My Running Essentials

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When I first started running I thought I all I needed was a pair of shoes. While this is still technically true, there are so many other great products and gear that can really help you step up your running game and help you look/feel great while doing it. I often get asked by new runners for my opinions running gear so thought I would put together a list of some of my favorite running ‘essentials’:

Running Shorts/Tights

When it comes to race bottoms i’m a Lululemon girl through and through. For summer races, the ‘what the sport short’ is my go-to. A really snug fit with tons of pocket space for my gels – FullSizeRenderthe side pockets even fit my iPhone 6! The only downside to these, if you’re a bit of a curvier girl like me, they can sometimes make your thighs look like stuffed sausages (attractive right?). Since I typically wear these underneath a sparkle skirt (and the tight fit also means no riding/rolling up while you run) I don’t mind at all.  When I’m just training and running less than 10 miles I’m not too picky with my running tights/shorts and often find myself running in Old Navy’s Active line of compression tights and capris. They are a great fit and a cheaper alternative to Lululemon and come in a huge selection of super fun prints.

Moisture Wicking Shirts

If I’m not wearing one of my RunDisney event shirts, I’m wearing RawThreads. They IMG_8851have a fantastic line of Disney inspired moisture wicking performance gear. I usually run in their racerbacks – super soft (made from part bamboo and organic cotton) and they even offer UV protection for those long summer runs.

Shoes

For years I ran in Mizuno’s but made the switch to New Balance in 2015 and haven’t looked back. I love my 890v5’s – they feel like I’m running on a cloud! If you’re not sure what shoe is right for you head to your local running store and asked to be fitted.

Garmin – Forerunner 220

I’m a devoted Galloway interval runner and I love my Forerunner 220 for the run/walk notifications and GPS tracking. I really couldn’tIMG_8857 train or race without it. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, the Gym Boss Interval Timer is popular for run/walkers as well as the Mapmyrun app.

Yurbuds – Inspire Duro

I don’t know if I have oddly shaped ears but it took forever to find headphones that would stay in while I run. With the twist lock technology, the Yurbuds actually stay put even throughout 20 + mile training runs. They can be a little pricey but if it means not stopping mid-run to fiddle with headphones it’s well worth it in my books.

Compression Socks/Sleeves

Compression socks/sleeves can be worn during a run or post workout to help with faster recovery. They work by improving circulation – the better the circulation the less fatigue and faster your muscles recover.  I’ve actually experimented with a few brands but still haven’t found a clear winner just yet. So far I’ve run in Zoot, Zensah, and CEP with Pro Compression next on my list to try. So far the CEP compression socks stand out (super soft and comfy) and Zensah for calf sleeves. I’ll have to report back once I’ve ordered my first pair of Pro Compression socks. TIP: sign up for emails from pro compression if you haven’t already – they frequently send out promo codes for 40% off.

KT Tape

KT Tape is often used by runners to help with muscle/tendon pain relief and support but FullSizeRender2it really can be used for just about any common injury (not just running-related ones). It’s lightweight and still offers flexibility/full range of motion while getting the support you need. Available in a whole rainbow of colors and even some fun prints and ‘sparkle’ tape this is a great alternative for me instead of wearing a knee brace.

Fuel/Hydration

Regardless of what distance your training for, this is an important one. It took a lot of experimenting to find out what works best for me. I’m a picky eater and texture is big thing for me so finding fuel that wasn’t too gooey or had a weird consistency was important. After trying lots of different products I settled on Gu Energy Gels. They taste great and come in a huge selection of flavors both with or without caffeine. If you’re weird about gels/consistency Jelly Belly has a line of Sport Jelly beans which taste awesome – just like candy. As for hydration, I always start and finish a work out with Nuun hydration tablets. Packed full of electrolytes (and no added sugars) they come in a variety of great flavors and are a delicious alternative to regular water or Powerade.

Sparkly Accessories

If anyone follows me on Twitter or Instagram, you know I can’t run a race without a Sparkle Athletic Sparkle Skirt. Who doesn’t love a little sparkle, right? The skirts are really IMG_8856light weight and make a great addition to wear over your favorite running shorts or tights.   Sparkle Athletic also sells a variety of other sparkle gear like arm sleeves, visors, calf sleeves (non-compression), and different shoe accessories. After all sparkle does = speed… Check them out!

