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!

After a busy weekend

I thought I’d have plenty of time to write a couple of webpage posts this weekend while I was in Pomona for the Holiday Half Marathon and 5K races (the combination of which is the Golden Snowflake Challenge), but that didn’t turn out to be the case. When will I learn that December is far too busy to have any free time? I actually had a lot of plans for the weekend, but I only accomplished a few of the items on my to do list. Besides the two races, I did finally complete all of my 2016 Christmas cards, though, which was a huge effort. The grand total this year was 53 cards. Yikes! Unfortunately I didn’t get my Christmas tree put up like I wanted to. I’m disappointed about that. My time management needs to be a bit better this week, especially since I’ll be tackling the highest mileage of my marathon training plan. It’s very daunting, but I think I can do it. It remains to be seen if I can get anything else done this week, though. I guess we’ll find out!

Thanksgiving 2016 (Part 1)

What better way to end November than with a Thanksgiving recap post? Or half of one, at least!

After flying to Florida on Tuesday, Wednesday was Thanksgiving prep day, but before that I got up early and ran 5 miles around the neighborhood. Being out of town was no excuse to let my marathon training slide. After I showered we ate some homemade egg sandwiches for breakfast and went to the mall for some pre-holiday shopping since we didn’t want to be anywhere near there on Black Friday. I was actually fairly successful. I found a pair of work pants at Loft and a blazer at Limited. On our way home we stopped at Supercuts so I could get a much-needed haircut, and also made a stop at Publix in the same shopping center for the last few required Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Once we got home the cooking began. First I made some spaghetti for dinner so I could get my carb fix before the turkey trot the next morning. Then my mom and I assembled the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie and baked some sweet potatoes for a casserole recipe I found in Cooking Light. And while watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” I also made a batch of my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.

On Thanksgiving morning we all got up early to go to the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I was running the 15K while my mom and her friends walked the 5K and my saintly dad waited for all of us at the finish line. It was a warm morning (the race didn’t start until 8:45 AM) and the 15K course was hillier than I expected so it wasn’t an easy run. My time was acceptable (for me), but it was challenging. I’m still glad I did it. Since it was week # 12 of my marathon training plan I was supposed to do an 8-mile mid-week run, so a 9.3 mile race fit very nicely. One the way home was stopped at the first open McDonald’s we could find and had Egg McMuffins for a late breakfast. The perfect post-race meal. Cooking started in earnest once we got home and got cleaned up. And of course we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while we prepped for the big meal. Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely delicious (see our complete menu here). We tried several new recipes this year and most of them were a success. Some could use a few tweaks, like the sweet potato casserole, so I’ll keep that in mind for next year. One recipe that is a definitely keeper (with no changes) was the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie. It was by far the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted, so I have a feeling that one will become a holiday tradition in my family.

Check back tomorrow for part 2!

Technology trials

Written on my flight from Miami to Tallahassee on 11/22/16:

I love technology. How else could I have written and published a blog post while on an airplane today? I also found some potential Thanksgiving vegetable recipes and emailed them to my mom, as well as chatted with some friends on Facebook Messenger. It’s truly amazing. I’m anxiously awaiting the day when inflight wifi has enough bandwidth to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime content. That will make traveling infinitely more entertaining. Speaking of Amazon Prime, I am hoping to have a chance to watch the first episode of “The Grand Tour,” the new motoring show with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, while I’m in Tallahassee. I’ve been looking forward to it for months.

In a similar vein, Run Disney published the registration dates for all of their late 2017 through early 2018 races this morning and everyone is a bit baffled. Usually registration for these races opens around seven or eight months before the race date. And you usually have to sign up immediately since you never know how quickly a race will sell out. (It varies from within 30 minutes to never, and it’s impossible to predict.) However, it looks like the lead time for upcoming Run Disney races has increased to nine or ten months now. In fact, my friends and I have to register for the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in about two weeks! So much for waiting to recoup some of my holiday spending before giving hundreds of dollars to the Disney Corporation.

Speaking of giving money to Disney (one of my favorite pastimes), the other day I got wind of an email that had supposedly been sent to all of the 2016 Avengers Half Marathon Weekend participants inviting them to pre-register for next year at a discount. This is unheard of for Run Disney! My biggest gripe is that even as an incredibly loyal participant who ran all three Avengers races in 2016 I didn’t receive this fabled email! With a desire to maintain my legacy status for the fourth year I would most definitely jump at the chance to sign up for 2017 now before the official registration begins. But for some reason I was left off that particular mailing list. I was so disappointed! Luckily one of the members of my Galloway running group was kind enough to share the link with me today so I should be able to pre-register after all. Thank goodness for understanding runner friends!

Notes as of 11/29/16:

I have now finished watching the first episode of “The Grand Tour” and it was amazing! I was only able to watch the first half of it while I was in Florida because I had to get my parent’s TV to connect to Amazon Prime first. This required ordering a Roku streaming stick which only arrived on Saturday afternoon. Also, I did successfully sign up for the 2017 Avengers Half Marathon Weekend last Tuesday so that’s one Disney race registration that I have out of the way. The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend registration is coming up next Thursday so I’m going to have one hefty credit card bill coming in December!

