NaBloPoMo day 5

My vacation is rapidly coming to an end. It’s been a busy trip, but also a heck of a lot of fun. I haven’t written about the 10K (yesterday morning) and half marathon (this morning) yet, but I survived and even enjoyed both races. More on those when I find enough time and energy to compose some comprehensive posts. Anything I write right now it going to be incomprehensible babble. I’m exhausted after waking up really early three days in a row, and then spending a lot of time exploring the Walt Disney World Parks after the day’s running was complete. I’ve been on the go and on my feet a lot over the last four days. After the half marathon I tried to sit down and draft a decent blog post about the 10K, but I couldn’t put together more than a couple of sentences before I was in desperate need of a nap. I’m flying home tomorrow night (I’d rather have an early flight, but I didn’t have another choice on Virgin America) so I’m hoping to have some time either at the airport or on the plane to publish something more extensive that this little paragraph. But right now I’m going to round up everything in my hotel room and try to somehow fit it all back in my suitcase. A seemingly impossible task. Wish me luck!

Wine & Dine 5K (NaBloPoMo day 4)

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 3 AM and I was so groggy that couldn’t immediately remember where I was. I have many early wakeup calls due to training and races that you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I blame this particular confusion on being in a strange hotel room. I was still really sleepy, but I had to scramble to get ready for the Wine & Dine 5K at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Actually, it was rebranded as the Fall Feast 5K this year which is a shame because it used to be a Christmas-themed race. It would have been the perfect way to kick off the post-Halloween season. With the new race name I was tempted to wear my Thanksgiving running shirt, but I decided against it. When I was packing for this trip I realized that I own six or seven superhero running shirts – more than any other category. They are by far my favorite. Given that there are only three Avengers races at Disneyland next weekend (of course I’m running all of them) I decided to extend the superhero theme to the Wine & Dine weekend as well so that I could wear as many of the shirts as possible. This morning I picked my Iron Man shirt and a red skirt for the Fall Feast 5K.

I was in corral A for the 5K which was a rare treat. I was one of the first runners to cross the start line at 5:30 AM. Funny enough, after I finished the race and was walking to catch the bus back to my hotel the final corral was finally crossing the start line! That was surreal. It was a really fun 5K running through Animal Kingdom. I think it’s my favorite Disney World park to run through. We got a glimpse of the new Avatar area as well, but it was so dark I didn’t recognize anything. I’m planning to go back tomorrow and take a better look, assuming it’s not completely packed! I got back to my hotel room after the Fall Feast 5K long before sunrise which gave me plenty of time to shower and get ready for my breakfast reservation at Magic Kingdom at 9:30 AM. One Wine & Dine race down, two to go!

NaBloPoMo day 3

This morning was the Wine & Dine 5K (officially rebranded as the Fall Feast 5K this year, but I’m not a big fan of that name) and I intended to write a whole post about it tonight, but I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. I’m sitting in my hotel room watching this week’s new episode of “Once Upon A Time” and dozing off briefly every commercial break. I can’t wait to take a shower and climb into bed. My alarm went off at 3 AM this morning for the 5K, and it’s set to the same time tomorrow morning for the 10K. Yikes! These races always sound like a good idea when I sign up for them, but are less appealing when I have to get up so many hours before dawn. I will try to devote more time to writing tomorrow so I can share a full account of the Wine & Dine 5K, but for now it’s bedtime. Good night!

