“Why do you love running?” The hardest easy question.

I recently applied to be an ambassador for a running apparel company and one of the questions on the application was “Why do you love running?” …for someone who runs as much as I do you would think it would be an easier answer, right? …WRONG.

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I sat and stared at the words on the screen for a good 15-20 minutes before I typed a single word. I couldn’t believe it – I was completely stumped. It wasn’t because I don’t love running its just that it’s hard to define and articulate something that has become such an integral part of my everyday life. It’s like asking someone why they love to breathe – they just do…Plus, they would die if they didn’t…which is sometimes how I feel when I can’t run haha

When I finally did start typing a few words I found that the same common themes kept coming up…

Physical/Mental Health Benefits

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This is an easy one. We all know exercise is good for our overall health and well-being. For me, mentally, running has helped me cope with previous bouts of depression and anxiety and continues to offer me an outlet for stress. They do say running is cheaper than therapy, right? Not to mention, studies have shown that running for as little as one-hour run may even translate to an additional seven hours added to your lifespan…who doesn’t want that? That’s seven more hours you could be running haha.

Self Awareness

I love that running is continuously teaching me lessons about myself as a person. I am constantly testing my boundaries, pushing myself harder, and proving to myself that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. It teaches me the value of hard work, and discipline, and what it means to set my sights on a goal and not give up or settle for less. It has taught me to persevere when things get tough and has taught me to have a more positive outlook on life in general.

The AMAZING People

664969388001_5408525755001_5408525422001-vsAnyone who’s step foot across a start line at a race knows just how awesome runners can be. Perfect strangers coming together to offer words of advice, encouragement and literally giving a helping hand to a runner in need – it’s a beautiful thing. When I started running, I always dreaded race day since I would always be running “alone” – how wrong I was.  In the last 4 years I have been blessed to meet countless runners from all across the world and now, even consider some to be among my closest friends.

Lastly, I love that running has given me this – a platform to share my story and my running journey with you. When I started running it was reading blog posts and seeing people’s stories unfold on social media that gave me the inspiration and encouragement I needed to keep moving forward. I always hope that in some small way, sharing my journey, does the same for someone else. Kinda like paying it forward…

So, I could probably write for days about why I love to run but for now I want to pose the same question to you –  What say you, friends? Why do YOU love to run? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

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Trail Review – Upper Kananaskis Lake

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I thought I would continue on with my trail review series by posting about my hike around the Upper Kananaskis Lake from October….Better late than never right?

When we left Calgary on this October morning the conditions weren’t exactly ideal – it was cold and starting to snow but thought we would brave the elements anyway…besides its only 15 km right?

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We took the TransCan to Hwy 40 and headed South into the Kananaskis. We parked at the North Interlakes day use area in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and followed the signs for the trail from there.

The Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail is the perfect trail for walking, hiking, or even trail running with a nice and easy 15 km/9.5 mile loop around the Upper Kananaskis Lake. The trail is rated as moderate, not due to the elevation or terrain, but to the long length of the trail and can easily be tackled by beginners and seasoned hikers alike so long as the distance doesn’t bother you…

Getting There: 1 hr 45 min from Calgary

Distance: 15 km/9.5 mi

Elevation Gain: 806 m

14666269_10153840736116283_4297426992345416994_nThe first 2 km of the hike or so were predominantly through the woods with not so much lake to be seen. It was then we emerged at a large section of Rockfall called Palliser Slide. It’s here that we got our first glimpse of the lake and the mountains beyond.

Now i’m not sure if it was the excitement of finally seeing something that wasn’t trees or the compelling conversation I was having with my hiking partner but it was around this time that we missed where the trail branches to the south to continue around the lake.

 

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Instead, we carried on down a different trail for just over another 5 km before we realized our mistake and circled back. Even though we went the “wrong way” the views on this trail were some of the best we encountered the whole hike – totally worth it. Once we made it back to where the trail branched off (and where we should have headed south) we were left with the choice to simply take the short stroll back to the car or finish the loop around the lake like we had planned. We chose the latter. 14716073_10153840735951283_3206077772031523971_n

 

While the rest of loop offered some stunning views of the lake along with some waterfalls I started to regret my decision around the 22 km mark. I was tired, hungry, my feet hurt, it was starting to snow and we were starting to loose daylight. I’ll be honest – I don’t think we spoke much those last 5km or so haha I think hangry was an understatement.

