Fight Song: Another Marathon Training Cycle

“This is my fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song”. – Rachael Platten

So, I’m back. Did you miss me? I didn’t have time to blog through the spring and summer. I wrote plenty of posts in my head, which made me feel better, but I didn’t put it out there for y’all to read. So, what have I been doing? I’ve been running, of course. I’ve also been dealing with some real lemons that life has handed me. I’m trying really hard to make lemonade (not the Beyonce kind) but my proverbial pitcher keeps breaking and the lemonade keeps spilling out.

In late April, I ran the Tarheel 10 Miler for the third year. It wasn’t any easier but the free Blueberry Wheat at Top of the Hill made it worth the trek. Heather and I paced her mom, Sandy, on her longest run.

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In May, I ran the Biltmore 15K. It was fabulous. I ran with my Oiselle teammates. This course was the most beautiful but also the most difficult I’ve had the pleasure to run. I think for folks who live in the mountains “rolling hills” means something different than it does to us lowlanders. I felt like it was 7 miles straight up a mountain and about 2 miles down. My splits look crazy and it is obvious when I was climbing. It was also cold. So very, very cold. I never warmed up. The company was the best, though, and I forgot how miserable I was because my teammate Sarah and I talked the whole way.

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I ran the  Running of the Bulls 8K. It was hot. I spent the summer in Fleet Feet’s Summer Speed Series or Monday Crew. I was the slowest runner in the crowd but we were on the track so it didn’t matter. I trained with Melody, Danny and Jenni and we called ourselves the Half Ass Crew because we could only do about half the workouts in the amount of time it took the fast folks to do the whole workout. I got a little faster. I sweated a lot. Like more than I’ve ever sweat before. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone. I’ll do it again next summer. I ran the 4 on the 4th again to prove my speediness. I was about 1 minute off my PR but it was hot and I stopped to help a fellow runner on the course so I’ll take it.

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I’ve struggled a lot about what to do about a third marathon. I signed up without hesitation or regret in December. Coming off the MCM, I wanted redemption. Running through the spring, I struggled. I don’t know why I could never find my groove. I began to doubt my ability to finish another marathon. Do I really want to suffer so much and for what? See, Kiawah also has a half so I could still go with everyone but not run the full. I decided not to do it. However, as the new training season drew closer and as I planned with Nora, Kirsten and Melody, I didn’t want to say I was “only training for the half”. So, I’ve decided to go for it. The training is later in the year, it won’t be so hot, Kiawah is flat, it has a longer cutoff than MCM. I can talk myself into anything. I also think because of some of the things I am struggling with in my personal life, I want to physically exhaust myself. I want to punish my body but I also want to prove that I can do hard things. I need to train for a marathon to clear my headspace. I also still want redemption.

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I love when a new training season starts at Fleet Feet. Each time, I feel like there is so much potential and possibility. I’m determined to make this work, to find redemption. Now, if I can just get over this horrible case of bronchitis that made me cut my long run short by 2 miles yesterday, I can make this work! I might also be tricked by these fancy new Brooks Glycerins because y’all know I am always motivated by new running shoes. They just look like they will make me run fast.

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I’ll Be There For You: Not So Normal Half Marathon Race Report (and a bit of spectating at the Rock N Roll Raleigh)

“I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)” – The Rembrandts, Theme Song to “Friends” (side note: Carly has been binge watching Friends on Netflix and it has brought back a lot of memories and the original definition of #squadgoals)

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What a difference a year makes! I ran the NSN Half last year and it was miserable. It was hot. I wasn’t wearing the right gear. I didn’t have the right nutrition plan. Did I mention it was hot? There were a ton of hills. We got off course (yay, an extra hill) because the course wasn’t marked clearly. It was hot.

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We ran into Becky, another Oiselle teammate, at the start. 

This year, the race was 5 weeks earlier in the year so the weather was beautiful (aside from the pollen). The weather was perfect, sunny and cool. My Oiselle teammate and great friend, Rose, agreed to run this with me so I wouldn’t be too lonely. Rose just ran the Tobacco Road Half Marathon with our teammate, Caitlin, where Rose earned a 12 minute PR. Rose has had hip trouble over the past few years but she fought back by being very diligent with her PT exercises and not giving in to the temptation to “run through injury”, which is the temptation I give into every single time. I really admire her perseverance and badass attitude. She also has a wicked dry sense of humor that I love! Plus, I’m pretty sure she loves me for me and you can’t beat that.

I chose the NSN over the Rock N Roll Raleigh largely because I hate the Raleigh course. It is cruelly hilly. Like so hilly there is no need for it to be so hilly. I’ve run it two years in a row and said to myself “Why in the hell I am doing this? This is not fun”. Hills are not my friend or, maybe, I’m just a wimp but why do this if it isn’t fun?  I also like the fact that the NSN start is 7 minutes from my house, it supports local charities and, Jay, the race organizer is a Fleet Feet participant in the training programs and an all around great person.

Carly recruited many of her friends to woman the water stop near her middle school so I knew there would be friendly faces on the course. Mike isn’t really a race spectating kind of guy. In his defense, I spent the first 20 years of our relationship as a couch potato and I don’t think he ever thought spectating marathons would be part of the deal and he was there for my very first marathon so I think that counts for something. I wish I could be one of those women whose kids pop up all over the course with funny signs and a smiling husband but it isn’t going to happen and Carly makes up for it in spades so I’m good. It was extra nice to have Rose out there, though.

