Run The Great Wide Somewhere

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere and running is how I'm finding the courage to explore this wonderful world.

Wordless Wednesday

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Eli finally convinced me to take him to play at the Contemporary and watch the monorails.

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Injury Prevention: Massage

It’s a free day here at Tuesdays on the Run with Patty from My No-Guilt Life and Erika from MCM Mama Runs.  While any running topic is always welcome, this is one of those weeks where we’re letting all our fellow bloggers just pick their own topic!

Because I’m super injury prone, I do lots of things to reduce my injury risk, including getting deep tissue massage every other week.   I’ve already posted about other injury reduction techniques like acupuncture and my love/hate relationships with my foam roller and The Stick.  Deep tissue massage is one more tool in my “keep on running” kit and like most of my other techniques I love it because it’s very effective, but I hate it because it hurts!

I’ve gotten massage on and off over the years because I have lots of upper back and neck tension and pain from being a generally uptight person and from working at a desk like a T-Rex with my arms all scrunched up and my shoulders pulled up under my ears.  I don’t know why I do that but I always wind up all knotted up.

For my terribly knotted up back, those relaxing fancy spa massages are useless.  They feel nice and relaxing at the time and I leave feeling great but by the next morning my muscles are all tight and painful again.  Luckily, I’ve found a couple of massage therapists over the years who have Arnold Schwartzennager like strength in their hands and know how to dig in and release the knots and tight spots.  Those deep tissue massages hurt at times but really do give me a lot of relief in the long run.

Since I got back into running a few years ago, I’ve added my legs to the areas I subject to treat to deep tissue massage.  Almost all of my running injuries in the last couple of years stem from tight calves, hamstrings and glutes.  So, my massage therapist now spends a lot of time digging in and finding the knots and tight spots and helping them release.  I think that is a big part of why I’ve been able to recover so quickly from my injuries.Massage is a big time commitment and isn’t cheap (even when insurance covers it, like mine does) but it makes a big difference in keeping me on the road.  I supplement it with yoga, foam rolling and stretching, but I feel like the massage therapy is an integral component in my running toolkit.  So, while I’ll indulge in a spa massage once a year, I make sure to get to the deep tissue, sports massage therapist at least once a month.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

We don’t get to go to the special holiday events at the Magic Kingdom very often, but we always enjoy them!  Eli and I went as a surprise mommy and kiddo trip last weekend.  This was my second time attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and I loved it.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special event (called a hard ticket event because it requires a separate ticket purchase) that happens at the Magic Kingdom several nights a week from early November through mid-December.  Due to increased crowds, there are not usually any scheduled the week of Thanksgiving or the Christmas week. You can find event dates and prices and purchase tickets here (many nights sell out, so you may want to get your tickets in advance).

On event nights, the Magic Kingdom shuts down to non-party-goers at 7pm, although if you have an event ticket you can get admission into the park at 4pm (look for the entry stations that say “Event Entrance” which were on the right hand side the night I went).   If you enter after 4pm through the Event Entrance gates, you will want to make sure to get a party wristband from a Cast Member right inside the gates.  This wristband will be required to stay in the park after 7pm and you will be asked to show it at ride entrances and certain checkpoints.   If you are already in the park before 4pm, you’ll want to look for a wristband distribution sign which are scattered throughout the park in the late afternoon and early evening.

We bought our tickets just a few days in advance, so we requested them to be sent to will-call for pickup.  When I went to the will-call booth at the Magic Kingdom, they scanned my magic bands (we’re annual passholders) and said that the event tickets had already been added to our account so we didn’t need any special separate tickets.  We just scanned our magic bands at the Event Entrance when we came back after Eli’s nap and got our wristbands with no problems.

So, you might ask why it’s worth the extra money to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party if we’re already annual passholders.  I think the answer is different for everyone, but for Eli and me, the answer is the short ride lines!  We love being able to just walk onto many rides during the event.  Even the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train only had a 40 minute wait (and that was fairly early in the night, I’m betting it was even shorter later on).  In just a couple of hours we got to eat dinner, ride the Astro Orbiter, the Mad Tea Party, “it’s a small world” (twice), Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Tomorrowland Speedway.