We finally made it back to the car with a little daylight to spare. My Garmin actually stopped working because it got so cold but based on the data I did have and the trail maps we finished the day with a total of almost 27 km (just short of 17 miles) in about 6.5 hours. 14650209_10153838947891283_7404702234372980581_n

Looking back on the day, it was one of the funnest hikes I have done in awhile, with the best parts being where we got “lost”. I look forward to going back sometime this summer to experience the trail from a much different (and warmer) perspective. This time, I will  be sure to pack extra food and water…you know, just in case.

 

 

2016 Dino Dash 10k

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I might be a week or two late but here is a quick recap on the 2016 Dino Dash 10k in Calgary.dino_dash_course_map

It was actually a last minute decision for me to run this race and i’m super glad I went for it! The Dino Dash took place on Saturday September 10th as part of the Calgary Marathon Society race series and offered both a 5k and 10k distance. For this race I opted for the 10k distance.

Just like any of the other CMS races, packet pick up was quick and easy. I headed out to the Running Room in Kensington the day before the race to pick up my bib and shirt. I was a little disappointed that the shirts seemed to be unisex (I was still swimming in a size small) but I totally forgot to see if there were any women’s sizes or smaller sizes to exchange for on race day… but really, its not like I needed anymore race shirts to run in anyway haha. I already have one dresser dedicated to just race shirts and its starting to get pretty full as it is (#runnerproblems).14237526_10153761156166283_7665753077199104972_n

Now i’m usually one for making sure my hydration and fuel is on point prior to race day but considering this was a last minute race I totally failed in this department. Looking back, all that wine and Mexican food the night before probably wasn’t the best idea…Either way my flat runner was all laid out, looking pretty darn cute,  and I was super excited to hit the course with friends in the morning.

On race day, I arrived at McMahon Stadium about 30 min before the start. Parking was aplenty, easy to find, and steps away from the start/finish. A good friend of mine, Megan, was running the 10k  with me too but in the stroller division – talk about hardcore!img_6661

Shortly before the start, I managed to catch up with a few friends from Instagram. It was so great to finally meet @yogicrystal and @kristiyyc in person. I just love how running continues to connect me with such awesome and inspiring lady runners  🙂

At 10:50 am, Megan set off with the stroller division and the rest of us started 10 minutes later. My knee gave me a bit of trouble off the start but after about 1/2 a mile I caught my stride and the pain subsided.

About another mile later I ‘ran into’ @fairydustandsprinkles (yay for more instafriends!) and I ran with her and her cousin for a bit hearing all about her recent trip to Disneyland for the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon (I think im still jealous haha). In all our chatting about img_6680Run Disney and Team Sparkle I realized that I was running a much fast pace than normal, and given the lack of training, I wanted to make sure I saved some energy for the end and decided to let @fairydustandsprinkles run ahead and I went back to my regular intervals.

I wasn’t alone for long though – I eventually caught up to Megan and the stroller and we ran together for the rest of the race. The rest of the course was fairly uneventful as it wound its way through the community of Varsity. There were lots of opportunities for water breaks and volunteers were at almost every street corner giving directions and cheering runners on. It wasn’t long until we found ourselves running through the University grounds and heading back to the Stadium.

Overall the course was fairly flat and fast, aside from the last mile or two were it seemed like we were continuously running into a strong head wind. I was starting to feel pretty exhausted but when we stepped foot on the running track for the final stretch to the finish line I found my second wind and sprinted to the finish.img_6688

I crossed the finish line with a race PR of 1:11:42. Ive run faster 10k’s faster in training but its not often I run a 10k race and hadn’t really been running all summer so I was still pretty happy.

Megan and I collected our medals (her daughter even got one for all the hard work she did sitting in the stroller) and headed over to the snack table to indulge on free Cobs Bread treats.

Overall it was a fantastic race – in fact it was one of the funnest races i’ve ran in awhile. Maybe it was because I was finally running again, or the super cute bling, or all the great people I got to spend the race with but I left McMahon Stadium with the BIGGEST smile on my face.

