Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Back to training

This year hasn't been my year for breaking PRs or running high mileage. My injury back in March really impacted the entire rest of my running year. I've been trying to be smart about running both in regards to duration and frequency. And although I'm still able to complete the half marathon distance, I'm not doing it with fast feet and I'm just living for the finish line instead of enjoying the 13.1 miles. Truth be told,  I've been ok with that realization, up until now. I think I'm ready to take my training back up to pre-injury levels and really start logging some long miles again.

Of course I decide my body is ready to get back into long distance shape right as winter is approaching. The dark, cold and wet of Oregon are certainly coming but I'm hopeful I won't let the outside weather deter me from my goals.
Sight of LA 
My mileage especially suffered the last two weeks while I prepared for and launched a new product for work. In the past two weeks, I was missing even my short runs, so once I arrived in LA for my event, I was eager to hit the pavement and release some pent up stress. I've been to LA a number of times but never really spent anytime downtown before. I really enjoyed, as I always do, getting to know the city by foot. I think the garment district with all it's colorful fabrics and spools of embellishments was my favorite to run through.


Maybe it was the combination of warm weather and sunshine, maybe it was a trip to the ocean to collect my thoughts (being born on the coast the ocean has always been a place of grounding for me) but that trip to LA was where I decided that I need to take my body back and get back to where I was last Christmas. I would rebuild my mileage base to my pre-injury days. I would kick off those extra pounds that joined my physique when I turned 40 earlier this year. It was time to get back to my happy place when my feet, my lungs and my heart were all in unison. I've missed my running cadence and it was time to reintroduce myself to my old habits.
Santa Monica

My beloved Pacific Ocean

After I returned to cold, dark, rainy Portland I was still committed to my new goals so I laced up for a long run on Sunday. My long run was only 7 miles but for me these days 7 miles is a long run. It was FULL of climbs and descents though, I have to think the effort put into these 7 miles of climbing are equivalent to 9 miles of flat terrain.
Favorite hill closed - I went anyway

It was awesome having the entire road to myself

For the duration of my Sunday mileage I thought about my new training schedule. For the remainder of this calendar year I am still going to continue my every other day running schedule. Running two days back to back went out the window last March with my injury and every single time I tried to bring it back since, my hip injury represented itself. I haven't ran back to back days since June (if you don't count overnight relays -which I don't - because it's one race). My goal through the rest of this year is to consistently run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with a dedicated weight and cross-training schedule added back into the mix. I am best with a set schedule and it's time I went back to it. Once 2015 hits I'm going to start bringing in some back-to-back days hoping I can handle the added stress, but I want my base to be as solid as it can before I attempt this update to my routine.
These hills were no joke!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Taking a gamble in Vegas: Rock & Roll "Strip at Night" Race Recap

I had such an amazing time last year and the year before at Rock & Roll's Las Vegas Half Marathon that I signed up immediately for the 2014 event. I never expected to have a work conflict the weekend of my favorite half marathon, but unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

This particular race is an evening event and starts on Sunday at 4:00 pm and as it turned out, I needed to be in LA by 1:00 pm that same day. I already had my tickets (both race and plane) booked by the time the work conflict presented itself earlier this fall. As such, I did what any other race fanatic would do and I opted to try my luck at swapping my half marathon registration for the cheaper and earlier Saturday night 5K instead.

On Saturday morning my race buddies, Emily and Brady and I headed over to the convention center to attempt to swap out my registration even though all events were sold out. We were able to enter the event early because of Rock and Roll allows tour pass holders early access and for that I am super grateful!

The first thing we did was head to the resolution counter. Brady had attempted to register for both the half and the 5K with his tour pass but unfortunately the system registered him for the half marathon twice. The fine folks at the resolution desk took good care of us - they corrected Brady's mis-registration and they allowed me to transfer over to the shorter distance. I was losing money on the transfer but at least I would get to run a race so I was thrilled.

Fun giveaways at the Brooks booth
Next up we headed to the giant Brook's sponsor booth. I've seen these booths at past expos but they were always so full with long lines so I never got to take advantage of the expertise and prizes. Because of our early admission, we walked right up with no wait for a treadmill gait analysis. Of course I was wearing flip flops so I had to run barefoot but I was still able to have my gait analyzed and got a new shoe recommendation out of it from my favorite shoe brand. I'm glad we got a chance to do it (and didn't have to wait at all!)
In motion getting my gait analyzed
Selection of Brooks shoes
Up next the vendor booths - first booth I saw was my beloved Garmin and I decided to talk to them about my issue with my Vivofit and syncing data through the ANT stick (I'm on my third ANT stick and I just got my Vivofit on Mother's Day). The great guys at the Garmin booth showed me how to sync my step data through my phone - feeling stupid for not knowing this was even an option - and gave me a free band securer thing. I was pumped!

