Race Recap: Disney World Dopey Challenge 2017

Ahhhh — For once, I’ve finally arrived at my A-race intact! Not only that, I’ve also followed my entire training plan. This entire training season has been quite the ride, and it would turn out that race weekend would still have a few tricks up its sleeve…Only in Florida.

Packing and preparation

Preparation for a 4-day race was no easy feat. It turned out that this was almost more complicated than packing for an out-of-state triathlon. 4 sets of running clothes, contingency cold and hot weather running gear, race nutrition, toiletries, first aid kits, recovery items, theme park gear…you name it, we packed it. However, since I was flying Frontier Airlines, all I got was one carry on bag. I had to make it count. I also only packed one mini-costume, which was just a tutu (see below). If I actually had legit costumes, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off at all.

It starts off with lots of quart-sized plastic baggies, and rolling clothes into them. And then rolling those bags until all the air is out of them. And then you repeat over and over until everything fits.

And that’s how you get a week’s worth of running gear into a single rolling carry-on suitcase!

Race expo

Not too much to see here – I picked up a bunch of swag since this was my A-race, and stood in a bunch of lines. This was an excellent primer for what I had in store for the rest of my week. (Just more lines.)

Race corrals and fireworks galore!

So, the thing with Disney races is that you have to get up insanely early. The races begin at 5am or so. The resort shuttles begin at 2:30am, and the last one you can hop to make it on time is 3:30am (or so). Sometimes, you’ll also stand around and wait for races longer than the actual running time too. For instance, I stood around about 2 hours for the 5K (from the time I got off the bus until I began running), even though the 5K took me about 40-something minutes. Ridiculous, yes, but I still did it.

Anywho, the pre-race festivities are somewhat mandatory – they lock you out of the corrals if you don’t show up by a certain time anyways, so it’s in your best interest to show up to drink the kool aid. There’s plenty of entertainment (DJs, announcers, characters) and other runners to keep you company, so it’s not exactly boring. It can get chilly though. This year I noticed that they actually had coffee/food tents, something that I’ve neglected to notice at other runDisney events. Maybe I was always too nervous at past events to pay attention. Downing coffee and/or hot cocoa meant a lot of porta-potty stops for the longer distances but it was worth the sacrifice.

What they also had were character photo stops. The lines were really long for them (probably 150-200 runners for each character?) so Erik and I tried to selfie one with Dopey. Luckily he was playing along…

Also, the start of each race begins with lots of fireworks. I wonder what it’s like to work as a pyrotechnic for Disney. It must be really fun to design these shows. The runners don’t all begin at once – since there are so many of them, we run in waves. I’m slower, so I’m one of the last waves. For the 5K, Erik actually finished right before I began my run. For the 10K I think he finished right when I started too. Anyways, here’s some of my footage of the fanfare.

The 5K (3.1 miles)

I used the 5K as a warmup. Technically this was a fun run since it was untimed for everyone else. For Dopey runners, we were still held to our time limit. It was great seeing everyone out there running through the parks — people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, all having a great time.

After I collected my bling, I got washed up and headed out to Hollywood Studios. I had a full day out at the park to shake out my legs!

The 10K (6.2 miles)

This morning was incredibly humid. It was significantly warmer and wetter than the day before. I regretted wearing my base layer about a mile into my run. Here, I was maybe three miles in and the sun began gleaming down on me.

I make my way to the Epcot parking lot again, where it smells like overturned porta-potties and rotten eggs. However, based on the smiles of these dudes on stilts, they probably don’t smell it, so I stop to take a quick picture with them before scuttling on my way.

I keep running and somehow I end up in a fake Chinatown. Huh?

Golden hour is still upon us. But, flame-y fire torch-y thing!

Mile marker with childhood heroine who loved reading books? Yes please!

Photos of the boardwalk. It’s so hot that I wish I could just swim to the other side. However, this is a duathlon or a triathlon so swimming doesn’t count and is probably frowned upon. I continue running.

The finish line is at the Epcot parking lot. That’s why I keep checking in to a parking lot on Facebook. However, I see Spaceship Earth. It’s so close! When do you think it’ll take off for outer space?

I whipped out my phone for this picture. I also took it while running so that I wouldn’t knock anyone down. Stopping at the finish line abruptly is rude and unsafe (and you’ll find out why here pretty soon).

Ta-da! New shiny bling for 6.2 more miles!

The Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

This was the dramatic morning that struck the entire running community. The dreaded cancelled race. Thunderstorms rolled in through the night and the morning so Disney did the right thing and pulled the plug. They even gave refunds, race transfers, and some other optional concessions, which I thought was awfully generous. I didn’t mind the cancellation — I mean, I would’ve preferred to run the race. I paid for it. However, I did not pay to risk getting struck by lightning while running. According to the route and timing of the storms, it would’ve happened just around the time my corral hit mile 8 or 9 anyways. So, in the face of the cancellation, most of the Dopeys in the Facebook group did what any other runners would’ve done when faced with news they didn’t want to hear…

They channeled their inner Jyn Erso and rebelled!