Whether your a seasoned runner or new to racing, the CMS race series events in Calgary are always a great time. The next event takes place on Sunday October 2nd. The Gorilla Run is a 16k solo race or relay around the Calgary Zoo and registration is still available HERE. If you can’t make it this weekend you can always check out the Halloween themed Dash of Doom on October 29th.

Have you run a CMS race before? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trail Review – Grassi Lakes/Troll Falls

 

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So this past weekend I made my first attempt ever at trail running. I usually stick to running in the city for my training runs and have always wanted to venture out into the mountains and start adding more elevation to my workouts.

I decided to run the Grassi Lakes trail (which I have hiked before) and the Troll Falls trail (a brand new trail for me). Both are fairly easy hikes and I thought they would be great starting points for a beginning trail runner such as myself.

I did take some video throughout the day as I wanted to share with all my runner friends just how beautiful Alberta is. If you haven’t guess already I just LOVE running and hiking here – I really do think we have some of the nicest trails in Canada.

…Anyway my first attempt at being a videographer was an epic fail haha. For starters I should have filmed with my iphone sideways for a better picture, the audio is a bit off, and some parts are pretty shaky. I think that if I want to start doing more vlogging or video reviews of my trail adventures I would probably be best to invest in a GoPro.

I have still posted the video below for anyone who is interested but please go easy on me – it’s not quite the quality I would usually be happy sharing lol Also, if you’re prone to motion sickness some of the clips are shaky – you have been warned!

VIDEO – Grassi Lakes/Troll Falls

Overall, I loved my first trail running experience. It was so exhilarating running through the woods and getting to see the gorgeous mountain views after the ascent. I did notice though that my pace was much slower than normal.  I guess I can account that to the constant worry that I was going to trip over a rock or branch on the ground and roll an ankle. For the more experienced trail runners –  Does that feeling ever go away? haha I assume that the more I run on uneven surfaces the more comfortable I will get…? Either way I think this is going to be a new addiction of mine and I don’t think running on the pavement will ever been the same…

Here is a little more information on each of these trails if you are curious or find yourself in the Kananaskis area sometime..

Grassi Lakes – Canmore

This trail has it all – lush forests, spectacular mountain vistas, and a waterfall eventually leading up to a vibrant turquoise lake. Grassi Lakes is a great trail for families and offers two different routes: an easy route up a gravel access road with gradual rising slope or a more difficult route that takes you through a wooded trail out to the stunning waterfall before a steep climb to the lake. If you do plan on hiking or running this trail make sure to arrive early in the morning – this is a very popular trail and will get quite crowded on a sunny summer day.

Getting There: The trail-head begins on Spray lakes Road which is about 2 km past the Nordic Centre. Take a left turn when you see the sign for Grassi Lakes. The parking area is down the gravel a little ways on your right. Parking is available but the lot is pretty small so be prepared to park on side of the gravel road and have to walk a km or two on busy summer days.

Distance: 3 mi (return)

Elevation Gain: 300 m

Troll Falls – Kananaskis 

Compared to Grassi Lakes this trail did lack a bit in scenery but was still a pleasant run through some lush green forests ending at a gorgeous waterfall. Troll Falls trail is part of a network of different cross country ski trails which double as hiking trails in the summer. It’s an easy trail with only a little elevation gain, making it a popular spot of hikers and runners alike.

Getting There: Troll Falls is located in  Kananaskis Country near the base of the Nakiska ski resort. From Hwy 1, head south on Hwy 40 for about 25 km. Turn right at the Kananaskis Village turnoff. Head past the village towards Nakiska and watch for the Stoney Trails sign. Take the first right onto the gravel road that leads to the Stoney Day use parking area. At the end of the parking lot towards the large power lines look for the Stoney Trail head sign where the trail leads into the forest on the left.

Distance: Approx 2 miles (return). Note: there are a few different trail options once you reach Troll Falls to return on that can extend your mileage.

Elevation Gain: 100 m

Have you done much trail running in the Banff/Canmore/Kananaskis area? If so, what are your favorite trails? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Cross Training & Why You Should Be Doing It

Training for me has been a little all over the map lately and I haven’t really been following a plan at all. After experiencing some new knee pain in the late stages of training for the Calgary Half Marathon I decided to cut back on my mileage substantially and instead focus on just finishing the Half (which I did – yay!) and then diverting my attention on overall strength and conditioning.