OC half marathon 2016

I’m on a plane to Miami right now where I’ll catch my flight to Tallahassee this afternoon. I paid for extra leg room this time around (worth it for nearly five hours between LA and Miami) so using my laptop is a breeze! Also, there’s an empty seat next to me so I don’t feel like anyone is looking at my screen while I type. I figured I’d take this time to finally write a post about a races from earlier this year that changed the way I run. It was a big deal!

In May of 2015 I was registered for the Orange County half marathon, but ended up skipping it because I was still recovering from my knee injury earlier in the year. Of course I managed to get hurt again in early 2016, but much to my delight I was healthy enough to run the OC half marathon this year. However, I was pretty out of shape when the race rolled around in May. So in order to keep from being completely bored on the course for three hours I decided to run with one of my co-workers and her sister-in-law. They had modest expectations for their finish time so I figured I wouldn’t be holding them back. This was my first introduction to the Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method. Previously I only took short walk breaks about every mile, but that particular strategy broke down after the first seven or eight miles when I couldn’t run a full mile at a time anymore. That made the rest of the race pretty frustrating. But using the Galloway Method during the OC half marathon the other ladies and I ran for 1 min 15 sec and then walked for 40 seconds, repeating those intervals for the whole 13.1 miles. (Mostly. There were a couple of monster hills that we broke down and walked all the way to the top!) This approach to running was completely new to me and it took a while to get used to. Taking a walk break after only running a little over a minute felt really strange at the beginning of the race, but as the miles passed I was amazed at how well the Galloway Method was working for me. I didn’t hit the wall at mile 10 like I usually did during a half marathon, and after we crossed the finish line I actually still had some energy left which, for me, is unheard of. It was a remarkable outcome. My finish time wasn’t anything to be proud of, but I didn’t care. After that day I was resolved to buy an internal timer and join my co-worker’s Galloway running group. I loved it that much! It’s been over five months since then and now I use the run/walk/run method exclusively for my races and other long runs. Like my highly successful 16 mile run last Saturday. I know the Galloway method isn’t right for everyone, but it has worked wonders for me so I’m glad I got the opportunity to try it during the OC half marathon. The course was really beautiful too so I’m looking forward to running it again in 2017.

As a side note, there was one particularly funny moment before the race even started. After getting on the bus from the fairgrounds parking lot to the start line I realized that I hadn’t put any sunscreen on my legs! I slathered it on my arms in the parking lot, but I had completely neglected my legs below the hem of my running capris. So once I got to the start line I started searching through the crowd, looking for someone who might have sunscreen in their bag of supplies that I could borrow. I probably looked creepy, but I was desperate! It took a while, but I finally found someone who had a bottle of sunscreen out and was willing to let me use some. Bless that kind stranger! I would have had lobster legs otherwise!

Avengers Half Marathon 2016

The Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon on Sunday started in much the same way the 10K did on Saturday, specifically with a 4 AM wake up. Except for the Disneyland fireworks waking me at around 9:30 PM I slept pretty well the night before. I’m not always successful at getting to bed that early before a race so even with the brief fireworks interruption I call it a win. I wore an Iron Man running shirt to represent my favorite superhero. I had Captain America shirts for both the 5K and 10K, but Iron Man is always going to be my favorite. Once again I was able to negotiate my way to the front of my corral (E this time) so I wouldn’t get stuck in traffic once we crossed the start line. And it worked just as well as Saturday too. My original intention was to take it relatively easy during the half marathon, and I ran my first few miles at a fairly leisurely pace, but after that I started to speed up. When I saw that miles 5 and 6 were both under 11 minutes each I had a fleeting hope of achieving a new half marathon personal record that day. The Avengers Half Marathons in 2014 and 2015 both earned me new PRs (2:46:24 and 2:39:47, respectively) so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for 2016 to have the same result. But I didn’t think about it too much, and I certainly didn’t do the math in my head to see how fast I’d have to run to break my 2:34:18 Long Beach half marathon time from October. That would have stressed me out too much so I just ran at whatever pace felt comfortable. I felt great most of the time (even when the sun came up and it started to get warm), including while running through Angel Stadium (see above photo). Usually I’m exhausted by then (around mile 8 or 9) so it was nice to still have some energy at that point for a change. It wasn’t until I glanced at my watch at mile 12 that I knew I’d done it. I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon with a time of 2:27:44 – a PR by over 6.5 minutes! I couldn’t believe it! I was completely elated as I collected my half marathon and Infinity Gauntlet Challenge medals and walked back to my hotel. An even better result of the week was maintaining my Avengers Half Marathon legacy status for a third year. If I can make it to five years I’ll be thrilled!