Some even went as far as to call it the Inaugural Grumpy Challenge. Hilarious! (5K + 10K + 26.2)

Some people opted for outside runs (still) around different resorts. While that sounded tempting, I opted for an indoor treadmill run. Not sexy, and definitely not as fun. I spent six months training for Dopey on a treadmill. I didn’t foresee having to do any part of my Dopey Challenge on a treadmill, but here we were. At least I got a good pre-finish line (????) picture at my hotel.

This is technically my finish line photo. Notice my slump. This is what 13.1 miles on a treadmill does to your posture and morale.

What’s not pictured here is the luscious hot tub soak I enjoyed after my run. 🙂

The Marathon (26.2 miles)

The marathon was a beast. I was still shaking off the disappointment of my training marathon a few weeks prior. However, the conditions this particular morning were different, and for the better. Rather than being too warm, it was too cold. For some reason, Orlando finally decided to participate in winter, and this was day 2 (the day before was day 1). It was in the high 30s, and I had thankfully packed enough cold weather gear to make it bearable. I had enough rest and sleep for this race, unlike my training marathon when I was stacked with work/training and very little sleep.

As I lined up in my corral I noticed a Galloway run/walk pacer group and settled in nearby. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to try anything new on race day. Was following a pacer going to count as something new? Traditionally I never really have a strategy for races. I tend to trot along until I get tired. I then walk a bit to recover, and then I begin trotting again. I continue until I’m a mile or two out from the finish. I then “empty the tank” (as my coach used to tell me). I’ll take in some Gu/Clif gels, about one an hour, generally caffeinated ones. If there is Gatorade or Powerade, I’ll stop for it at the aid stations. However, I’ll always carry a Camelbak of water with me.

After some quick (sometimes extemporaneous) cost/benefit analyses, I went ahead with some of these new things on race day.

So, what were some of the things I did that were completely new on race day?
-Well, I wore that new Mickey beanie for the first time that day. (The trade off was cold ears, and honestly, the risk was minimal.)
-I joined the run/walk/run group and did :15/:30 intervals for the first time in my life. (Turns out it was awesome and I’m a convert!)
-I ate two whole bananas on the race course. (Not in succession, but I also never eat solid food on a race. It turns out that I can run after eat a banana, so long that I don’t run at an all-out speed and if I keep the :15/:30 pace.)
-I ran with my tutu for the first time. (I didn’t order it in time to practice with it.)
-I ran with my hat for the first time. (Same deal as above)
-I ran with my purple shirt for the first time. (Same…I know! I know!! Bad!!! Seriously…and on a 26.2 too! I really wanted to wear Dopey colors for the marathon and just ran out of time.)

Those ended up being the only two photos I snapped during the marathon. I was so exhausted. Somewhere after Animal Kingdom and before ESPN Wide World of Sports, there was a hairpin turn and cutoff point where the course turned on itself. I could see the sweeper buses and the fabled balloon ladies. I saw race security and buses close in on some people behind the balloon ladies and bikers. Those racers looked devastated. It must’ve been 5-7 miles in to the marathon already. Some of them were crying. I would be too, to see my race cut short. It definitely wasn’t for lack of trying. Everyone’s got a different story as to why they get swept. I’m not one to judge. I’ve finished dead last at a race before. I’ve never been swept but I know what it’s like to be last, and what it’s like to be tailed by security. Obvious news flash: It sucks.

Also, remember earlier how I  mentioned that stopping abruptly at the finish line could be dangerous? I almost railroaded this guy who jumped in front of me and then struck a pose for his photo finish:

I think I’ve made a pact with myself that when and if someone ever gets in my way again I’m going to make awesome faces and gestures at the camera. That way, it’s just as much my photo as it is theirs.

Anyways, back to my marathon. After 2 bathroom stops, 2 eaten bananas, and dozens of Gatorade stops, I finally reached the finish line. Do you know what it takes to run a marathon with me? Apparently it takes running it 15 seconds at a time, over and over again, until you have to stop for the bathroom. And then you start again, running it 15 seconds at a time, until you get to the finish line. What happened when I ran my marathon 15 seconds at a time was that I cut off an hour and 15 minutes from my previous marathon time. I mean, really???? My feet weren’t burning like they were in Dallas, I wasn’t demoralized, my legs didn’t feel like lead, and my time was better. This was something new I could get behind.

I was fairly elated at the finish line given my new finish time. This was now my 2nd best marathon time, which doesn’t say much given that this is my 4th marathon and two of them ended catastrophically with me in tears. However, this one was a joyous occasion, and in the few times I was almost brought to tears on the course, it was for happy reasons only. No sadness allowed!

The aftermath

Every mile is indeed magic here, and they never let you forget it. Erik met with me after the finish line. We struck a quick pose before carrying our stiff legs aboard our bus back to the resort.

From there, we snapped some quick photos next to the giant floppy disk by the pool of our snazzy medals. So many medals!