Another favorite sparkly accessory of mine is Sparkly Soul headbands. These headbands are super comfy and are great for any hair type or head shape. They won’t budge at all during your run and they don’t have that annoying piece of elastic in the back.

 

So there you have it! What makes your list of running essentials? Share some of your favorites and sound off in the comments below – i’m always looking for new brands and products to try!

 

 

**all opinions are my own based on personal experience and was not provided any compensation for mentioning the companies above**

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RunDisney Race Weekend Tips

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So you’ve trained and you’re ready to go the distance – here are some other helpful tips and tricks to get you through your first Disney Marathon (or any RunDisney Race):

Pack all race essentials in carry-on

image1There is nothing worse than arriving in Orlando to find out the airline has delayed or misplaced your luggage. I always pack my more expensive-to-replace race gear in my carry-on such as my shoes, running costume and Garmin. That way, if my luggage is lost I can at least still run the race and worry about the rest of the stuff later. This totally does happen – I once knew a woman who lost had her luggage lost on a race weekend where she was running a challenge (10k + Half). She had to replace not one but two running outfits, compression socks, and shoes at the expo – an expensive trip indeed!

 Nothing new on race day

I never eat or wear anything new on race day that I haven’t tested out during one or more training runs. Some runners have a sensitive stomach when it comes to fueling so it’s always best to try out that gel or snack before race day. There is nothing worse than a bathroom emergency when your running down World Drive without a bathroom in sight. Same goes for that awesome new running tank you bought at the expo. The medical tent does keep lube and Vaseline on hand for chaffing emergencies but it can be mile or two before you get to one – and those miles will feel like the longest of your life.

 Don’t just train for the distance; train for the lack of sleep

 

FullSizeRenderI think this goes for all RunDisney weekends, not just marathon weekend, where you’re running more than one event. The races start pretty early and you have to be in your corrals even earlier. This can be even worse for those (like me) who are running in Florida while still on West Coast/Mountain Time. That 3 am alarm felt like 1 am to me and felt like I should be just going to sleep not waking up to go for a run. If you can try and adjust to the time or practice waking up early a few days or even a week before race weekend, do it. Your body will thank you.

 Prepare for any type of running conditions/weather

Before any runcation I meticulously check the weather forecasts but anyone who’s been to Florida knows the weather can change on ccc12991d5eeccd9cd655f1405c34c93.jpga dime. In 2015 I ran the WDW Half Marathon and only packed a t-shirt and sparkle skirt since the weather was supposed to be fantastic – then the day before the Half the temperature plummeted and I was left scrounging up hotel towels and trash bags to keep myself warm in the corrals. Now I try and come prepared. I always pack extra ponchos or trash bags for warmth and in case of rain. It also doesn’t hurt to pack some warm layers that you can easily shed during the race. So take a quick trip to Walmart or Goodwill and pack some layers in case – you just never know! Fun fact: anything shed or left on the side of the road, clothing wise, is donated to charity.

Account for more breaks on race day while training

One mistake I made was not accounting for more breaks while I was on my long training runs. Most of my runs were done indoors on a treadmill (thank you Canadian winters). I had plenty of water and fuel but was only stopping once during a 20 miler for a bathroom break. I was running indoors in a weather controlled environment and hydrating as such. On Marathon day the humidity was something like 90% – a running condition I wasn’t used to and I was hydrating a lot more than normal. I ended up taking 3 bathroom breaks during the Full – each one cost me anywhere from 3-6 minutes depending on how long the lines were. That, combined with stops at the medical tent and photo ops, my time ended up being a lot longer than anticipated. This is important for slower runners to take into consideration especially with that 16 mm pace requirement. The RunDisney website suggests training at 15 mm pace but I would even suggest a 14 mm just to feel comfortable and to give yourself lots of cushion between you and the balloon ladies.

 Marathon running is, at times, more mental than physical

Positive self-talk and words of affirmation can become critical in those last few miles of the marathon. You’ve been running for hours, your feet (and probably other random areas on your body) hurt like hell, and your exhausted. It can be really easy to let those negative thoughts take over and start doubting your abilities to finish. Trust me, at mile 22 all sweatI wanted was to walk off the course and ride Star Tours over and over for the rest of the day. I didn’t need the medal that bad – crazy talk, I know. When you “hit the wall” the mind starts doing strange things. Just focus on the miles that are behind you. Look at how far you’ve come – “You’ve already run 15 miles? You’re doing awesome!” and break the remaining miles down into little chunks. I played little games like this in my mind for the latter part of the race. “Only another 2 miles until I have 5 km to go! That’s 20 ish minutes – I can run for 20 ish minutes.” Once those 2 miles passed I started again “Only 5km to go? That’s easy! That’s a short weekday training run – I do those all the time”. Focusing on those little accomplishments and keeping positive throughout training will really help come race day.