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One of the biggest draws is Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade that has all our favorite characters dressed in their holiday best.  Unfortunately, at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Eli saw the end of the Halloween parade with the villains and he also got spooked by the awesome clockwork dragon Maleficent in the Festival of Fantasy Parade so now he is refusing to watch any parades other than the Main Street Electrical Parade (which he loves).  So although I reassured him repeatedly that there was nothing scary in the Christmas Parade, he completely freaked out and refused to go anywhere near the parade route!  I’ve seen pictures though, and it is a really amazing parade (if you’re not a four year old with some bizarre parade anxiety issues).

Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season is is amazing fireworks show that you can only experience at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  While Hallowishes is still my very favorite fireworks show, this one is a close second.  It has amazingly huge red and green fireworks, fireworks that look like happy faces and perimeter fireworks that explode in all directions around you at once.  We usually like to watch the fireworks from the Dumbo area because it gives Eli a little distance from all the stimulation but we caught these just as we were coming off of “it’s a small world” and so we watched it from Fantasyland.  It was amazing to see the smaller fireworks being set right off of the roofs nearby.

There are also free cookie and hot cocoa stations spread all around the Magic Kingdom, marked with giant illuminated candy canes.

You can go into as many as you want (the one in the Crystal Palace is my favorite), although we only went in once.  I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the cookies (which I think are snickerdoodles).  As talented as Disney is at making delicious treats, I think they could pony up either a bigger selection or better cookies.  Or maybe rice crispy treats…mmmm….  The hot cocoa is pretty good (although marshmallow stations to add to your drink would be a nice addition) and it looked like you could opt for apple slices and apple juice instead.

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Another feature that we didn’t get to enjoy because Eli has a disinclination to interact with characters is special character photo opportunities.  We saw Goofy in a Santa suit and Winnie the Pooh and friends with holiday scarves and Donald, Daisy and Uncle Scrooge in holiday outfits and the Seven Dwarfs and many, many more.  Most of the characters were staged in Casey Jr. Splash “N” Soak Station near Dumbo (although the water features were turned off!).  They all had lines, but they seemed manageable.  If your family is into getting autographs and pictures with characters, this is a great way to collect some special ones.

Finally, we just love wandering around and seeing the holiday decorations and the special “snow” (tiny bubbles) blowing around on Main Street, U.S.A.

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Everyone seems to be in a good mood and we even saw one family give some pins away for free to another family with a daughter the same age as their daughter.  That kind of Disney “magic” (random acts of kindness to strangers) is one of the things that keeps us going back to Walt Disney World.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Tips:

  • Buy your tickets in advance so you don’t risk your date selling out.
  • Take it easy earlier in the day and try to get a nap in so you don’t run out of steam during the party.
  • Add a bit of holiday cheer with a holiday sweater or special holiday mouse ears.
  • Make sure to get some PhotoPass pictures taken of the whole family to capture fun memories.
  • Get your wristband when you go into the park or at a wristband distribution station inside the park.
  • Grab a party brochure when you get inside (where the park maps usually are, inside the tunnel), it will list all the times for the parade, fireworks and other special happenings.  It also shows where the cookies and cocoa distribution stations are located.
  • If you don’t have dinner reservations (and many table service restaurants are closed during the party for some reason), I recommend eating dinner before you go to the party.  Many of my favorite quick service restaurants close down early to set up to distribute the cookies and cocoa.  We ended up eating corn dogs from a stand because Columbia Harbor House had already closed.
  • Plan out which experiences are most important to you (rides, parades, dance parties, fireworks) so you don’t miss out on your favorite things.  Although the crowds are lower than regular nights, you’ll still need to stake out a spot for the parade and fireworks if you want ideal seating (not so important to us, but I know it is for some families).
  • Remember, you’re there to have fun.  Laugh, smile and give a kind word to a Cast Member or fellow guest.
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Saturday Update: Sick at Disney

No, this doesn’t actually say “sick of Disney” although some of my non-Disney-appreciating friends are probably thinking that.  No, we’re all at Disney for one last visit of 2014 and we’re all sick!  Last Sunday, Eli and I drove down for a two-day mommy & Eli visit that got cut short because he got sick Sunday night.  He’s mostly better now (just a stuffy nose, but has high energy and is feeling fine) but Erik and I have succumbed to the crud.  Ugh.  Stuffy nose, cough, sore throat.  We did get checked for the flu and we don’t have that, so hopefully we’re not infecting half of the known world by going to Disney.

