Virtual Cupcake Classic

This evening I participated in a virtual 5K called the Cupcake Classic. It was organized by Run with Jess, a great running blog. I decided to walk mine with a friend (although we did end up doing about one mile’s worth of running). The beach is just about 5K from my office, so that’s where we headed. It was beautiful outside, and we saw a rainbow out over the water. Rainbows and cupcakes, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I took this photo during the 5K. Beautiful!

Virtual races are fun. You sign up just like a regular race, but you run on your own, choose your own course, time yourself, and usually you have a time frame (like a week or a weekend) to get the race done. When you’re done, you report your time. Often you get a medal mailed to you or other goodies.

I like virtual races for several reasons. Although there isn’t the “course support” found at regular races, knowing that there is “online support” makes an ordinary run more exciting. There’s accountability to “go the distance” instead of making excuses to not run or stop early (I’m very guilty of doing both). Also, virtual races are often less expensive than regular races (the Cupcake Classic was free but medals and shirts were available for purchase –  I  bought a sparkly pink cupcake medal. What can I say? I like bling, especially cute bling).  If the race benefits a charity, most of the race fee goes to that charity because there are hardly any of the overhead costs that are normally associated with a race. Some races, including the Cupcake Classic, also have drawings for prizes and other perks.

I’ll look into more virtual races as my marathon training continues. They’re nice support for longer training runs and running feels even better if I can benefit a good cause and be a part of something bigger than just myself and my own run.

Sadly, I did not eat any cupcakes today. I’m doing my best to eat wisely, and although I do love eating cupcakes, for tonight I will be content with the one around my neck:

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Beachside Half Marathon race recap

This was my first half marathon, on October 13, 2012. I finished and I am now a half-marathoner! But the race experience was disappointing and I wish I hadn’t chosen this race as my first half.

When I first arrived at Riverside Park in Vero Beach, it was still dark and I couldn’t see anything. It’s a fairly large park, with many parking areas and buildings, and there were no signs telling me where to go. My family had already arrived (they were volunteering), so I was able to call them and they told me where to go. I parked and walked through the dark to get my bib number and packet. I was told that they didn’t know how to turn the lights on and had to wait on help to arrive. I got my race shirt, and it was a regular tshirt. Not a tech shirt like it said on our registration forms. As I waited for the race to begin I saw Megan, another ROTEr. It’s always great to see her at races!

The weather was warm but not too hot and very breezy. I was concerned about pacing myself, so I made sure I started out at a pace I could maintain, using 1/1 intervals. And I was soon left almost by myself as everyone else took off. It was a small race and clearly full of much faster, more experienced runners (turns out, several people finished within a few minutes of me, but I never saw them on the course because the course was so full of turns and messed up…). When I reached the first huge bridge over the river, halfway up I noticed the first mile marker. However, my watch read over one and a half miles. This continued throughout the whole race – the mile markers were not consistently placed – I was confused. There was a 10K running at the same time, and they were supposed to follow black arrow signs while the half-marathoners were supposed to follow red arrow signs. The trail was full of twists and turns that were not always marked with signs, and more than once I noticed a group of people running back onto the right path from somewhere else. I figured out early on that there were yellow spray painted arrows on the ground that we could follow, too, but that wasn’t foolproof either because there were lots of spray painted arrows on the ground. Also, in one area there were signs with red arrows that ended up pointing to a “haunted house.” Another woman in a SparkleSkirt was running and I saw her off and on for the first half of the race, but then I lost her.

Around mile 4 I saw my family at a water stop. They said that several people were complaining to them about the course confusion. It was great to see them, and I began running up the second and final bridge of the race. At the top, I needed to cough (still getting over a cold) but I didn’t have the strength to. That worried me a bit – breathing is necessary for running! But I continued on at my set pace.

At Mile 8 I switched to 30/30s. I was losing motivation fast – not for the miles but for the pace. This was the longest I’d ever maintained this pace, and I knew I could do it, but without any course support or other runners around I was getting bored and tired. There were other runners, but there were so many turns I couldn’t see them.