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For those of you following me on Instagram (@little_miss_sparkly_runner) you know that I’m participating in the #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS run/walk challenge for the month of June but aside from that i’m not running much at all. My body needs some serious strengthening right now…

I don’t know about you but I have such a hard time with cross training – I just want to run. I’m not much for weights and other forms of training but I do know first hand just how important otijyrstrength training and overall conditioning is and how a lack of it can really affect our performance and overall health as runners.

If your new to running I highly encourage you to get in the habit of incorporating cross training NOW. Make it as much of your routine as is lacing up those running shoes.

What’s in it for you? Well let me tell you…

Less Chance of Injury: Many runners, myself included, typically have a goal of increasing mileage or pace. The problem is, the faster we increase speed/mileage, and harder we work, the greater the chance we have of overuse and suffering from injury. Instead of incorporating cross training we just run too much (like there is such a thing right??? haha) and experience common injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis,  joint pain or the dreaded ITBS.  When you add cross training to your routine you get to strengthen your muscles and tendons, increase joint mobility, and hopefully avoid or decrease the damaging effects of doing the same thing over and over.

More Speed & Power (insert evil sinister laugh here): Another huge benefit of adding IMG_5620strength training is increased stride power. As you know, greater stride length = reduced ground contact time which usually correlates to much faster race times. Adding resistance training will also help strengthen the tendons and muscles surrounding your joints. Plyometrics, sprints, and weight training are great ways to add resistance workouts to your routine.

Increased Aerobic Fitness: When you add in low or non-impact endurance training into your routine you can usually almost double your aerobic capacity. Some great examples would be swimming and cycling. When I started throwing in a few long bike rides during the week, when I was marathon training last year, I quickly found I could keep up the energy a lot longer on my long runs.  Plus, this also decreases your chances of injury since your decreasing the impact on your joints as opposed to the impact your joints would take if you were just doing running alone. It’s all about working smarter – not harder people! 😉

Better Efficiency:  The ability to run with minimal internal resistance from your own muscles and joints comes from dynamic stretching. It helps your flexibility by mirroring the way your muscles and tissues actually stretch during running.  A great example of a dynamic stretch is walking lunges. These are one of my favorites and I try to throw them into my routine when I can. The lunges can help make your muscles and joints more efficient in your running which, in turn, decreases your chances of over work and injury.


Faster Recovery:
  I know it seems totally counter intuitive but by doing workouts in between your runs you actually help your body recover faster than if you were to simply just rest between long runs. The low/non-impact activities, resistance training IMG_5618and dynamic stretching all help you become much fitter, much faster. It all also helps decreases the time those muscles are sore and cranky after those long runs and increases your overall flexibility. All good things if you ask me!

So how am I incorporating these types of activities into my workout routine? Right now i’m a Galloway runner following a 3 run/week schedule. I have one rest day and the other days are spent doing a Yoga class, Ballet Barre class, at home weight/resistance training, and either cycling or hiking (weather depending).

For this month, I’ve decreased my run days and increased my cross training to try and get my body (specifically my troublesome knees) ready for Rock n Roll Las Vegas training which I will probably start in mid July.

Coming up next on the blog i’m going to talk about some of the most common running injuries and some tips to help you get back on your feet. But for now, I want to hear from you! How are you incorporating cross-training into your workout routine? What are some of your favorite activities? Sound off in the comments below….

 

 

 

2016 Calgary Centaur Subaru 21.1KM

Hello Friends! Its been awhile since I’ve posted I know…Life has been crazy this spring but i’m all moved into my new condo and ready to jump back into my running/blogging routine, I promise 🙂

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…So why not kick off my return to this blog with a race recap! This past weekend I ran the half marathon as part of the 52nd  annual Calgary Marathon weekend. Over 10,000 runners took part in everything from kids races to a 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon and even an ultra 50k. I was really looking forward to running a local race (something I hardly ever do anymore) plus there was going to be a super hero costume contest so you know I just had to run!

The Expo – Saturday May 28th

The expo was held at the Big Four building at the Stampede Grounds. Packet pickup was well organized and the lines weren’t too long even when the expo opened at 10:00 am on Saturday. I didn’t have much time to explore the vendors but there seemed to be quiteImage a good turnout with a lot of booths for other local races offering discounts on registration. I was short on time since my girlfriend was getting married that afternoon  but I did manage to attend the #werunsocial meetup. It was fantastic meeting these ladies! I love
meeting other runners and exchanging our stories – it is always so inspiring! After saying my hello’s and picking up some pretty cool swag courtesy of Brooks Running I was on my home to quickly change and hopefully make it to the church on time.

