Showing posts with label running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label running. Show all posts

AfterShokz Aeropex Running Headphones Review

Aeropex AfterShokz Headphones

Do you ever feel like you get incredibly lucky from time to time?  Well, one night back in December, I was participating in a Twitter chat and at the end of the chat found out I had won a pair of AfterShokz Aeropex headphones.  I was so excited!  For years, I've heard about the quality and wearability of these popular headphones, but I hadn't had the chance to try them.  When they arrived, I had to celebrate with an unboxing. . .

Castaway Cay 5K - What to know before your run!

We're fresh off our latest Disney Cruise Line vacation in January 2020 and during our sailing on the Disney Dream we made a stop at Disney's Castaway Cay - a private island paradise in the Bahamas!  This island has it all. . .sun, sand, crystal clear water, food, a kids club, and much more.  But running friends will be happy to know that there is a FREE, yes you read that right, FREE 5K run available on every stop at Disney's Castaway Cay.  This was my second time participating in the run, but while many things remained the same, a few have changed and it's important to note what you need to know before you run.

It's a fun run, not a race - If you're a regular reader here, you know my deep love of runDisney races.  Alas, this is not considered a runDisney race.  In fact, it's considered an "onboard activity" for cruise guests.  When you are planning all of your cruise activities on the Disney Cruise Line website you can "register" for the race.  Once on board, stop by guest services and pick up a waiver that will need to be completed before the race.  Or, you can walk up to the race start and get the waiver to fill out.  Trade your completed waiver for a bib and you are good to go.  The start is a simple "1, 2, 3. . .Go!" announcement and there is no chip timing - just a simple clock at the start finish area.  

But you do get a medal! - The other thing you probably know about me is that I care about the bling. . .deeply.  All finishers in this fun run will get a fun rubber medal.  Yes it's only rubber, but it has a cute ribbon and a fun design to commemorate your accomplishment.  I mean, you ran on a cruise vacation while most people on cruises only run to the buffet line!  Wear it proudly and be sure to stop by and see the characters around the island after your run for some pictures showing off your bling.

Getting off the ship - So this was a change from the last time I ran this particular event and the guest services staff told me it started just a few months ago.  In the past, runners would receive a "shore excursion" ticket the night before and meet in a specified lounge around 7:45.  As soon as the ship was cleared, the runners disembarked first together as a group to take the nearly 10 minute walk to the start line.  That's in the past now.  Runners just meet up at the start line which means that you have to join the pack of people exiting the ship when it's cleared at 8:30 and make your way very quickly to the starting point near the bike rentals.  I have to say, I was not a fan of this change. . .even if I got to sleep in an extra 30 minutes!

This run is for everyone - You will find serious runners here who go all out and others who are 100% walkers just looking to stretch their legs with some exercise and take home a unique cruise souvenir.  I know sometimes we all find ourselves being self-conscious with our abilities, but don't be nervous about joining this fun run.  The course is a super simple out and back and the island terrain means you will encounter no elevation change whatsoever.

Speaking of the island - Regardless of what time of year you run, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Even with an 8:50AM start time, you are running on an island. . .in the Bahamas.  It's hot and oftentimes it humid.  The sun is intense most days too.  Even the walkers in this event want to take hydration very seriously.  Think about it in the days leading up and drink plenty of water on board.  Along the course of the fun run, you pass a water aid station 4 times - take advantage of it!  I saw a lot of people stretching out cramps along the way.

The Castaway Cay 5K is truly a family fun event that casual and serious runners will want to check out on your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  Kids as young as 10 may participate.  If you need a space to check-in younger children while you run, Disney has a kids club, Scuttle's Cove, on the island which is open as you make your way to the run.

You may also want to pack some extra money for the race apparel that you'll find at the finish line! There is a cute collection of hats, tanks, tees, and long sleeve shirts along with pins and much, much more to further commemorate your fun run on the island.  I picked up a Castaway Cay 5K hat to bring home as my cruise souvenir and something I can use on cold training days to remind me of the island vibes this run leaves you feeling!  Enjoy the scenery, the fun, and the bling. . .then enjoy the sun, sand, and drinks!


Baltimore Running Festival - Things to Know Before You Go!

I just wrapped up my third Baltimore Running Festival and it was less than a great showing from a performance standpoint.  I went into the weekend undertrained and well aware of that fact so I ran some and walked liberally to my 2nd slowest half-marathon time yet.  But, I finished and still had an amazing time - that's what's important!! So instead of making this the typical race recap post, I'm going to shed a little insight to things you should know about the Baltimore Running Festival in case you decide to run in the future!

Registration - Registration is easy and on the relatively inexpensive side if you do it early enough.  This race is organized by Corrigan Sports Enterprise (CSE), which organizes several other races around Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic.  When you register for the Baltimore Running Festival, you'll also see this race connected with several other.  You can register for the Maryland Double or the King Crab Challenge as well if you're interested in competing in multiple races during the course of the year.  For the Baltimore Running Festival, you can find a race distance regardless of your ability - 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Team Relay, and even the BaltiMORON-a-thon (running both the 5K and Half in the same day).  Thinking about registering?  Keep your eyes open during the holiday season as previous years have seen race discounts as deep as 25% for a 24-hour period during the holiday shopping season!!

Premiums & Bling - Each year the Baltimore Running Festival provides top notch premiums from one of our favorite Baltimore companies, Under Armour.  Runners for the 5K and Team Relay each receive short sleeved tech shirts, while half and full marathon participants get long sleeved tech shirts.  And then, there are the medals!  In recent years, the Baltimore Running Festival has celebrated Maryland's unofficial state symbol, the crab, with their designs.  As the final leg in the Maryland Double and the King Crab Challenge, you'll hear lots of runners walking around with "clanging" medals after the race.