You’re a marathoner! Now celebrate like one!

Try and plan some fun activities for that evening or t10933749_10152549289751283_1853877005723244248_nhe day following the marathon. It could be a nice dinner, a visit to one of the spas on property (massage anyone?), or a visit to your favorite Disney park. Not only is it a great treat once you’re finished the race but it can also be a great motivator during the race too. For me, I chose a dinner at California Grill. When things were getting tough or I was getting tired during the race I just kept thinking of that delicious steak and that glass of wine that would be waiting for me once I finished.

Have you participated in the WDW Marathon weekend? What advice would you give new runners? Share your tips in the Comment Section below!

WDW Marathon Weekend 2016 – Part IV Post Race Celebrations

After months of training I had finally made it – I crossed that finish line as a marathoner! And now it was time to celebrate…

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After a teary reunion with the Boyfriend and a few teary calls to family back home (I didn’t think it was possible to cry so many happy tears in one day) we were on the bus heading back to the resort…

**Disclaimer: Marathon training will make you exceptionally emotional in the weeks leading up to race day. You can expect symptoms of crying happy tears to spontaneously continue as you cross the finish line and for at least 24 hours post race.**

Back at the hotel all I wanted to do was sit or lie down. I didn’t have any pain during the race but as soon as I sat down my feet and legs began to throb like you wouldn’t believe – I’ve never felt anything like it before. I was so uncomfortable in just about every position so the Boyfriend drew me a hot bath. I know that post-race ice baths are recommend to reduce inflammation (and hot baths do the exact opposite) but all I wanted was to feel warm, cozy and comfortable and not in anymore pain. Being in the water felt A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It took all the pressure off my legs and when I finally got out of the bath (about 45 min later) I felt a million times better. I was still walking like a baby deer taking its first steps but at least I wasn’t in pain anymore.

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Next on the agenda was our fancy dinner. We were headed to the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort – another favorite restaurant of mine. California Grill is located on the 15th floor of the resort and offers stunning panoramic views of Bay Lake and the Magic Kingdom. They even pipe in the Wishes soundtrack so you can watch the fireworks from your own table (wine in hand of course) or from one of the two outdoor balconies. Cali Grill is also known for its extensive wine selection – over 300 bottles to choose from! Now that’s exactly what I needed after running 26.2 miles – steak, wine and Wishes! If you haven’t eaten here before you should try to experience it at least once. It is a little on the pricey side but, for a special occasion, it really is worth the expense. We had a fantastic meal and even enjoyed some champagne compliments of our incredible server.

After dinner, we hung out on one of the couches in the resort lobby. The early morning wakeup call and running for 6.5 hours with no afternoon nap really did me in. It’s a miracle I didn’t fall asleep face first on my plate during dinner.After taking a quick 10 min snooze on the Boyfriend’s shoulder I had my second wind and was ready to head to the Magic Kingdom for Wishes.

We had Fastpasses for the fireworks which worked out great. Instead of standing elbow to elbow in a large crowd we got to sit on the sweet new hub grass and relax before the show started – my feet were pretty happy about that too.

Now for the ultra cheesy part of my post….

Wishes has always been a favorite of mine and I usually get teary eyed during the show on a normal day. But this was no normal day. I had just finished a marathon – something I had been day-dreaming about for months on end. My wonderfully supportive (and devilishly handsome) boyfriend was by my side. The most beautiful fireworks show was playing before my eyes and and my heart was overflowing with joy.

“You see, it’s just like I told ya. Wishes can come true, if you believe in them with all your heart…” They sure do Jiminy, they sure do.

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I have to say as much as I love this show the best moment of the night happened right after. As the Wishes exit music was playing and everyone was clearing out of the viewing area the Boyfriend took my hand and danced with me in the plaza garden area with Cinderella Castle lit up in the background. I cried. Again. A perfectly romantic end to the best day ever. I truly felt like a princess. A kick-ass marathon running princess.

Ok, cheesy part over.