Race Day – Sunday May 29th

The half, full and ultra races started at 7:00 am so it was going to be an early morning. There was minimal parking available at the stampede grounds and with the amount of road closures downtown and the possibility of not finding a spot I decided to take the C-Train. I tell ya, the looks I got dressed as wonder woman riding the C-Train at 5:00 am lol it was interesting to say the least…

I arrived at the Stampede grounds shortly after 6:00 am and dropped off my belongings atIMG_5370 bag check with little to no wait. The starting line was just outside the stadium so it was such a treat to actually wait indoors (and keep warm) before the race and use real washrooms. Just before 7:00 am I headed out to the start.

Corrals were self-seeding so you just lined up near one of the flags that represented your anticipated finish time. I was interested to see how this would play out since the half, full and ultra all started together. I was worried about how crowded it would be and if I would be weaving through runners who hadn’t been honest about their pacing when lining themselves up. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised – there was a ton of space on the roads to spread out right from the start and crowding was never an issue.

I can’t speak for the other routes but the half marathon course was awesome! It took runners through the East Village, Inglewood, Bridgeland, down 17th Ave, IMG_5371Kensington, and down Memorial drive before returning to the Stampede grounds. Crowd support was
great with lots of little cheering stations throughout the race. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many aid stations (about every 3 km) especially since the weather turned out to be much warmer than expected. Aid stations were stocked with plenty of water and Ultima and even cold wet sponges. I believe they did give out Honey Stinger gels around mile 9 or so but my stomach is pretty sensitive to the honey stinger brand so I stuck with the Gu gels I brought for myself. FullSizeRender3

Overall, I really enjoyed the course with the only exception being an out and back
section on Memorial which seemed to last forever – in fact most of miles 8-11 were brutal. Very little entertainment and just a long stretch in the hot sun. Miles 11-12 were marginally better but it had us retracing our steps through the East Village where we had run earlier in the morning – would have been nice to run some new roads but, regardless, I was excited to be in the home stretch.

FullSizeRenderBefore I knew it I was entering the Stampede grounds with less than 1 km to go. It was at this point I decided to check my Garmin and see how I was doing for time…
My only goal for this race was to finish. I’d had some issues with my knee over the last month so
running/training had been minimal with a focus on just strengthening my knee. I was absolutely shocked to see that I might actually PR! My legs had felt like lead weights since the beginning of the race, probably due to lack of training, so I didn’t feel fast at all and was just happy to be finishing.

It didn’t end up being much of a PR, only by a minute, but I managed to cross the finish with a time of 2:41:36! Not fast by some standards but fast for me! I picked up my awesome super hero themed medal and headed off to bag check to pick up my stuff. With the wedding the night before and the early morning I was pretty wiped so I didn’t stick around very long after race.

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For anyone out there who is a fan of How I Meet Your Mother I was super worried that after sitting on the C-Train for the 40 minute ride home i’d end up stuck like Barney did after his marathon haha but luckily I made it home with no issues.

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Overall, for anyone local or even within a few hour commute of Calgary I would totally recommend this race! I usually run much larger races, like the RunDisney events, so I was worried how this would live up to some of my previous race experiences. It was an incredibly well organized event with lots of entertainment and course support – plus its a Boston qualifier for those running the marathon. I can’t recall what I paid for registration but I remember it being very reasonable price wise – totally worth the money in my opinion.

My only critique/suggestion to race organizers, being that it is such a large event, would be to space out the races over the weekend. Im sure it would be quite costly for organizers with all the road closures but I would love to have run the 5k or 10k on Saturday and then the Half or Full Sunday. With all the events squeezed into the same day it was a little difficult to run more than one race – although I do know some people who finished the Half and then went on to run the 5k right after.

So that’s it! Half marathon number 7 is now in the books 🙂

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I hope to run a few more local races this summer but haven’t decided or registered for any just yet. I am registered for Rock n Roll Last Vegas though so at least, for now, I have to look forward too. Until next time…Happy Running!!

