Great Chocolate Race

On Sunday I ran the Great Chocolate Race in Long Beach and somehow survived 10 miles. As of that morning three weeks had passed since the Disney World Marathon and I’d hardly run at all during that time. I was seriously unprepared for a double digit run, but I was willing to give it a try anyway. Besides, if I missed it I wouldn’t get the promised box of Godiva chocolates when I crossed the finish line! Who cares about medals when there’s chocolate to be earned? I started the race with my usual running buddies (wearing matching shirts even), but I didn’t expect to be able to keep up with either of them based on the lingering effects of my recent illness. I did end up having a lot of trouble breathing, but I managed to stay with the faster of my two buddies for almost six miles. Not bad! Some of those miles were fast too. Much faster than I planned to run during my comeback. So after gasping for breath during our walk breaks (it felt like I only had about half of my lung capacity available) for far too long I told her to leave me behind. I slowed down significantly after that and stopped for a water break which gave my other running buddy enough time to catch up. Even with a more leisurely pace it was all I could do to keep up with her towards the end! The second half of the 10-mile race was a lot slower than the first half and I was completely dead at the end, but I finished it. It felt really great to get back in to running, especially without any foot pain. I was worried about that, but it turned out perfectly fine. (On the other hand, my knee did bother me a little which is a whole new concern, but I’m still assessing the seriousness of that situation. I’ll evaluate the state of my joints after the Surf City half marathon on Sunday.) And that little box of Godiva chocolates was delicious too.

Saturday random thoughts

***I’m still sick, but I think I’m finally getting better. I got through a full day of work yesterday without feeling like death. I was still exhausted afterwards, though, and it didn’t help that I had to stay until 8 PM running a test. And I probably need to work for at least a few hours tomorrow to get some seriously overdue documents ready for release, but being able to go to work regularly is one step towards being completely healthy again.

***My good friend Natalie and I were planning to celebrate my birthday at Disneyland this afternoon/evening, but after admitting that we are both sick, we decided that it was necessary to reschedule. We had to give up our dinner at Steakhouse 55, but now we have a meal reservation for February 11th that will give us a reserved spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade that has recently returned to Disneyland. I have never actually seen the Electrical Parade, either in Anaheim the last time it was here or when it was in Orlando up through last year, so I can’t wait!

***Except for the Star Wars 5K and one other solitary 4-mile run over a week ago I haven’t done any exercise since my marathon on January 8th. Even so, I am going to attempt to run 10 miles at the Great Chocolate Race in Long Beach tomorrow morning. I am incredibly nervous. First of all, I have no idea if my foot is going to be up to the challenge. Luckily I haven’t had any foot pain since I got back from Orlando which is a very good sign, but I only have two successful short runs to convince me that I won’t fracture any bones tomorrow. I didn’t even go back to the chiropractor this week because I was sick. So that’s one unknown. And then my secondary concern is that I am completely out of shape after deviating my training regime for so long. There’s a good chance I have no endurance at all anymore. Tomorrow is going to be interesting, to say the least. One way or another I’ll let you know how it goes!

***This morning my running buddies and I had to pick up our race packets for tomorrow. While figuring out where we needed to go to get the bibs, we discovered that the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck was going to be parked at a mall nearby so of course we decided to check it out. We arrived only 30 minutes after it was scheduled to open, but the line was already around the block! We waited for about an hour in the surprisingly warm late-January sun, only advancing a fairly short distance, before we gave up and left to get our race bibs without acquiring any Hello Kitty merchandise. So we saved money, but wasted a lot of precious weekend time.

***I still haven’t put away my Christmas decorations. The tree currently is lying on the floor in pieces, and all of the ornaments and other decorative items are covering my entire kitchen table. One of my goals for tomorrow afternoon is to finally close the books on Christmas 2016. Otherwise I should just put the tree back up and pronounce my house ready for Christmas 2017 a little early.