Since we promised Eli one more trip to replace the one we had to cut short we decided to suck it up and hope for the best.  Who could say no to this face (here’s his response to going home a day early last Monday morning):

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So, how did my plans for the week go?  Well, between Eli & me being sick it didn’t go that well.  I did walk 11 miles on Sunday at Disney (most of which with Eli riding piggyback…kind of like rucking!) and we got six miles in yesterday.  But that’s about it.  I know lots of people stick to their workouts when they are sick, but I don’t.

I ate well about 80% of the time (it’s so hard this time of year with work parties and treats everywhere).  I kind of threw in the towel earlier in the week and decided to just eat whatever I wanted this month (hey, I was tired and Eli was sick and I apparently was getting sick) but then I discovered that I’m in Corral A for the WDW 10K in early January.  Eating a bunch of crap isn’t going to make that a fun race and certainly isn’t going to help me meet my sub one hour goal for the race.  So, I refocused and have been doing fairly well since then.

So, goals for this week:

  • Walk a whole lot today (we’re doing Animal Kingdom in the morning and Hollywood Studios at night so that shouldn’t be a problem).
  • Get over this nasty head cold!
  • Cook up soup to take to work for lunch this week.
  • Run at least 2x.
  • PiYo 2x.
  • Continue to work on chatting with new people.  I’ve done that a bit at Disney and it’s gone pretty well.

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Five Favorite Winter Activities – Florida Edition

Another Friday, another Friday Five linkup with Cynthia at You Signed Up for What , Mar at Mar on the Run and Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC.  Today’s topic is Five Favorite Winter Activities.  I’m sure many of the linked posts are going to include running pictures all bundled up with ice on their eyelashes (crazy!) and snow-skiing and ice skating.  Well, I live in Florida, so my favorite winter activities are a little different.

I always say that I get the equivalent of cabin fever during August and September, when I’m done with the “fun” summer stuff and I just end up staying inside to avoid the heat, humidity and bugs.  So, when the fall and winter finally arrive down here, I feel like I’ve been released from my summer confinement!  Here’s what I love to do when winter gets here:

  1. Decorate for the holidays.  The first time I see Halloween decorations, I get so excited that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of summer misery.  They represent the hope that cool temperatures really will come again!  Christmas decorations are even more special and just make me deeply happy! IMG_0237
  2. Go to Walt Disney World.  We have annual passes and while we do go in the summer sometimes, the winter is when we really enjoy Disney.  The crowds are generally lower and the weather is definitely better.  I love taking a spontaneous one or two day trip just because.  And since the weather is so wonderful, we can spend more time hiking around (11 miles on our last day there last weekend) without getting too tired out and sweaty!  EpcotMickey
  3. Go Explore Nature Locally.  Once again, the end of bug season and the reduction in the heat and humidity means that trips to the Devil’s Millhopper, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and San Felasco for hiking and exploring are a pleasure.  If we’re in town, we love taking in nature at one of these most weekends.  IMG_0013
  4. Winter Cleaning.  I know people in most of the country do spring cleaning, but I just love opening up the windows on a gorgeous winter day and airing out the house while I do some deep cleaning.  OK, I hate the cleaning part, but I do like the open windows, fresh air and clean house that results (at least for a few hours until Eli gets going on the toy relocation program).
  5. Running!  I run in the summer (which here seems to run from April through October) because I have to keep my training up, but I don’t enjoy it much because it is so hot and humid, even in the early morning.  But when that first crisp cool day comes around and I run among fallen leaves and over squished up acorns.  That’s the day that I remember why I love running.  And I speed up.  And I feel like I could go further and faster.  And I get to come home and see my Northern friends post about their treadmill runs or runs in zero degree weather with icicles on their eyelashes (again, crazy!) and I am so grateful I live in Florida.  At least until next April rolls around, when I decide I need to move to Maine.

What are your favorite winter activities?

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Well Things Just Got Real

Bib numbers and corrals are out for the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  I know lots of my friends are running #alltheraces that weekend, but I’m sticking to just the 10k.  Back when I signed up months and months ago, I was super into speedwork and was doing well on weight loss.  So I picked the 10k with a huge speed goal of finishing in the top 10% of my age group.

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Then the summer of crap hit (most notably Eli’s medical issues, but also work and my own illnesses and injuries) and I ended up gaining weight and skipping lots and lots of runs.  Sigh.  I’m back to a good training schedule for running, but my strength and cross training has fallen off to the wayside.  And while I’m heading in the right direction on my weight, I’m still above where I was in the Spring.