 

 

2016 Wine & Dine Weekend Changes & Registration

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Well folks, tomorrow is the big day! Registration for the 2016 Wine and Dine weekend opens to the general public March 29th at 12 pm EST.

Before we talk about tips for getting registered let’s talk about this years event and how it’s shaping up to be a very different race weekend than years past…

RunDisney announced some big changes to the event this year to a very mixed response from runners. In past years, this event took runners on a 13.1 mile journey starting at ESPN, heading out to Animal Kingdom, then on to Hollywood Studios (through the now extinct Osborne Lights), and finishing in Epcot.

It was one of the 12188119_10153134097971283_2123147370083044313_oonly races left that would take place at night culminating in a private after party in Epcot where runners could sample all the offerings of the Food & Wine festival as well as ride their favorite attractions.

So what’s changed?

Better set your alarm – The biggest change, and one that seems to strike a cord with runners the most, is that this race is no longer a nighttime race. That’s right. Just like all the other RunDisney events in Florida this means a 3:00 am wake up call. After the removal of the Tower of Terror 10 miler and the Expedition Everest Challenge this was the last remaining event to be run at night and, IMO, is what made this event special.

The Post Race Party is really post race – Usually runners head to the post race festivities immediately following the race but with the half marathon being held in the morning, the party has now been moved to later that evening.  This can be great news for runners who would rather shower, unwind, and rest their legs before the party. I know I will really miss grabbing my “free” glass of wine/beer at the finish line and heading off to World Showcase to stuff my face with every carb imaginable – it was one of the big incentives for me to push hard during the half to make it to the after party with lots of time to spare.

New races/new bling –  In addition to the 5k and the Half that is usually offered, RunDisney is adding a 10k to the race weekend and creating a new challenge: Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge. This is great news for those runners looking to add some cool new race bling to their collection. Runners should also note that in order to incorporate the 10k into the weekend on Saturday the 5k has now been moved to Friday.

A more expensive weekend – With the new added races comes a longer race weekend and more time spent in Disney. For runners wanting to tackle all races that means arriving on a Thursday to pick up your bib at the Expo and staying at least until Monday morning. Great for Disney’s bank account but not so much for yours or mine.

So you’ve heard all the changes and you’re still excited to register tomorrow – here are some tips to help you out.

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  • Create an Active.com account before registration opens – doing this during registration eats up a lot of time.
  • Get on the RunDisney website early so you are ready to go when registration opens. I usually get everything set up at least 10 min before registration opens just in case I have issues with my computer.
  • Know which races you want to register for. If you are signing up for the challenge those sell out quick so register for that first. NOTE: Signing up for the 10k & half by themselves doesn’t qualify you for the challenge. In order to take home the challenge medal you need to sign up for Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge.
  • Have all the information you need for registration at the ready. This means knowing your shirt size, proof of time, whether or not you want to purchase commemorative items, and of course your credit card information.
  • Always print your confirmation – I had an issue one year but because I had a printed copy of my confirmation I was able to fix the issue with Active/RunDisney

Anyone who’s registered for a RunDisney race before knows how stressful it can be – sometimes more so than actually running the race. I’m sure this event will be no different especially with an inaugural race (10k) and a new challenge. Good luck runners!

Are you planning on registering tomorrow? How do you feel about the changes to the race weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

2016 Princess Half Marathon – Part III

 

After the race it was back to POP for a shower and some well needed rest. I usually head right to Magic Kingdom (or Disneyland if i’m on the East coast) after a race to get some photos with my medal but this was a last minute trip and money was tight so I skipped the parks. Instead, I treated myself to afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian.

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It can be a little pricey but if you’ve never done it, it is quite the treat. I’m English (was born in the UK) so afternoon tea is just SO me. I filled myself with samplings of different cheeses, exotic fruits, finger sandwiches, pastries and desserts. I could barely move when I left but I regretted nothing. Haha I earned it.

After dinner my legs were feeling pretty good so I decided to walk from the Grand to the Polynesian taking photos of the monorail resorts. Have I mentioned how much I love sunsets in Florida?? A short monorail ride later I was at the Contemporary then took a leisurely boat ride over to the Wilderness Lodge. It was the perfect evening.