I laid in the tub for awhile. I brought along some suds and salts and enjoyed a hot bath for what felt like an hour. I also ate my tortilla chips and cheese thing in the tub and I didn’t care about anything because I was too tired to care. I’m pretty sure I heard Erik snoring all the way from the tub. By the time the evening rolled around, we boarded a shuttle to Disney Springs for dinner. First, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick refreshment, and I treated myself to my usual long run treat: a venti (in this case, a trenta) Very Berry Hibiscus! (Along with a sammich, since I was ravenous.)

Now what?

Well, with Dopey under my belt, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’d say I’ve bounced back from my injuries in 2014 pretty well. It seemed like 2015 was rehabilitative and 2016 was reconditioning. Hopefully I can get in some really good training in 2017!

A few days after Dopey, I emailed my Disney travel agent and asked her when registration was going to open up for 2018. It looks like we’ll be going back next year! We have a small Dopey in our home as a reminder.

Until Dopey 2018, I’ll be working on getting into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Hall of Fame.

That means I need to run a mix of 15 half or full marathons during the 2017 calendar year. I’ll be using them as training runs for Dopey but I’m really still trying to figure out what kind of goals to set for 2017 outside of just finishing the races.

The Dopey Challenge was really special to me — it took a lot for me to accomplish it, despite all of the difficulties and setbacks I had. I look back on my journey and all of the other major A-races I’ve trained for — Athens, Louisville (that eventually became Palm Springs), and now Dopey — and I would say that this completely dismantles Athens. This may even dismantle Palm Springs. It would take something by orders of magnitude to exceed this experience. I’m really looking forward to Dopey next year.

On to the next challenge (whenever I figure out what that is)!

Race Recap/Week 25 Dopey Challenge: Whine Not A Marathon 2016

Week 26 was an absolute doozy!

It was a finals week for my students, along with a Dopey simulation week. It also happened to be the week of my wedding anniversary. Timelines were squashed on top of one another, so I had to squeeze in my training in some funky ways.

We were planning to travel to Dallas for our training races. I carefully watched the weekend weather reports to see how our simulation race would go. I had a half marathon planned for Saturday and a full marathon planned for Sunday. With the revelation that I would have to run in below-freezing temps, I decided to slide up all of my events by one day. It required losing some sleep but I made it happen.

So, my week went something like this:

Work – teach – go to bed on Monday night – work – administer my final exam – go to bed on Tuesday night – squeeze in a morning run – have my anniversary brunch – work – teach – go to bed on Wednesday night – work – watch Rogue One – run 5 miles after the movie – sleep for a few hours on Thursday night – run a half marathon – hop on a work call – work – head to the airport – carb feast – bank as much sleep as I can on Friday night – run a full marathon – get a massage – sleep it off on Saturday night – wake up to crew Erik’s race – get stuck at DFW for 5 hours – alternatively succumb to 5 hours of catch-up grading – fly back to Denver – get stuck on the runway for another hour – get home at 4am Monday – go to bed.

So, how did the marathon go?

Well, it was a full 26.2 mile marathon, so it went. Did it go well? Not really. Did it go poorly? Not as much as it could’ve, I suppose.

  • I didn’t really make the 7-hour Disney World Marathon cutoff (I was using this as a trial run, so to speak), but a few things were stacked against me. There’s a lot for me to consider for race weekend.
  • If the weather is as wonky in Orlando as it was for me all weekend between Denver and Dallas, then I should be somewhat prepared. Weather increased by 10 degrees and then dropped 13 degrees during the course of my marathon. Winds were fairly gusty. Humidity was at 90% all day.
  • I should definitely take it significantly easier on the first three days so that I can do well enough during the marathon to not get swept.
  • Carrying water is a good idea, regardless of conditions, since I’ll be out there longer.
  • External battery packs are my lifeblood.
  • My shoes worked out great but I still have a second pair that I need to break in. I’ll be spending all of next week doing that.
  • I’m still not sure why my feet feel like they are on fire after 15 or so miles.

So, all in all I finished the full distance (which was a goal), but I didn’t quite finish as strong as I had wanted. Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I could’ve been better. The marathon was 8 loops around Bachman Lake, and by lap 7 I saw that I was nearing the 7 hour mark. At that point I figured that I could pretty much just stop since Disney had a 7-hour time limit anyways – why not save my legs for the actual race week? I then thought to myself that I came all that way to do a marathon, and that it was only a couple more miles around the lake…so I continued on. Plus, Erik was already there at the timing mat and he would be there again when I finished up my victory lap.

That last lap around was the hardest for me – I thought a lot about my training season. I had been pretty diligent about sticking to my training, watching what I eat, getting enough sleep, trying to keep my stress to a minimum, and so forth. There was a possibility that I had come all this way, train for this long, and still not make the cut-off. It reminded me of when I was training for the Ironman. The 140.6 miles seemed daunting then. The 48.6 miles seem pretty daunting now. I’ve never really cried during a training run but during that last lap, I managed to shed a a significant amount of tears of disappointment. I wracked my brain, thinking about all the decisions I’ve made during this training season. I feel like I’ve done all that I could’ve done. I’d like to think my best will be good enough but who knows? By the time I came around my final lap, what should’ve been a fairly joyous occasion (I mean, YAY, my third marathon…!) was fairly downtrodden.