Getting Around - In each of my three Baltimore Running Festivals, I've had different transportation experiences on race day.  My first year, I ran the 5K and was on the road into the city in the early morning hours.  Traffic was backed up and it took a while to get into the city, but there was ample parking at M&T Bank Stadium that was free.  Getting in and out of the city isn't super easy on race day with road closures though so plan with ample time on both sides of the race.  The second time I ran, my husband and I got a hotel room at the Hilton the night before.  This was the year I ran the BaltiMORON-a-thon and was a fabulous option.  We could sleep in a bit on Saturday morning, walk right out of our hotel just a few steps to the 5K start and had a warm place to hang out and relax between the 5K and the half.  This year, I was only doing the half and opted to take the Metro into the city.  This was a super easy and effective option.  If you know me at all, you know I despise city driving so I couldn't have been happier to park in Owings Mills and take the subway in from there.  This may not be a good choice for 5K or full marathon runners though depending on how early you need to get into the city and when the Metro begins it's service that morning - be sure to check the schedule!

The Course - Is it just me or does Baltimore get more hills every time I run there???  You will certainly find your fair share of hills throughout the course.  The fist half of the course trends uphill so be sure to train for them.  On the plus side, what goes up must come down, so the the back half of the course trends down hill.  One of the prettiest parts of the course is the run around Lake Montibello.  This is such a serene half-way mark on the course and features the best aid station - energy gels!  Well, maybe that's the second best aid station.  Who can forget about the munchkin mile presented by Dunkin' Donuts?!?  I usually pass on donuts during the race, but decided to stop and smell the sugar this year with any time goals being nonexistent anyway.

The Best of Baltimore - This may be my favorite part of this race.  Baltimore doesn't always get the best press, but this event brings out the best in the city!  First of all, the support from the police department and other first responders is top notch.  There were countless cops who not only worked to block intersections throughout the city to keep runners safe, but they also joined in on the cheering and the fun.  Neighborhoods came together to throw some of the absolute best block parties - from music screaming from speakers, to costumed dancers, to children giving high fives, and endless cheers and applause, it was certainly a sight to be seen and helped motivate everyone regardless of how fast you were running.

Despite the tough terrain, Baltimore is one of my favorite running events - for all of these reasons and much more!  I hope to see you in Charm City sometime soon!!

Frederick Running Festival 2019 Half Marathon

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So we ran through Frederick
On that wet, wet, wet day

Okay. . .so maybe that's not exactly how Dr. Seuss wrote it, but that's my adaptation to intro you into a recap of the 2019 Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon.  I had never run a race before that rained (and rained hard!) most of the race, so this was definitely a first.  Let's recap - the good, the bad, and the wet!

This was my third time participating in the Frederick Running Festival. In 2014, I ran the Twilight 5K and in 2016 I completed the Nut Job Challenge by running the Twilight 5K on Saturday night and the half marathon on Sunday morning.  I've always enjoyed this race weekend for several reasons - number one probably being the company I get to keep when running!  Several of my friends participate in this race each year so it truly is a fun filled event.  In fact, one of the couples we are closest with lives in Frederick and play host to a pasta dinner on Saturday night and open their house to runners to sleep at the night before the half.  I also really enjoy the course in Frederick, or at least the first 10 miles of it.

Miles 1 through 10 of the race are ran primarily through the streets of downtown Frederick.  Whether you're running through the shopping and dining district or winding through neighborhoods, the course always brings out a good number of fans and the time in town passes quickly.  The last few miles of the course though are brutal.  The course opens up to basically be wide open road.  With all visual interest lost and a pretty terrible uphill climb through mile 11, it's easy to quickly fade out, especially in the rain.

So let's talk about the rain for a minute.  We knew a few days out that weather forecasts were predicting a soggy half marathon, but forecasts only increased rain totals as the hours drew closer.  Having never run a race in this type of steady and consistent rain before, I was seeking advice from my more experienced friends.  Armed with anti-chafe cream, a hat, and my poncho I took to the starting area ready to get this race started and finished.  Maybe the rain would motivate me to run faster?  About 5 minutes before the race started, the skies opened up big time.  As I'm standing at the starting line, I'm watching rain pour from gutters of the surrounding buildings and realize I'm already accumulating puddles of water in my already soaked shoes.  It was at this time I started to think that I had made a tremendous mistake.  Luckily, the rain eased up as the race began and by a mile into the race, it was a steady, but slow rain.  It picked up again around mile 6 and I was again trudging through a downpour for about 2 miles.  The highlight of that stretch was one of the volunteers standing outside cheering us on with the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" blaring from his car!

After mile 8, the rain again slowed to a more manageable amount, but by this point I was thoroughly soaked and tired and I slowed considerably for the final miles of the race.  I was ahead of pace for where I wanted to be until then, running on average around 11:30 miles, but slowed to over 12:00 miles and then eventually closed in on the 13:00 mile pace.  I think I really need to build in some speed work before my next half because when I tried to "kick it in" at the end, I had nothing - no next gear whatsoever.  Despite this collapse at the end and the conditions, I actually set a new PR by 11 minutes, besting my previous time of 2:53 with a finish of 2:42.