To finish off the night we managed to squeeze in some rides (even got on the seven dwarfs mine train!) and watched the Main Street Electrical Parade before calling it a night.

On Monday, the celebrations continued as we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for breakfast at Be Our Guest before the park opened…And the best part of this morning? No pain! I could totally walk and go up/down the stairs like a normal person. I couldn’t believe it – I half expected the Boyfriend to have to push me around in a wheelchair all day. I guess that training paid off after all…

Most rides were a walk on all morning which was great since the Boyfriend had to leave to catch his flight home that afternoon. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and probably one of my favorite Disney trips and RunDisney events. It’s going to be pretty darn hard to beat this one.

Now for the big question everyone has been asking me…

Will I still continue to RunDisney? – Of Course!

Will I ever run a Marathon again?  – Yes, but only at Disney. The thought of running that long anywhere else without the visual stimulation of the parks & characters along the course kinda scares me.

Believe it or not I am actually contemplating running Dopey in 2017 if the budget allows. I already ran the 10k and Full this year – why not add on the 5km and Half? Plus, my 30th birthday is just days after the marathon weekend and I think this would be a great way to end my 20’s and start a new chapter in my life.

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Are you thinking about running the WDW Marathon? The next post has some great tips for your first (or next) marathon…

 

WDW Marathon Weekend 2016 – Part III Marathon

Welcome back friends! Get comfy and settle in, this one’s going to be a long one…

Saturday January 9th. T-Minus 1 day and counting to the marathon.

To say I was nervous was a HUGE understatement. The sleepless nights started weeks earlier and the nights I did get sleep the nightmares of not hearing the alarm, forgetting my Garmin, or just plain not finishing were becoming the norm…11102853_10152779313846283_3701755590990394323_oSo to distract myself from what felt like pure impending doom I planned a super fun day for the Boyfriend and I at Epcot.

He had never been to Epcot before so of course the first rides of the day had to be Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. I was a little bummed that Soarin’ was closed for a refurb but it is well needed. Im excited for the addition of a third theatre (increased capacity) and the new film – Soarin’ around the world. The new and enhanced ride will debut sometime in summer of 2016.

In addition to the headliners I even managed to get the Boyfriend on some classic rides like Journey into the Imagination with Figment and  one of my favorite’s – Ellen’s Energy Adventure… I know, I know. Everyone hates on that ride. Go on, you have 30 sec to yell obscenities at your computer screen….What can I say I just love me some Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy! …Stupid Judy. #hatersgonnahate

 

By the afternoon, we had seen pretty much everything in Future World and I was starting to worry that I had been on my feet too long so we headed back to the resort for some lunch and R&R.

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It wasn’t long though until we found ourselves back at Epcot for our dinner reservations at Via Napoli in the Italy pavilion.

Now if you haven’t been to Via on any of your Disney trips – you are vacationing wrong. The pizza at this restaurant is to die for. I admit, I’ve never been to Italy myself so I can’t compare it to the real thing, but it’s still pretty darn good. The pasta dishes on the other hand, weren’t anything to write home about. On this trip, I opted for a pasta dish since I didn’t think that eating a greasy pizza would sit too well for a morning race.  The meal was was ok, a little bland, just nothing special. Needless to say I spent the entire meal drooling over the Boyfriend’s pizza.

I forgot to mention that before we got to Via it starting raining. Not just a light drizzle but an absolute downpour. It rained so hard that I actually stopped and purchased two Disney ponchos at the price of $59.95 each and my first born child…Ok maybe I spent a little less than that but man are those things expensive!

I was pretty bummed about the weather – we had Fastpasses to see Illuminations ,which the Boyfriend had never seen before so I was really excited to see it with him, but the weather just wasn’t improving and another storm was on its way. By the time we left the restaurant it the rain had eased up a bit but my feet were already cold and soaking wet and I was starting to get anxious about the race so we decided to just head back to the hotel and prep for the morning instead.

Back at POP, I laid out my clothes for the race, iced my knees, and foam rolled for a bit. I also got a quick pep talk from the Boyfriend and set my alarm(s) for the morning.

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Flat ‘Wonder Woman’

I was just hoping and praying that I would finish and not have any of my past injuries flare up. I had struggled with IT issues all throughout training and had some issues with IT pain at the hip during most of my long runs (18+ miles) and was worried I would be hobbling to the finish.

After about 4 hours of sleep the alarms were going off! IT’S RACE DAY PEOPLE!!! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of bed so fast …

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Me. On Race Mornings.