After the race, I picked up my medal, got a few nibbles, and headed back to the car. I felt physically fine but was mostly disappointed in my performance. I spent about 20 minutes in the car crying until I finally calmed down. During the rest of the weekend I thought a lot about that disappointment, and all of the reasons why I’ve ran. One of the reasons why I run is because I am not really good at it. Like, at all. Putting yourself out there is difficult. Willfully pushing ourselves beyond our limits every now and then is one of the only true ways to level the playing field, in my opinion. It’s humbling. In this case, I can try really hard at something in which I have no natural talent and still miss the mark. Does it mean I should quit? No, not really. Should I find some way to get better so I don’t feel so disappointed in the future? Probably. Does it help to talk to myself in such a self-defeating way between miles 23-26.2? Absolutely not. I think these occasional grave disappointments keep me grounded and level-headed. Not everything can be amazingly peachy all of the time. Some parts of your life just have to be in the shitter. For me, this happens to be it. But, I keep showing up and I keep trying.

I learn a lot about myself during a marathon…I learned a lot during Athens, in LA, and now in Dallas. At the end of my marathon in Athens, I was disappointed that I had no one with whom to share my finish line victory. I was half a world away from everyone I knew. No one had stayed up to follow my progress or to wait for my call. I had crossed the finish line alone, but even in that personal victory, I felt that twinge of disappointment. It felt like a healthy dose of adult life, I suppose. Then came the LA Marathon. That too came with some heavy handed lessons about being underprepared for changing conditions, and putting too much hope into coasting by on previous experience. (That’s where I really learned what “respect the distance” means.) And now…here we are.

I think it might be time to look into a coach again. I’ve gone coach-less for some time now. I’ve been browsing around for quite some time but I’m thinking that I will go with an e-coaching arrangement with Jeff Galloway. The cost seems pretty reasonable. His turn-key plan for Dopey worked fairly well for me. I can only imagine what it would be like if he actually looked at my training history, got an idea of my goals, and then put something together for me. I can really use the help in getting over my double-digit mileage training hump. I still find that to be one of the more challenging parts of any training plan. I have lots of races planned this coming year but it seems like a mostly disorganized effort. I am going for volume over quality? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I should just focus on getting Dopey checked off my list first.

Thankfully, week 27 and 28 promise low, low mileage. After that we will be off to Orlando…

We’re near the end of the season. The race is upon us!

And the Training Months Tick By…July and mid-August Recap

Hmm. It’s been an interesting month. I don’t have a lot of time to go into too much detail about what’s been going on, but let’s recap:


-I went on a weeklong vacation to Waikiki with Erik. By day we hiked, ran, snorkeled, swam, surfed, boogey boarded, and by night we hopped skipped karaoke bars.
-I acquired two gnarly quarter-sized blisters on the bottom of both of my feet that prevented me from racing in Seafair.
-I rejiggered my tri training schedule (rather unsuccessfully) and my marathon training schedule (successfully).
-I’ve added P90X3 to my training repertoire and have been loving it! It’s been helping me a lot with my cardio output on my runs, and strengthening a lot of weak spots in my legs. Reminds me of when I was training with a personal trainer. I’m looking forward to adding some more Team Beachbody DVDs to my collection. They are intense but great!
-I finished out my first semester of grad school. There were tears and fussy nights, but I did it.
-Things at work are moving along.
-Bought a new mountain bike (taking it to Duthie Hill tomorrow with Alex!)
-Trying to get down to race weight on my old two gigantic salads a day diet (with tons of protein and snacks in between).
-I invested in way too many blender bottles.
-I keep exercising my control muscles. Look at all that candy at the office!
-I’m finalizing plans for my awesome ski trip to Niseko next February. Japow hereeeeee I come!

I’m still training for the Portland Marathon in October. I also have three sprint tris coming up in three consecutive weekends starting next Saturday. And still planning on a HITS triathlon in Palm Springs in December but I’m still majorly undecided as to which distance. I’m pretty sure I can pull a half IM again if I really focus on cycling and running (and I guess swimming too) after the marathon. Regardless, here’s my training plan for the next 1.5 months:

So, essentially life is full of work, grad school(s), training, fundraising, eating, and sleeping. And not much else. Until next time!

This Is My Broken Leg Rant

Not a lot of action on the blog, mainly because there hasn’t been a lot of training on my end!

Turns out that the last time I went skiing, I did not sprain my ankle. No, no…there was no sprain. The leg itself was just broken. BROKEN. Uhg. First broken bone ever but at least I went down in a glorious yard sale of ski equipment. I had fun and I don’t regret it. What I do regret is not getting the x-rays completed sooner. It honestly probably got worse before it got better, but at least now I am relegated to a boot and am no longer in pain. No surgery will be required — just rest and relaxation. I guess there are seriously worse things that can be prescribed for me, right?

The last month has been pretty hectic, broken leg aside. With the team transfer at work, I’ve been working triple-time to get a lot of this work completed and out the door. I’m still underwater (story of my life!) but at least the end is near. My vacation officially started this weekend, and I’m feeling a lot more relaxed overall. I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow and staying (relatively) off the grid for as much as possible.