On Monday, Kristin wanted to hit the parks so we decided on a 4-park challenge. All 4 12512446_10153313007961283_64217858148151733_nparks in one day. It probably would have worked out better had we both woken up when we planned too but the last few days of 3:00 am wake up calls caught up to us. We had breakfast booked at the Grand for 9:00 am and I don’t think we made it there until at least 10:00 am. Whoops. You can’t start a 4 park challenge without Mickey waffles and Mimosas…

We officially started our day at noon and hit up Animal Kingdom first so we could ride Everest and watch Festival of the Lion King. Next up was a trip to Magic Kingdom to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Then we head over to Epcot to ride Spaceship Earth before heading to Hollywood Studios to watch Fantasmic (from the worst seats ever) and the new Star Wars fireworks.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love fireworks and the new Star Wars ones blew me away. I must have had the dumbest smile on my face the whole time. The music. The fireworks. Just incredible. If your planning a trip soon this should be on the top of your must do list.

Because I love fireworks and we were only a short walk away we managed to make it over to Epcot in time to watch Illuminations and have some Grey Goose slushies in France. As soon as Illuminations were over we only had an hour to make it back to Magic Kingdom before it closed so we walked over to the Beach Club and caught a bus from there. We didn’t have time to ride anything but managed to catch up with some of Kristin’s cast member friends and watch the ‘Kiss Goodnight’.

Overall, I couldn’t of asked for a more perfect weekend. I was surrounded by some of the most inspiring and incredibly supportive people I know. Thank you to all the new fantastic runners I met and the old friends who made a point to meet up with me over the weekend – I felt so loved!  This is a large part of why I continue to run Disney – the people. You’re all awesome.

Now that i’ve said that, you’re probably asking which RunDisney event is next…??

I would love to run Star Wars in April or Tinkerbell in May, to get that pink Coast to Coast medal, but I just can’t make it work because….I just bought a condo!! Yay for being a responsible adult haha

Im going to try and cut back my RunDisney events to one a year and spend more time focusing on cheaper local races – with the first one being the Calgary Half Marathon on May 29th.  Anyone who runs Disney knows that this particular addication ain’t cheap.

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With the brand new Lumiere’s Challenge just announced for Wine and Dine weekend in the fall I think that will be my next Disney race. In 2017 I will probably run Star Wars since I was pretty sad about missing it this year. With 2018 being the big year for me to conquer the Dopey Challenge. I was going to do in 2017 but 2018 is an anniversary year for Dopey, the 10k, and marathon so it means new bling as well as more time to train.

So that’s it! Another great race weekend in the books with lots more racing to look forward too…

 

Which RunDisney events are on your calendar this year? Will I see you at Wine and Dine in November?

 

 

 

2016 Princess Half Marathon – Part II

That 3:00 am alarm came far too soon but it wasn’t long until I was up and on my way to run my 6th half marathon and my 12th RunDisney race.12718047_10153313008721283_1044528796627864363_n

Kristin and I tried to leave a little earlier for the buses since the lines were crazy the day before for the 10k. I think we only ended up waiting about 12 min or so and we were on the bus. Set up was the same as the day before with staging in the Wonder parking lot at Epcot. Like the 10k, they had princesses out for pictures but the lines were pretty long by the time we got there. If you’re not planning on stopping for photos during the race and you want to take advantage of the photo ops in the morning try and get on the earliest bus you can – closer to 3:00 am.

We ran into Kirk from the #Firsties group again and he was going to be spectating with Kristin. Their plan was to catch me (and some other #Firsties) at the Grand Floridian and then again at the finish line. I said a quick hello, got my good luck hug, and was on my way to the corrals. If you’ve run Princess before you know that the walk to the corrals can be L-O-N-G. Make sure to give yourself lots of time to get from the staging area to your corrals. It is a little over 1/2 mile to the start depending on which corral your in.

Luckily I was placed into the right corral – I thought for sure getting a bib last minute meant starting all the way back in P but was actually placed in H! I realized after the race though that I submitted the wrong POT and could have been in G …oh well.

At 5:30 am the first fireworks went off and the race had begun. Each corral was starting a few minutes after the last and I finally crossed the start at 5:54 am.I had no plans for this race other than just to run. No plans for a PR. No plans for what intervals to run and no plans for pacing. In theory it sounded like a great idea – and it was for the first half of the race. I was flying. I was channeling all my frustrations into the run and focused on nothing but my feet pounding the pavement.