I quickly got dressed, said my goodbyes to the Boyfriend (he got to go back to sleep and was meeting me in Animal Kingdom at the half way point later that morning), and was on a bus by 3:40 AM.

I stuck with my usual pre-race ritual and got a photo with a character (this time it was Daisy), ate my bagel, stopped at the medical tent to lather my knees in BioFreeze, and 12400637_10153238602671283_8589997983899974161_nheaded out to the corrals. I was in corral J for the full and had about 45 min to wait after Corral A left before I would be crossing the start.

I tell ya, standing in those corrals waiting to start can be the most exciting and nerve wrecking minutes of the race. I was using the time to try and visualize the finish and all the steps to get there. I planned to run my intervals (00:30/1:00) and take it slow to start to make sure not to aggravate my IT early on.

Before I knew it my corral was ready to go…my feet crossed that start line, I started my Garmin, and I was on cloud 9. It was official. I was running a marathon!!

The first 8 miles or so are pretty similar to the WDW Half Marathon & Princess Half (both i’ve run before so I knew what to expect). Around Mile 3 I entered the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza (CAUTION RUNNERS: Speed bump ahead!) 12548940_10153238601521283_1357579595005439598_nand by Mile 4 I was running through the Ticket and Transportation Centre and passing the Contemporary. The crowd support in this area is awesome! It really gets you pumped up before you enter the Magic Kingdom – if you’re not already excited enough!.

What doesn’t get you pumped up though is super long porta potty lines. This race was pretty damn humid so I had been drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated. I usually don’t need to stop for a bathroom break at all during a half marathon so I really didn’t account for too many stops. This was not going to be the case though. I think I wasted almost 6 minutes during that first bathroom break because of the lines. I was getting worried I was loosing too much time so I decided to pick it up as I headed into the Magic Kingdom.

Now this is one of the two moments that really make up a Disney race for me (the other being the finish of course). There are no words to describe that feeling of entering the Magic Kingdom from backstage. You can hear the spectators from a distance before you even enter the park. You turn the corner on Main Street and the street is lined with people cheering on runners as far as you can see and then, there it is.

12417680_10153238602646283_4014351997047140349_nThe castle – shining in the distance. All those miles, the pain, the hours of training culminate in that moment. That is the moment I always feel like “hey – you did this, you made this happen” and at that moment I always feel like I AM actually a runner. Makes me tear up every time…12439498_10153238602591283_1061738217858965435_n

This year we spent a little more time in the Magic Kingdom than usual as the course winds through New Fantasyland before running through the castle. And as usual, the “running” through the castle, is actually a very slow shuffle.What I wouldn’t give to be one of the speedy runners in an earlier corral and actually get to run through the castle.

After winding through Frontierland we exited backstage and got to check out the Maleficent “steampunk” dragon float (from the Festival of Fantasy Parade) up close. Would have been cooler though if they had it breathing fire, like in the parade…60048_10153238601566283_1610782477883766142_n

You’ve probably noticed the lack of character photos so far – there were a lot of characters out on the course but with my irrational fear of being swept during my first marathon I didn’t stop for any photo ops.

The miles between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom drag on a little. There isn’t that much to see, unless Waste Water Treatment Facilities are your thing, but it still seemed to go by fairly quickly. I think I was just really excited to see the Boyfriend. In all my years of running Disney Races I never had someone, let alone a significant other, come support me. I was pretty pumped.

As we entered Animal Kingdom there were a few ‘animal therapy’ stops. The had some goats, a bunny, a huge snake and what I think was a ferret that you could stop and pet or get a photo with. The line for the big snake was huge (bummer) but I did stop to pet a bunny.

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Only in Disney…

Only in Disney would one stop running in the middle of a marathon just to pet a bunny. Shortly after I came across a medical tent and decided to re-apply some BioFreeze (just in case) and take another not-so-quick bathroom break. Another 6 minutes or so lost.

Running through Animal Kingdom was amazing as always. I’ve run through this park twice before in the Expedition Everest Challenge but with that race a thing of the past, this is the only course that goes through this park. A lot of runners were stopping to ride Everest but I decided to pass. Up until then, I had been running a consistent 14:00 mm with the exception of the miles I stopped for bathroom breaks or medical, but I still didn’t want to chance being swept. I still had visions of my knees failing or my IT acting up in the miles to come.