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The Snapchat crew

I really had no idea what I was capable of during this race. My pace has slowed, a lot, since my PR days last Spring (ironically, my half marathon PR is from last year at RNR Raleigh on the hilly course). I’m not really sure why. I’d like to figure it out. Was it marathon training in the worst of the heat of the Southern summer for MCM when I had to slow down so much or risk puking on the side of the ATT? Was it coaching the interval run/walk group at Fleet Feet and running a significantly slower pace for most of my runs this Spring? Was it not running longer than 13 miles? I really don’t know. I just know I am much slower and a part of me is sad about this. Most of me is happy because I loved coaching, I loved my interval people and I love Fleet Feet. I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

It is all relative. I wasn’t happy with my pace when I PR’d. I called myself slow, then. I am even more slow, now. Almost back to my pace for my first half marathon, the Disney Princess, where I was so proud of myself, me, a non-runner for 40 years, completing a half marathon! My other dear friend and our Oiselle regional leader, Allie, asked me on Friday why I am so hard on myself. I really don’t know. Intellectually, I know that every run is a gift. Things could change in an instant and I might not be able to run 10 feet much less a half marathon. I still strive for the ever elusive perfection. I’m sure if I met my current definition of perfection it still wouldn’t be enough. I pause to appreciate my success for about 5 minutes and then move on to the next goal.

Rose and I ran and chatted, chatted and ran. The double loop course flew by until around mile 11. Then, my asthma was bad (I took my inhaler from Carly at mile 8) and my hip was so very cranky. I took a few more walk breaks but dear, sweet Rose stayed with me every step of the way. I normally feel like I am holding people back or they are only staying with me our of pity or they run off and leave me. I didn’t feel that way with Rose, at all. I felt like she wanted to be there with me. I felt like a team, which is what Oiselle is. We brought it in strong and I beat the time I set in my head as totally unacceptable by about 5 minutes so I’m going to call this race a success. Any run that doesn’t end in the medical tent, is a plus! My PT (and let’s be honest, here, my friend at this point), Smurti, was at the finish. She realigned my hypermobile hip and made sure I was on her schedule for the week. We ended up doing a lot of Graston on my Soleus and Achilles at my appointment, again, and discussing what to do for my hip joint that will not stay in place. It is becoming abundantly clear that this hip, in its current state, will not be able to handle a marathon so I have to fix this problem before Kiawah in December. I’m getting custom orthotics to help out but the old mare just ain’t what she used to be!

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It really pays to have your very own PT at the finish line! 

This past Sunday, Heather, Lauren, Danny and I spectated for our Fleet Feet participants in the pinnacle race of the training season, the Raleigh Rock N Roll. Heather and I  know what runners need so we set up shop at mile 8 of the race. We held up funny signs (yes, they were political but if you don’t know where I stand by now, you don’t really know me), we passed out Red Vines, we played Taylor Swift and we shouted encouragement to everyone. After the back of the pack half marathoners came by, we packed up and moved to mile 22 of the marathon, which is at a very desolate place on the course. There was no one, and I mean on one but me, Lauren and Heather out there.

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Our sign game was on point and we got a lot of laughs. 

When we got there, the under 4 hour runners were coming by. They looked great. They didn’t pay much attention to us because they were focused. As the 4 hour pacer passed, the runners started to interact with us. They laughed at our signs, they waved, they said thank you to us for standing out on the desolate stretch of road, cowbelling, dancing, joking. Some of our Fleet Feet folks came by. We cheered them on. As the 5 hour runners came through, we really started looking out for our Fleet Feet people. Runners were coming by pretty much one at a time.

The first Fleet Feet person we saw cried when she saw us. I know from experience that mile 22 of the marathon is a shitty mental place, especially when you are running alone. You’ve come so far but you still have a ways to go. I know that 4 miles doesn’t sound like a lot but after being on your feet for over 4 hours, it sucks. Heather jumped in and ran with her. Our next runner came by and she looked great. She smiled and waved. The runner after that looked wonderful and is someone I have been running with since I started at Fleet Feet. She was focused, she was fast and she looked great. I jumped in and ran with her but she didn’t need me! We waited for our final two runners who came by and were hanging together. They were actually smiling! I ran with them a bit even thought they didn’t need it, either. We waited on our corner until the very last person in that race came by. We cheered for her and rang our cowbell and she smiled. The sag wagon was on her heels. The literal street sweeper was behind her, picking up trasj. She smiled and plodded. I tip my hat to the last runner in any race but the last runner to finish a marathon is a rock star in my book.

My summer holds a new chapter for me, a speed series to focus solely on track workouts twice per week in the oppressive heat of the Southern summer. How will it go? I have no idea, but for the 4 of you who have read all the way to the bottom, hang on for the ride with me and I’ll tell you all about it! I’ve got the Tarheel 10 Miler and the Biltmore 15K left this Spring but my racing schedule is pretty clear until my next half marathon in September. A couple of small races and marathon training begins in August. I hope I have what it takes to get her done, again.

Standing Outside the Fire: Tobacco Road Half and Full Marathon Spectator Report

“Standing outside the fire, life is not tried it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.” – Garth Brooks

I used this quote because I went to see Garth Brooks last night after race spectating. It was  a great show and he ended it with this song which has always been one of my favorites. I think we have to take chances in this life and risk failing in order to live.I saw a lot of people in the first yesterday, really trying at life.  I was also, literally, standing outside the fire yesterday because I wasn’t racing. And it was hot and steamy, y’all. Really steamy.

The NC Oiselle Volee arranged a Cowbell Corner for the race because we had ten teammates running the race. I also wanted to go because several of my Fleet Feet friends were running including half of the group I am coaching this season. For several of them, it was their first half marathon. We set up on a corner where we could see the half runners at mile 2.5 and 10.5 and the full runners at mile 2.5, 14.5 and 23.5. It was the perfect spot.

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The crime scene tape really makes this extra special. 

The day was overcast but really humid and warm. In North Carolina, our weather in the early Spring can be 45 degrees one day and 80 the next day. We had a warm week last week so we were expecting it to be hot. I don’t run well in the humidity so I was really glad I wasn’t running the race but worried a bit about my trainees for their first time racing at this distance.

I have made myself the official NC Volee team photographer at events when I am not running because I enjoy trying to improve my photography skills and my family are not willing subjects but I also like being the one BEHIND the camera because I don’t have to be IN the picture. One of the leftover side effects of my disordered eating days is that I can’t look at pictures of myself without immediately launching into horrible negative self talk and deleting it. One of my homework assignments in my eating disorder group back in the day was to take a picture of myself each week and bring it to group where I was required to say something nice about the photo. Sorry to tell the therapist that exercise never stuck! I hope he isn’t still using it after all these years! I prefer to be behind the camera so I had a lot of fun with my camera and we connect through the team quite a bit on social media so pictures help. I also think it is cool for people to take pictures of you during a race so you don’t have to buy those really expensive and usually awful race pictures. If someone is going to take bad pictures of you, they might as well be free! I would really love to take a photography class because my skills are lacking so I guess I’ll have to fit that in during all my free time.