Star Wars 5K

The Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend took place one week after my marathon at Disney World. As much as I wanted to participate in the Rebel Challenge (10K + half marathon) like I did year, I knew it probably wasn’t advisable after completing my first full marathon. And it’s a good thing I restrained myself during registration because I was in no shape to run more than a few miles that soon after the marathon due to my injury and illness. But Disneyland only has four race weekends a year, so rather than completely skipping this one I signed up for the Star Wars 5K so I could still enjoy the experience without exerting myself too much. Because I was only running 3.1 miles on a relatively chilly morning I decided to wear last year’s Rebel Challenge shirt even though it has long sleeves. Running shirts with long sleeves are basically useless in Southern California (I think I’ve written about this before), but I figured I wouldn’t overheat too much during such a short race. I also wore my R2-D2 headband to match the Rebel Challenge shirt because nerdy runners love stuff like that. I was in corral A for the 5K which is insane because I’m just not that fast, but I still loved it. Usually waiting for Disney races to start is tedious, but this time they showed the 1977, 1980, and 1983 movie trailers for the original Star Wars trilogy which was intriguing. There were scenes there that weren’t even included in the final versions of the movies. Pretty interesting. (Do yourself a favor and check out this Empire Strikes Back preview. If you’re sharp you’ll notice a seriously disturbing moment in there. Let me know if you discover it.) Since I was in corral A I got to start the race right at 5:30 AM. I was worried that my foot would hurt while I was running, requiring me to walk at least part of the way, but I was surprisingly pain free! My lungs were burning because I was getting sick, but I pushed myself to keep running to prove that I could do it. I even ran the entire 3.1 miles which is rare for me, even during a 5K. Disney 5Ks aren’t officially timed, but my Garmin watch told me I averaged 10:26 min/mile pace which was really good for my first run after the marathon. And it was a lot of fun too. After collecting my medal and taking some pictures I walked back to the parking structure and drove home to shower and get ready for work. The rest of the day was less entertaining because by the end of the work day I realized I was getting really sick. I was sneezing left and right in the afternoon so I knew an unproductive weekend of rest and recuperation was in my future. Unfortunately the cold deteriorated into the flu on Sunday…and I’m still suffering right now. The Star Wars 5K ended with a whimper, but I’m still glad I did it. I live for these races!

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!

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!

Marathon training done!

As of right now my marathon training is complete! I ran my last few miles tonight in the chilly wind that usually follows a Southern California rain storm. (Our winter weather has been more typical so far this season with a good deal of rain. It’s a good thing too because we need it!) The next time I lace up my shoes will be for the Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday. I’m nervous and excited at the same time! I know I’m as ready as I can be to successfully finish 26.2 miles, but I’ve never actually run that far before so at this point that’s my only reservation. I’m confident that I’ll be able to cross the finish line under my own power, though. I can’t wait to earn that medal! Tomorrow morning I’m flying to Orlando and my bags are just about ready to go. I packed all of the essential items days ago to make sure that the most important articles of clothing (i.e., my carefully chosen marathon outfit) didn’t end up dirty at an inopportune time. However, I need to rethink my wardrobe for the rest of the trip since there is a cold front coming through central Florida on Saturday. It’s going to be a lot colder than I expected! That means absolutely perfect running weather on Sunday, but my selected t-shirts for Disney World park time might not be warm enough. That’s what hoodies are for! I can’t believe the marathon is almost here. It’s been nine months since I registered and four months since I started training, and now I’m less than three days away from the race. Fingers crossed that this trip has a positive outcome!

An earned medal – Beach Cities Challenge 2016

“So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it.”
12/20/15 webpage post

On October 9th I got my second Beach Cities Challenge medal, but this time I earned it. In May 2015 I had a co-worker run the OC half marathon for me because I wasn’t healthy enough to run it myself when the race rolled around. So when I picked up my Beach Cities Challenge medal that October I felt like a fraud. To make up for it I vowed to do better in 2016 – and I did! This year I successfully completed the Surf City half marathon, the Orange County half marathon, and the Long Beach half marathon, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ve already written webpage posts about the Surf City half marathon 2016 and the OC half marathon 2016 so I won’t rehash those here. The Long Beach half marathon 2016 was by far the best anyway. By October I had a few things going for me – 1) I’d been training consistently for about 5 months, including over a month of marathon training, 2) I’d lost weight, and 3) I’d already earned a new half marathon PR at the Disneyland half marathon in September. Due to the unusually high temperatures that weekend (similar to the year before) I had no time goal for the Long Beach half, but my running buddy was more ambitious. So we did our best, running as fast as we dared before hitting the most challenging portion of the course. From about mile 6.5 to about mile 9.5 the race follows a walkway on the beach with no shade for protection from the sun, which was high in the sky when we got there. It was not fun, but we survived without slowing down too much. And after that we had to tackle the uphill stretch that led to the finish line. We slowed down a bit there due to the weather and probably some dehydration. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race! I didn’t check my watch until after we were done, but at that point I discovered that I had earned a new PR – 2:34:18! We didn’t quite meet my running buddy’s goal, but we did pretty well in the heat. I was more than satisfied. And along with my half marathon medal I collected 2016 Beach Cities Challenge medal with pride. I had earned it this year! And I already have plans to complete the challenge again next year. Maybe running one of the full marathons even? We’ll see!

P.S. My current half marathon PR is actually 2:27:44 at the Avengers half marathon in November. Marathon training has done wonders for my personal records!

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!