These dressing rooms cracked me up!

I also stopped in at the Knuckle Lights booth because I was having issues with the set I purchased in January. Come to find out my issue was a manufacturer issue on a small batch and they gave me a brand new set right there on the show floor! This was turning into the best race expo ever!

It's MEB!!!
But what I didn't realize is that the best was still to come. In the middle of the show floor we found a line to meet Meb Keflezigh - yes THAT Meb! Boston Marathon Meb!!  It was a real treat to meet him. He was humble and kind and posed with us and signed autographs. With a morning of great experiences, meeting Meb was the cherry on top of a great day!

It's Meb's autograph!

Following the expo our group did a little shopping with my college roommate and then grabbed a late lunch and started preps for our evening 5K.

To be honest, after a day of shopping and expo going I wasn't feeling all that up for a run - even if it was only 3 miles. But I was excited to run at night so changed and began to worry that I should have packed a sleeved top instead of just a tank as the weather in Vegas was surprisingly chilly.
Most packed monorail ever
We jumped on the monorail and pushed our way into the most jam-packed car I've ever been sandwiched into. We were smooshed together tighter than sardines and I was hoping it would be better on the way back (when we were all smelly and stinky).

Starting line
The starting line was busy and festive with music thumping and lights strobing. I was getting excited to run finally and that was good because I was indeed cold standing in the night air. We couldn't get into our starting corral because of the massive amounts of people so we stood off to the side while the first several groups were released. Soon enough we were able to make it up front but the corral was narrow and it was obvious this would be a slow starting event.

Pre-race photo

5K tradition with Brady - shot of Jager to kick things off
Starting line selfie
The first part of the run was indeed slow but it was really cool as we ran through an funky light tunnel of sorts before peeling out of the parking lot and onto the streets of Las Vegas. As is typical with me lately, I didn't have a good understanding of the course. I knew with a race of this size, the course would be well marked and there would be many runners to follow.

As I was hitting a 1/4 mile we were in view of the runners released earlier hitting their 1 mile marker. I saw DOZENS of people walking at this point and that annoyed the heck out of me. If people are walking at the one mile mark then they started in a corral not intended for them. This is my biggest annoyance in a race - start where you are supposed to so that you don't get in the way of other runners.

The rest of my race was dodging these walkers and slow runners than obviously started too early in the line up. Unlike the half marathon course that closes down an entire side of the road, we were limited to the shoulder of the street. Any runners or walkers 2-3 people deep made it nearly impossible to pass on the course. Many times I found myself jumping to the left of the course cones in order to pass other runners and that was not a safe option. We were running WITH the street traffic so every time I took this passing gamble I was terrified some crazy driver would hit me. It wasn't safe with so many people on the course. I don't blame the race organizers for all the people starting early - there is really no way they can enforce it but it would be really nice if they reviewed race etiquette at the start of the event for those first time runners to encourage them to stay to the right if running slowly or walking. Also I'd love it if they could ask people to not walk side by side on the narrow course.

The 3.1 miles were over quickly and as always I had a lot of fun running at night. I was sad that I wouldn't be around for the half marathon the following night but I was super thankful I was still able to race one event. I departed early Sunday afternoon for LA and wished my running friends luck! I'll be back next year Las Vegas - I already bought my ticket (this time with the added $10 refund/transfer option!).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Peanut Allergy Update

We haven't been back to the allergist since the week before school started to increase dosage or evaluate how her treatment has been progressing. Instead we have been holding steady with two peanut M&Ms every morning and two peanut M&Ms every evening. 

I did speak to the allergy team last week though as we were preparing to send my girl to Outdoor School for three days. We were advised to do something all together different - refrain from eating any peanuts during her camp out. I was somewhat confused by this direction but was told all would be well. Our instructions were to give her her regular dosage the morning she left and then give her a half dosage upon return on the third day, which we did without incident. We resumed our regular dosage on Saturday and haven't had any complications. 