I realized pretty quickly that my vantage spot on the corner wasn’t lending me the appropriate angle to capture folks, especially the fast ones, so I left the group and headed down the trail a bit. I largely missed Allison and Michelle because they were so fast. I ended up standing next to a really nice man with a full Ironman tattoo on his leg who was a relentless cheerer. His enthusiasm was infectious and pretty soon there were about 4 of us cheering all the runners. We were probably really obnoxious but we got lots of laughs so I think we may have been doing our job well. He eventually jumped into the race with a young woman who turned out to be his daughter and told everyone all along the course how proud he was of her to be finishing her first marathon so he pretty much wins the Father of the Year award in my book.

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Michelle looking amazing in her 3/4 top and going too fast for me to get a good shot! 

Sarah was our first runner after the two super fasties. I saw her coming up the trail  because you can spot the singlet from afar, especially with the bright Roga shorts so it made it easy. I called her name, she saw me and smiled, and headed around the corner to the rest of the crew. Up next was Randy from my Fleet Feet group and he looked great. He was concentrating so hard but high-fived me once he saw me. Kelly Partner from Fleet Feet, too, came by next right with her pace group and she made the whole thing look effortless, she was barely sweating! Turns out she had bronchitis and still got a PR so she is a beast!

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I love the determined look on Sarah’s face. She told us later she was trying not to pass out because she wasn’t feeling well but you would never know! 

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Randy, one of the nicest people I know! 

I was really hoping to see Brooklyn, Rose and Caitlin on the back from the out and back leg of the course. They all came by at the 2.5 mile mark at a faster pace than we expected and with the heat we were worried about them. Julie joined me down on the trail and we waited together. Julie is approximately 8 months pregnant and had loaned Caitlin (her regular running partner) out to Rose to train this season so we were especially excited to wait for them. The Ironman was still giving it his all with the cheering so Julie and I helped him keep it up. We saw Rose and Caitlin coming up the trial and they looked great. I mean really, really good like they were just out for a casual long run. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day for Rose, which she totally deserves because she has worked so hard to come back from injury. We high-fived them and they ran on to the rest of the group.

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My favorite picture of the day – look how happy they look! #squadgoals

I saw Brooklyn coming up the trail and I thought she looked great. She looked hot but she smiled and raised her arms in the air when she saw us. When she got to us, though, it was clear she was struggling. We embraced her, asked her if she was OK, told her it was going to be OK and walked her to everyone else. I asked her if she wanted me to run with her for a bit and she said no. After she continued on, I just worried about it so Allie told me to follow her. I threw my camera at Allie and chased her down. I heard someone coming up on my left and Andie was right there beside me chasing her down, too. I ran up next to her and told her we were going to keep her company for a bit.  I ran for about a quarter mile with her but wasn’t wearing a sports bra so had to drop out. Andie, one of our elite team members, agreed to stay to the end and got her to the finish. You know it is love when you are as endowed as I am and run without a sports bra!

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Beautiful Brooklyn, smiling through the suffering! 

I want to take a minute to talk about how much having a friend jump in with you can really help. Jumping in had never occurred to me until I was running the Marine Corps Marathon. Heather had left me by the time I puked right before I started across the Bridge from Hell. I felt the worst I had ever felt in a race. I think if there had been a medical station on the bridge I would have quit. But there was no aid station, only misery. As I was coming down off the bridge, a sad song that reminds me of my mom came on my iPod and I just started to cry. I rounded the corner and there was the DC/VA/MD Volee. I spotted Emily and made a bee line to her for a big hug. Julie took one look at me and jumped in to run with me until I got to the thicker crowds around Crystal City so I wouldn’t be alone. I fully credit the team for getting me to mile 23 of that race. At mile 23 there was no quitting so it was just the boost I needed. Those are some Squad Goals, people, and one of the reasons I will always remain a member of this team for as long as they will have me.

I headed back down the trial to wait for my Fleet Feet trainees. I think I’ve mentioned before that, while I love being a part of the Volee and have never been made to feel like anything less, I am much, much slower than all of the runners on our team. My runner people are all at Fleet Feet. The people who stay with me long run after long run. I don’t feel like I am holding them back. I just feel like they are there with me, step by step, for the long haul. Not to take anything away from my teammates who are nothing but gracious and supportive but there is something to be said for people who run at your pace. I wanted to bring my folks home.

I saw Debbie and Donna first. They were both running their first half and they looked amazing! They were out in front of everyone so they must have been having a great day. Clearly, they are better at pacing than their coach because I never look that strong at mile 10.5 of a half. I am so proud of them! Next up was Carolyn, one of our mentors. I think I might have embarrassed her because I was so excited to see her, I started shouting her name way down the trail. Next up were Marion and Lynda, Lynda is the greatest mentor and stayed with Marion for the whole race since it was Marion’s first half. They looked great, too. I’m so proud of all our runners. They stayed positive and stayed on pace for a great race. There is not much else a coach can ask for.

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Debbie and Donna right in the middle of the frame! 

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Marion and Lynda streaking by so fast it was blurry!

 

I went back to man the corner with Julie who was waiting on a friend who was finishing her first marathon. My Fleet Feet friend Jeanne had passed me at mile 14.5 on the out for the full and said she thought she might DNF. I waited with Julie to see if Jeanne was OK. The rest of our team went for coffee per the plan but I wanted to stay and cheer in all the runners. Becky on the Volee team was doing the full and she looked to be on about a 5:30 to 6:00 pace (my pace, btw) so I wanted to see her head down the trail. I saw her headed out and cheered for her loudly. I think I startled her with my cowbell.