NaBloPoMo 2017

November means that it’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) once again. Luckily, all of my
Whole30(-ish) blogging in October was the perfect segue into NaBloPoMo 2017. I’m already in the habit of updating my webpage every day which is a plus, but November has traditionally been an extremely busy month for me. Case in point, I’m at Walt Disney World right now for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend which means that my normal routine has been thrown out the window. I’m sitting down to write this post in my hotel room before an early bedtime in order to be ready for the Fall Feast 5K at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning. It’s my first of three pre-dawn race mornings. Not the kind of thing most folks would sign up for on their vacations, but we runners are a little bit crazy! This morning I went to the race expo and picked up my race bibs and shirts for the three races. Actually, I slept in and barely rolled out of bed in time to get to the expo when it started. Last night I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom and I stayed until after the park closed at midnight. Very uncharacteristic for me, but the party was amazing and totally worth the effort it took to get there after my flight landed yesterday. I’ll write a separate post about that later. I spent most of the afternoon at Hollywood Studios visiting a few rides that are no longer at Disneyland, like Tower of Terror and Muppet Vision 3D. So much fun. But now it’s time for me prepare for the 5K early tomorrow morning. I have big plans for the rest of this runcation and I need to be well-rested to fully enjoy it!

Disney World Marathon (Part 2)

I had big plans for my birthday (January 9th) at Disney World, which just happened to be the day after the marathon. To celebrate not only turning 38, but also successfully completing my first 26.2 mile race, I had several reservations booked throughout the day at different Disney parks. First was breakfast at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. If you haven’t eaten there before it’s a beautiful place with three different dining rooms that are impeccably decorated like the Beast’s castle. I had a delicious meal of quiche and pastries in a spectacular ballroom setting. The Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park so my parents and I spent a lot of time there after breakfast. As soon as we arrived that morning I made sure to get my birthday button so just about every Cast Member we encountered all day wished me a happy birthday. I also wore my Disney World Marathon shirt to the parks that day to advertise my accomplishment, but it was cold enough to warrant wearing a jacket over it most of the day. In the afternoon we caught a bus from the Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios where I had an early dinner reservation at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. The opportunity to have a meal in a booth shaped like a car at a drive-in movie theater was too intriguing to pass up. And it was a lot of fun. The food wasn’t very impressive, but I loved watching the old sci-fi movie trailers, clips, and cartoons while eating. But by far the highlight of the evening was the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party. Rather than have a birthday dessert with dinner I made reservations for all three of us for the dessert party preceding the Star Wars fireworks, which also came with priority viewing for the show. The party was in the Star Wars Launch Bay and I ate more than my fair share of indulgent sweets to celebrate my birthday. It was great. I also got my picture taken with Chewbacca where I was able to show off my marathon medal. And then Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Fireworks were really incredible. For a nerd like me it was the best way to end a birthday.

January 10th was my last full day at Disney World, but it was a little less structured. After breakfast my parents and took the bus to Disney Springs and spent the morning doing a little shopping there. We ended up being pretty frugal, only buying some Disney t-shirts at Uniqlo. They turned out to be the perfect souvenirs from our trip, and much more affordable than anything from the parks too. Our only obligation for the day was dinner at Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood Studios. It turned out to be one of the best meals that we had the whole trip with salads, steak and duck entrees, and delicious desserts. It was a fixed-price meal that included priority seating for the Fantasmic show later in the evening. Fantasmic has been on hiatus at Disneyland for over a year now due to extensive construction so I haven’t seen it in a long time. And the viewing options are much better at Disney World anyway with stadium bleacher seating. I really enjoyed seeing the show again. As soon as we got out of Fantasmic I made a beeline for Tower of Terror in order to use the Fast Pass I’d reserved. At Disneyland Tower of Terror closed permanently on January 2nd (I wrote a whole post about the last time I went on it back in November) to be transformed into a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride so I was excited to be able to still be able to experience the Disney World version. It’s a bit more elaborate than the one in Anaheim was so it was an enjoyable surprise.

I flew home to Los Angeles on January 11th, but my flight wasn’t until the evening so had a chance to spend a few more hours at a Disney park before departing. I decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom and get on some rides that I missed on my birthday. Like Space Mountain, the Peoplemover, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, and Country Bear Jamboree. I also bought a Disney World 45th anniversary shirt and pin. I realize that the 45th anniversary was technically in the fall of 2016, but Disneyland was decorated for its 60th anniversary for over a year and a half so I figure the Disney World celebratory items were still applicable. I was really sorry to be leaving Orlando after such a great trip, including completing my first marathon and my 38th birthday, but it was time to get back to reality. I have a few souvenirs, a bunch of pictures, and even more great memories. And luckily I’ll be back at Disney World for the Wine & Dine races in November!