I have to just pause and comment on the fact that I allowed my kid to attend Outdoor School. This would have never ever happened before this program. I wouldn't' have felt confident about the food options at camp for her. It's the entire reason I volunteered to join her at Girl Scout Camp this past spring. I assure you - hanging out with a cabin of adolescent preteens was not my preferred way to spend a weekend. I am thankful I did though because even though the Girl Scout Camp assured me all the food was safe -I identified the chocolate for the Smores was indeed not safe (it did not contain nuts but did have a 'may contain' label - no no in my house) and the pancake mix on the final morning of camp also had a 'may contain' - if I wasn't onsite checking in with the Chef at every meal, she would have certainly consumed these foods.  BUT - for Outdoor School I confirmed with the staff and chef that all food was safe and I felt confident that even if a 'may contain' snuck in that Issy would be ok. I can not express how big of a deal this is for us. Life changing.

Today we went back to the doctor and my little one had her dose doubled again - four peanut M&Ms. Oh the girl hated it! But her body tolerated the increased dosage just fine. We now get to change the game a little. Her allergist has recommended we move to four peanut M&Ms once a day. (I am personally super excited about moving to a once a day dosage schedule). If all goes well, after a month we will move to an every other day dosing schedule. I'm not going to get too excited about that just yet but knowing we could reduce the number of times she has to ingest these nuts is really really encouraging. 

Yeah for modern medicine! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Run Like Hell Half Marathon Race Report

I wouldn't say I Ran Like Hell exactly. It was more like I ran at a slow and manageable pace while hacking my lungs out. My 4th Run Like Hell Half Marathon didn't exactly live up to last year's 2:00 (even!) finish line victory. Instead,  by the time I finished (7 minutes slower than my slowest RLH on record), I just stopped running (maybe it was officially jogging at that point). No celebration, no arms in the air - heck, I didn't even check my watch to see what my final time was. I was just happy I was done.

The morning started like most other half marathon races - early. I woke around 6:00, drank some coffee and got dressed in my costume. I had actually woken before my alarm because the rain was pounding so heavily on the roof. The day before, Portland had been battered by a wicked fall storm. Thousands were without power and there were downed trees all over the city. I was hoping the storm would have passed in the night but it sounded pretty nasty from what I could hear in the quiet of those morning hours.

I re-purposed my Halloween running outfit from my last race

I was on my way to downtown Portland by 7:00 and I felt horrible. I was on day eight of my wicked fall cold and not happy. I knew this was going to be a challenging run when I needed a nap after picking up my race bib the day before.

The half marathon was to start at 7:45 but I wasn't looking forward to standing in the rain waiting for the gun, potentially getting even more ill. I had lots of friends planning to show up later to run the 10K and 5K but I knew they wouldn't be around so early. Instead I got in line at the busy Starbucks by the starting line and ate a bagel as I realized I never ate breakfast with my coffee at home.

I walked over to the finish line as Ragnar was hosting a table and I wanted to say hello to my fellow ambassador but all I found was an empty Ragnar table under a big white tent. I walked back in the rain to get in the outrageously long gear check line. As I took my place at the end of the line in the rain I saw the VIP tent and remembered that my registration was supposed to include admission into this special tent hosted by Molly's Fund. I met the fine folks at Molly's Fund after running the Bridge to Brews a few years back and have done some volunteer work with them since them. They provide support to those living with Lupus, just like my best friend. So the cause and the organization are important to me.
Empty Ragnar table in the dark
Luckily for me I was on the VIP list and that enabled me to come under a tent with heaters and our own personal gear check line. Oh it was wonderful. I removed my sweatshirt and jacket and stood under a heater. It was the PERFECT place to be before a wet starting line.
Pre-race smiles under a heater in the VIP area
Love supporting Molly's Fund
Finally about 5 minutes before the gun, I made my way over to the starting line and tried syncing my Garmin. Unfortunately, my Garmin wasn't ready to play nice and the gun started before my Garmin was able to track my location. I guess the crazy storm had something to do with issue. My Garmin finally found my location at almost exactly .25 of a mile into the race. I figured this was manageable to me, even if it was slightly annoying.