I passed the halfway mark at 3:12:31 and headed out into the Animal Kingdom parking lot still feeling strong and full of energy.

There were so many spectators cheering outside the park entrance and the crowd support was awesome at this point. I finally managed to spot the Boyfriend in the crowd – I’ve never been so excited to see him! I’m pretty sure I ran up to him, gave him a huge (very sweaty) hug, and just said “I’m doing it! I’m running a marathon”. FYI: running makes you very articulate.

I grabbed a few more GU Energy Gels from him, ate a handful of M&Ms and got my head back in the game. Next time I would see him would, hopefully, be at the finish line…

As I started to make my way towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports I decided to pop my headphones in to help those 3 boring highway miles fly by. Just after mile 15 I made yet another not-so-quick bathroom stop and short stop at the medical tent – this time to tend to my achy sore feet. Luckily I had no blisters just sore soles. I decided to take a chance and applied some BioFreeze to the bottom of my feet – something I had never done before. Best. Decision. Ever. After that I felt like a new woman and was pumped to make it to ESPN.

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Miles 17-20 were a little underwhelming but it was nice to run somewhere new and on some new terrain. I had never run through ESPN before and once inside you get to run on the outdoor track and run through Champion Stadium. Fun!

On my way out I passed Mile 20 I knew I was in the home stretch – only another 10k to go!

Unfortunately, a mile or so after is where I slowly started to unravel mentally and physically. I think it was around mile 20.5 that I spotted the dreaded balloon ladies. For anyone who doesn’t know who they are, the balloon ladies are a couple of runners who maintain a 16 mm pace throughout the race. If they pass you and you’re unable to maintain the pace there is a good chance that you will be swept and picked up by the bus at the next mile marker.

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Balloon Ladies (as seen during the princess half)

In all my years of running Disney races I have NEVER seen them in real life before – until now. Luckily, they were on the other side of the road and just starting to enter ESPN and I had about a 45-55 minute head start on them but it was still incredibly unnerving.

It was at this point I was really getting desperate for another bathroom break too. I had been stubborn, not wanting to loose more time, and not stopped the last few miles but couldn’t wait anymore. The next porta potties I found were at mile 21. There were about 3 of them for a line of 15 runners. A lot more time was lost.

Once I got running again I felt like I had lost the groove I had going before the bathroom break. I was starting to get tired. Nothing was hurting (aside from the bottoms of my feet) and I was pretty impressed that my IT hadn’t bothered me yet but I was exhausted. The lack of sleep over the last few days and just the fact that my body had been in motion for 5+ hours I was starting to hit my wall. I knew ‘the wall’ was coming so on my walk interval I called my mom for some words of encouragement. It was at this point another runner passed me and overheard some of my conversation. She ran beside me for a bit and when I got off the phone she told me she was running with me and I didn’t have a say in the matter. She said it sounded like I wanted to quit and she wasn’t going to let me. She said she would stick with me until I got my rhythm back and we were both going to finish. THIS, my friends, is why I love running. The support in the running community is incredible. I can’t recall her name but I remember she was running Dopey, which I have mad respect for. We ran together for about a mile until  I got my second wind, picked up my pace, and we said our goodbyes. If you’re reading this random stranger – you are awesome and got me through one of the hardest parts of the race – thank you!

Mile 22.5 was inside Hollywood Studios and the end was near! Just a little over 5 km to go. It was here they were giving out little squares of Dove chocolates. I think I stopped and grabbed a chocolate from every volunteer and ended up with about 7 of them. Delish!

Shortly after that, the exhaustion I thought I had overcome started creeping back again. I was so tired that I was seriously contemplating just going and riding Star Tours over and over and calling it a day. All I wanted to do was sit down or stop moving. I was starting to get really emotional. I was about to give up and that’s when it happened…

I felt a hand on my shoulder – a familiar face! It was a runner from one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of. We had met once before in person at Wine and Dine last November and he recognized me right away – there weren’t many other runners dressed like Wonder Woman. He was running Dopey and said his legs were beat and didn’t want to run much anymore anyway and that he would stick with me and run at my pace to the finish.

Chatting our way through Hollywood Studios and the Boardwalk made those last few miles fly by and took my mind off of quitting and my tired achy feet.

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Happy Runner!