Overall, I would say the day was a success.  With a new PR firmly in hand and proving to myself that I can conquer the weather, I was pretty pleased.  However, I think my favorite part of race day was the hot shower that was waiting for me at the end followed by the big greasy cheeseburger from McDonald's - and the bling! And a great perk post race is that Care First provides runners with FREE, yes FREE, race photos!   Missed the Frederick Half Marathon, but still looking for more great races in Maryland.  Corrigan Sports, the group that hosts the Frederick Half Marathon, also has both the Baltimore 10 Miler and the Baltimore Running Festival coming up in the weeks and months ahead.  If you're interested in learning more about the Baltimore Running Festival, check out my referral link here!

Tales from a Self-Proclaimed Slacker

So here's the down and dirty truth - I've been a slacker.  Life has gotten in the way these past few weeks and I need to get myself back on track.  I can't say it's been a bad few weeks - it's actually been really exciting around our house!  Both of my boys celebrated birthdays the first week of February which meant birthday fun and a big birthday party.  February is also the busiest month of our friends and family birthday parties too so we've been running each weekend to parties.  We've also been doing lots of fun things like visiting the Baltimore Auto Show and renewing our membership with our first visit of 2019 to the Maryland Science Center.

The weather has been dampening my training plans - literally.  Between the polar vortex, snow, ice, and rain, I am once again renewed with my feelings of bitterness for training in Maryland winters.  Bring on the sunshine and warmer temperatures!  My treadmill has been getting me some miles, but it's admittedly not the same.  And with my hubby traveling a lot for work lately, getting to my elliptical at the Y has become more difficult.

And diet - don't even go there.  Training diet went out the window with the birthday cakes, pizza, and Super Bowl food about a week and a half ago and I haven't gotten that ship righted either.  In January, I lost 9 lbs and in February I've found 2 of them again!  I've been a yo-yo dieter most of my adult life so I'm used to this ride, but I'm hoping to end that cycle.  This time around I'm not doing a "diet" - I'm working to balance healthier eating choices with exercise to take weight off once and for all.


via GIFER

So now it's time to refocus and get back on track.  But how?  Getting back into a routine is HARD - like seriously hard people.  How do you do it?  I need to hit back with consistency.  Whether it's what's on the training plan or not, I simply need to do something every day.  Training for a marathon is, well, a marathon not a sprint.  I know ups and downs will happen over the next 11 months and my success next January won't be determined by one or two weeks where I fell down on my plan, but by the weeks where I pulled myself back and kept pushing forward.  That's a good metaphor for life too. We're all bound to fall down from time to time, but it's not how far or how hard you fall.  Instead, it's about how you pull yourself back up.  And remember you are not alone - in life or training.  Admitting our failures and our struggles as well as celebrating our successes with family, friends, or total strangers on the Internet means we find support and encouragement.  So today, let's lift each other up and make each other stronger!

Namaste Runners

Because photographic evidence of me doing yoga
does not actually exist. . .
Anyone who even casually runs can speak to the value of cross training.  Running can take a toll on your body if you go too hard, too far, too fast.  Getting back into running after roughly a year off means that I need to work my body back into running slowly.  However, with weight loss also being a focus of mine, I want to move each day so I've been alternating my running workouts with walking and yoga.  While it's been a while since I had practiced yoga, I quickly remembered why I love it - especially as a runner.

Yoga presents a modified rest day in a physically demanding week.  Taking your body through stretching and strength exercises works your muscles in a totally different way.  I'm hoping this will help strengthen my core and create those long, lean running muscles that I'd love to have!  I also firmly believe that yoga will help prevent injury throughout the months ahead of training.  Then there are the mental benefits.  Taking an opportunity to slow down in the busy world of being a mom, wife, Assistant Principal, and many other things to many other people is important.  Lately I've been using The Biggest Loser's Weight Loss Yoga video which ends up being about 30 minutes.  Bob Harper talks me through a variety of fast moving poses.  Those days of yoga are among my favorites during the week and I anxiously await them on my training calendar.

So how did this week go for me?  Pretty well!  I kept to my Galloway training plan and did 2 - 30 minute sessions during the week and a 4 mile run on weekend.  I also kept to my plan of working out every day by walking or doing yoga on days I didn't run.  I ended up heading over to the Y for one of my 30 minute runs on the elliptical which was quite frankly awesome.  I think that might be my new go-to piece of equipment when winter weather keeps me indoors - all the motion of running without any of the impact.  I was able though to log my 4 mile run outside on Saturday morning before the winter precipitation and polar vortex set in.  This coming week is a step back week in my training with my weekend run only scheduled to be 2 miles before upping mileage the two weeks after that.

Conquering Excuses

Spending quality time with my treadmill
this week.
"It's too cold."
"It's snowing." 
"It's too late." 
"Why does it get dark so early?"
"I'm too tired."

Any of those sound familiar?  I know I've been guilty of saying them before, but I'm working on ways to conquer excuses in 2019 when it comes to working out and my training.  As I've heard from much wiser people than me, it's not about "not having time" for something - it's all in how you prioritize your time. 

Full disclosure - this was a rough week in meeting my training goals.  My excuses for the week include busy days at school that kept me later, my husband traveling for work which meant I had both littles to manage, and the brutal winds and snowy weather.  So while my Galloway training calendar called for 2 30 minute runs and a 3 mile run this week, that didn't happen. . .well, it didn't happen exactly that way.  This week, I conquered excuses by modifying and simply doing the best I can.  

This would have been a really easy week to say that I wasn't going to work out since I wasn't able to run the way I wanted to, but instead I made modifications to my Galloway plan to keep me moving without (hopefully) losing too much progress.  I am fortunate to have a treadmill at home which means I can still walk even when I can't run.  Running on a treadmill tears my body up and I've just reached a point where I don't do it anymore.  So this weeks running workouts became walking workouts.  I followed the same plan, just walking instead of running.  And I stayed true to my yoga video as well, logging 3 yoga sessions this week.  