Carly headed farther down the trail with her cowbell and was cheering her heart out for the middle to back of the pack marathoners. I manned the corner and cheered them all on, as well. They were coming by in one and twos so there was a lot of opportunity to interact. I got a lot of people to smile so I think I was doing my job. I have been at the back of a marathon. Most spectators have left by that point. There are cups littering the course and you feel pretty damn defeated. Mile 23 is a hard place. You’ve come so far but you still feel like you have so far to go. Seeing a smiling, enthusiastic spectator can help so Julie, Carly and I kept it up because all runners in a race are family. I don’t have a lot of crowd support at races so I have often relied on the kindness of strangers who stay to the end to cheer us on. Those of us in the back of the pack are truly grateful for your support.

Carly spotted Jeanne down the trail and called me on my cell phone to tell me she was on her way up to me. I ran down the trail to meet her. She didn’t look good at all – very sweaty, red faced and she told me she wanted to quit. I offered to give her a ride back to the finish if she really wanted to quit. She thought about it for a minute but said she was going to tough it out. I ran-walked with her to the next aid station and sent her on her way. She chased down the 5 hour pacer and finished the race because she is an amazing athlete. In true mother runner fashion, she said to me that she couldn’t let the 5 hour pacer get too far ahead of her because she had to get home to relieve her babysitter and needed to stay on pace!

I’m really glad I spent so much time watching this race. I love seeing people achieving their goals by reaching a PR and I love seeing people dig deep on a hard day and finish under tough conditions. I think there is a quote about restoring your faith in the human spirit by watching a marathon and I completely agree. The love I feel for the two running groups of which I am so very lucky to be a part of is immense. I saw my friends giving it their all and I feel immensely proud to know all of them. I learned one very valuable lesson during my marathon spectating session – always wear a sports bra in case you have to jump in and support a friend!

I Wish I Was In New Orleans: Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

“Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone calling me home
And I can hear the band begin ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’,
And by the whiskers on my chin, New Orleans, I’ll be there” – Tom Waits, I Wish I Was In New Orleans

Last Friday, my husband, Mike and I left our children sleeping in their beds (no worries, my dad was there to watch them) at 4:30 AM and headed to the airport to board a plane to New Orleans. The original intent of the trip was for me, Heather, and a few more of our running friends to run the New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon but, after the last month or so we’ve had, it was really just to get away from it all. Running was secondary on this trip.

I love New Orleans. I know people say that about cities all the time but I can’t really adequately express my feelings for that city any other way. I wouldn’t want to live there full time because I think it would lose some of its charm but I visit any chance I get. This was my sixth trip. My first trip was right after I finished graduate school and I went with my very best friend, Karen. We had a fascination with the city since high school and it lived up to all of our expectations. I’ll never forget that first trip or any of the ones in between. I had my bachelorette party in New Orleans.

I used to be a bit wild (you’re shocked, I know). Since I have a grown-up job, two children and I have been adulting for some time now, I gave all that up. I’m the first one to suggest we go for a beer after run group and I have a glass of wine with dinner but we’re the people who are home on a Saturday night eating a $5 pizza from Aldi and watching the backlog of shows on our DVR, asleep by 10:30. Mike and I needed to have some fun. Heather and I needed to have some fun. We’ve known each other for years but we’ve worked for the same company for the past three years and we just solved a huge, all-consuming problem here and we wanted to cut lose.

It was less than an hour after our plane landed that Mike and I were at our favorite place on Decauter eating boiled crawfish, fried alligator tail and drinking tall draft Abita Amber beer. We then headed over to the Expo (Mike kept eating and drinking Abita because he doesn’t run) to get our race numbers.

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The Expo was pretty small, as far as Expos go, but that was probably a good thing since I tend to overspend at these things. We had to hurry because our group was headed out on the Cocktail Walking Tour. We had a blast on the tour and I highly recommend it if you go to New Orleans. We walked a total of 12 miles on Friday. Rest wasn’t really part of the agenda!

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At Antoine’s, waiting on our Sazaracs

Saturday we were supposed to “take it easy” but Mike and I ended up eating a fabulous breakfast at The Old Coffee Pot (poached eggs on crab cakes with creole sauce and callas cakes). We walked around the French Quarter for a bit and then ended up at Deanie’s Seafood to eat crawfish and drink some more Abita. (This will become a theme). We met two drunk guys at the bar who had been drinking there since 11 AM (it was 3 PM) who were in town for the one guy’s bachelor party. We talked to them for an hour and it was a hoot, giving all kinds of marriage advice. I think he might have ended up deciding to call the whole thing off (I’m kidding).

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Don’t they look yummy with all their legs and eyeballs? 

Somehow, we found ourselves on Bourbon Street (haha) which is not my favorite side of the French Quarter. We ended up listening to the house band at Huge Ass Beers (yes, that is the name of the bar) and drinking these beauties – 48 ounces of delicious Coors Light.

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Huge Ass Beer (we didn’t keep the cups but should have)

For the record, it took me well over 2 hours to drink that much beer. The bar had an ice cooler built in the bar for one to put their Huge Ass Beer on because, apparently, Huge Ass Beers become Really Gross and Warm Beer over time (especially when you are drinking Coors Light which is Kind of Gross to Begin With Beer). We left to meet for dinner at the pizza place where we were carb loading and were in bed by 10. I wasn’t asleep by 10 because New Orleans is a noisy place and we were staying right beside Jackson Square, which is only slightly less busy than Bourbon Street.

A mere 4 hours after I actually fell asleep, I was up and out the door to walk to the corrals. There were 22,000 people running this race and  you could tell. Crowds were everywhere. We made it to our corral and waited 45 minutes from the first gun to cross the start. Heather and I decided before we even landed in New Orleans that this race was just going to be for fun. We didn’t really know what that meant other than that we were just going to see how it went. This was my 14th half marathon. I know I can run this distance so I just wanted to have fun. Each runner was going to do her own thing but Heather and I pledged to stick together since we didn’t care about time.