By Mile 10 I was walking – I was just so bored and tired and confused. I just kept winding through neighborhood streets, past people at yard sales and shopping at farmer’s markets. In the 11th mile I saw my family, who had moved to intercept me, and I finished the race with two of my sisters and one of my brothers walking beside me. Once I saw the finish line, I started running again (I like to finish strong).  It was great to have my siblings there, and Megan finished before I did but she waited around to cheer me at my finish – that made my morning. We were told there was supposed to be a breakfast after, but by the time I finished it was all gone. Megan said that there wasn’t any for her, either. The finisher’s medal said that there was a one mile fun run, but there wasn’t one.

My finisher’s medal!

Even with all my walking, my pace was still better than at Tower of Terror. That made me happy. But I still feel like I gave up on myself at the end. They say that you shouldn’t run your first half marathon for time, but I know I could’ve done better.

Turns out, the course was messed up because at the start the people in front and the pace group leaders went the way they thought they should go but they went off course, and there was other confusion later…basically, it was a mess. I found this online posted with the race results:

While the Half Marathon and 10K courses were accurately measured, all participants ran a longer or shorter distance due to absent Course Marshals at key intersections including the traffic circle at the beginning of the race.

My watch read 12.89 miles, so I’m not sure if that means I ran less than a half marathon or if my watch just didn’t record the bridges properly. I didn’t cut any corners and I ran the course I thought was correct, following all of the arrows, so I did everything I could.

The course did a surprisingly good job with water stops. And in the 10th mile there was a beer stand from Orchid Island Brewery. They were handing out a delicious grapefruit beer. I am not a beer drinker, but I had some and it was so good. I want more.

I am glad that I pushed to finish, and I’m proud of myself. I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, but I was pretty miserable the entire time because of all the things that went wrong. Mostly because I was by myself the entire time and there was too much confusion. I also don’t know how much being sick played into it. It’s just hard to be out there for hours exerting yourself and having to process through the confusion with “running brain.” The course was beautiful and included a run through a nice neighborhood full of very nice houses and a short distance along the beach.

I’m looking forward to my next half marathon in two weeks. It’s also a small race but hopefully it will be better than this one was, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my pace all the way to the end!

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Tower of Terror 10-miler recap

I have been a little sick the past few days, so I’m writing this recap later than anticipated. I ran Disney’s Tower of Terror 10-miler the evening of September 29, 2012. That morning, I ran the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run, and I spent the afternoon resting and hydrating. This was my first long-distance Disney race, and my first race longer than a 10K.

The buses to the race from host resorts started at 7 p.m., and I was on the first bus at 6:45. At 7 it departed and we were driven directly to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Everyone was gathered in the parking lot, and there were food trucks, an emcee, picnic tables, bag check, and lots of porta-potties. I met up with a group of Running of the Ears members, and was able to meet a lot of them for the first time.

I had a costume planned and although I had already done a trial run in it, I decided that I didn’t want to bother with it during the race.  It was feeling rather hot and humid and I was getting nervous and didn’t want to bother with it. I put all of the costume accessories into my clear runDisney bag and dropped it off at bag check.

At 8:30 I decided to head over to the porta-potties. The lines were ridiculously long. We were told by a runDisney employee that there were porta-potties inside our corrals we could use, and the lines were very short. She said “I know you all think that you have to stay in your corral, but that’s not true. You can come and go until we tell you to stay put.” So I headed over to Corral C, used the potty, and then went back to meet with the ROTErs. A volunteer stationed at the front of my corral had a big problem with all of us trying to leave (to the point that he was trying to physically block us from leaving), but I left anyways. Right hand, meet left hand.

Around 9:15, we heard the emcee tell us to get into our corrals. So I headed back to C and sat down near the front with two ROTErs, Cathy & Nicole. Eventually they had us file out in order. It was a fairly long walk to the race start location, which was at the main toll booth at the entrance to DHS. As we were all lined up, dozens of runners (sometimes groups of 8 or 10 all in matching costumes) who were supposed to be in Corrals A & B kept weaving their way through us to try to get up into their corrals. I’m not sure how they ended up in the wrong place, but there were rows of volunteers at the front of each corral holding a banner across, so these misplaced runners had a tough time getting to their corrals. I didn’t necessarily mind but it was rather annoying.

I noticed a large group of ROTErs at the back of Corral B. So close, yet so far away! It took a long time for the runners to get going once their corral started because everyone had to funnel through one small “start” chute. Since I was at the front of my corral, I was able to start running the minute the corral started.