At the end of the day, even when you can't stick exactly to the plan, my motto is that it's better to do something rather than nothing.  We'll see what the week ahead brings.  It's another crazy week of schedules and looks like another snow storm is on the horizon, so more treadmill miles may be in store, but I have plenty of time to continue training before the Frederick Half Marathon.  

Until next week, keep moving friends!  

Training Plans!

Time to lace up those training shoes, Mickey!
One of the best things about keeping a blog are the connections you make with others along the way.  I've met so many fabulous "virtual" friends over the years who share both a love of running and a love of Disney with me.  So in the spirit of connecting with others, I'm starting a weekly post this year that will allow me to share my week in training.  My hope is that this will be a place where I can hold myself accountable by publicly sharing what's going on with my running while also hoping to create a community space where all of you who are also enjoying the ups and downs of a fitness journey can share your own stories.

So here we are at week one - let's talk 2019 goals first.  Actually, to tell the story of my 2019 goals, I need to tell you a 2020 goal.  I'm planning to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2020 along with the Castaway Challenge which means that 2019 is a year for me to seriously pile the miles back on!  I generally do better sticking with a training plan when I have a race to train for so I have two half marathons on the books this year.  In May, I'll be running the Frederick Half Marathon.  This race was my very first half back in 2016.  I'm also signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon in October.  This will be a return to this race after a three year hiatus.  By completing both of these races, I'll also earn the Maryland Double medal.  And, because I love medals and it's really only one more race, I may add the Baltimore 10 miler which would get me "King Crab" status for the second time.  Ultimately I'm running Maryland in preparation to runDisney again in 2020!
Pretty much. . . #truth

Those of you who have been following me for several years now know my deep love of Jeff Galloway and his training plans so it should be no surprise that I'm once again turning to him for guidance on my training this year.  While I continued a regular exercise routine in 2018, I didn't run any races, so I'm back at staring in square one for half marathon training.  I'm following Galloway's Beginner Half Marathon training plan that can be found on the runDisney website.  It's a 19 week training program which works perfectly since the Frederick Half is 19 weeks away.  This week, I ran my three training runs - two 30 minute runs and a 2 mile run on the weekend.  It actually felt pretty good being back out there with minimal adjustment for my body.  I'm supplementing my non-running days with either walking or yoga to keep moving but hopefully without putting too much stress on my muscles and joints.

What are your fitness goals this year?  Any runners out there with exciting races on the calendar?  Or maybe you're changing up and trying something new.  Whatever your goals are, I can't wait to follow your journeys too!

2017 Princess Half Marathon Race Recap

Leg 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge found me with another early wake-up at 3AM to get ready to join the thousands of women (and lots of men too!) at Epcot for runDisney's Princess Half Marathon. Like other runDisney races, the start time is an invigorating 5:30AM and they ask runners to arrive by 4:30AM at the latest.  We boarded our bus from Coronado Springs at 3:45 and were inside the waiting area at Epcot by 4:15.  Since we had time to spare and nothing else to do, we opted to get in line to try and meet a princess before the start of the race.  We cut it close before the line was closed, but were able to grab a picture with Tiana.  Christine and I also found a minute to pause for a quick photo before heading to the corrals.  As you can see, I went with a Belle inspired look for the race which was fitting as the race weekend theme was Beauty and the Beast.

The starting corrals for this particular race are a good walk from the waiting area.  Definitely heed the warnings by the DJ beginning around 4:30 to start walking there.  We began heading in that direction around 5:00 and didn't make it to our corral until after the race had officially started.  That's a benefit though of being slow - my corral placement was so far back, I didn't miss my starting time!  We saw many, many people running hard to try and make it to their corrals before the race started and some early corral runners who missed their start and had to drop back.  Regardless of where runners started, everyone was treated to the usual pomp and circumstance that accompanies the start of every runDisney race - fireworks and music!

The race featured a number of unique and fabulous character stops.  We bypassed the long line for the group of handsome men waiting to greet runners, but don't worry ladies - I grabbed a quick photo as we jogged past.  This course takes you from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then onto Magic Kingdom.  There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing the signs for Magic Kingdom, running down Main Street USA, and through Cinderella Castle.  There were a number of character stops in Magic Kingdom, but I was feeling very tired and sluggish from being undertrained and tired from the 10K the day before so we continued to push on to not loose momentum.  I had said that I would stop for Gaston no matter how long the line was, but when the line was back past Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid, I changed my mind and just settled for a quick pic on the way past.

After leaving Magic Kingdom, we ran past the Grand Floridian and saw a very famous and familiar face.  Many Disney regulars will recognize Richard as the long time greeter at the Grand Floridian.  This was one picture I couldn't pass up.  As we made our way back to Epcot, I started to really lose it physically.  As we were on the bridge crossing into Epcot, I was doing way more walking than running, but I was still moving in the right direction.  After entering Epcot, runners circled around the  fountain in Future World and then back to the parking lot.  The Gospel Choir at mile 13 was just what this exhausted runner needed.  Princess Minnie was greeting runners right before crossing the finish line and we were done!  19.3 miles in less than 30 hours was an impressive feat for me and I couldn't have been happier to pick up my beautiful Princess Half Marathon AND Glass Slipper Challenge medals.  I also couldn't have been happier to return to the hotel for a shower and lunch that was waiting for me.  The Glass Slipper Challenge was a memorable weekend and I look forward to my next runDisney adventure!