The race organizers changed the course this year after the debacle of getting stopped by the train last year at mile 11 (for over an hour!!). This time we went straight up Broadway and immediately headed for the massive 500' climb up Terwilliger, then down the back and onto Barbur Blvd.  This is the same hill the Shamrock Run hits and I liked it a lot better the first time I ran this event as we ran it in the opposite direction starting on Barbur then climbing up the steep portion and down the longer, slightly less steep side of the hill. On the Shamrock, we first run around the city before hitting the hill so by the time we hit the decline we are almost done with the course. Unfortunately on this new course, the hill was first and that meant we still had 2/3rds of the race to go after coming off the hard climb.

No pics of me running but here is my awesome kiddo racing

I'm sure a lot of runners like getting the big challenge over with when their legs are fresh but I do not. I really like the hill at the end of a race. See even when I'm sick, I can handle a good hard climb. I'm not the fastest climber in the world, but I can hang with the quicker runners on the inclines as opposed to the flats. It's gotta be my big butt - I wonder if Kim Kardashian runs and if she is a good hill climber?  So anyhow, I did pretty well on the first three miles but as soon as the course flattened out, I was passed by what felt like every other runner in the race. When I hit mile 4 and realized this was where most races finished (the location on the course) yet I still had 9 miles to go, I acknowledged this wasn't going to be my race. But on the plus side, the rain had stopped falling.

After a quiet run on Naito Parkway, we started a portion of the race where we merged in with the 5K and 10K runners. It was nice because there were suddenly a lot of new people to watch and that helped distract me from my coughing fits, but it did make for a congested running space and a somewhat confusing course as the half marathoners came across the turnaround areas for the other races. There were also dozens of places where the half marathoners could cut some serious corners and double back on the course.

My girl did awesome in her race!

At mile 8 we were supposed to encounter the "Musical Mile" where musicians were supposed to regale us with tunes all along the mile. Unfortunately there were just a few solo or duo musicians every now and then. And some of them weren't playing music that was motivating me to run - some slow selections.

By mile nine I was over the race. I didn't care about my pace and I was just ready to be finished. My hips were aching in a way they have never ached from running before. I was also getting a strange pain in my right calf that I didn't like at all. For the final three miles of this race, I shifted into slow and decided that my goal was simply to finish. And as soon as I made that decision, the rain started to fall again.

Love the medals this year

The volunteer handed me my medal in a sealed plastic sleeve. It was hard with my pruned cold fingers to remove the plastic so that I could wear my new medal. I really liked the medals this year, it was a fun design and played off the "Under the See" theme of the race. I then made my way over to the Ragnar booth which was now staffed with some familiar faces.

With my fellow Ragnar Ambassador 
Eventually I made my way back to the VIP tent and I was sooo grateful for admission. I passed an even longer bag check line in the square and realized that all those random numbers I saw on the ground for 13 miles were people's gear check claim numbers falling off their bibs due to the rain negating the stickiness. Apparently it made for a really rough gear check pick up.

Back in the covered, heated VIP we had a full breakfast with bacon, eggs, potatoes and MIMOSAS! There was beer and coffee too, but I stuck with the MIMOSAS! Yummmm! VIP folks also walked away with a lovely warm and cozy Run Like Hell sweatshirt, a Molly's Fund "Lupus Sucks" tshirt, a commemorative Run Like Hell pint glass and some assorted sponsor odds and ends. There was also a massage area in the VIP lounge but by the time I finished they were super busy.

Truth be told, I only ate the bacon...and the mimosas

I spent some time warming up and drying out under one of the space heaters and talked to some really cool people about Lupus, about Ragnar and about my recent Disney race. I just love talking to runners. I'm sure there are some jerks out there but for the most part they are in general, really cool people!

Awesome volunteers from Molly's Fund
I'm glad I finished yesterday but I'm still feeling bad today. My body hurts in ways it doesn't usually hurt after 13 miles. I'm proud that even when I'm not well I can get out there and push through to a finish line but I'm starting to realize that maybe sometimes it just isn't worth it.

Proud of my girl

My current 2014 race count now stands at eight completed half marathons, and four additional 13+ mile races. If I include the additional few 5Ks I ran this year - my total raced (runnig only) miles for 2014 is 202.2 miles. Not bad, I can live with that accomplishment even if this last half wasn't under 2 hours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A case of the sicks

I'm running the Run Like Hell Half Marathon on Sunday so of course that means I came down with a nasty cold this week.

I don't know what it is about this race but I just seem to have bad luck with it, from being sick to having business trips, I just can't ever seem to have a great taper week leading into this event.