Disney World Marathon (Part 1)

I got to Orlando without too much trouble on January 6th. It was my first time having TSA Pre-Check clearance and I definitely enjoyed it. Not having to take off my shoes or jacket, and being able to leave my laptop in my backpack when going through security was definitely worth the minor hassle involved in getting cleared. When I arrived at the Boardwalk hotel at Disney World my parents and I had some pizza for dinner and made sure to get inside before the storms arrived that night. Even wearing earplugs the thunder and lightning woke me up overnight. It was quite the storm. Run Disney preemptively cancelled the half marathon for the next morning due to the storms so a lot of runners were not pleased. It was the best choice for everyone’s safety, but I understand their disappointment.

Due to the rain we did almost nothing the morning of January 7th. The only thing I absolutely had to do that day was go to the expo and get my race bib for the marathon the next morning, but we waited until the rain was just about over before attempting that trek. The expo was a madhouse with not only the marathoners picking up their things, but also the half marathoners returning to get their medals for the race that didn’t take place. Some of them were really dedicated and ran 13.1 miles in the rain earlier that day so that they felt like they truly earned the half marathon medal. I applaud them for the extra effort, but I’m not sure I would have done it! Most of Saturday afternoon was unproductive due to the time required to get to and from the expo with the added ridiculous number of cars and buses that were trying to get to ESPN Wide World of Sports in the bad weather. It was nuts. Fortunately I picked up my bib and shirt, and purchased a skirt for the next morning, without too much trouble. That night I had a delicious pasta dinner at Trattoria al Forno (conveniently located at the Boardwalk hotel where we were staying) in preparation for the marathon the next morning. I went to bed as early as I could manage, but I was really nervous about the upcoming race.

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM on Sunday January 8th. I got dressed and ready for the marathon as quickly as I could because I wanted to be on the bus to the start line at 3 AM. After the storms went through the previous day it was extremely cold on Sunday morning. I had arm warmers, gloves, a fleece jacket (courtesy of my mom), and a mylar blanket, but it still felt frigid outside. I had the foresight to sign up for Race Retreat which gave me access to a tent and breakfast before the race, but it was only marginally warmer inside. I could still see my breath as I was eating my banana with peanut butter! I was a bundle of nerves waiting for the race to start. I’d never run 26.2 miles before and I had no idea how it was going to go. I met my old high school friend Missy at 4:45 AM and we started the long walk to Corral L. While we were moving it didn’t feel that cold, but standing still was awful, especially when the wind was blowing. We were huddling close to strangers and stomping our feet to stay warm, but neither was really working. We finally crossed the start line around 6:20 AM (being in the 12th corral didn’t do us any favors that morning). I was so glad for all of the layers I had on even after we started running. I only took off my fleece jacket around mile 5, right before we reached the Magic Kingdom, and I kept the gloves on even longer because my hands felt so toasty warm. The arm warmers stayed on a bit longer, but had come off by the half marathon mark. The sun was plenty warm by that point, but anytime we ran through the shade we got a reminder of how cold the air still was. I was feeling pretty good for a majority of the race, but between mile 17 and 18 it started to go downhill. My stomach was upset and I was tired, and I basically felt like garbage. I expected to get a second wind eventually, but it never happened. Luckily I had Missy with me for moral support and we crossed the finish line in 5:28:41 which is a lot faster than I expected for my first marathon! I wasn’t in great shape after the race, though. My knee hurt, my foot hurt, and my body started going into shock when I got back on the bus to my hotel. Luckily a hot shower, a piece of pizza and a Coke, and some rest helped. Many hours of rest and relaxation later my parents and I walked over to Epcot. My foot was still really hurting, but I figured it would pass. I purchased the Disney World New Year’s pin that I wanted and we had a fabulous dinner at Spice Road Table that night. It was the perfect end to my marathon day!

