On Thursday I turned 41, but it wasn’t exactly an exciting day. I went back to work on January 2nd after more than five months on medical leave. It was a Thursday, and the office was incredibly quiet since most folks made the smart decision to stay home on the first two workdays of 2020. I’m only working part-time for a while in order to ease myself back into employment, so I spent roughly 4 hours on both Thursday and Friday sorting through thousands of unread emails that had accumulated in my inbox while I was gone. It was pretty draining, but I’m glad to be back in the office and using my brain for something other than arguing with jerks on the internet. (That’s a story for another time!) Unfortunately over the weekend I caught a terrible cold. I felt so terrible that I had to take the first three days of the next week off to recover. Not exactly the way I expected my return to work was going to go! I also missed my boot camp classes those three days due to the illness. Thursday January 9th was my birthday and I was finally able to drag myself not only to work, but also to the gym. (I originally planned to celebrate at Disneyland, but I missed way too much work to be out yet another day that week.) Traditionally all of the gym goers have to do as many burpees as the age of the birthday boy or girl, but I was absolutely not going to force the folks who came for a regular workout to do 41 burpees on top of the cardio class they had already completed. Fortunately the trainer was merciful and we only did 21 burpees instead. Still tough at the end of class, but we all did it. When the ladies at the gym found out that I’m 41 they were shocked. I’ve always looked young for my age, but bow that I’m no longer as slim as I used to be I figured that effect had diminished. It was flattering when the ladies asked me what I do to stay youthful. Besides my obsession with sunscreen and an embarrassingly extensive skincare routine, I have no idea. Moisturizers and serums can’t be the full explanation. Obviously there is an element of luck (i.e., good genes) at play. Still, it’s nice to know that I don’t look my age just yet.
This reminds me of a funny story. Back in March I went to see a hematologist because I’m a carrier of a blood disorder called beta thalassemia, and I wanted to make sure this wasn’t contributing to my fatigue. For reference, the Mayo Clinic website states, “Thalassemia is caused by mutations in the DNA of cells that make hemoglobin — the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body.” Additionally, “In thalassemia, the production of either the alpha or beta chains are reduced, resulting in either alpha-thalassemia or beta-thalassemia.” Boring, I know, but better than any explanation I could formulate on my own. Fortunately for me I only have the trait, or minor, version of this disorder so it doesn’t affect my daily life. When the hematologist walked into the examination room for my appointment she was visibly surprised. She said something to the tune of, “You don’t look anything like what I imagined! I was expecting dark hair and olive skin!” This made me laugh because my appearance is decidedly northern European in nature. To let you in on the joke, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Thalassemia occurs most often in African Americans and in people of Mediterranean and Southeast Asian descent.” So this is obviously something that a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Irish girl needs to worry about, right? It was funny to surprise a doctor for a change! I inherited beta thalassemia came from my mother’s side of the family, but besides that we have absolutely no idea where the it came from. Even her 23andMe results don’t shed much light on the origin. We were fully expecting Italian, Greek, or Spanish ancestry somewhere in her report, but that’s not what showed up. It’s a mystery! Fortunately the hematologist assured me that because I’m only a carrier that this blood disorder isn’t causing my fatigue. That was one diagnostic avenue that lead to a dead end, but not an unexpected one. It allowed me to focus on other options instead. I’ll get to the bottom of this eventually.
My actual thirty-ninth birthday was a mess. I was supposed to be spending it at Walt Disney World, but obviously that didn’t happen. The best laid plans, and all. First of all, a rain storm woke me up at 6 AM so I decided to go back to sleep rather than getting up and getting drenched going to work that early. It was going to be my first day back at work after the holidays, but I was still tired after battling the flu and its aftermath for over a week. Under the circumstances, the pouring rain was more than I thought I was capable of dealing with. Work was stressful considering that I had to catch up on all of the emails that had been piling up in my inbox since December 21st. Also, there were more than the usual number of meetings which made the day even more frantic. I was pretty worn out when the workday was over, but I decided to go to a boot camp class at 7 PM since I wasn’t keen on spending the rest of my birthday simply sprawled out on my couch. It was my first time at the gym for at least a month so it was very challenging. I was sore for a week afterwards, and it turns out I wasn’t healthy enough to be exercising yet anyway. I felt pretty sick the next day. But at the time I was glad to get out of the house for an hour. On the way home from boot camp I stopped by Panera and picked up a bowl of tomato soup for dinner. Not exactly the birthday dinner I planned, which was a steak dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT, but at least the soup tasted good.
To make up for the disaster that was January 9th, I celebrated my honorary thirty-ninth birthday last Sunday. Unfortunately I had to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the Pasadena 5K. It was a cold morning by Southern Californian standards and I carpooled to the Rose Bowl with one of my running buddies who doesn’t have a functional heater in her car. Not the best decision when it’s 39 degrees outside and you didn’t think to dress warmly enough. I should have driven instead. But even without heat we still stayed in the relative warmth of the car until 10 minutes before the race started. The 5K itself was pretty good, and the finish line was on the Rose Bowl field, which I enjoyed. My plan for the afternoon was to meet my good friend Natalie and her family at Disneyland, but I was tired after I got home from the race. Luckily a short nap re-energized me and I made it to Anaheim just in time to join them for lunch at Carthay Circle. A meal of tri-tip and cheesy mashed potatoes definitely made up for eating boring tomato soup for dinner on my actual birthday. It was absolutely delicious. After that we made our way to Guardians of the Galaxy where my 5 year-old goddaughter surprised everyone by agreeing to ride it. What a perfect birthday present. She’s a real trooper. We also went on It’s A Small World Holiday (the last day before they removed the Christmas decor) and Peter Pan’s Flight before we decided it was time to go to our respective homes. I was hoping to check out the new scenes on Star Tours, but the line was long and I knew I needed to rest rather than push myself to stay at Disneyland longer. Luckily it will still be there on my next visit, which I hope is too far in the future. It was a lovely belated birthday celebration, even it if wasn’t the one I originally planned.