I know I'll run this race come Sunday even if I'm still coughing but I sure hope I'm mostly recovered. Last year we had the unfortunate luck to be stopped at mile 11 by a the rain...pretty sure I caught a cold at that point.

I'm just hoping I can get in one solid run this week before the race. We shall see though how I'm feeling.

In related news - I am going to have to receive my first ever DNS on a race. My favorite event of the year - The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon "Strip at Night" is going to be not run by me this year. I purchased my race registration last December having no clue I would have a work conflict show up and make me cancel my race plans. I'm super bummed because this was going to be THE YEAR that I owned this course and came in under 2:00. Unfortunately the owners of the race, the Competitor Group will not allow deferrals or even allow you to sell your bib. I hate it when race organizers are so tight with their policies. I'm trying to get them to allow me to change from the half marathon to the 5K as that event is the day before and I could run it, but I'm not holding my breath - I fear the Competitor Group won't be willing to allow that to happen. It's too bad but I don't see any option for me.

I tried to find a new November race and found one right down the street from my parent's home! Yeah! But get this - they don't offer a finisher medal for the half marathon. What?!? Not to be up on my high horse or anything seriously what type of half marathon doesn't offer finisher medals? I've ran dozens and dozens and always gotten some sort of finisher medal for anything over 15K. Not cool!

My fall race schedule is in trouble for sure, between being sick, on the road for work and just running out of long race options I'm not sure where I'll land on my goals for the year! Wish me luck!

Monday, October 13, 2014

RunDisney's Tower of Terror 10-Miler Race Report

Most people have a bucket list, I'm pretty sure most runners have a bucket list for runs they want to race. I know I sure do! For a few years now I've had a RunDisney event (any RunDisney event) on my list. They have always looked so fun, so memorable, so magical! The problem is - these races require a lot more planning than most races. They sell out extremely early and you can't just make a flippant decision to run last minute like I prefer to do.

Also a trip to Disney means my family will want to join me and I've learned that racing and family are a little bit of a challenge to coordinate. Even when we are in the same city (San Diego earlier this year for example) I've learned my family would rather stay back and go swimming in the hotel pool than brave the crowded race course with me, and that's ok. I'm perfectly fine to immerse myself in a crowd of strangers in dri-fit clothing.

This event really was a challenge for me to coordinate as my flight to Orlando wasn't going to get me to DisneyWorld in time to pick up my bib. Flying from Portland to Orlando takes all day and although I would land with more than enough time to run at 10:00 p.m., I was not going to make it to the bib pickup earlier that day.

Jack Skellington inspired costume - with some Ragnar flair of course!

Luckily for me I have friends that have friends and was able to find someone kind enough to pick up my bib/shirt/bag and then I just had to swing by her hotel to get it upon arrival in Orlando. This left me with just enough time to have heavy appetizers and drinks at The Wilderness Lodge before returning to my hotel and changing in costume. Unfortunately for me, I was not staying at one of the designated  RunDisney properties so after I had changed I had to make my way over to a property where the race buses were shipping runners to the starting line. On paper - this distance wasn't very far - I might have misjudged the enormity of Disney just a little but eventually I did find my bus and eventually I made it to the starting line with about an hour to spare. This was good because I literally stood in the Porta-Potty line for at least 30 minutes - wow!

Look at all those toilets! Insane potty lines

I easily found my way to the starting corrals among thousands of other costumed runners. The sun was dipping now and I was so thankful that although the temperature was still hot compared to Oregon, it wasn't too bad and it didn't feel as humid as they last time I had visited Orlando in October. I talked to so many cool people in my starting corral. This was most certainly a different crowd than I was used to at a race start. The Disney magic was strong with them - almost all had done several RunDisney events and most of them had run this course before. It made me wonder how many people are return runners year to year.

Starting corrals

It felt like a really long time between assembling into the starting corrals, walking nearly a mile to the starting line and waiting for the timed corral releases. Everyone around me was having fun taking pictures and doing silly things but since I was standing there all alone I just really wanted to start running. The one cool thing about the staged corrals is that you really can enjoy the fireworks and release in front of you - especially for a night event!

Once the fireworks were off and I was running I was a happy happy girl. As we ran out of Hollywood Studios Auto Plaza entrance, RunDisney had lit the street with super fun neon green strobe lights - an eerie foreshadow of sights to come. There was also a lot of fog (artificial fog) to amplify the spookiness of the green light. We ran past many volunteers that were super excited for us to begin our journey as we escaped onto Osceola Parkway heading toward Animal Kingdom. 