Re-evaluating my Ironman plans for December. I’d really only be able to get 5 months of training in, but I need at least 6 or 7 to include base training. Another year, another Ironman goal down the drain. I know that I have a lifetime ahead of me, but I’m really tired of this goal getting punted because of these unforeseen circumstances. Last year it was a lot of health issues as well. Maybe this year I can be a little more mindful of how my bones can break so that next year, I can train for something fun — like Coeur d’Alene, Whistler, or something.

If all else fails — which I think we’re getting to that point — I will always have the Rock ‘n Roll Lisbon in October. If my fracture heals by the time my doctor says it will, I will have *exactly* 16 weeks to train for it. Even that is cutting it a bit close since I will be essentially starting from scratch. Also not sure about the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike for late August/early September but I think I will be able to manage it physically. It’ll just depend on getting the right amount of time off of work.

I’m getting cabin fever. I really miss the days where I could just get changed, lace up my running shoes, and head out the door for a 10-mile run. Springtime in Seattle means that I see all of these people training for the Seattle Rock n Roll this June. Wish I could be one of them. I guess I could walk it again like last year but it’s just not the same.

And now, I’m going to catch up on all of my Runners World magazines and take an angry nap. Because broken legs.

Unsolicited Advice to Newbie Runners (From a Newbie Runner Herself)

In the last week, I’ve had a few people openly declare to me their intent to start a running regimen or to tackle the marathon next year…and to them I say kudos!!

Here’s a few things I wish I knew about running before I started running.

1. It’s going to be uncomfortable for awhile, but just keep going. Especially if you’ve been sedentary, get ready to feel tired, hungry, cranky, and sore…at least for the first month or so. Push through it…the rewards of your hard work are worth it. Don’t discount the power of icing, long baths, massage therapy, nutrition/hydration, or good ole R&R.

2. Plan for rest days and plan to do your best. Sometimes life gets in the way of your training. It will happen. It’s best to realize it and to recover from it quickly, rather than forever dwell on it and then never get back into your routine. Put together a feasible schedule so that you can plan the rest of your commitments around your training. Remember, your training is YOU-time. Make it non-negotiable. 3 days a week to start is good; 4 days a week to start is optimal.

3. Get some decent running shoes. They don’t have to be top-of-the-line and expensive but they should be actual running shoes. Running in shoes that aren’t meant to support your feet over a few miles can be painful and harmful. Zappos has some great shoes and they’ll ship them to your door!

4. Start with short races before tackling the big 26.2. A shorter race will allow you to get into the groove of racing (a.k.a. get the newbie mistakes out of the way). I initially had no interest in running a marathon. I just wanted to run a 5K, so I signed up for the LA Big5K 2011. I caught the racing bug and then on the same weekend one year later I ran the LA Marathon 2012. Funny how that works out!

5. Track/journal your progress. You can start a blog or use an app like RunKeeper.com to do this. I always find myself jittery before a major race. It helps to go back through my progress and to see how far I’ve come and to know that I’ve given myself ample time to prepare.

6. Be accountable to someone other than yourself. It can be your significant other, fitness friend, or a charity team. Just make sure you’re accountable to someone else so that you can’t (or rather, won’t!) slack on your commitment. Someone who earnestly takes an interest in your health and interests will do what they can to eliminate temptations in your life so that you can be the best version of YOU.

Would you add any other tips to this list?

Let's Be Honest…I Could've Done Better.

There was nothing easy about the LA Marathon for me. It was only last week that I crossed the finish line but I’m still thinking about it.

All of my classmates asked me about how well I did. I had the same blanket answer for everyone. “I finished, but I was really really slow.” Am I dwelling on the negative? Yes, sort of…but there are a lot of bright sides to it all.

Let’s start with the whining and get it out of the way.

Negative (a.k.a. complaints and whining)

1. My pace was very slow for the last 13.1 miles.

2. I don’t think I stretched adequately for the race since I had a lot of pain still in my flexors, IT band, and piriformis/glute area for a few days after the race. (I’m completely healed up now with exception of random cramps here and there.)

3. I wish my overall time in LA was faster than the one in Greece. Greece was hilly and more difficult! LA was all downhill. What was the problem again?! (My GPS time was different than my chip time, so who knows when I really finished?!)

4. The wind drove me crazy! It literally drove me crazy. As I mentioned to someone else I think I began hallucinating and maybe even swearing at the wind. I also began getting incredibly weepy…on the inside at first, but then on the outside when I saw Shant at the finish line.

Positive (a.k.a. it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be)

1. I undertrained, which can explain the reason why my time got slower. (Not sure why this is positive)

2. I finished it under the time limit.

3. This race was mainly about my leading my team to the finish line and not so much about myself. Most of the time I dragged myself out of bed at 7am to get to my group races on time. It wasn’t a race for me…it was a race for my teammates and for the charity.

So, all in all…the LA Marathon was a success. I hope to actually follow my training regimen next time so that I can finish faster!

Race Recap: The 2012 LA Marathon

I survived…but man oh man I am definitely feeling the pain of undertraining.