Just before mile 25 we entered Epcot. What an incredible experience – so many supporters lining the streets of World Showcase. I was starting to get super emotional and it took what little strength I had left in my body not to cry. I was in the home stretch. I remember looking over the lagoon and seeing Spaceship Earth in the distance and just thinking to myself “this is your victory lap – nothing can stop you now. 12565631_10153238601706283_4253769124102472436_nYou just ran a marathon”. I honestly think that mile 25-26 was my favorite mile of the whole race – so euphoric.

Before I knew it I was passing underneath Spaceship Earth and running past the gospel choir to the mile 26 marker. I stopped for a quick photo here and texted the Boyfriend to let him know I was almost at the finish line.

Time to finish this thing – I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of the crowds cheering on the runners. I knew the Boyfriend was out there somewhere and just as I passed the first set of bleachers I heard someone scream my name. I knew it was him but couldn’t spot him so I kind of half-waved in the direction of the scream and then took off. I could see the finish line. I felt a fire light inside me and I sprinted to the finish with tears in my eyes. This was my moment. The one I had day-dreamed about during those countless hours stuck on the treadmill. This was the culmination of years of hard work and training. I crossed that finish line with my fist in the air like a champion – I was a marathoner. I was a bad-ass marathoner.

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My official finish time was 6:37:56. I had hoped to finish somewhere between 6:00-6:30 but considering I took 3 bathroom breaks and 3 medical tent stops (costing me approx. 25 min total) I’m still pretty damn proud.

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This was the most incredible and most challenging running experience for me to date. I learned a lot in those 6.5+ hours. Would I do it all over again though? Absolutely.

Stick around for part IV where I talk about what I learned during the race, what I would do differently, plus get a peek at some of the post race celebrations and shenanigans…Wine and fireworks anyone??

WDW Marathon Weekend 2016 – Part II 10k

Where did we leave off? Ahhh yes… I had purchased all the things I needed from the Expo to look like a runner but now it was time to actually lace up and run…

The night before the 10k I found it pretty hard to sleep – I was so excited to get up and run even if it was forecast to rain all morning. You see friends,  I live in Calgary. It snows. A lot.  And for the last few months the temperature has been hovering around -10 degrees celsius. So yeah – the thought of a run, not on a dreadmill, was a dream come true. Rain or no rain.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away…

As many runners do, I laid out my gear the night before to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything in my sleep deprived state. Since this race was Minnie’s race I decided to run as the cute little mouse myself (along with almost every other female running this race). Great minds??

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Flat “Minnie”

I set my alarm for 3:00 am, and about 5 other backup alarms just in case (admit it – you do it too), and headed to bed.

If I have to pick one not-so-fun thing about race weekends in Florida its the early wake up call – especially when your on west coast time. It was pretty tough getting moving but managed to get ready and be on a bus for 3:30 am.

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Minnie is ready to Run!

The rain actually wasn’t too bad until we got into the corrals. It started to slowly pick up from a light drizzle to a heavy rain and so on went the poncho. Luckily the Minnie ears kept the hood securely in place until we were ready to go.

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The race went off as planned at 5:30 am and I crossed the start with the rest of the folks in Corral C around 5:50 am. The rain was still coming down but I shed the poncho just because it was so much easier to run without it.

I don’t have too many pictures of the course because of the weather but just before the mile 1 marker Elsa and Anna were on up on the overpass cheering on runners below – super cute!

Around mile 3.5 you finally get to enter Epcot. I was surprised to see so many characters out for pictures even with the rain. I didn’t have a good enough pace to stop for any pics (I was taking it super easy to save my legs for the marathon) but i’m pretty sure I passed Mulan in China, Remy in France, Mike Wazowski on the Boardwalk and Phineas and Ferb in Future World. I did see a sign out for the Incredibles but they must have been in between sets when I passed by or were taken inside because of the rain.

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rain, rain, go away…

A quick word of warning about the rain – it made the Boardwalk area pretty slippery in spots. Volunteers were constantly shouting at runners to slow down and run at their own caution. Oh! and another slippery spot (which you really don’t expect to be slippery) is the covered area as you run past Innovations West towards Spaceship Earth – the covered area where the Character Spot is. I saw not one but two runners slip and fall through this area…

By the time I ran past Spaceship Earth the rain was virtually non existent.

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Spaceship Earth

I managed to cross the finish line with a time of 1:23:04 – a far cry from a PR but I had a blast. It was awesome running through Epcot and my legs still felt fantastic and I had high hopes for the Marathon on Sunday.