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Me, Heather, Jen and Sissy

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Corral Selfie

The course started in the Central Business District and turned down St. Charles Street and into the Garden District. The run down St. Charles lasted FOREVER and was, mostly, in full sun (we all ended up sunburned). We could see runners making their way back up St. Charles but we had no idea when the turnaround would come. It was boring and there were practically NO spectators. The few who were out were making an effort with costumes but it was sadly disappointing. I really thought New Orleans would bring it but I guess no rich white people want to get up early on a Sunday to watch strangers run by. Finally, we turned around and headed back up St. Charles. There were also no port-a-potties. I rarely stop during races to use them but when I saw one at mile 7, I waited in line because there were not many other chances. The bands were also pretty scarce. At this point, we were really bored. The course was just trees and the street car lines.

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band – best band on the course

CAVEAT: The rest of the race report is NOT how one should run a half marathon. If you are trying the distance for the first few times, do not do this. Also, if you are a lightweight (no shame in that) do not try this. If, however, you give zero fucks, you have a relatively high tolerance to alcohol, you’ve run several races and are in a place where drinking on the street is legal, I say “Go for it” because this is the most fun I have ever had during a race. 

Once we left the Garden District, the course headed into a less prestigious neighborhood but the crowds got a little better. Folks were out on their balconies drinking mimosas and a couple of folks had kegs of beer and were filling Dixie cups for the racers. Of course, Heather and I took free beer. A little before mile 9, on Magazine Street when the course was winding back to the French Quarter, we came up upon a crowd of women runners (they looked like moms) who were drinking mimosas and Bloody Mary’s while speed walking. We were like “hey, who was handing out those drinks and how did we miss that?” They said they stopped at a bar and bought them because they were trying to PR in Most Number of Drinks during a half marathon. Heather and I know each other so well, we didn’t even have to ask the other if we wanted to take this challenge. The next bar was just steps away so we stopped, ran into the bar and ordered our first mimosa!

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Mimosa #1 – Bar on Magazine Street – We timed the bartenders and this one was the fastest!

 

OK, so rookie mistake, we forgot to get STRAWS! What?! Who knew running and drinking out of an open container was so challenging? This was our second-to-slowest mile because we pretty much had to speed walk and chug the drinks. We call it The Mimosa Mile on our splits. The spectators on the course were cheering and laughing at us. I would have, too, if I had seen someone like me.

Our slowest mile was the Casino Mile where we stopped to play the slot machines, because, hey, why not? In a city where gambling is legal right in the middle of downtown, you should visit all the sins while running.

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PR in Fun but no luck in the casino!

Mimosa #2 came around mile 10 at a bar at the start of Decauter and the French Quarter.  The bartender was slow but we got straws this time so our mile split was faster. The mimosas were on special so they were much smaller than our first and we finished them, quickly.

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Cheap mimosas

We switched to Bloody Mary’s at The Gazebo Cafe at mile 10.5 near the French Market (the mimosas WERE small, I said). This bartender was pretty fast but I don’t recommend the spicy version if  you are running so that was rookie mistake #2. It was also hard to eat those olives off of toothpicks while running.

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We should have bought some of those tie dyed t-shirts in the background.

The Bloody Mary’s lasted for a while. Tomato juice just doesn’t go down as well as OJ. Heather let a couple of fellow runners try her drink. They were appreciative. At this point, the spectators started to pick up or Heather and I made our own fun. It is hard to say but the race really improved at this point and we were having so much fun. We talked to fellow runners. We talked to the cops on the course. We talked to the crowd.

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These girls refreshed us with champagne.

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This dude had the best sign of the day. Maybe, the best race sign EVER.

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Not THE raunchy end of Bourbon Street but still fun.

By mile 12ish, we were out of alcohol so we stopped at bar and ordered a pitcher of beer when we saw a sign that said “$5 pitchers with race bib”. I’m pretty sure they meant AFTER the race but we weren’t sure we would come back that way so we took advantage of the sale. They let us take the pitcher.

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$5 pitchers of Abita

Out on the course, we were now so off pace that we were with some people who were really struggling. We offered them beer because we had extra cups and a lot of beer. We filled this woman’s hydration bottles with beer. I sure hope she made it to the finish. She was running the full. We met a nice man named Donny who we also gave beer, too. He rushed past us after we gave him the beer so, clearly, we are responsible for his PR.

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Hope this lady made it!

We crossed the finish line with an empty pitcher of beer and a head full of memories. This was my worst finishing time but the most fun I have ever had. There is very little chance that I will EVER do anything like this, again, so, although I didn’t take the running part very seriously, I am glad I had this experience. This isn’t my goal race this Spring. I’m not even sure I have a goal race. I’m just running for fun this Spring since training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the heat sucked all of the joy of running out of me. I need to find some joy in this, again, and New Orleans certainly helped. It also reminded me how much I love fellow runners and meeting new people.

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This will probably be my favorite finisher picture of all time. 

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YOLO! We kept that pitcher as our trophy.

 

We met up with our friends who took this seriously and did not drink on the course. Sissy, Jen and Heather’s mom, Sandy, thought we were insane (we probably are) but I think Lesley thought it was funny. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the overall experience even if the course was a little more boring than one would expect from a city like New Orleans.

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The whole crew – all the other runners were serious. 

After the race, we all went to rest and then Mike and I went out for more crawfish and beer! We headed home on Monday morning. I have the Not So Normal Half Marathon and the Tarheel 10 Miler in April so I got back to real running last night with speedwork on the treadmill. No drinks involved. It wasn’t nearly as much fun.

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Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?A change of plans

“Do you really want to hurt me
Do you really want to make me cry
Do you really want to hurt me
Do you really want to make me cry

Cry, cry, cry
Cry, cry, cry
Cry, cry, cry”

Since a little while after the Marine Corps Marathon, I have been in pain. In a nutshell, my butt hurt. Deep, deep within my butt on the right side. At first it was my hip but Smurti adjusted my hip so the pain moved to my butt because I had jacked up my hip trying to protect my butt. I signed up for another marathon, anyway, because you know, training for a marathon always makes all your injuries feel better. I took a month off from training and scheduled running in December. My butt should have gotten better. It didn’t. I went back to see Smurti but she is so busy I couldn’t get in to see her until this week.

