Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dopey Challenge Training: Week #3

Last weekend's trip to Nashville and then returning to a 50 mile bike ride set me up completely exhausted for this week. I ended up taking an unplanned rest day on Tuesday so I could just stay home and get things done around the house. That was really the best thing because I was going to be working 4 out of the next 5 days and I wouldn't be home very much. Sometimes, you really just have to skip a workout or two and make sure your own mental tank is full, as well as the tanks of the ones you love!

So here is what Week #3 looked like:

Monday - Open Water Swim
Tuesday - unplanned rest day
Wednesday - 40:00 trainer ride; 4 mile run
Thursday - 1000 meter lap swim
Friday - 48:00 trainer ride; Pure Barre
Saturday - 10 mile long run 
Sunday - rest day

Yeah, I know what you must be thinking: "This doesn't really look much like a Dopey training plan."

Ok, so I'm going to spill the beans on my little secret, even though it hasn't been confirmed yet (which makes me a bit nervous, but I'm going to just go ahead and blurt it out).

I was able to get an entry to the Sold Out 2017 Ironman 70.3 Augusta in September!!

Isn't that exciting?! I wasn't going to say anything publicly until I received my confirmation from Ironman, which was supposed to be this week. I haven't gotten the confirmation yet, but I've been assured by the charity who I secured my registration from that Ironman has my name and email and will be getting in touch with me soon, so I'm going to go ahead and spread the word! 

So as for the training plan, it's going to switch from a Dopey training plan to the Super Simple Ironman 70.3 Training Plan that I used as a framework back in 2014 for my first Augusta 70.3 - this time I will be following it a bit more closely, however! ;) So this week I will be starting Week 9 of 16, which is a bit intimidating, but overall I'm really only behind on the long bike mileage. I'm doing pretty well on the swim and run miles. 

As it would happen, the only thing I'm really going to miss by switching away from a Dopey-focused plan are the Race Simulation weeks for July-September, but I will still get to do them in October-December, and I think that will be plenty. I will be running still on back to back days when I do brick workouts while I train for the Half Ironman. :)

I am absolutely thrilled about being able to race in Augusta again! I've been aching to do another 70.3, particularly this race so I could try to improve my performance. But I'm also not going to put a ton of pressure on myself since circumstances are different this time and my training will have to reflect that. I will train and race to the best of my ability and that will have to be sufficient! 

I can't believe it's nearly August already! Reece and I start back to school on Wednesday and her dance classes and science class start in two weeks! It's going to be a really busy month for me, but I know there are plenty of folks out there who have much more intense schedules than I do and manage to train just fine. I will have to pull some early days, like I did on Saturday when I did a 10 mile long run  at 5 AM with some ladies from my Moms Run This Town group, but that actually works out fine for me because I'm an early riser! 

Today I shared the following picture with a friend of mine who just completed her firs Oly Tri yesterday and has registered for her first 70.3 next spring: 

That's how I'm feeling right now. I'm a little scared and a lot excited! I had been hoping and dreaming and planning to race in Augusta this year and it sold out before I could save up the money. When this opportunity came to me for not much more money than a regular registration, I felt like it was just meant to be. No, I haven't had the chance to train all year like I did last time. And no, I won't have a completely open schedule where I can train whenever and wherever I please. But it will be OK! Training doesn't have to be perfect to be effective. 

And just think... in a mere 8 weeks, you'll get to listen to me ramble about doing my 2nd Half Ironman! Aren't you SO excited?!?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dopey Challenge Training: Week 2

Well, this week was just a tiny bit insane! I'd go into all the various details, but since it's Sunday evening and I apparently lived through it - then it really must not have been as bad as it felt at the time!