The course was great. It was the best foot tour of LA I’ve ever taken. What got me most excited about this race was that I’ve been to every part of the city, but I’ve yet to actually go through it in one trip. Well, yesterday I did!

Race weekend started with a 2-hour massage and grabbing a ton of last minute supplies. I decided to put together an LA Marathon survival kit for my teammates. It included some baggies, Biofreeze, cough drops, Emergen-C, a rain poncho, gel blasts, anti-cramping gel, and blister bandages. After the races I’ve ran, I figured that it was time to aggregate all of my hard-earned lessons into one small resealable bag. The forecast predicted rain and I wanted my runners and walkers to stay happy and healthy!

We carbo-loaded at the charity director of operations house. Lots of pasta and food was there for the taking and everyone looked really nervous and excited. We all got our goody bags, which included our fundraising incentives. I’ve never been more excited to earn an iPod shuffle! I also got a running water bottle, a team t-shirt, and a few other goodies. So excited to put all of it to good use. It was great to finally see the entire team under one roof. Most of the time, when I hosted group runs, only a few would turn out…and the few would always shuffle around, so I never did get a chance to see everyone at the same time. It was nice to see their personal transformations and to share this experience with them. It was only last summer when they handed me their registrations rather reluctantly. Now they were all ready to tackle the big 26.2!! I’ve never been more proud to say that the team raised almost $6,000 as of today.

As for the race…I can remember a few important parts — like the hill between mile 4-5 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (which also took a grand stance during the LA Triathlon last year), running through Thai Town (memories of all my childhood grocery shopping), Hollywood + Vine (right outside the Dress for Success offices), West Hollywood (loved the cheerleaders!), and then the never ending road of San Vicente. And the ripples in the Pacific Ocean. Oh, the ripples! The course support was fantastic. Every aid station was well stocked. All of the volunteers were incredibly helpful. Every inch of the LA Marathon was covered with supporters cheering their hearts out. It was definitely one of the best races I have ever ran….nothing like the Rock n Roll Las Vegas. I would definitely consider running this again next year!

What I can remember feeling is the heaviness in my legs setting in around mile 20 or so. I definitely hit the proverbial wall by mile 22. Mile 22, 23, 24, 25 seemed to drag on forever and ever and ever. It was never ending until I hit 26, got a glimpse of the beach and the Santa Monica Pier, and made it across the finish line!

It was a great experience running with a charity. Not only do I finally get to cross something off my bucket list but now I’d like to put together a plan so that next year we are even more successful. Hey, maybe this time I can stick to my own training plan!

Race Recap: 2011 Zappos Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

What a race! First of all, congratulations to everyone who finished the race.

It was definitely a fun yet challenging course, based on all of the feedback I’ve sifted through online. All in all I think the race was a success — with 44,000 runners on the Vegas Strip at night, there was bound to be a number of problems. However, I think most of the issues that came up were all preventable if the race directors had taken the Murphy’s Law approach — whatever can go wrong, will go wrong — and anticipated these problems beforehand.

English: The strip in Las Vegas
Image via Wikipedia

First off, Vegas is a fun destination. Combine that with a race and you’re bound to get lots of excitement. Seeing as though this is the Rock ‘n Roll series, you’d think that the Vegas race would be the most special of all. I’m not sure if it was the vibe or the cold or just the throngs of people but the excitement was something that was missing from this race. (It might’ve also just been me, since I got some pretty bad news on Friday.) I’m not sure how I would’ve performed if I were running the actual marathon on Sunday but the half marathon seemed like a perfect distance and a decent workout.

Because of my experience in Athens, I knew that running in the cold was going to be very tough. I was hoping that Vegas would be a little warmer but unfortunately, when I arrived, it was pretty cold (40 degrees F) and windy. Despite my better judgement of not trying anything new before a race I went out and bought some cold weather gear. I’d rather have to deal with breaking in my equipment DURING a race than to race through very cold conditions and getting sick for a week afterwards.

For the race I picked up:

  • Base layer Champion running tights
  • Base layer Nike long sleeved running shirt
  • Top layer Champion windbreaker jacket
  • Champion running beanie
  • Nike fleece gloves

During the race, I also stuck with my essentials:

  • Brooks Addiction running shoes
  • Champion thin no-show running socks
  • iFitness race belt
  • iPod shuffle
  • iPhone + RunKeeper
  • Champion technical tank top
  • UnderArmour sports bra
  • I even dabbed on a little eye makeup for the eventual finish line photo!
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 05:  Runners fill the...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I left a few hours early for the race, even though my hotel was a mile away. We parked at New York New York and LVPD had already shut down most of the Vegas strip. The start line corrals were set up and I arrived on time to watch the final marathoners take off on their 26.2 mile journey. There was a lot of downtime to head to the portapotties, snap photos, and get into the corrals. I was surprised that by the time we circled around it was not the familiar wave start I had grown accustomed to (like the RnRLA race), but rather a sequential mass start. This caused a lot of problems since the start was not particularly well policed and walkers were ahead of runners. (I think anyone could see why this would be a problem.)