It turns out I have Piriformis Syndrome. I’m super proud of myself because I diagnosed myself with Dr. Google. The piriformis muscle deep under my glutes has been shortened and it doesn’t like running long distances. It also doesn’t like sitting at my desk in front of my computer 5 days per week. What caused it? I have sacral torsion. In regular people speak, it means my ass is out of joint (this is literally and not figuratively because I know you all already think I am always out of joint).

Here is what my pelvis looks like:

When you try to run with a pelvis that is shifted, the side that is “up” has to work harder ergo, your hip abductor strains, your piriformis pulls up, your IT band stretches too far and your plantar fascitis comes back because you are trying to elongate on that side. I had a knot in my QL in my lumbar spine and a big old knot in my piriformis. You could palpate the knots. Smurti did her Graston magic to work out the knots and my lower back and right butt cheek look like I went a few rounds with Rhonda Rousey. The knots are gone but the underlying problem is not. Smurti had to get a strap, tie it around her waist, tie the other end around my right leg, I had to hold onto the table for dear life and she had to yank to get my pelvis aligned. I could feel it move.

What causes sacral torsion? I broke my tailbone in 8th grade when Chan Wright pulled my chair out from underneath me while I was in the middle of sitting down in Language Arts. It hurt like a son of a bitch and he still wouldn’t acknowledge the crush I had on him. It also didn’t heal perfectly level. Throw in birthing two babies and training for a marathons and you have a bad combination.

So, what am I going to do? First, I am not going to run a Spring marathon. I’m not even sad about this decision. See, I signed up in the wake of my grief over my finishing time/medical tent adventure at the Marine Corps. I was living on Redemption Island when I signed up for that race. It was going to be my comeback. Yeah, not so much if my butt won’t propel me in a forward motion. Then, the marathon was canceled so the decision was reinforced for me. I could not possibly be ready for any of the other local marathons because they were sooner than my race and there is NO FRICKING way I would ever run the Raleigh Rock N Roll full marathon. I am going to run three half marathons and two 10 milers between now and the end of June. My butt is bound to enjoy this.

My marathon days are not over. I signed up for the Kiawah Island Marathon on December 10, 2016. Heather and I were strategic with our choice of this race. No long runs required until late September. That is going to be much better than 18 and 20 milers in July and August. It also means we don’t have to get up at 5 AM to run to beat the heat. We can get up at 6, which makes a big difference, for real. Also, if my butt doesn’t want to get back into joint or I cry at the thought of running the race, I can drop back to the half but still hang with my friends and take a trip. Winning.

Running Humor #22: I am never running again. Oh, look, a race! - Nemo:

Second, I am going to strengthen and stretch my piriformis. I’m going to teach Carly how to adjust my pelvis (the Teen is bound to love this but I’ll tell her it hurts me so she will probably do it). I am also supposed to get up every hour while at work to walk the halls of my building for 5 minutes to combat all the sitting I do. I’m also getting new custom orthotics to help with the PF.

Fleet Feet training is ramping up and I’m co-coaching the interval runners. This is both exciting and challenging. My first half marathon is February 28 in New Orleans. This is NOT a goal race and may be the first race I run with a hangover. I will take a PR in running while recovering from overindulgence.

Should you eat before a run? The short answer. It depends on what type of run it is. Nutritionist Emily Brown breaks down optimal fueling strategies for easy, long, and workout days and tips to keep your stomach feeling good no matter what time you hit the roads: http://ow.ly/d5qrH:

Cheeseburger in Paradise: The Angsting of a Fat Runner

“I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heniz 57 and french fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer…”

So, true. I could write a similar song about tacos.

Hello, my favorite food.

I’m spending a lot of my time in the month of December assessing things running and health-related. I am on a self-imposed running “vacation” so I don’t have anything to fill my time (I’m still running but mostly running the dogs around the neighborhood or meeting a friend here or there for an easy run). This is the first time in three years I have set aside an entire month to rest from running – to reset my clock. I’m resting my body and getting lots of sleep. Something I know I need after a hard marathon training cycle and a new marathon training cycle starting on January 5 but something I am not sure is mentally good for me because I get all up inside my own head and can’t clear the space. I’m also eating some crap like pound cake and cookies because, holidays and breakrooms at work (of which there are 3 I can frequent).

I’ve reconnected with my Fleet Feet friends who I largely abandoned during MCM training because Heather and I had to make our own way through our training plan. I’ve recommitted to mentor at Fleet Feet, the place that taught me that, I too, could be a runner and it wasn’t just reserved for the super-fit or the really skinny women. I’ve gone so far as volunteering (along with my friend Melody) to co-coach a whole section of interval-only runners for the first time in Fleet Feet history on their journey to 13.1 or 26.2 for this Spring training season.

I wanted to coach because I feel very, very passionate about the safe space that is Fleet Feet. I have never felt more like a fish out of water than I did when I decided to start running on my own. Me, Running? Ha. I fell in love with it and I wanted to do it with other people but I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in but I never once felt uncomfortable in any Fleet Feet group. It is, truly, a space where anything and everything is OK. I need to help keep that vibe going. We have all different shapes, ages, sizes and I see them every Saturday and every Wednesday, out there getting it done.

I wasn’t feeling this way about my national Oiselle team. It was causing me a lot of angst. There are very few women in Oiselle who look like me and I am at the upper limit of their sizing (which happens to not be really generous to begin with but that is OK – not everyone has to make running clothes for larger runners but it makes me sad because their designs are awesome and comfortable). At times, at least on social media, there didn’t seem to be a place for all runners in this group (to corporate Oiselle’s credit, they are trying to dispel this perception). I was afraid it was re-enforcing my fear that I couldn’t do this and that I don’t belong. See, when you are a fat girl and have been your entire life (except for the 18 months you spent in undergrad with anorexia and bulimia) you just assume that you don’t belong or that people think you don’t belong. It is why Rebel Wilson introduces herself as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, so she can put it out there before one of the skinny girls calls her fat. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of my time hanging out with super-fit women and a lot of time on social media looking at women who look nothing like me and run a lot faster than me. I am sure the national Oiselle team has some other average or larger size women on it. They don’t post on social media, though. The slower ones don’t say anything, either. All the pictures from corporate are women who look nothing like me. I felt like it was really getting to me this month. There was also a bit of insensitivity related to weight going on over on Twitter. It wasn’t from corporate so no blame there and it wasn’t on the official Oiselle team page, either, so I can’t really call it Oiselle-related. People can say whatever they want on Twitter. I can say whatever I want on my blog. I can also unfollow people, which is exactly what I did.