It wasn’t long until I hit the 3 mile mark and was entering the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. “Caution Runners: Speed Bump Ahead”. Shortly after that I was running through the Ticket and Transportation Centre then past the Contemporary Resort. It was then I knew I was running too fast and I was pushing too hard. I was running high 10 min/miles which I knew I couldn’t sustain for a full 13.1 miles especially with no training. But I didn’t care. I decided to push hard for as long as it felt good and back off in the second half if I needed to.

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It wasn’t long until I rounded the corner and was out on Main Street USA with Cinderella’s Castle out in front of me. It makes me tear up every time. Last time I saw this castle I was running down Main Street for my first Marathon. It was a pretty emotional moment with lots of memories from my last race.

The course took us back through Tomorrowland and entered the back of Fantasyland by Journey of the Little Mermaid and Ariel’s Grotto.

As usual the stretch through the castle was pretty slow going. I have yet to run this course (for Princess or the WDW 1/2) and not walk through the castle instead of run. There were lots of characters out throughout Magic Kingdom including a bunch of Princesses back stage as you exit Frontierland. I didn’t really take many photos at all this race let alone stop for character photos.

I had been texting Kristin and told her that it wasn’t long until I would be at the Grand. At least with all my bright colors I wouldn’t be hard for her to spot! The stretch from backstage leading up the Grand can be pretty tough. Its a narrow stretch of road with active traffic on the other side of the traffic cones and you mostly have to resort to running on the grass to get around people.

The frustration was short lived and I could finally spot Kirk and Kristin in the distance. I ran past them with a huge smile on my face and a big wave. It was so nice to have some familiar faces on the course. I also ‘ran into’ a bunch of runners from Instagram and the #Firsties group during the race. It seemed like every time I looked around there was a familiar face.

It was around mile 8 that I started to pay the consequences for pushing myself so hard during the first half of the race. I completely ran out of steam. I was tired but I think it was more mental than anything. I started to think about all the events of the past few weeks and it really got to me. I started to doubt my abilities to finish and was just too tired to run. I tried downing some extra GU gels to help get my energy level up but mental I was beat. It didn’t help that the sun was starting to come up and it was getting really hot out on the highway. I don’t usually ‘hit the wall’ in a Half so this was new to me. 12734190_10153312993001283_4019311137081685965_n

I decided to just slow right down for a mile or two and get myself mentally back in the game taking a short break for a picture at the mile 9 marker.

It was shortly after that when I checked my Garmin and realized that if I picked it up I could still PR. I put my headphones in, cranked up the tunes, and attacked those dreaded mile 10/11 overpasses with all I had.

I could see Spaceship Earth in the distance and sent a text to Kristin to let her know I was almost at mile 12 and about to enter Epcot. The crowd support here is always fantastic – so many people cheering. It is always a great push to get you to the finish.

As I entered Epcot I got text back from Kristin saying that her and Kirk were going to likely miss me finish since they were still waiting for a monorail from the TTC. Maybe it was the exhaustion from the race or the emotions of the previous week but I started to get really upset. I didn’t want to cross that finish line alone. The more I thought about it the harder it was to run and breathe so I tried my hardest to settle myself down and correct my breathing. I took a quick walk break during the out and back to World Showcase Lagoon and tried to focus on all that I had accomplished.

12745786_10153312993886283_5650832743935723503_nRegardless of who or what was waiting for me at the finish line I was going to finish. I was going to finish with a PR. I was going to finish without training.

I thought back to the days when I could barely run a mile let alone 26.2. I’ve overcome a lot in the last 2 1/2 years of running and have been lucky enough to run 12 different RunDisney events and have met some amazing people in the process. I owed it to myself to cross that finish line grateful, with a happy heart and a smile on my face. Nothing else matters.

I crossed the finish line in 2:42:11. I set a PR of almost 5 minutes – not bad for no training! I got sprinkled with pixie dust at the finish, was given my medal, and headed off to wait for Kristin and Kirk. I felt like a new person. Like everything was left behind on the course. I felt fantastic. Now it was time to celebrate…

Stayed tuned for Part III where I give some final thoughts about the Princess Half, a quick recap of the post race celebrations, and what races are on the schedule for the next year.