Enchanted 10K Race Recap

Walt Disney World is a place where dreams come true and runDisney weekends there help those dreams become reality.  This year, my friend and I traveled for a girls weekend to Walt Disney World as part of the Princess Half Marathon festivities where we participated in the Glass Slipper Challenge which includes the Enchanted 10K and the Princess Half Marathon.  Given the princess theme for the weekend, I opted to go for race costumes inspired by two of my favorite leading Disney ladies.  For the 10K, I sported a green skirt and purple top along with a red headband to run in an Ariel inspired look.  

Saturday morning began early as all runDisney race days do with a 3AM wake-up call and a 3:30AM bus ride to Epcot for the start of the race.  The DJ had us all pumped up and ready to go.  We decided to jump in line for the chance to try and meet a princess before the race.  No one can queue up a line like Disney and they had the hour plus line well organized - even if there wasn't a FastPass+ option to jump ahead!  After finally snagging a picture with Jasmine, I joined some very enthusiastic ladies in the parking lot for the Cha-Cha Slide and then it was off to the corrals.  

The Enchanted 10K featured a staggered start within each of the corrals in an attempt to spread runners out on the course.  My friend and I were in one of the later corrals and found congestion prevalent along the way as the race began for us.  Typical of runDisney races, characters were out in full force on the course.  Because our starting corral was not that great, we skipped most of the character stops.  However, I couldn't resist stopping for a rare opportunity to meet the Evil Queen from Snow White.  The line was massive, but I decided to take the chance and wait.  We ended up waiting nearly 30 minutes and as we were getting our pictures taken, I saw the cyclists ride by warning about sweeping and could easily see the balloon ladies - YIKES!  That was a first.  We hightailed it back onto the course and continued along the highway until we entered Epcot through World Showcase.  

Getting that close to the sweepers scared me to death and we didn't end up stopping for any more character pictures along the way.  As we wound through World Showcase and onto the Boardwalk, the sun was rising higher and the so was the temperature.  The final character stop featured Princess Minnie, and a line that was probably 45 minutes long.  I felt like there were a great number of character stops, but I couldn't get over how long the wait was at each one - even larger than what I remember from previous Wine and Dine races.  

The finish was truly a celebration for runners with music, characters, and medals.  We were so exhausted by the end of the race from the late night out the night before and the early morning, that we opted to head straight back to the hotel for a shower, some food, and a nap.  After all, we had only completed one leg of the Glass Slipper Challenge with another 13.1 miles less than 24 hours away!

Taking Time for Mom

Over the past three months I've taken an unplanned hiatus from blogging.  I can't say that I'm sorry about it either.  While I was in Walt Disney World for runDisney's Princess Half Marathon weekend, I had a blast with my good friend, but realized just how out of shape I was for someone who was a "runner."  Yes, I would run using Galloway's interval training, but since the birth of my second child, I had a hard time dropping the pounds.  The pictures from the weekend revealed this to me more than I liked to admit.  So I decided to get serious about getting back in shape and focus on me.

In order to take more time for myself, I had to find some extra time in my schedule which meant that blogging took a back seat.  I have to say that it felt good to do something for me each day.  And the results have felt good too.  I've lost roughly 20 lbs over the three months and refocused on my health, career, and family.  And while I still have work to do in all of those areas - I'm ready to return to the blog to talk about my journey over the past months, summer family fun plans, and the magic of Disney!  I look forward to connecting back with each of you again over the next few weeks!!

I'm officially a runDisney Princess!

It's been quiet for a few weeks on the blog as I've prepared for and traveled to Walt Disney World for my very first Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  I'll be posting more details on each of these experiences in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to take a minute and give you a quick weekend recap from my trip.

Where We Stayed - For this trip, I was back on Disney property and stayed at Coronado Springs Resort.  The moderate level hotel is also a Convention Center and as such boasts several dining options, a spa, and beautiful grounds.  We were only here for two nights, but enjoyed our stay.  It's definitely one I will recommend to friends and family in the future.

Where We Ate - We had two new dining experiences on this trip.  We visited Chef Art Smith's Homecoming in Disney Springs for dinner one evening where we were delighted by some down home southern cooking.  And on Sunday, we enjoyed the Gospel Brunch at House of Blues - also in Disney Springs.  The Gospel Brunch, which features a buffet of New Orleans favorites and a gospel concert, had been on my "must-do" list for a while now and it didn't disappoint!  I also had the pleasure of introducing my friend Christine to California Grill.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that dinner while watching the fireworks from California Grill is one of my favorites and I was excited to do it again.

What We Did - We ran the Glass Slipper Challenge!  When you spend less than 50 hours in Walt Disney World and run both a 10K and Half Marathon, there's not much time to do anything else.  Both races were a lot of fun.  In typical runDisney fashion, characters and entertainment were everywhere you looked.  And the bling. . .oh, the bling!  It was a fabulous weekend of race medals - my new favorites in my ever growing collection.  Princess Half Marathon weekend had a very different vibe then my previous experiences at Wine and Dine.  It felt "crazier," but I guess that's what happens when you have 20,000+ women running in tutus!

As you can see, it was a short trip, but I was able to pack in many new experiences.  I can't wait to share them with you in the weeks ahead and I'm already counting down to our next trip in November - a return for runDisney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend events!!

My Top 5 Posts of 2016

In what has now become an annual tradition on the blog (I think I can call it that if I've done it two years in a row, right?), here is a countdown of my top 5 posts from the past year.  Thanks to everyone who stops by to check out my posts and I can't wait to share more memories and magic in 2017!

5. Why We Won't Be Going to MNSSHP - Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been on my Disney bucket list for a long time now and we were finally taking a Fall trip that would put us there not only during some of the party dates, but actually on Halloween.  So why did we decide not to go? Find out here!