So, I found out that I’m going to be in Corral A for the 10k.  Yikes.  I have no idea what I put my estimated finish time at, but I’m pretty sure I am not going to be hitting that.  However, I did just finish a decent half marathon time and I’ve got a full month before the race so I have an opportunity to seriously focus to earn my spot in Corral A.

So here’s my plan:

  • Low carb diet.  For real.  Back to no crap, no exceptions.  I can lose ten pounds this month if I stick to it and that is going to help me tremendously with my speed.
  • Speed work.  Tempo runs, repeats, cross training.  I’m going to push hard and get back to where I was this past Spring.
  • Cross Training.  I don’t care what it is, strength, PiYo, biking, swimming…  I’m going to do something six days a week.  No exceptions (ok, well some exceptions but hopefully they don’t happen).
  • Foam rolling and stretching.  I won’t be able to stick to the plans above without a good recovery regimen.
  • Keep my long runs to 8 miles or less until the race.

I’ll reassess my race speed goal in a couple of weeks based on my progress, but right now, I am going to set a goal of sub one hour.  I’ve done it in training, but not recently.  And I’ve never managed it in a race setting.   And I need to remember this!  I’ve been training and running in my comfort zone for months and it’s time to challenge myself again.

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TotR: Show Us Your Bling!

It’s Tuesdays on the Run with me, Patty from My No-Guilt Life and Erika from MCM Mama Runs.  Our topic this fine December day is Show Us Your Bling!  It can be your favorite, your least favorite or your whole collection!

Here are my favorite medals:

My most favorite is also my most recent.  This is my Space Coast Half medal from last week.   I love the size of the medal and how sparkly it is.  I also love it because it honors the lives lost in the Challenger explosion.  Each star represents an astronaut who perished that day.  I remember being in the sixth grade and our geography teacher stopped class to explain what had happened.  It was one of those moments that is etched in my memory.   And it is my favorite medal because it reminds me of the race which remains my favorite race to date.

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Next on my medal hall of fame is my runDisney Coast-to-Coast medal.  I earned this one (and I mean EARNED IT) by completing a half marathon at Disneyland (Tink, otherwise known as the worst race I’ve ever run…mostly due to my own poor choices) and a half marathon at Walt Disney World (Princess) in the same calendar year.  It reminds me of my first (and only so far) trip to Disneyland and of the fact that I can push through and finish even when I feel awful and just want to lay down and quit.  It also reminds me of the second part of that challenge, the Princess Half, where I got to finish with my twinkie, Karen and to have some redemption in feeling great and finishing strong!  Plus, it has Walt Disney on it, so there’s that too!

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My two Expedition Everest Challenge medals are also big favorites of mine, because they represent the first race I ran with my older son and the first race I ran with my husband.  And they are working compasses, so if I get lost I can always find my way!  And Eli loves wearing them around the house going on treasure hunts.

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I love both my Wine & Dine Half medals, because Wine & Dine is my favorite runDisney race.  I think I love the 2014 medal more though, not just because it’s a spinner and is awesome, but because it represents pushing myself through the rain and cold and finishing even though it hurt and I didn’t feel great.  Plus, it has “the big Epcot ball” on it!

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I’ll be honest, I love each and every one of my medals, even the ugly ones, because they represent the changes I’ve made in my life in the last couple of years.  I may not be skinny or very fast and I may not “look” like a runner (whatever that means), but those medals prove that I’m willing to get out there and hit the pavement week after week, all year long and that I’m confident enough in myself to pin on a race bib and get out there and try my best.

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The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

One of the reasons that Wine & Dine is my favorite half marathon is that once you get near the end, when you’re starting to feel pretty tired and your feet hurt and the end seems (and is) still miles away, you suddenly turn a corner in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and you see this and suddenly your fatigue and worry are whisked away!

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Can you tell how happy this made me, even after more than nine miles of running in the cold rain?  I’ve always loved Christmas lights.  There’s something special about them that just evokes a sense of awe, wonder and peace.  When I’m driving home from a hard day at work and I pull into my neighborhood and see the holiday lights up, it just makes my heart feel happy.  Now take that feeling and multiply it by about a million and you have the wonder that is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

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In addition to being able to run through the lights during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, you can see them most nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios from early November through early January.  The history of the display is that the Osborne Family grew their home’s holiday light display until it was so large that some neighbors complained and they were forced to downsize.  They transferred the display to Walt Disney World, where it has been expanded it to its current size of over five million lights (100% LEDs).