My entire goal was to make up as much time as I could from the start. I could tell my pace was quicker than the majority of folks in my starting corral. I caught up to the laggards in the corral released before me within the first half mile. I was worried about running into walls of people but for the most part I was able to run pretty freely with minimal bobbing and weaving.

The first villain picture station came up quickly. I think it might have been Jaffar from Aladdin. By the time I ran alongside the line for a photo was at least 20 runners deep. I glanced at my watch - I had a current pace of 8:55 minute mile. Nope - no way, I was not slowing down to stand in line and kill my pace. I was trying to estimate just how long it would take to stand in line for that long for a photo opp. Just didn't seem reasonable to me.

I continued on in the darkness and was really enjoying my Disney themed music list that I had created just for this event. We passed some other great Disney decorations along the way as we progressed down Osceola Parkway. I could see Animal Kingdom in the distance and I knew I was nearing the 2.5 mile turnaround point. Somewhere around this section I saw the lead runners on the first return. I love to see the fast runners out in front, it's always so inspiring! And I'm always on the lookout for the first woman on the course.

RunDisney did a nice job decorating the overpasses

I am still disappointed that the RunDisney folks didn't take us INTO Animal Kingdom. Running through the parking entrance wasn't all that thrilling and soon enough we had turned around and were heading back east on Osceola Parkway following the path of the elite runners. The fun part about this though is that I was able to see the thousands of runners behind me. And wow there were LOTS on the course behind me. I was certainly in a less populated running space than people farther back on the course. By this time I had passed a few picture stops and was still not willing to get in a long line and kill by sub 9:00 minute/mile pace for a photo opp but I was hoping to find a shorter line and jump in shortly.

My running goal was to run faster than my awful half marathon the week prior (should be easily attainable) and my photo goal was to take at least one character picture on the course. Two would be a stretch goal. I figured if I ran hard the first half, I could find shorter lines on the second half of the course as I'd be ahead of a lot of the runners by then.

I think it was just before mile 4 that I came across a photo station with Dr. Facilier - or The Shadow Man from Princess and the Frog and it was the first time the line wasn't 20 people deep! I decided this was as good as a time as any to get in a photo opp so I jumped off the course and stood in line. I quickly noticed that RunDisney had an official course photographer but they also had manned the station with a volunteer to snap pictures using your own personal device. Now that is just cool! Thank you RunDisney! I had assumed all my pictures would be photos I would have to pay for since I wasn't running with any friends but thanks to the volunteers I got a few shots on my own phone!

I jumped back on the course and did everything in my power to NOT look at my current pace knowing how much it would have fallen by standing still. I reminded myself this is a unique race and that I would be upset if I finished without at least one character photo. Soon after we were turning right off Osceola Parkway (FINALLY) and onto the trail portion of the race. I was really looking forward to this section of the course! It was a gravel road so I was expecting something akin to my Ragnar races but it was easy peasy. It was extremely well lit (a little too much in my opinion) and the rocks were tamped down, I never once lost my footing. There were more photo opps along the way including the one picture I really wanted - Jack and Sally - but the lines were once again long and I was still trying to make up time from my Shadow Man stop. New rule - only one photo opp per mile - it was the only way to keep my pace respectable.

The trail portion had some really cool decorations and creepy sounds coming from the woods and I did enjoy this section. Soon enough we were emerging from the trail and into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. This was an all new section of DisneyWorld for me. I have never been here and was interested to see what it was all about. I'm still a little bummed that this is where we ran through instead of say Animal Kingdom, but what can I do? I don't create the courses. We ran past some soccer fields and then on some sidewalks past some more character stops and onto a track. I was expecting some interesting spooky decorations on the field but only saw a pumpkin or two. Not impressed. I didn't like running on the track. But it was here that I passed a girl in a cool black tutu running on her toes. I always fixate on unique running styles and somebody running long distances on their toes always draws my attention. I thought that with her toe style and her tutu she should be the black swan - a ballerina.

We pulled off the track and were now halfway to the finish - RunDisney had lined a sidewalk with dozens of volunteers but their job was simply to cheer and ring cowbells for us. How fun! It was actually really cool - props to the volunteers that were so happy to cheer for strangers.