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soaking wet mouse with her medal

After a well deserved nap and a very hot shower I was ready to hit the parks and celebrate my little victory. I treated myself to dinner at Les Halles Boulangerie in France, rode Test Track 3x in a row (thank goodness for the single rider line) and spent some time visiting with some old ‘friends’. I couldn’t pass up a visit to Baymax – my favourite personal health care companion. The good news? He cleared me to run the marathon on Sunday!

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a visit with my personal heath care companion

And of course what night at Epcot is complete without watching Illuminations! I was lucky enough to snag a Fastpass for the fireworks although the parks were so quiet I really didn’t need it. The perfect end to the perfect RunDisney day!

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illuminations

Speaking of having an awesome day, it was about to get even awesome-r! My boyfriend was scheduled to fly in later that night to spend the weekend with me and support me during the marathon. He recently went back to school to start a new career so the fact that he found the time and finances to support me in this endeavour really meant the world to me.

Follow along in part III to check out some of our theme park adventures and finally see if I managed to survive my first marathon…

 

 

 

WDW Marathon Weekend 2016 – Part I Expo

Now that the race weekend is over and the Post Disney Depression has settled in (it’s totally a real thing btw) it’s time recap Disney’s largest running event of the year and a pretty big running achievement for me…running the WDW 10k and my first ever full marathon! ….but before we talk about the tears and triumphs let’s talk about the Expo…

After an 11+ hour journey I finally arrived in Orlando on Wednesday January 6th. The plan was originally just to unpack and unwind at Pop Century but after chatting with tons of awesome runners on the plane and on the Magical Express I was just too excited about the weekend to stay at the hotel and relax.

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After picking up my Magic Bands (gotta love that online check in) I headed out to the Expo at the ESPN Wild World of Sports. One of the many perks of staying on Disney property is the free transportation that is provided to the Expo and the race itself. Pro Tip: During the smaller race weekends make sure to check that your resort is a ‘host resort’ for the race you’re running in to partake in the free race transportation. During marathon weekend though all Disney resorts offer shuttle busses for your convenience. I never had to wait more than 5 min for a bus, if at all, and given the long lines for parking at ESPN I highly recommend the hassle free transportation Disney offers over driving your own vehicle.

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Expo at ESPN

First stop at ESPN was the Josten’s Centre to check out what was left of the official RunDisney merchandise. For anyone who’s participated in a RunDisney event before you know that snagging that elusive event wine glass, car magnet or event jacket can be just as stressful as registering or even running the event. I was actually surprised to see the shelves still fully stocked – even when I returned later in the week there was still plenty of the usual hard-to-find products available. Maybe RunDisney has finally listened to runners and found away to better distribute stock over the weekend or keep the E-Bay resellers at bay. Win!

Despite lots of awesome marathon merch on display I had to rein in my spending with the Canada/US exchange rate as awful as it is. The only thing I bought was an “I Did It!” shirt. Does anyone else really wish they had these for sale after you run the race?? I’m always super worried of jinxing myself by buying the shirt before I actually finish…

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Doesn’t the course look waaaay shorter with fun bright colors??

I couldn’t leave the Expo without stopping to pick up a few extra items for my race costume from Sparkle Athletic (sparkle = speed) as well as a few new rolls of KT Tape. The success of many a race relies on your KT Tape color coordinating with the rest of your running outfit – just sayin’.

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my race swag

The last stop was the HP Field House to pick up my race packet/bibs for the 10k and Full Marathon. I tell ya, I’ve been through the packet pick up process countless times but something about signing my name in that little book and being handed my marathon bib made me crazy nervous! It was actually real. It was actually going to happen – whether I felt I was ready or not.

In total I only spent about an hour at the Expo. It was pretty busy and I didn’t really have the patience to really explore some of the other vendor booths. I think the downside to hitting the Expo on Wednesday (first day during marathon weekend) is that all the Dopey/5km runners are scrambling to get all their things since the first event starts Thursday morning. I did take a short trip back later in the week and found it a lot less crowded and I was able to take my time and window shop a bit more.

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Expo at ESPN

If you attended the Expo this year did you find it crowded? What were your must-have purchases to remember the weekend by? I’m still kicking myself for not buying that wine glass…

Up next we finally get to see some running! A recap of the WDW 10k and some well-earned time playing in the parks coming up in Part II