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!
On Saturday I turned thirty-seven, and if my birthday was any indication, the next year is going to be amazing. I really had a wonderful day. Since I had one of those coveted weekend birthdays this year I figured it would be only fitting for me to run a race. As you know, I just can’t say no to medal opportunities! So after searching for local races on January 9th I registered for the Southern California Half Marathon in Irvine. Due to the fact that I’d be running two Star Wars races at Disneyland one week later I would have preferred to find a 10K on my birthday because it would be less of a time commitment and much less difficult for my out-of-shape body, but I figured the half marathon would be OK. (I’ve never actually run two half marathons a week apart before, even when I planned to. Last year I skipped the OC half the weekend before the Tinkerbell half, and then the Wine & Dine half at Disney World was shortened to 6.7 miles the weekend before the Avengers half at Disneyland. Ask me again on Sunday if so little recovery time was a good idea or not!) However, the morning started with me not wanting to get out of bed to go to the race. It was my birthday and all I wanted was to sleep in! Fortunately I was able to drag myself to the race in just enough time to pick up my bib and get to the start line by 8 AM. And I’m so glad I made it because I ended up running my second fastest half marathon! For most people a time of 2:41:10 wouldn’t be impressive, but it’s less than two minutes behind my personal record (at the Avengers half in November). The course was flat, the weather was perfect, and I felt great (except for the last mile or so which was miserable for some reason). I must admit that the finisher’s medal for the Southern California Half Marathon wasn’t too exciting, but running that race was the best way I could have spent the first part of my birthday.
I had a celebratory breakfast at McDonald’s on my way home from Irvine. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to give up my McDonald’s Egg McMuffin habit (more on that in a future post), but I made an exception for my birthday. Actually, all of the diet improvements I planned to make in 2016 were postponed until after my birthday. There are some things more important than healthy foods! I was tired after my race and parking myself on the couch for the rest of the day was the most appealing option, but I was meeting some friends at Disneyland that evening to celebrate my birthday. Beforehand I had a dinner reservation at Carthay Circle restaurant in California Adventure. It’s my favorite restaurant in either park. I’ve never had a bad meal there. This time I got a cauliflower salad appetizer, a crispy duck with chestnut gnocchi main course, and a sticky toffee pudding with pineapple sorbet for dessert. It was so delicious! All three of the dishes were amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a better meal at Disneyland. When I finished dinner I met my friends and their adorable kids for some Disneyland rides. Birthday hugs from the three little girls was about the best gift I could have gotten. Even though I didn’t stay for the fireworks that night, I still I stayed up way past my bedtime. But it was worth it. I had an incredible birthday and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.
In an effort to catch up with all of the major things that have happened in 2015 (and to try and satisfy my New Year’s resolution #4), I’m going all the way back to the beginning of the year to write about my trip to Orlando in January. I figured I really needed to finally document that trip before I head back there for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World next month!
My parents joined me in Orlando for the 2015 Disney World Marathon Weekend (1/7-1/11) when I was running the 10K and half marathon. We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort which turned out to be pretty nice. The room was basic enough, but all of the buildings are situated around a lake. We had a little bit of a walk to get breakfast at the food court every morning, but at least the lake made for a lovely route. And it was a bit chilly in Orlando that week which was both good and bad. The day before the 10K we went to the race expo at the Wide World of Sports complex and picked up my shirts and bibs for the two events. I was distressed to discover that the race pins I thought I’d ordered (and even had email receipts for) had gone awry during the registration process. Luckily I was able to buy them at the expo, but only after looking in three different places. We spent the afternoon wandering around Downtown Disney (which has been renamed to Disney Springs since then) and had dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Café. A nice pasta dinner before my first race.
The next day was my 36th birthday and we started the celebration by getting up at 2:30 AM to catch the bus to the 10K start line. Doesn’t that sound fun? Believe it or not, I was thrilled to be running a race on my birthday. And despite the fact that it was 45 deg that morning (we hunkered down in one of the event tents to stay warm before the race started), the experience was fantastic. Running through EPCOT was so much fun. My time was nothing to brag about, but I felt great. It was one of those runs that was almost effortless. That doesn’t happen to me very often so I was grateful for such a memorable run on my birthday. After I crossed the finish line my parents and I took the bus back to our hotel, showered and changed, and grabbed a late breakfast. To finish my birthday celebration we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park since I’d never been there before. It was cold and there was a lot of construction going on at the park, but we still had a good time. The Expedition Everest ride is so awesome! I’d go back just for that. And we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Yak & Yeti restaurant. That night we were all tired from getting up way before the crack of dawn so we went to bed early – especially since we had to repeat the same process again the next morning for my second race.
To be continued!