The race started with a decent pace. The key is to always start a little slower than you are used to so that you keep a decent overall pace. I felt better than anticipated and tried to conserve my energy before weaving too much in the crowd. It was pretty dark on the course since it was a night race — my first! — you had to be extra mindful of every footfall. The strip was pretty well lit and it was fun seeing the spectators cheer us on. We ran down the strip all the way to Old Las Vegas (Downtown Las Vegas, for some of you) and then back to the strip again.
As a child I remember walking around and snapping photos with my family all around Vegas, so it was very interesting to see the landmarks from such a different perspective. It was my first race in Las Vegas and I have to say that I am officially hooked on destination races. I can’t wait to scope out what is available next year! Overall this race was great — I didn’t PR but I had a great run, I finished feeling great, I never once got cold, and my boyfriend was waiting for me at the end. What more could I ask for?

Let’s get some of these issues out of the way so that I can just focus on the positives of the race!

  1. Start corrals/waves were not enforced, which led to walkers and runners clashing throughout the entire course.
  2. Marathoners eventually had to merge with the half-marathoners during the last half of the race, which meant people were getting in each other’s way.
  3. Water stations were not optimally set up, so runners were having to go without water.
  4. There was a massive bottleneck at the finish line because of the small number of step and repeats (photo backgrounds) for race photography. Therefore, people were passing out and/or getting cold.
  5. The finish line festivities were hosted outside during a winter night with NO external sources of heat (i.e. gaslamps or heaters).
  6. Most of Las Vegas Blvd + Tropicana Ave was shut down so if you came by car, you were stuck in traffic for at least a few hours.
  7. Mandalay Bay was very overcrowded and could barely handle the extra foot traffic inside their casino.
  8. The staff ran out of medals, which meant that course bandits were able to jump into the race, finish, and grab medals without having registered.
  9. Swag bag was empty per usual, but at the end of the day that’s not a really big problem.
Okay, admittedly that seems like a pretty big list of bad things. However, that’s not to say that I had a decent race. Unfortunately I did not set a PR (personal record) for the race that I was hoping to but I’ve come to terms with that and a way to achieve it next time!


Ultramarathon in My Future?

Hmm, I’ve thought about doing some crazy things, but they were usually solo adventures.

I wonder if I could sucker about five other crazy people to run a 200-mile ultramarathon with me?

Last night I came across an ad for the Ragnar Relay Race in So Cal…a jaunt from Huntington Beach to Coronado Island. Seeing as though I’ve driven that far and have been to both Huntington Beach, San Diego, and a smattering of cities in between, it seems like a lot of run!

The only problem is that it’ll cut into my half Ironman training, which will be picking up considerably after the March 18th LA Marathon. Maybe I can put it in my race bucket list for the following year.

Any of you ever thought of running an ultramarathon? Better yet, anyone interested in joining me in 2013?!

Race Recap: The Athens Classic Marathon

Lets do this Memento style: start with the ending and then go from the beginning.

The giant marble stadium was overwhelming. As I neared it on the last of my energy reserves, I tried to pick up the pace but it was just unbearable. But, as my right foot landed on the soft track, I was somehow lifted by a spirit outside of me and began running towards the finish line. As I crossed the timing mat and archway I couldn’t help but think about the incredible journey I had just been on, both mentally and physically.

The morning of the marathon started as most other race mornings. I slept fitfully, waking up ten times in five hours. Most of my dreams were about the marathon, making mistakes, forgetting things, etc. I woke up sometime after 2:30am and couldn’t go back to bed so I began preparing for the race. I pulled on my running skirt, tech tank, arm warmers, socks. After that I began piling on the layers: long sleeved shirts, sweaters, scarves, anything that would shield me from the cold. I pulled my hair into a mid-ponytail, alternating between headbands before settling on the skinny one. (The other one I had was already immortalized in another race photo.)

I turned on my phone and called my boyfriend. We had said that we’d video chat before I left for the race since I wouldn’t be broadcasting my run live. A few quick exchanges were made and then I was off.

At five in the morning, the city of Athens is unseemingly quiet. The entire city was asleep. I neared the ticketing machines since I had misplaced my 7 day metro pass. As I fumbled with my 50 euro bill in between different machines that lacked change, I began to get worried that I might miss my shuttle to the city of Marathon. As I began punching buttons out of frustration, a kind British gentleman offered to pay the 2 euros or so for me since he was on his way to the marathon too.

We boarded the shuttle together among the hundreds of other runners. We talked about running, triathlons, work, traveling, global crises, the age skew in the shuttle. Eventually the conversation dwindled down to silence as we kept going on this windy road to Marathon. I muttered something about how far we had driven and he referenced something about not training enough for hills. The windshield wipers were clearing a thin layer of water from the morning’s drizzle and the driver kept pressing on.

We reached the stadium of Marathon and headed towards shelter. On our way there, I noted the rather large number of portapotties. As we tried to make headway, the wind was resisting us. Volunteers were passing out large plastic bags to help keep us warm. By the time we reached the waiting room, we made our way to the corner to take advantage of the body heat and to eat some breakfast.

