I can.

I spent this racecation off-property, and race-day transportation was a hot topic. I had NO idea how I was getting to the race, except via taxi. But spending that sort of money in Florida on taxi travels was a major pain. I was lucky enough to run into a woman (her name was Kat) at breakfast on Friday that had run the 5K. We decided, “Hey! Let’s eat breakfast and talk stuff!” So we did! After bonding for about an hour, and learning that she, too, was doing Glass Slipper, was able to offer me a ride to the start lines.

SUCH. A. RELIEF.

Lesson #1: Make all the friends. You never know who can help you out. I had the exact same thing happen this year for GSC, only it was 3:15 AM in the lobby of the hotel and new friend, Jennifer, offered me a ride.

The Inaugural Enchanted 10K was around 9,000 runners strong. There were five corrals, A-E. I was back in D. We got into our holding areas in the parking lot, and we were led around in front of the other corrals on our way to the staging area. It was awesome listening to the other corrals cheer for each other. We were all the there for the same purpose: to race.

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I had met several Twitter friends in real life the previous day at a #runnerslove meetup at Polynesian for meeting, greeting, and winning lots of stuff. I found Jess in my corral and we agreed to run a little bit together.

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Once the fireworks went off for us, We ran Galloway intervals for the first couple of miles. Well, I tried to, at least. First mile…totally fine. Second mile was an ascent onto an overpass with a downhill lead into mile 3. I couldn’t keep up with Jess at this point, so she went on ahead and I slowed up my pace, which was fine with me. I was going to enjoy the sights and whatnot.

The weather was fine that morning, and would be the same for the half the next day. I felt comfortable heading into EPCOT, which I found to be the COOLEST part of the race. Running through the nations was spot on, as was heading along the Boardwark and Yacht Club. At these incredibly photogenic spots, all the pictures were taken.

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I finished the race in 1:28:40, which I had expected considering I was dodging people and taking pictures. I also wasn’t overexerting myself because I knew I had to complete the second half of the challenge the next day…

Princess Half 2014:

Sunday morning comes and it’s Princess Half day! Just like 2013, we all arrive at EPCOT and the party is going full force. After potty breaks and coffee and stretching, the mass of runners began to file towards the starting corrals, with the faster runners heading left and not-so-faster runners to the right. As I chilled out in Corral J, I thought about my race plan: stay strong, steady, and not take as many pictures as last year. Since I had gotten my “It’s your first race so take pictures of all the things” out of my system last year, I could focus more on actually running.

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Once the corrals were released, I fell into a steady rhythm with some excellent song selections. I do believe that “Chasing the Sun” by The Wanted was the first song to come on, and I fell in tempo with the music. My first two miles were incredible. Just how I wanted them to be.

Then Mother Nature Called just before the 5K mark.

There were a couple of close-by potties by the course, but after waiting five minutes in line I could feel my legs getting tired. Some of us caught sight of portapotties all the way across this huge field, so we all decided to run over to those. (I ended up pulling a Julie Andrews and belting out, “The hiiiiills are aliiiiive with the sound of muuuuusiiiiiic!” This enabled laughter.)

So with this little detour, I had missed the water stop. As I hit the 5K timing mat, I felt dead. And I hadn’t even reached Magic Kingdom yet! The weather was overcast and humid, which was perfect for me coming from the snowbelt of Northwest Pennsylvania. I paced myself and hit Magic Kingdom, swearing five ways from Sunday that I wasn’t going to stop as I ran down Main Street USA. I turned through Tomorrowland, stormed through the castle, and made my way backstage. This is around the halfway point of the race, and coupling the 10K from the previous day, I had already run a half marathon!

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At this point our halfway song, “Let It Go”, was booming through the speakers; the perfect mid-race pick me up! You could hear the runners singing along as we stopped to pose next to this nifty little sign:

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My legs were feeling the toll of the mileage, but I kept going. I had to finish this. I wasn’t about to crap out now. I fought my way to get here, and come hell or high water, I was going to finish with some new shiny bling!

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Up and down the hills, around the overpass, down through EPCOT….and there was the finish! Woohoo! 19.3 complete, finally! I was tired. I was sore. But damn…I finished.

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I finished in 3:06:48, which was a 19-minute improvement from 2013 PHM. After receiving the medals, I was elated. I knew that this was going to be my race, and I couldn’t wait to return in 2015.


After-challenge thoughts:

  1. For anyone completing the challenge, do NOT go all out during the Enchanted 10K. Take your time and enjoy the sights. Multi-day races, such as GSC, Goofy, and Dopey to name a few, require discipline and training to conquer. What I did in the weekends leading up to race time was do a “Mock Glass Slipper”, where I’d run a 10K on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday. This was a huge benefit when it came time for race day and I knew what was coming.
  2. Don’t have coffee at the holding area. Even if you’re a coffee junkie like I am, don’t have coffee less than an hour before a race if you’re not used to it. Otherwise, you’ll be singing The Sound of Music while running across open fields en route to the potties far too early in the race.
  3. Pick songs that get you moving! Music empowers the soul…and your feet! Tunes with a pulsing tempo can help set your pace and give you a boost when you hit the mid-race slump.
  4. Take the time to walk around and stretch out after. This was critical. After being on a plane immediately after 2013 PHM, I was determined to not have that happen again. After the half, I came back to EPCOT and spent the day walking about (quite slowly). Then on Monday, when I checked out the hotel, I spent the day in Magic Kingdom. I felt a lot better in the days following the challenge than I had the year prior, and kept this EPCOT/MK tradition in 2015.
  5. Beware: accomplishing fitness goals may lead to the registration of more races. After I got back from EPCOT that Sunday night, I thought, “Hey, let’s do another race!” So I ended up registering for the Marine Corps Historic Half marathon!

Thank you for taking the time to read about my Glass Slipper experience, and the quintessential reason why the blog is named the Glass Slipper Catalyst. This race came a pivitol point in my life, even though I didn’t see it at first. By training for and conquering the challenge, it became the catalyst that I needed to continue on this fitness regime. My love for running and my runDisney community has expanded tenfold, I’m so glad I get to share my enthusiasm and experiences with all of you.

*~*Christina*~*