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There is a “turning on” ceremony at dusk (usually around 6 p.m. each night, check the times guide) where the lights are switched on.  It can be crowded during the first few hours, so you may want to line up a few minutes early if you want to see the ceremony. After the lights are turned on, you can walk through the Streets of America and are welcome to stop and just enjoy the show or to stroll through the magical snowfall (tiny groups of bubbles that float about just like snow).

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The lights stay illuminated until the park closes and they dance in synchronization to holiday music approximately every ten minutes.  The music was a little loud for our preschooler, who does not like loud noises, but most children will probably be fine with it.  I think we’re going to try to find some ear muffs for our next visit to help muffle the noise a bit.  We haven’t tried it yet, but the Glow with the Show Ears are designed to light up along with the music.

I think my favorite part of the display was this one with the 101 Dalmatians.

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They sell hot chocolate and other holiday treats at stands along the way.  We made sure to get some great photos from the PhotoPass photographers.  Here’s a sneak peek at the one we’re using for our Christmas cards this year.

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You can also get your photo taken with Goofy dressed as Santa, but the line was too long when we were there and Eli is not a fan of character photo ops just yet, so we skipped that.

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Some tips:

  • Cast Members do control the entrances and exits, which are one-way only.
  • On nights that are more likely to be crowded (around Thanksgiving, on weekends and near Christmas), if you go closer to park closing time the crowds do thin out.
  • Look for the 46 hidden Mickeys!
  • Look for the Osborne Family’s purple Halloween cat that was included originally by mistake but is now a tradition!
  • Take your time, sip some hot cocoa and linger.
  • Definitely get some PhotoPass pictures taken.  Even if you haven’t bought the Memory Maker package, I guarantee you’ll have at least one worth the $15 to download it!

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This is one of my favorite things to do during the holidays.  While Eli was a little overwhelmed with it at first, he’s excited to go back (he and I are going again tonight!).   I think if I lived in Orlando, you’d find me here at least twice a week during the holiday season.

 

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Saturday Update

Wow, I’ve been busy!  I guess it’s inevitable this time of year but it always takes me by surprise.  Today  is Eli’s 4th birthday!  Happy Birthday to my wild child!

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He’s going to a birthday party at 10am and then we have his birthday party at noon at a local park.  We’ve been shopping for a pinata (fire truck) and favors (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and a cake (Curious George).  Yeah, this is going to be one party without a cohesive theme!

This week was mostly recovery from my Space Coast Half Marathon last Sunday.  I wasn’t really sore, but my muscles were really tight and a little achy.  I got a two mile run done on Wednesday and will do something between three and six miles this morning.

I took a break from my “No Crap, No Exceptions” diet while I was at Disney.  Not completely crazy binging, but having treats here and there and not avoiding carbs or random junk like garlic bread or chips.  And I’m not going to lie, it’s been really difficult to get back on plan since I’ve been back home.  I was at 100% before I left, probably 60% while I was at Disney and now around 80% since I’ve been home.  I know 80% isn’t terrible, but being 41 years old, female, with a sedentary job and tendency towards tendonitis, 80% isn’t going to get me where I want to be with my weight.  So, I have to get re-inspired to stay focused.  Maybe it’s just tough this time of year, but every day that goes by is an opportunity to move towards my goals or away from my goals…

This week I will run 3x and do PiYo at least 2x.  I’m taking Eli back to Disney for a surprise Mommy & Son birthday celebration tomorrow, just for two days.  I’ll try to make good choices while I’m there and will get back to 95% at least when I get back.

In the self-improvement category, I’m trying to be more social whenever I get the opportunity.  Practicing making small talk and being more comfortable chatting with people I don’t know well.  I also picked up a few books at the used book store related to shyness, self confidence and first impressions.  I’ve read one so far and while it had some good advice, most of it was just common sense.  I suspect it is just a matter of pushing out of my comfort zone and practicing until it’s more natural to be outgoing with new people.

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season.  Make sure to take a break from the craziness to take care of yourself, even if it’s just watching some terrible TV or napping in a hammock (although that probably only applies to us Floridians this time of year!).

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TotR: Space Coast Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesdays on the Run with me, Patty from My No-Guilt Life and Erika from MCM Mama Runs.  Our topic is “How I Stayed Healthy over the Holidays”.  I was at Walt Disney World the entire week of Thanksgiving, so “eating healthy” did not happen.  Nope, not one little bit.  I did run a half marathon on Thanksgiving weekend, so I decided a race recap would be a great contribution to this topic!