First, here is what training looked like this week:

Monday - 4 mile run plus an 800 meter swim (Pure Barre class in the evening)
Tuesday - XT (18.9 mile bike ride)
Wednesday - 4.6 mile run plus a 900 meter swim (Pure Barre class in the evening)
Thursday - XT (13.3 mile bike ride then a 4 mile run off the bike)
Friday - rest day [drove to Nashville to bring home my daughter for a few weeks]
Saturday - long run (8 miles)
Sunday -  planned rest day but instead 49.5 mile bike ride, then a 10 minute run off the bike

As you can see, that's a lot of training going on! LOL And then add in a whirlwind trip to Nashville and an unexpected 50 mile bike ride and you have one tired Niffer. It's been such a busy summer! But I'll figure out the balance! Right now? I'm so tired that I can't even think of anything to say about this week's training except that it went very well. Even the 50 mile ride felt strong! I can tell you that I will be going to bed early this evening! :D

Tonight I signed up for a Sprint Tri in August, as well as GatorFest 1.2 mile swim and Ride for a Reason 56 mile bike ride in Augusta in August! It's fun to have a few events in the calendar!

Happy training to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dopey Challenge Training: Week 1

Hello, out there! Niffercoo is here and ready to get back to the original purpose of this blog: to journal my experiences while training and racing! As I begin to tackle this exciting event that is the Dopey Challenge 2018, I want to chronicle the ups and downs so I can look back on it later like I have been able to do with my other big events! 

So here we go!

This week was the first week of my training for the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in January 2018. In case you haven't heard of the Dopey Challenge, it's a 4 day event where participants run a 5K on Thursday, a 10K on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday - all on Disney property! This year will be the 25th anniversary of the marathon and the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge, so the medals and shirts will be special! And that's why I chose to tackle this 'one and done' event this particular year! 

There are a few training plans out there for the challenge, but the one I decided to use to inspire my own training plan was developed by Jenny Hadfield. She's the wife of my beloved Penguin, and she wrote the Marathoning for Mortals book with him that I have used for the majority of my races. She wrote an article for Runner's World in 2013 on How to Train for the Dopey Challenge  - in it, she lays out a sample 8 week rotation for training and I simply used it, expanded it, and modified it to fit my own needs and VOILA! for the first time ever, I have designed my OWN training plan.

Here is what my training for Week 1 looked like:

Monday - 3 mile run [plus a one mile OWS that wasn't on the schedule]
Tuesday - XT (group bike ride, Pure Barre class)
Wednesday - 3 mile run [plus a pool swim]
Thursday - XT (group bike ride, Pure Barre class)
Friday - Long Run #1 (5 miles)
Saturday - Long Run #2 (7 miles)
Sunday - rest day

As you see, there are a few extra workouts being thrown in because I have a sprint triathlon coming up next month! Once triathlon season is over, I will split the XT (cross training) days between swimming and cycling, or I may do shorter workouts of both on the cross training days! Pure Barre is something that I've recently started for strength training. I have always been a big fan of strength training and would use weights in the gym, but this workout pushes me harder and I'm seeing much better results. I still can't even make it all the way through a workout yet, they are that challenging and are hitting my weak points! 

This coming week's training will feature only one long run, and then during Week 3 I will do a Race Simulation (4 back-to-back runs) which will happen once per month. In week 4, I will treat myself to a recovery week and a massage! The rotation continues on (with a few minor variations) in weeks 5-8 with 2 long runs, then one long run, then a race simulation, then recovery. There are rest days built in, and any XT day can be turned into a rest day whenever it's needed! I keep track of my resting heart rate to monitor if I need to take extra rest so I can avoid overtraining. 

For the first time ever, I will get to experience what it's like to fit in training not only around my family's needs but also around my part-time job at the running store! Since I have a gym membership with 24 hour access, I don't think that will be a huge problem! And I figure people have worked their training around work and family (and much more intense schedules than my own) for years and years, and I will have to learn how to be flexible and just do the best I can in the hours that I have available to me! I know it will all work out just fine and I'm not even concerned. This school year I have only one very motivated high school student left to teach, and my work hours are not overwhelming in the least! All in all, I am looking forward to this training season! 