 

I can say, though, that larger size women want to see that you don’t have to be at an “ideal weight” to enjoy fitness. Larger size women want to be normalized because all we see are images of people who don’t look like us and we’re told we’re disgusting, or should cover up or stop eating. That is why it is such a big deal when magazines like Women’s Running put plus size runners on its cover or when the NBC Nightly News features stories like the one from blogger, Fat Running Girl. I don’t want to get into a whole “trolly” argument about how I’m promoting “unhealthy” lifestyles because I’m not (and would it even matter if I was because how people chose to live their lives is really no one else’s business and people who feel like they can say mean things to people  because of their size are just assholes, anyway). I want to show, “Hey, I am not thin by society’s standards but I am doing this and you can too, if you want to. We’re here for you. You don’t have to wait until you are an ‘ideal weight’ to live your life under your own terms”. Oiselle has a woman-strong message I love. We can work on inclusion a bit more. Our NC team leader, Allie, took to the team page to remind everyone that we have room here for everyone and it was very well-received and I love her. I think most people who want to be part of a team do so because they want to hold others up and be held up at the same time.

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Obviously, I am the one who looks like I ate Kathryn and Tricia for lunch.

 

 

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You can easily spot me and this was 10 pounds smaller

 

This is not to take away from the WONDERFUL women I have met in person from Oiselle. My local group is made up of some of the most supportive and non-judgmental women I know. I genuinely love them and don’t feel uncomfortable around them in the least. Same goes for the women I met in person at Bird Camp in Boone last summer. This is MY issue but looking at all these images on social media makes it worse (I don’t feel bad looking at my non-running friends photos so this is, clearly, a running-related issue. An “one of these things is not like the others” issue). I briefly considered dropping off from the national team and only insulating myself with these beautiful women. I ultimately decided that was foolish.

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Slightly better in street clothes

 

So what is my point, you ask? Comparison is truly the thief of joy. I had a lightbulb moment at home last week when talking to Carly. Carly was complaining about how she has a lot of wealthy friends and that money doesn’t seem to be a barrier to anything her friends might want to do. I said to her that there were always going to be people who had more money, more things, were thinner, were prettier, were smarter, etc. I told her that this didn’t detract from her in the least (how about how good that child is at math and engineering?). I suggested she stop comparing herself to others and embrace her strengths. She is good enough in her own right and she is so much more than the brand of boots she wears. A lightbulb went off in my brain – take your own advice. Stop comparing yourself to other runners. Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop comparing yourself to other mothers. For someone who has spent her entire life convinced that she was not good enough at anything, it takes some convincing but I think I can make it work. If not for myself, I need to do it for my daughter. I really don’t want her to struggle with all of this. A person’s worth is truly not defined by a number on the scale but we live in a society that judges the books by their covers. If I’m fat, I must have failed in some way despite all of my other successes. I hope I’m ready to call bullshit on this. I just need to shut up about it (says the woman who wrote an entire blog post on angsting over being a fat runner). You do you and I’ll do me. You might be thin and run really fast. I might be fat and run pretty slow. It is all good.

I’m not going to lie. I love food. A lot. I don’t think women are supposed to say this out loud but I just did. I love cooking and eating the things I made, figuring out how to do it differently the next time. I love going out for a nice meal and lingering with friends over good food and wine. I love to try new foods. In my journey to be healthier (and my health was the main reason I decided to lose weight and exercise), I have fallen into the trap of equating my self worth to the number on the scale.  I could be “thin”, again, but is that going to solve all my problems – is there a magic number where all troubles melt away? Nah.  I don’t want to spend every minute of every day worrying and being cruel to myself about every piece of food I put in my mouth (believe me, I have). I don’t want to look like a fashion model. I just want to wear Oiselle and be able to walk into JCrew and find stuff that fits to wear to work. I have learned that healthy food can taste good and that I actually like it better than crap food.I eat good food, now. It might not be “healthy” all the time but it is quality. I’m no longer morbidly obese. I’m no longer “unhealthy” by my doctor’s measurements. Why isn’t this good enough?

Is it OK to love food and be a runner? Can I reconcile my love of good food and my love of good red wine with my love of long runs? Can I extoll the virtues of good tacos and still do my Iron Strength workout twice a week? Can I still call myself an “endurance athlete” if I think about porchetta while I run? I think the answer to this is “yes”. I can be a contradiction. I can be a fat runner.  No, I don’t look like a runner but I sure as hell run like one!

Happy holidays, friends. Eat, drink and be merry for marathon training starts in January!

 

IMG_0001This was a few years ago but I just love this picture! I made these little people in my fat body and I think they are pretty damn awesome!

You Can Fly: The Disney World Wine and Dine Quarter Marathon Race Report

“Think of the happiest things
It’s the same as having wings
Take the path that moonbeams make
If the moon is still awake
You’ll see him wink his eye
You can fly! You can fly! You can fly!” – You Can Fly, Peter Pan

86256C99-3CC9-4307-A62A-1D6114E55138Me and Michelle

So, I picked this song because I dressed like Tinkerbell for this race complete with a set of wings. It was a PR for racing in fairy wings! If you ever need any fairy wings, I recommend Sparkle Athletic’s Racing Wings and of course, you know, I am a big fan of their sparkle skits and own a rainbow of colors! The wings did not annoy me, at all.