4. runDisney Inaugural Wine & Dine 10K - The inaugural runDisney Wine & Dine 10K was an amazing race.  Hosted by Chef Remy, the race featured a familiar course through Epcot and around the Boardwalk with some great characters and all the runDisney fun that you expect from their events.

3.  A Beginner's Guide to Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival - One of the most popular events in Walt Disney World can be overwhelming when you don't know what to expect.  We attended for the first time in 2015 and I used my experiences to write some tips that I learned which might benefit other first timers.

2.  Best Bets for Preschoolers in Epcot - Traveling with the little guys to Walt Disney World has meant seeing the parks through the eyes of my kids.  Epcot gets a bad reputation sometimes as not being a kid-friendly park.  This post highlights some of our favorite things to do around Future World and World Showcase!

1.  Things that May Terrify Your Kids in Walt Disney World - My husband will probably laugh out loud that this is my top post of the year.  His biggest complaint about Disney is that our kids are scared of some of the things there.  It's a true statement.  I don't think that ruins a family vacation - just review some of these experiences that might terrify your kids.  Moral of the story, there is so much to see and do in Disney; do what makes your family happy rather than trying to push through things that scare them.

How to Survive a runDisney Expo with Your Sanity

If you look up the definition of "insanity" in the dictionary, you may see a picture of a runDisney event.  From the breathlessness that accompanies registration day ("Will I get in?") to the organized chaos mass of people loading into corrals on race morning - no race that I've ever experienced comes close to the excitement and adrenaline rush that runDisney enthusiasts know far too well.  The expo at runDisney race weekends is no different.  After having a few runDisney events under my belt, here are some tips to help make the expo a little less stressful and allow you to hopefully enjoy everything there.

1. As Scar would say, "be prepared." - At it's very core, the expo's prime purpose is for you to pick up your bib so you can actually run in the race.  In order to do this, you need to have your race waiver ready to go.  runDisney typically sends these out a week or two in advance and you can print it out to bring with you.  If you forget, the expo does have printers available for you to print there, but it just adds more time and another line for you to wait in.  Also, make sure you have your ID.  runDisney has a strict no transfer / no sale policy and they will verify that you really are the runner who registered.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you may only pick up your own bib; not for anyone else unless you are picking up for a child in the Kids Races.

2.  Choose your time wisely - I would not recommend going to the expo when it opens on the first day. . .unless you would like to be trampled by all manner of ebay sellers and crazy merchandise shoppers.  The pictures I've seen on social media in the first hours that the expo have kept me away.  I have attended the expo on the first day later in the afternoon and have been able to purchase official merchandise without any problems.  Now if there is something that you are desperate for, maybe you will need to go early - may the Force be with you.

runDisney celebrity sighting!!
3.  Shop the merchandise like a pro - First things first, if you want a jacket or pin go ahead and pre-order it through Active.  It will save you a lot of time and hassle at the expo to pick up what you ordered rather than worrying about whether or not they will still have what you want in stock.  The pre-order jackets are also unique to the online pre-purchase so you won't be able to find those exact ones there.  Secondly, when you go to the official runDisney merchandise section, be sure to shop the whole area before getting in line.  These lines can be lengthy and you don't want to have to get out and get back in.  It's also good to note that at the official runDisney location, you can access all of your typical Disney discounts - 10% off $50 or more with a Disney Visa and current percentage off discounts for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members.  They also accept Disney Gift Cards at that location.  Lastly, if you're in search of the runDisney New Balance shoes, sign up for the virtual queue to reserve your spot.  These are at the New Balance location at the expo, not with the runDisney merchandise.  Disney discounts and Disney gift cards can't be applied towards the shoes. 

4.  Take your time to enjoy - You have worked hard and trained hard for this race weekend, don't rush through it!  I love exploring the booths, checking out the medals for upcoming runDisney races, and listening to guest speakers.  I was so excited to meet Jeff Galloway and talk about my training with him.  Know your travel party on your Disney vacation.  I leave non-runners at the hotel or at the parks so that I can enjoy the expo at my own pace without my little ones (or my husband for that matter) asking "are we done yet?"

5.  Manage expo transportation - Transportation to and from the expo is provided from the Walt Disney World Resort hotels on a continual basis (about every 15-20 minutes).  The bus parking lot is well signed with which busses are going to which resorts.  If you are not staying on property, you can drive to ESPN Wide World of Sports or take a taxi.  Parking is free and taxis are also readily available.  Cast members are more than happy to help point you in the right direction whichever option you choose!  

runDisney Inaugural Wine & Dine 10K

After running my first runDisney races in 2015, I was hooked and couldn't wait to plan a 2016 race getaway.  We ended up planning a weeklong family vacation that would end on Wine & Dine weekend once again.  And with a new menu of racing choices including the addition of a 10K and Lumiere's Two Course Challenge there was a lot of excitement in the air during the months leading up to the event.  Due to our travel schedule, I wasn't able to do the half marathon so the inaugural challenge was out for me, but I was thrilled to be part of the Ratatouille themed 10K.

The 10K was set to run on Saturday morning with the typically early runDisney start time of 5:30AM.  I was staying offsite at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek so I had to provide my own race transportation, which I did via taxi service to the start line at Epcot.  I arrived right around 4AM and couldn't be more excited to be at the party that greets runners.  Characters, concession sales, and a DJ all provide a fantastic atmosphere to get pumped up for the race.  Since I didn't have much else to do until the start time and I was by myself, I hopped in the very long line to meet Remy and Emile from Ratatouille.  The DJ kept announcing that the characters would leave at 5AM and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.  Remy disappeared about 4:45, but I remained in line for Emile and ended up being the last person who got to meet him before the race started.