Marathon recap pending

My first full day back in LA after the Disney World Marathon has been a little crazy, but I will start writing some recap posts from my trip to Orlando soon. The above photo was taken around 3 AM on Sunday morning just before I departed the hotel for the marathon start line. Don’t I look happy? I was blissfully unaware of exactly how cold it was outside in the pre-dawn hours (temperature was in the 30s with the wind chill even lower), and also how difficult running those 26.2 miles was going to be. But just so you know (especially if you’re not friends with me on Facebook where I’ve posted a few other pictures), I did successfully complete the marathon! It was an amazing trip to Disney World and I promise to tell you all about it in the upcoming days. But tonight I have to go to sleep a little early because I will be headed to the Star Wars 5K at Disneyland in the morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Today was the first full day of my holiday break (I don’t have to go back to work until January 3rd) and I didn’t waste any time getting in the Christmas spirit. I got up and went to Disneyland first thing this morning and it was lovely. Granted, the sky was cloudy and gray after raining overnight so the crowds in the park were very light. What a wonderful gift! I wasn’t expecting that two days before Christmas, but I really enjoyed it. I went on all of the rides on my holiday to do list (Jingle Cruise, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and Small World Holiday) in a very short amount of time. After that I wandered around and did some shopping, found a pin I’d been looking for, bought one last Christmas present for a friend, and had a holiday turkey sandwich (turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce) at Earl of Sandwich for lunch. When I got home from Disneyland I got started on the task of making Christmas cookies. In an effort to eat healthier I haven’t done a lot of baking this year, but I figured the holiday season deserves a little splurge. Plus, I promised to bring some peanut butter and chocolate treats to a friend’s house on Monday. Usually I like to try new recipes when I get a chance to bake, but this time I fell back on a couple of tried-and-true favorites since I didn’t want to risk serving mediocre cookies to my friends! First I whipped up a huge batch of peanut butter blossoms, as seen in the above photo. I first wrote about these back in 2011. These cookies are a holiday tradition in my family and they never fail to disappoint. They’re incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious. By the time the peanut butter blossoms were done it was time for my to go to boot camp at 4 PM. The class was particularly grueling today, probably payback for indulging in the turkey sandwich and a few cookies today, but I’m glad I went. Christmas is no excuse for my fitness regime to suffer! When I got home from the gym I used another famous family recipe to make a large batch of peanut butter bars. They’re in the fridge right now, but I’ll slice them up (and take the obligatory photo) tomorrow. I wrote a very unsatisfactory post about these incredibly addictive treats about five years ago, but I will revisit them later this week because the recipe absolutely deserves to be shared again. After today most of my Christmas baking is done. I still have one more batch of cookies I’m planning to make for Monday, but those will probably have to wait until Sunday.

It’s raining right now, a sign of a real winter finally returning to Los Angeles, and I’m perfectly content to be inside, warm and dry, on this December 23rd night. I’m watching an old “Doctor Who” Christmas Special right now (“A Christmas Carol” from 2010), but earlier I put on my DVD of “The Bishop’s Wife” while making the peanut butter bars. I intend to watch a bunch of classic Christmas movies over the next couple of days. There will also be some more “Doctor Who” Christmas episodes, including the new one on Sunday night. It was a lovely first day of my holiday break, and this weekend promises to be busy and delightful as well.

Potluck Day 2016

Yesterday was my favorite day of the year – holiday potluck day! It was a great day. Since it was Casual Friday I got a chance to finally wear the holiday running shirt I ordered last month. I arrived to work early to get the hot chocolate started. It needed two hours in the Crockpot before it would be ready for the breakfast crowd. When I tested it at 6 AM it was the perfect temperature, and so delicious! I can’t believe anything that simple could be so popular, but I had several people ask me for the recipe again this year. I am happy to share it, of course. The biggest lesson I learned is that I need to get an extra large Crockpot so that I can make a double batch next year! (Also, I need to get a picture of a finished batch and post the recipe again. A good recipe is worth another share.)