Here’s my video of the start of Corral A:

We had to run up an overpass very soon after starting, then we ran on Osceola Parkway all the way to the Animal Kingdom parking lot. We turned around and ran all the way back, then turned off the road onto a gravel path leading to ESPN WWoS. I noticed that the pirate ship was out and realized we were running the same path as the 5K that morning, only this time it was dry. It was very narrow through the woods and I often had to walk just because of the crowding.  We got out into the open, past the Josten Center, and into the baseball stadium at the 10K mark. Apparently there was some sort of theming in there (having to do with baseball uniforms on the ground) but I didn’t see anything. I did see spectators with signs (my favorite said, “worst parade ever!”).

About this time I started getting really thirsty. Although I had taken water at each water stop, the water stops were at about each mile and a half. It was very humid out and people were getting sick and slowing down all over the place (an ambulance had come through even before the second mile marker). Some of the volunteers at the water stations were unable to keep cups filled, and I got handed an empty cup one time and had to go back.

We ran around the track (just like in the 5K) and then exited the WWoS complex. I started getting frustrated every time I saw a group of volunteers and realized as I got closer that they weren’t handing out water; rather, they were just chEARing. I appreciate the chEARs, but at the time I just wanted water. At the next water stop I took an entire liter bottle of water and walked with it for almost a mile. I drank about half of it, before leaving it and starting to run again. I passed a medical tent and noticed they were handing out biofreeze. I decided to take some for my neck at the next medical tent, to help cool me down.

We ran down the same overpass we first ran up, and entered Hollywood Studios. We ran through the Lights, Motors, Action! stadium, and then through some of the backlot tour area. I loved running through the Streets of America, and couldn’t help but get excited for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which will run through when the Osborne Christmas Lights are working. We ran past a park smoking area, and people were actually there smoking. I was rather annoyed; couldn’t they use another smoking area? It’s not like the thousands of runners running past you need to breathe or anything.

We ran past the Sorceror’s Hat, and I looked up and thought of my friend Janice (long story). On the other side of the hat we turned and ran through Pixar Place and entered an area of the backlot tour again. When we ran through the costume department, I slowed down and took my time, looking at everything and snapping a few pictures. I wish I could’ve stayed in there longer.

I was running behind some buildings and past a parking garage when I turned a corner and realized that I was at the finish line! It kindof snuck up on me. It was confusing and not very well lit, but I could see the Tower of Terror to my right. After I crossed the finish line, I walked for a while until I saw someone handing out finisher’s medals. I took mine, and then kept walking. It was long, dark, and confusing, but I found water and snack boxes.  After snaking behind the Tower, there was a big medical area set up at the Fantasmic! area. I grabbed some bags of ice and walked down the Fantasmic! line to the exit.

Me with my new medal!

The bag check was on the other side of the park, in the Indian Jones stunt show theatre.  Although a lot of runners complained about that, I liked it. It gave the runners a chance to walk on their tired legs and it kept the crowd levels down over by the finish line.

Along the course, each mile marker had a picture of a villain and that villain’s music was playing. Other than that, there were very few characters along the course and no course entertainment. It was a rather boring course, for Disney. The characters present were: Hyenas from Lion King, Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog, Stitch, the Haunted Mansion gravediggers, and I noticed Hook by the Toy Story Mania ride. I am not sure if the heat had something to do with it. All in all, the lack of on-course entertainment was very disappointing for me.

My favorite Mile Marker! Chernabog!

I was also disappointed in the after party, the Villains Hollywood Bash. I didn’t see any villains, but the Captain Hook I saw might have been one of them. I was hoping for a good picture with Maleficent and other awesome villains, but I didn’t see them.

Although this race was a disappointment to me, I did enjoy running it, and I will probably be back next year. Since this was an inaugural race, I have a chance at “perfect” status by running each one every year.

All of my photos from this race can be found here:

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Disney’s Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run

I had a great time this past weekend at Disney World participating in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-miler Weekend. I have a lot to tell you all about, but I’ll start with the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run.

5K T shirt design

I stayed at Disney’s All Star Music Resort (in my favorite part, the Broadway section!) with my friend Cristina for the weekend. Since we had to arrive at the 5K by 6:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, Cristina and I set our alarm for 5:15 a.m. We planned to leave the room at 5:45 a.m. and drive to the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWoS), where the race would be held. We decided to bypass the runDisney bus system for this race, since WWoS was so close to our hotel and we wanted to give ourselves a little extra sleep. We left the room exactly at 5:45 and stopped at McDonald’s on the way for coffee. We got a fairly close parking space and walked up the main walkway and around the Josten Center to the fields below.