The Space Coast Marathon and Half Marathon always takes place on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  This worked out perfectly this year because the race is only an hour from Orlando, so while my family went back to Gainesville on Saturday morning, I headed off to Cocoa.  I checked into the Courtyard by Marriot Cocoa around ten in the morning and they were able to get me into a room immediately, which was nice.  I drove to the race expo, picked up my bib and shirt and decided to skip the shopping and head right back to the hotel.  To be honest, I didn’t feel great on Saturday.  My legs were tired from lugging a 35 pound preschooler around four theme parks on my back for a week (we stopped using a stroller a couple of years ago).  I always hate packing up on the last day of a vacation and I was worried about the race, so I felt worn out and anxious and just ‘off’.

I wanted to rest my legs, but the Sonny’s I wanted to eat at was just 1/2 a mile away, so I decided to walk there and back.  I think that even though it was a short walk, it really helped me get out a little anxiety.  I hadn’t eaten yet, which was probably also contributing to me not feeling quite right.  After a delicious sliced pork big deal and some half and half tea (yes, I was totally off my “don’t eat crap” diet) and a short walk back to the hotel, I felt much better.  I took a nice hot bath to relax a little and got into bed at 2pm.  I downloaded the first season of The Big Bang Theory and proceeded to spend the next six hours watching it.  I wanted to go down to the beach, but apparently you have to walk through the Hampton Inn next door or something and it just seemed too complicated to deal with (see how tired my poor mind was?).

I ate a bag of potato chips for dinner (I had no intention of leaving the room and plain chips sounded nice and easy) and went to bed around 8pm.  I think I fell asleep by 9pm.  I woke up around midnight from a nightmare that I had slept through my alarm and it was 6:30 and the race had already started and I wasn’t going to be able to complete the five race series.  Whew!  After that I woke up about every hour for a few minutes until 3am when I finally just got up and started getting ready.  I’m glad I got up early because while the bus was scheduled to leave at 4:15am, when I got downstairs at 4:00am, the line to get on was already pretty long.  The bus filled up entirely (some runners were sitting in the aisles) and they asked the spectators to get off and to let the rest of the runners get on.  We actually left around 4:12, so anyone who came down at the last minute had to wait for the 5am bus.  I would have been so steamed!

It was a pretty short drive to the race site which was set up just like last year.  Lots of port-a-potties, huge line for the one park bathroom, NASA themed displays (including a bounce house) and lots of people already milling around.

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I ran into a couple of friends as soon as I got off of the bus, so it was nice to get to chat instead of getting all turned around in my head with pre-race nerves.  I had a Diet Mtn Dew and a peanut butter Luna protein bar and managed to get most of both down.  Took a short trip to the port-a-potties (thankfully some ladies right in front of us replenished the TP!).  While we were waiting in the corrals (you self-place yourself in this race), the international space station flew overhead.  That was pretty awesome, considering the theme of the race.

After a dramatic countdown to launch, we slowly headed towards the start line.  I knew I wouldn’t be beating last year’s time (not enough training and too many added pounds) so I lined up between the 2:45 and the 3:00 pacer.  It was pretty crowded for the first couple of miles, but the scenery was beautiful!  The sun started to rise soon after the race started.  The half course is an out and back with the ocean on one side and fancy-pants houses on the other side.

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After a couple of miles, people started finding their pace and it opened up enough that I could easily run the pace that felt comfortable to me.  For the first part of the race, runners can spread out over both lanes but once the front runners head back, you have to stay on your half of the road.

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There was a funny moment when I started hearing cheering and I thought that it was way too early for the front runners to be passing us on the way back.  Then I heard that it was a woman, which while it would be awesome, was a bit improbable.  So this woman comes running in the opposite direction and everyone is cheering her on and she looks annoyed and a little confused.  She wasn’t wearing a race bib and I think she was just out on a morning run (although this race has been happening on this course on this day for years).  Awkward!  Quite a while later the actual front runners came running past us in the opposite direction, with a police motorcycle escort, which kind of confirmed that we’d all been cheering on a random runner who wasn’t even racing!