After the volunteer pep rally I spotted my next photo opp - Stitch was hanging out on the sidelines and his wait line wasn't too bad so once again I jumped off and made the decision to take a timing hit for a photo.

I was feeling proud that I reached my stretch goal on the photo side when I passed the ballerina once again. We were then heading into Champion Stadium and about to run the bases in the baseball park. This was actually pretty cool. A lot of spectators filled the stands and had signs for the runners. It was a cool vibe and my pace picked up considerably here, allowing me to make up some time from the Stitch photo opp. I did though stop a little and pose for the race photogs on the baseball field. I hadn't seen any other traditional race photographers yet at this point so I needed to take some good action shots!

After exiting the Wide World of Sports, we eventually returned to Osceola Parkway where I once again caught glimpses of the runners behind me on the course. We were now in miles 7 and 8 and I began to wonder how my dreaded mile 9 would treat me. I hate mile 9 on my half marathon courses. It's my most challenging and brutal 'mental mile' but tonight it would be my final mile. I was hopeful the excitement of the finish line would removal my personal barrier and I could enjoy the final steps of the course.

Another photo opp (my favorite one of the night actually!) and I was back on a portion of the course we had run at the very beginning, so I knew we were close to returning to Hollywood Studios. Upon re-entry to the park, the RunDisney volunteers were out in full effect. These volunteers were awesome - I can't say enough great things about them! They hooted and hollered and applauded for each and every one of us. And I found the ballerina once again (and passed her one final time). I glanced at my watch and knew we were now in our final mile (mile 9) and I wanted to just run and have fun. My Disney playlist was featuring Tiana's song "Almost There" from Princess and the Frog and I thought - wow, how serendipitous that this song comes on right now!

These guys were AWESOME! so glad I stopped!

The last mile although SUPER fun, felt SUPER long. I honestly think I had a giant smile plastered on my face the entire time we were in the park. We ran past some back lots not typically open to the public, which was really neat to see. We ran past Mickey's big Sorcerer's hat in the middle of the park and we ran through this really neat tunnel of strobe lights. In looking at my watch, we should have emerged from the tunnel straight into the finish line, but it wasn't there. We were in another back lot area and all the excitement from the crowds was gone except for about 5 excited volunteers. The smell of garbage was strong and I was realizing that I wasn't anywhere near the finish line just yet as I could see the Tower of Terror ahead of me but it wasn't that close just yet. I put my head down and ran, I was now ready to be done as I entered my 10th mile.

Immediately before I crossed the finish line I heard the announcer say "Welcome Jeff Galloway to the finish line!" and I thought - "whoa, I'm crossing a timing mat with THE JEFF GALLOWAY" - there is one for the record books! The picture below was the video team setting up to record him for this video spot that just came out today!

Minutes after finishing - Jeff Galloway!

I stopped my watch, collected my medal, posed for a shot or two in front of the Tower of Terror and began the loooooong walk back to the buses. Along the way I picked up some Gatorade and a nice little food box from RunDisney. It was a great race. I had a blast - both running and experiencing the Disney magic. It was unlike any other event I've completed before and I'd love to do another in the future.
Nice goodie selection!

That medal glows in the dark and the elevator moves!

After the goodie collection and the finish line photos, runners could join the after party at Hollywood Studios as the park was to be open until the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately for me I had a big long day ahead of me on Sunday and I've been fortunate enough to experience Hollywood Studios after dark a number of times, so I just kept walking back to the buses.

I met a few cool runners on the bus back to Saratoga Springs. There were only probably five of us on the big bus but they were all super cool people with fun running stories (two were Iron Men/Women). I still had a long walk to get from the bus to my hotel and it was well after midnight by this point but I wasn't nervous walking alone in the dark. It was quit pretty and calm actually. Helped me put the entire long and crazy day in perspective. I really enjoyed the entire event.

Pretty views for my walk home at Downtown Disney

Post race shakeout run - enjoying morning coffee at Downtown Disney
PS - I totally forgot to add my stats! According to my Garmin - I ran 10.21 miles (almost a quarter mile more than projected!) in 1:37 minutes at a 9:31 min/mile pace - and that INCLUDES my idol time while waiting for photo opps!! I'm pretty darn happy with that especially when you factor in the heat of Florida in October. I certainly justified my crappy half marathon the weekend before with this run. Can you guess from my splits below which miles I stopped for photos?