I can never handle solid food before a race so I broke open some Clif gel blocks. We chatted a bit more when I asked him for some first timer tips. All he gave me was, “Don’t start off too fast.” Point taken. He asked me about some of the apps I had worked on at work so I pulled them up on my phone. Soon enough the girl next to us began joining in on the conversation. She was training for an ultramarathon and was currently working at the US embassy in England. The three of us eventually made our way to drop off our gear bags. In between trying to stay warm, we moved between different locations, eventually finding a nice hideaway with about a hundred other runners behind the torch.

We made it to our starting block. I marveled at the sheer numbers of the race. Next to me were two runners from California as well: San Francisco and San Diego. I thought back to the two other runners I had met at the Acropolis a few days before, Alexander from Ukraine and Andrew from the Philippines. They called the waves one by one, and before I knew it we were off.

The first few kilometers I had to get used to the fact that they were indeed going by kilometers. The marathon course is 26.2 miles, but when converted into metric measurements, it comes out to something more like 42.195 kilometers. Mile markers come less frequently than kilometer markers naturally, so it was important to do math on the go. As we circled the tomb of Marathon at around 5k, I was feeling good since the hard part was over…or so I thought.

As we entered small cities and villages, crowds were cheering us on. People of all ages were clapping, handing out olive branches, and taking photos. I saw a few warriors running in costume, some old, some young, some barefoot. Some power walkers were older than runners. Some looked like they were in agonizing pain and some looked lost in the moment.

There’s this thing I do when I run. I think of my swimming and my biking. When I swim, to help me count my laps, I think of the lap number and try to remember what happened to me when I was that old. I begin thinking of the people that entered my life and what I was doing. By the time I pass 27 I begin projecting into the future. So, naturally, I started down that rabbit hole. I began thinking of everything and everyone I had met and experience that led me up to this moment. I thought of all the good things that had happened to me. I thought of all the friends I had made over the years. I thought of all the times I was sad. I thought about the continuous abuse I had suffered at the hands of my brother 20 years ago and the violence I endured 10 years ago. I thought back to a time when I preferred to end it all, I thought of the time I felt like the people I loved most were turning their backs on me, and I started tearing up…and somewhere before the 20 kilometer mark I snapped out of it. Somewhere in my mind I had recounted events and people up to around age 23 or 24, and then things began looking up.

I thought about art school and my art school friends. I thought about how my parents finally came around during that time. I thought about how I began understanding the world a little differently after studying nursing and anthropology. I thought about how excited I was to begin working at the ad agency full time. I remembered how much I wanted to design for mobile. I remember getting filmed for my university, gushing about how much I wanted to start my own design business and travel the world with it. I began thinking of my friends, old and new. I thought of my supportive boyfriend, my gassy cat, the guy who sold me my running shoes. I thought of all the kind people I had met on this marathon and triathlon journey and about what cause I wanted to fundraise for when I begin my 70.3 training.

As the kilometers ticked off one by one, I was getting increasingly sore and tired. I thought of my fundraising efforts and all the women who needed the help of Dress for Success to transition from welfare to work. As the run got harder and harder — theres a 13 mile hill climb, if you didn’t know — I thought of those mornings where Shant would lead a run on his bike and I would try to keep up. I played that game a bit in my head. When I ran out, I switched it to my first 6 mile run around Lady Bird lake with my friend Barce. When that was over, I began thinking of my group training runs with my friends at work, who always managed to head out for a post-work jaunt around the neighborhood with me. I can remember days where I felt like slacking but everyone got me out of the door.

Somewhere along kilometer 35, it became quiet in my head. I had finally emptied it of all thought and ideas. It was just silence for awhile. I was actively ignoring the music blaring in my ears. I had passed a beautiful Greek countryside with rolling hills and small villages. I passed a small industrial area and now was in the suburbs. The buildings began getting closer together and the rain and wind became significantly stronger. I pulled out the plastic bag I had neatly tied away at kilometer 5. My fingers were tingling, my legs were numb, and I was shivering. Thinking it was dehydration I took some sips out of my hydration pack and concluded that it was really because I was cold. Running in 40 degree weather with wind chill, drizzling rain, and California summer weather running gear will do that to you.

At around kilometer 39 or 40, I was met with a foil blanket from a nice emergency guard who had lauded my accomplishment thus far. As he wrapped the shiny blanket around me, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Now, go finish the race you started.” I was finally in downtown Athens and it looked similar to the morning after a rainstorm in Bangkok. The roads were closed, and people were on the sidelines clapping their hands and yelling “Bravo!”. To my recollection, the only other person to have ever said that to me in that way was Shant’s mother.

I neared a familiar sight, the Syntagma Square and the House of Parliament. I ran under the first inflatable arch right after kilometer 42. I tried to pick up the pace as I saw the next arch and was only able to pull off a small trot. As I passed the second metal arch, what came into view was absolutely beautiful: the giant Panathenaikon Stadium, in full marble, in full glory. By that time, I could feel the pain leaving my body — if only temporarily — as I sped up to a run. Volunteers were cheering us on and as I crossed the finish line, I could not believe the journey I had just gone on. My energy was spent, I was shivering, but I finished the marathon with a smile on my face. After months of planning and training, it was all I could ask for.