My race bib

It wasn’t too hot or humid yet, and there was a creepy, Halloween-like fog covering the field. I stopped by to see my family, who were stationed as volunteers at the finish line, then we headed to the “runners only” section where the corrals and porta-potties were. We met up with our friend Jayme and headed to Corral E. Although runDisney had placed me into Corral D, Jayme and Cristina were in E so I went with them. As we waited in the corral, the sun rose.

Creepy & beautiful Halloween morning. Taken along the course.

Following an extended banter by two of the most annoying emcees ever, the race started. The course was mostly on grass and dirt. The ground was very wet, so it was more like “wet grass and mud.” There were also a few spots that were very swampy. Although I got bits of grass on my shoes, I tried not to get too dirty. I don’t like getting dirty.

Mile Marker 2, showing the marshy conditions we ran in.

Our plan all along was to take it easy, especially since I was running the 10-mile race later that same day. We walked a lot, chatted and enjoyed ourselves. The course was quite narrow at times and we passed a pirate’s ship, a skeleton in a cage, Brer Bear, the Big Bad Wolf, and huge bugs hanging from trees. There were several times when blaring monster/creepy noises and music were coming from clearly visible speakers.

Toward the end of the race we entered a track and finally got out of the mud and grass. There were coffins and Haunted Mansion grave diggers there. At the finish line, my mom gave me my medal and we stopped for a picture. We grabbed waters, powerades, and snack boxes, then headed to Perkins for breakfast.

My finisher’s medallion

My main disappointment with this race has to do with characters. Mickey was apparently present, in a special scarecrow outfit, but he wasn’t there at the start of our corral. He was not there at the finish line when we finished. He was, apparently, at one of the two photo lines outside of the race (the other was a blowup Mickeyhead pumpkin) but I did not see him when I walked over to that station to see why people were taking pictures. I was also expecting more characters along the course, but I understand that it was a run through the marshy woods and characters might have been logistically difficult.

Although the theming was very cute, and there was nothing really wrong with the race, I’m not sure I want to run this race again. I didn’t like the “trail run” part of it. But I had lots of fun running the race with my friends.

You can find all of my pictures from this race here:

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words from a friend

I had a conversation with a woman yesterday who has, through interesting circumstances, become an unlikely friend. We were catching up and sharing news. As I was telling her about some things going on in my life, she gently stopped me mid-sentence.

“You just worry about being you. You don’t need to be anyone else.”

In her wisdom, she could instantly see right through what I was telling her and found the unspoken reason why I was saying it.

I’ve thought about her comment almost nonstop since our conversation, and I’m not quite sure where I’m headed with it. It seems to be leading me to a deeper soul-searching than simply the oft-reinforced, self-esteem-boosting cliche of “everyone’s special in their own way, and you’re strong and wonderful just being you, so celebrate yourself” that, while not necessarily a bad thing, is so prevalent in today’s culture.

I’m more and more grateful for this dear friend as I continue to ponder her words.

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Counting Down the Days

On Friday I head to Walt Disney World for the Tower of Terror 10 Miler Weekend. Come visit me at the SparkleSkirts booth at the expo on Friday between 4-8 p.m (the best running skirts in existence). Saturday morning I will run the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run, and Saturday night I will run the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. Afterwards, I get to enjoy the Villains Hollywood Bash afterparty, and Monday is Epcot’s 30th anniversary. It will be a jam-packed, fun-filled 4-day weekend!!!

I’m very, very excited. I’ll be at Disney World in 4 days! Hope to see you there!

( Runner tracking for the 10 Miler is available here: )

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half a mile

Last night I reached a new milestone during speedwork class. I ran a quarter of a mile without any walk breaks, took a one-minute break, then I ran a half mile without any walk breaks.

Half a mile. No walk breaks. This is a big deal for me. Last week I couldn’t even run an entire quarter mile. I love my scheduled walk intervals, but being able to run for longer periods of time has always been one of my goals. Now I have to work to get used to it, maintain it, and get faster.

I didn’t think I’d be able to do it this early, but I did.

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