After meeting Emile, I headed over towards the corrals.  runDisney is nothing if not efficient at getting their races off and running on time.  By the time I made a stop to use the bathroom, corral A had already headed to the starting line and my corral, corral B, was already opened up to follow.  With the typical runDisney fanfare including music and fireworks, the first corral started promptly at 5:30 and corral B was off about 10 minutes later.


This was my first runDisney 10K and, although this was an inaugural race for Wine & Dine weekend, my understanding is that it was a familiar course.  The first 3 miles were on the roads out and around Epcot.  There were two character stops along the road including the penguins from Mary Poppins and  Flik and Princess Atta from A Bug's Life.  I was feeling energized and neither stop was overly appealing to me, so I kept on running past those characters.  Shortly after the mile 3 marker, runners enter Epcot through a backstage area and burst into World Showcase inside the Norway Pavilion.  The cast members inside World Showcase were phenomenal - cheering runners on in languages native to each country!  This also led to the next few character stops which included Geppetto and Pinocchio in Germany and the Genie in Morocco.  I was feeling like I needed some character interaction as I was already past the halfway point so I stopped for each of these.  Runners then continued out of Epcot via the International Gateway to circle Disney's Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.  Chip and Dale greeted runners at the ESPN Club and there were a lot of spectators out in the resort areas to cheer everyone on.  As we re-entered Epcot, a large Sebastian met us and the party continued into the United Kingdom.  We exited the park after running through Future World and accepted the inaugural bling in the parking lot near where we started.  As always, the course was flat and fast.



I have to say that once again I was incredibly impressed with runDisney.  Everything was organized, well-supported, and fun.  I can't say that any other races I've run have come close to the experience of runDisney.  I was also really pleased with the runner's etiquette on display this week.  Many runDisney runners follow Galloway's run/walk intervals.  Everyone I encountered on the course was signaling breaks and not walking in large groups.  I would definitely come back for another Wine & Dine 10K and can't wait for the Glass Slipper Challenge in about 100 days!!

I'm a Baltimoron!

Under Armour Race Premiums - Yes, please!
Everyone knows runners can be a little crazy.  And those of you who know me, probably know that I love my race bling.  So when the time came to sign up for my 2016 racing schedule, I decided to go all out.  Those of you who have been following my blog, have seen race recaps from the first two legs of the King Crab Challenge.  In May, I completed the Nut Job Challenge at the Frederick Running Festival which included a 5K on Saturday night and a half-marathon on Sunday morning.  Just 3 weeks later, I ran the hot, hilly, and humid Baltimore 10 miler.  The final part of the King Crab Challenge came with completing the Baltimore half-marathon last weekend.  I decided to take the Baltimore Running Festival one step further and signed up for the Baltimoronathon - a 5K and a half-marathon with start times just two hours apart.

The hubs and I sporting our 5K medals
I was excited to have my husband join me for this race weekend.  We decided to get a hotel room in the city the night before so that we wouldn't have to get too early of a start on Saturday morning.  Our hotel, the Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor, happened to be just a few steps from the start line for the 5K - perfect!  Just a few days before the race, I convinced my husband to sign up for the 5K as well.  After a light breakfast of oatmeal and a banana, we headed down to the start line for a 7:30AM start.  Since I knew I was tackling two races in the same day, I decided to take it easy on the 5K and walked most of it with my husband.  The 5K course is almost entirely uphill the first half and then turns around to go downhill the second half.  We added some jogging in to the second half of the race, which helped to loosen me up for the half.  We finished the 5K in about 47 minutes, collected our bling, and headed back to the Hilton lobby to meet up with my friends who were going to be running the half.

So much bling!
The half was slated to start at 9:45AM, so we started heading down to Inner Harbor for the start around 9:15.  The Baltimore Running Festival also features a marathon that day.  Along the way to the start, we were able to cheer for the marathon runners passing by and were keeping a look out for a friend who was completing the full.  The start of the half is right next to the Inner Harbor and features self-seeded waves.  My speedier friends headed off in Wave 2 and I lingered back to the end of Wave 3 of 5.  I don't know why, especially after the Baltimore 10 miler, but I was surprised how hilly the course was - particularly the opening miles.  Despite the hills, I felt really good the 5-6 miles.  It typically takes me a few miles to hit my groove on a long run, but I think the 5K earlier took care of that for me.  Around mile 7 the course flattened out and circled Lake Montebello where a DJ kept runners dancing and smiling as they entered and left the lake.  The Lake Montebello portion and 33rd Street, mirrored a few miles of the Baltimore 10 miler.  However, while that race ended with a large uphill portion back into Druid Hill Park, the Baltimore Half Marathon finished with a downhill run to finish through Eutaw Street and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  I'm really glad the race finished downhill, because by about mile 11, I was dragging and needed all the help I could get.  I finished the race with a smile and collected my bling!  That day, I earned my 5K, half-marathon, and Baltimoronathon medals.  I also was able to collect my Maryland Double medal for finishing the Frederick and Baltimore Half Marathons.  And the King Crab Challenge award this year was a fleece blanket.  My training had been a little lax for this half, so my goal was to finish in under 3 hours, and I clocked in at 2:57.  

The spoils from my 2016 race season!
So for those of you thinking about the Baltimore Running Festival - I would definitely recommend it!  The race is well supported - both officially by Corrigan and unofficially by the people of Baltimore.  The residents and spectators who come out to cheer runners along the course offered high fives, music, costumes and some pretty funny signs.  The Baltimoronathon was certainly an added unique challenge.  Now it's on to the next race - runDisney's Wine and Dine 10K on November 5th!