Anyhoo, I was looking forward to this race. I generally love Disney races, I love dressing up and I love the atmosphere of these races. I did not run between the MCM and this race on Smruti’s very wise advice. I allowed my body to recover from the marathon training and the dehydration. I did walk all over the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios for three days before the race but I laid out by the pool all day Saturday in anticipation of the race so I think that makes up for it. : )

I planned to meet up with my Oiselle teammates for a team picture and little hanging out before we headed to our corrals for the race. From the minute we left our condo to drive to Epcot where I would take a shuttle bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the start while Mike and the kids played at Epcot until I finished, I could tell there was not the usual Disney level of organization. It took us 30 minutes to get into the parking lot (we were only staying 5 minutes away) at Epcot. The signs were super-confusing, telling us at one point we had to merge left only to make us merge right, again. The people directing traffic were not directing, waving their red flashlights all around and not in any one direction. What was up Disney? Y’all are supposed to be uber-organized. We finally made it to the parking lot and I sprinted over to where the shuttle buses were, only to stand in a really, really, really long line of runners also waiting for shuttle buses (really, really, really long lines were the theme of this Disney trip). Then, it took the bus 30 minutes to get to ESPN WWS. The hold-up? Traffic jams full of other shuttle buses. Everyone on the bus was questioning why this was all taking so long. Disney just was not on its game last Saturday night.

I finally found my Oiselle teammates and we hung out for a bit. A wind picked up and there was a strike of lightening. Suddenly, an announcement was made saying we all had to be evacuated into the WWS complex. We shuffled in a pack into the buildings and sat on the floor, elbow-to-elbow.They said they would delay the race. Finding my teammates and hanging out with Joyce and Becca was the silver lining. If I had to wait alone, I would have been even more bored. All of the cellular data networks were jammed by so many people in such a small space trying to text, Tweet and FB post that I could not communicate with Mike and Carly back at Epcot. With no official announcement from RunDisney, other people started getting up and making their way to the corrals so we did, too. Once we got to the corral area there was another announcement that they had no idea when the race would start so we sat down. Eventually, some people near the front must have gotten word that those of us in the back did not and they started moving towards the corrals so we did, too.

5F42EFFD-65D7-42F6-906D-57851D8AFA83The view from Corral F

Once in the corrals, an announcement was made that the course had been modified. That was the only information we received. We had no idea what “modified” meant. Was it shorter? Were we going on a different route? Hello? Runners are typically Type A people and lack of information makes us upset. Finally, someone next to us found a volunteer who said the course had been shortened. Hmmm. People were terribly disappointed. Some people had on shirts that said it was their first half marathon. All of us had spent a significant amount of money to get to Disney to run this race. We found another volunteer who told us we were running “somewhere around 6 miles” and that we would completely by-pass the Animal Kingdom. I just wish Disney would have made an official announcement instead of allowing us to rely on rumor. No such luck.

We started but I lost Becca and Joyce in the crowd because it was crazy crowded and it never thinned out for the whole 6-7 miles of the race. Normally, half marathons thin out after the first few miles and you can make your own space. There were only a handful of character stops and I didn’t feel like any were worth stopping to stand in line. Also, I knew Mike and Carly had no idea what was going on and might worry so I just kept going. Running through the Osbourne Family Lights was fun. The rest just felt like running past a lot of dumpsters and metal buildings. It was nice of the volunteers and the cast members to be in the dull spots to cheer us on.

6F6DB9B5-ED0E-43F9-8634-CD2E5F881A6DHollywood Studios

I finished and found my family. They missed me at the finish because the runner tracking was all jacked up due to the shortened course. My watch said I ran 6.8 miles but they guy who finished next to me had 7.1 miles on his watch so who knows. To my knowledge, RunDisney has yet to clarify or provide any information. I crossed the 10K mat before I crossed the 3 mile mat. Apparently, Disney made no announcement at Epcot to let the people waiting on runners (the park was closed to everyone else at that point) know that the race had been delayed and shortened. The kids had ridden Test Track and Soaring a bunch of times but Colin was pretty much asleep by the time I got there. My plan had been to head to the countries to partake of food and drink from the Food and Wine Festival before heading home. The problem with this was that with the shortened course, so many people finished all at the same time that there was no trickle of finishers like there would be in a longer race. There was no way to cross the course to get to the food and wine festival so all the finishers were trapped in the front with no way to get back. There was absolutely NO food in the front of the park. They gave out boxes of food at the finish but the chute was so crowded I missed my box, figuring it was not that big of a deal because I could get food at the festival. Not so much. We ended up just leaving  and I ate chips and salsa back at the condo before going to bed.

All in all, I am pretty disappointed with Disney, in general. A lot of the magic has worn off. I’ve been to Disney at least a dozen times and this was the worst visit.  I think the new Fast Passes in advance have sucked a lot of the fun out of the parks. I think there are too many people in too little space. I think Disney has not been able to keep up with the demand in an effective manner and the cast members seemed overwhelmed and some were downright rude, a first for me at Disney. The race was really unorganized and the lack of communication was very frustrating. I get the safety issue but if the Marines can convince 7 different law enforcement agencies and three cities to keep a marathon course open 30 minutes later because some metal detectors went down in the rain, delaying runners, I feel like Disney, on Disney property with Disney employees could have found a way to make the full race work despite the weather delay. Even if they felt like they could not, they could have at least communicated this and told us how far we were going to run. I got my Coast to Coast medal (one of the main reasons I did this race) but I don’t feel like I really earned it.

88BE6026-5FC6-450B-9300-A7C17DF363ED13 year olds don’t take great pictures at 1:30 AM.

The Disney Princess in 2014 was so much more fun than this race. The Star Wars Rebel Challenge in Disneyland in January was amazing. I am done with the Wine and Dine. I am done with Disney races for awhile. I am also done with Disney World. I can think of a lot more places to spend my money and I have a lot more places I want to see while running.

So, this racing season has come to an end. It started with the Marine Corps 17.75K and ended with the Disney Wine and Dine Quarter Marathon. I still have two small races coming up but they are only 4 and 5 miles and I’m not racing them, just having fun. I have put a lot of miles on these legs since March and finished a second marathon so I’ll consider it a success but there is always room for improvement. I’ll keep running for fun in the off-season and my next training season starts at the end of January.

I will neither confirm nor deny if I have registered for another marathon in 2016. : )