Speaking of breakfast, I’m not sure if you’ll believe it, but I only had two scones yesterday – one caramel apple one and one maple bacon. They were amazing, but I didn’t want to go overboard before 9 AM. However, those two scones were accompanied by half of a waffle, a glass of milk, and a little hot chocolate. Maybe I did go overboard after all, but my scone consumption was still significantly reduced this year. When lunchtime rolled around I was still pretty full from breakfast, but I still loaded my plate with Chinese chicken salad, BBQ lil smokies, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole from the buffet. My contribution to the feast was turkey meatballs with cranberry barbeque sauce which turned out really well – and disappeared fast! I started cooking them in my other Crockpot at 6 AM so they were just right when everyone was ready for lunch. This was just the second time using the recipe, but this time I used a whole cup of barbeque sauce rather than the usual 1/2 cup, and I think the sauce was great. I’ll have to make those more often. I did indulge in a rare can of Coke, as you can see in the above photo, because of the cute polar bears on the can.

After all of the food I consumed at breakfast and lunch I absolutely zero room for dessert. Nothing looked at that exciting to me anyway, but I did take a couple of extra scones back to my desk with me. I thought they’d be great when I got hungry later. But by the end of the day I was still so full that the idea of eating them didn’t appeal to me at all so I shared them to my cubical neighbors. ‘Tis the season for giving! As usual, my favorite day of the year didn’t disappoint. Good food and a lot of laughs with my co-workers. I can’t wait for nest year!

Last race weekend of the year

“I don’t think the promise of an extra medal will tempt me to return next year, though. That half marathon course was killer and I’d honestly rather not repeat it.”
12/20/16 webpage post

It’s funny how often I’ve vowed never to run a particular race again, only to find myself back there at some point. I this case it took me two years, and encouragement from my running buddies, for me to sign up for a repeat of the Golden Snowflake Challenge. The first time I ran the Holiday Half Marathon two years ago I hated how hilly it was. I wasn’t all that used to running long distances (I think it was only my third half marathon?) and my overall fitness wasn’t the best, so the uphill portions of the course were not enjoyable. Luckily things were different this time around.

Last Saturday morning was the first part of the Golden Snowflake Challenge – the Holiday 5K. The first half or so of the 5K course is steadily uphill, but then it finishes with a lovely gradual downhill that makes you feel like you’re flying. I was prepared for that this year and I was excited to see how well I could handle it. The first two miles were just OK, averaging about 10:30 min/mile which wasn’t terrible, but then the amazing downhill portion kicked in. My last mile was under 10 minutes, which earned me a 5K PR of 31:45 minutes! That’s 2 minutes faster that I ran the Long Beach 5K back in October so I was really pleased. The fall is definitely PR season thanks to the rigors of marathon training and running with friends who push me to increase my pace. It’s a lot of fun!

The Holiday Half Marathon on Sunday morning wasn’t quite as fun. Not only did we have to tackle those same hills that I hated in 2014, but it was drizzling heavily on us for most of the race. The temperature was in the 50s which was great, but thanks to the rain we were pretty soaked. The good news is that since I’m in much better shape these days the hills didn’t feel nearly as difficult as they did two years ago. Still challenging, but I was able to maintain my running intervals without taking extra walk breaks on the inclines. In spite of our legs feeling incredibly sore from boot camp on Friday and the 5K on Saturday, my running buddy and I finished the half marathon in 2:35:06. It wasn’t a PR for me (I hung back a bit to run with her), but it’s still really good compared to some of our other race times from earlier this year. That’s 20 minutes faster than the OC Half Marathon. We’ve both improved so much since May! It was a great way to end the 2016 race season. Here’s to an even better 2017!