Happy Running, Friends!

Running Etiquette for runDisney and Beyond!

There are several things that you will find at every runDisney race - costumes, characters, fun, and lots of people.  I mean tens of thousands of runners all looking to make memories running the most magical races on Earth.  With so many runners participating in each race of a runDisney weekend, race day etiquette becomes even more crucial.

runDisney races draw runners from all skill levels - the elite to the just beginning.  And with Jeff Galloway being the training face for runDisney, there are plenty of participants using run/walk intervals - myself included.  There is nothing wrong with taking ample walk breaks during your runDisney race, but keep these things in mind:

  • Don't walk (or run for that matter) more than 2 across.  Friends and family make great running friends, but when you run or walk 3, 4, or 5 wide, it's hard for anyone to get around you - especially in the narrow areas of the course like the walkway between Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
  • If you're using run/walk intervals, remember to signal your walk breaks by raising your hand.  This will prevent those who are running behind you from running into you from behind.  When you're walking, you should also move to the right so that those who are running can pass on the left.
  • Be honest with your proof of time - and don't try to sneak into a different corral.  This is a biggie.  Respect the race rules and let the faster runners get out in their corrals.  Jumping ahead or lying about your time only creates more backlog on the course for everyone. 
And remember, race etiquette isn't just for runDisney, but for all of your races - to infinity and beyond!

Tips for Packing for runDisney

Getting ready to race can be a daunting task as you train, prepare, and figure out logistics.  Add to that, getting organized for a Disney Parks vacation at the same time and it may seem overwhelming.  Here are some of my favorite tips to get ready to runDisney so that you can enjoy your race weekend and your vacation!
Who is ready to runDisney??
  • Put essential race gear in your carry on. This becomes even more important if your flight is close to race day. I've read horror stories of runners who fly to their race location and have their shoes or racing outfit in luggage that was lost. This is a highly unlikely situation, but it doesn't hurt to plan accordingly.
  • Speaking of running clothes - pack what you know is comfortable and will work for you. One of the most enjoyable parts of any runDisney weekend is checking out some of the amazing costumes of runners. Personally, I have a lot of fun planning my own outfits, but I always make sure that the costume will be comfortable for the 13.1 miles ahead of me. 
  • Don't forget snacks and energy gel that you like to use. While you can find food in whichever Disney Parks location you're running in and there will be plenty of gel options for sale at the expo, you don't want to mess with success on race day if you know a certain protein bar or flavor of energy gel carries you through a race.  
  • Leave the bulky bags behind. runDisney provides each runner with a clear plastic bag and bib stickers to use for gEAR check - a process which runs amazingly smooth. This means you don't need to worry about packing bags to bring your change of clothes or end of race essentials. 
  • Bring a "throwaway" layer of clothes. I'm just going to point out that Florida weather is CRAZY. There have been some race weekends with freezing temperatures and others with heat and humidity warnings. Like the Girl Scouts taught me like I was young, you always want to be prepared. If it is a little chilly out while you're waiting in corrals or beginning the race, you can keep this extra layer on and then simply pitch it on the side of the road as you begin to run. runDisney will collect these extra clothes and donate to charity.
runDisney vacations are a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate your months of training.  Be sure to pack for success - and maybe leave a little room to spare in your luggage for those goodies you might want to pick up at the expo!

It's All About the Bling

One of the things that sets runDisney races apart from all others in my book is the amazing bling.  When it comes to Disney races, rather it's been a plastic medallion, a rubber medal, or the real deal, I've always been proud of and impressed by the medals. You can count on fun designs that are themed around each race and part of the fun is waiting for the big reveals leading up to the races.

And now that bling is even blingier (yeah. . .that's probably not a word).  Gone are the days of rubber medals for 5K races in Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  runDisney released today new medal designs for the Disneyland 5K, Mickey's Holiday 5K, and the Captain America 5K - all of which are coming up this fall.  Check out the new shiny designs below in this image from runDisney.

Image from www.instagram.com/rundisney
I'm glad to see runDisney adding real medals for 5K finishers.  While I know a medal for a 5K is a rare occurrence, when you shell out $75 plus Active fees to run, you deserve a little bling with your t-shirt and your memories.  I don't know about you, but these medals make me wish I had a runDisney 5K on my race plan soon!

Hold Onto Your Tiaras - I'm Running Princess Weekend!

Well runDisney fans and friends, I'm excited to share that I'll get to cross another runDisney event off my bucket list!  Look out Glass Slipper Challenge - I'm coming for you in 2017!  Yesterday, my friend and I registered for the annual challenge which includes the Enchanted 10K on Saturday and the Princess Half Marathon on Sunday.

Princess Half Marathon weekend is the ultimate girls running weekend in Walt Disney World.  Each year, a different princess takes center stage.  When I saw the ads for the 2017 registration coming from runDisney featuring Belle, I couldn't pass it up.  Belle is my favorite Disney princess and Beauty and the Beast still remains one of my favorite Disney movies of all time.

My friend, Christine, and I are already anxiously awaiting our big trip.  We are planning to stay on Disney property - most likely at one of the value resorts - to make this a budget friendly trip.  In fact, since we're flying in Friday and flying home Sunday, while needing to squeeze in the expo and two races, we're probably not even going to do park tickets.  While there, our plan is to spend our free time at the pool and spending time exploring all the fabulous shopping and dining options in Disney Springs.

As far as training, I'll need to roll right from the runDisney Wine and Dine 10K in November to start getting ready for race weekend.  This will be the toughest running challenge I've faced yet with back to back race days of these distances, but if anything will motivate me, it will be a mouse!

Who else will I see at Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February??