Doctor Strange 10K

The Doctor Strange 10K on Saturday was amazing! The 10K distance is definitely my preferred distance, and over the last three years the Avengers races have proven to be my hands-down favorites. That title was successfully defended this past weekend. I rolled out of bed in my hotel room at 4 AM on Saturday morning and got ready for the race. Taking into account my expected finish time and the time of sunrise for that day I decided not to wear sunscreen. Just call me a rebel! I probably should have, but putting it on would have taken time and effort that I wasn’t willing to spend. After walking to the start line I managed to maneuver myself to the front of my corral (C) in order to avoid a lot of dodging and weaving of slower runners and walkers once I got going. Because I’ve had some luck running races at a decent pace lately I had a fleeting idea to go for a 10K personal record. That usually doesn’t work too well at Disney races, but with almost front-row corral placement I was trying to keep the possibility alive. And it worked! Last Thanksgiving a friend paced me in order to get a 10K time of less than 1:10 (1:09:40, to be exact), but I finished the Doctor Strange 10K in 1:07:01! It felt amazing to get a PR of over 2 minutes! I was still in shock as I walked back to my hotel, with my medal around my neck and a stupid grin on my face. The weekend was starting off perfectly.

After a quick shower in my hotel room I drove to McDonald’s for breakfast. I was really hungry after the 10K and only my favorite breakfast would do – Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke. The Florida vs. South Carolina football game was going to start at 9 AM and I decided to go home and watch it there where I could comfortably lounge on my own couch. I didn’t quite make it home before the game started, but luckily the XM radio in my car allowed me listen to the beginning of the first quarter as I was driving. Continuing the positive nature of the weekend the Gators beat the Gamecocks! This is a better outcome than the Arkansas game that I attended with my family last weekend. The offense actually showed up this week which was a nice change. Let’s hope Florida can keep it up for the rest of the season. After the game I drove back to my hotel in Anaheim and then walked over to Disneyland. It was crowded this weekend so I skipped most of the rides. I did make sure to catch the two movie previews in California Adventure, though – “Doctor Strange” and “Moana.” Both movies look really good and I can’t wait to see them. Before leaving the parks for the evening I had a big pasta dinner (lasagna, to be precise) at Wine Country Trattoria in preparation for the Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon the next morning. A good race starts with a good carb load meal the day before. And in order to set myself up for success on Sunday I walked back to my hotel after dinner and went to bed early. It was going to be a long 13.1 miles in the morning!

Captain America 5K

Back on April 5th I registration opened for the Disneyland Avengers Half Marathon Weekend. I initially signed up for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge which includes both the 10K and half marathon races. I generally skip the 5K races because they are held on Friday mornings, and that makes them somewhat inconvenient for those of us who work for a living. However, when Run Disney released a preview of the race medals I deeply regretted not signing up for all three of the weekend events. The 5K medals used to be made of rubbery plastic (lightweight, but not exactly fancy), but earlier this year Run Disney decided to switch things up and offer metal 5K medals instead. This instantly increased the demand for spots in the Avengers 5K, which is Captain America themed this year. I tried to quickly register at that point, but according to the official website the 5K was completely sold out. I thought I had missed my chance. But then on October 14th I was looking at the Raw Threads running apparel website and discovered that against all odds they still had Avengers 5K registrations available through their club (which I’m a member of). So I signed up, and just like that I was committed to running all of the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend races. Fast forward to this morning when I woke up at 3 AM to get to Disneyland for the Captain America 5K. It was a great race, and I finished at a faster pace than I expected. Surprisingly, my GPS watch said that the course wasn’t quite 3.1 miles, but that’s OK. Even after only 3.05 miles and just under 33 minutes (32:59, to be exact) I still had a lot of fun. I love running at Disneyland. And it’s a good thing too because I have 19.3 miles of running in Anaheim over the weekend, starting with the Doctor Strange 10K tomorrow morning. Bring it on!

Disney virtual runs

With a couple of exceptions (like the annual July 4th 5K in Huntington Beach, for example), the summer is devoid of races. This spring I ran just about every race I could feasibly attend (it was pretty ridiculous), but after the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego half marathon at the beginning of June there wasn’t much on my running calendar. But with my Disney World Marathon training starting right after Labor Day my goal for the summer was to run consistently so that I would be in decent shape when September 6th arrived. Usually races are what keep me motivated and accountable so maintaining my fitness routine without them is a lot more difficult. Then runDisney announced their Virtual Running Shorts summer 5K series. How delightful! It’s no secret that I’m a Disney fanatic (I spent 5 hours at Disneyland yesterday to catch the Paint the Night parade one last time before it’s discontinued after Labor Day) so earning more runDisney medals by simply completing a few of my planned summer training runs was very appealing. So I signed up for the series, which included all three 5Ks between May 15th and June 30th. Finding the motivation to go for a run on a weeknight when it’s hot and humid outside (for Southern California, at least) is a lot easier when I know I’m earning a tangible reward. And the medals didn’t disappoint either! They look great hanging on my cubicle wall at work with the rest of my 2016 race bling. Now that summer is just about over (except for the warm weather which I expect will stick around for a while) I’m extremely grateful to the Disney virtual runs for giving me something to look forward to during these three quiet months. And helping me prepare for the Disneyland 10K and half marathon next weekend! Let the fall race season begin!