I was feeling pretty good, but still a little worried about how my legs were going to hold up.  My stomach had cramped up after my last half marathon and after my ten mile run a couple of weeks ago, so I was a little concerned about that recurring.  I decided to just stick with watered down Gatorade instead of my Honey Stinger Chews to see if that helped.  I think that all that extra hydration is what caused me to take two port-a-potty stops along the way.  Those two stops really impacted my time because the only port-a-potties were at the water stops and each only had two or three potties.  This is the ONLY part of this race they need to improve.  I had to wait over ten minutes for the first potty stop and I didn’t ever see one where the line wasn’t five people deep for each potty.

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While the weather was a little chilly waiting before the race, as soon as it started I peeled off my arm sleeves and gloves and stuck them in my skirt pockets.  The weather was pretty awesome for the half (although I think it warmed up quite a bit for those running the full).  And the course is just gorgeous!

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This is the view the entire course.  Just beautiful!  And there were lots of pelicans splashing around, getting their breakfast and even a few dolphins swimming along with us!

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I know, it looks like a shark, but it really was a dolphin splashing around.  I saw them several times along the route and there’s something so special about seeing them in the wild.

The neighbors were much more involved in the race this year than they were last year.  There was a house handing out orange slices, beer and shots of alcohol.  One had mimosas.  I think one had pancakes and Bloody Marys.  One guy was giving out whole bananas.  There seemed to be more spectators cheering and holding signs too.

By this time, I’d passed the turn-around spot (and I forgot to look for the house with the spooky person in the attic window…again!) and was headed back.  My race outfit held up perfectly.  I was going to do this elaborate Dr. Who themed outfit, but between work and our Disney trip and the Disney Parks Moms Panel application process, I just never got around to it.  I ended up wearing my new InkNBurn shirt with a SparkleSkirt and Bondiband compression socks.  Nothing fancy, but it was just about perfect for this race.

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I was starting to feel more confident and sped up a little on my run intervals (I did this race with a five minute run/one minute walk interval) and started skipping my walk intervals.  I was passing a lot of people (that I’d gotten behind on my two way-too-long potty visits), which is always a great feeling towards the end of a race!

We started seeing the marathoners heading out (they do the half marathon course as the second half of their race) and there were some great costumes and one “memorable” one that is now referred to as “the speedo guy”.  He had a sweet seventies ‘stache, aviator sunglasses, a small shield with his bib number on it, a Chippendale’s style collar and bowtie on and an American Flag speedo.  And that’s it.  And he was running a marathon.  It just didn’t look comfortable at all!

I had a goal to finish the half before any of the marathoners finished the full and I succeeded!  While I finished in a much worse time than last year’s race (my half marathon PR still), I was really happy with my 2:40 finish, especially once I factored in the potty stops.  As per usual for this race, the medal was outstanding!  And we got a full sized beach towel as well.

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The race after party is well done and not too crowded.  There was a Publix booth with orange juice, bananas and granola bars.  There was pizza available and also pancakes!

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I need some time after a half marathon before I eat real food, so I headed towards the buses to get back to my room.  They’d given me a late checkout, but I wanted to hit the road before noon.  The drive back was uneventful, but the driver seemed a bit confused about which hotels he was going to and didn’t take the most efficient route for dropping us all off.  I did eventually get to my hotel and hobbled up to my room for a bath and change of clothes.  I was really happy with the race and it’s retained its spot at my favorite half marathon (sorry runDisney!).

I packed up, watched a couple more episodes of The Big Bang Theory and headed out.  A quick stop for a late breakfast (mmm breakfast) at a Cracker Barrel (where I saw several other racers) and it was time for the three hour drive back to Gainesville.  My legs felt fine, but I was so tired!  That crazy 3am wake-up made for a really tough drive! I was so glad to get home!

The reasons I love this race are:

  • The course is just gorgeous and mostly flat (just a few small inclines/declines).
  • The medals are outstanding!
  • Space shuttles!!
  • The runners are pretty laid back and out to have fun.
  • The race is well organized.
  • They moved the Expo from The Kennedy Space Center to a hotel conference center which was much more spacious and more conveniently located.
  • The weather has been great both years I’ve run it.
  • They have a costume contest (next year I’m going to enter!)

What they need to improve:

  • More port-a-potties along the race route.
  • There were some mix-ups with the medals, partially caused by people who signed up for the marathon and who bailed at the half-way point and took half marathon medals.  I’m sure they will send half marathon medals to the finishers who didn’t get one, but it would have stunk not to have gotten the medal I earned at the finish line.

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