I hope you'll stick around and share my adventures! If you're also training for Dopey 2018, please comment!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Georgia Peach Jam Half Marathon

When I registered for the 2018 Dopey Challenge a few months ago, I realized that my POT (Proof of Time in runDisney speak) was outside of the allowable dates. I needed a race from 2016, and while I ran a couple of races that year, I didn't 'race' them. Big difference! So I put in the faster of my two half marathons from that year and set out to find a half marathon to race before the beginning of October (when the POT is due).

And that's when I found the Peach Jam Half Marathon. This race is put on by the local train running group, but it's run on a greenway that is concrete and boardwalk. And the price for early registration was only $55! Since my ankle was still bothering me, I decided to just wait it out, see how my ankle felt, and wait on the May work schedule to come out to make sure I had the day off! As it so happened, all of those factors came together in my favor and I registered right before the first price increase!

I don't usually set time goals for races, but since that was the whole point of running this race, I decided upon a finish time of 2:15. This is about 5 minutes slower than my PR, but 12 minutes faster than the POT I had already input. That should be enough to get me a better corral placement, I think.

Training from mid April when my ankle felt better up through today's race went about as well as I could expect. I increased my intervals from 2/1 to 3/1 and added a speed workout once a week. The weather has been quite warm all year, but the mornings are usually cooler than they were today, but nothing I can do to control that!

I woke at 4:30 this morning, fed the kitties, rolled, and drank my Generation UCAN drink. I left at 5:30 so I could arrive with plenty of time to pee the hundred times I have to do when I drink UCAN! The traffic was minimal and I made great time and got an excellent parking spot. I hit the potties (real ones at the park! WOOHOO!) and then did a 1 mile warm up, testing out 4/1 intervals. My reasoning for the increase in interval is that The Penguin has you doing a longer interval than training, so if it's good enough for The Penguin (John Bingham) then it should be good enough for me, right? And my reasoning for the mile warm up is because the first mile of any workout/race for me is terribly slow. With a time goal, I didn't have any room to spare.

I did my warm up, and then hit the potty one last time before heading to the start line. I am very impressed with Dirty Spokes Productions - packet pick up was easy and organized and there were announcements every few minutes that there would be a pre-race meeting 10 minutes before the start. And I could actually hear the announcements! They must have a great PA system!

Waiting at the start line, I was getting pretty nervous. Time goals are scary for me especially with such little real training. As I was looking around, I saw my friend Patrick and that helped to distract me until the start of the race! This was a gun start for timing so when they said, "Go!" I hit my watch and made my way forward. The half was capped at 500 so it didn't take too long to get across the start line, but it was quite crowded going down to the greenway. I skipped my first run interval for safety's sake, and after that, I made sure to throw up my arm to announce my walk for at least the first 5 miles. Everything thinned out within a few miles and only really got congested again when I neared the out and backs around miles 4 and 10.

With my new watch, I can set intervals but still have a screen to show me my overall pace. My goal was 10:30 for the first 5 miles and then 10:20 for the next 5, and then maintain at least 10:20 through the finish - that should give me a 2;15 finish. At mile 5, though, I was averaging 10:20! Not too bad. I picked up the pace, despite the fact that it was quickly getting hot and humid (70 degrees at the start @@), and was averaging 10:10 by mile 10.

And that's pretty much where it started to fall apart.

I started to hurt in many places. First my ankle, then it traveled up to my IT Band on the left side. I knew it was just muscle tightness, but it hurt, darn it! LOL And then I started to feel a bit dizzy and had that tell-tale tingling on the top of my head. I had NOT been paying attention to my hydration. And it dawned on me after the race that I had not brought any Nuun or ANY electrolytes with me, and on such a hot day where I was sweating so terribly - that was NOT smart. They had one station with Gatorade around the halfway point, but I skipped it in favor of water thinking that my UCAN had me covered. Well, maybe for nutrition but not electrolytes. Oops!

I started to struggle and my pace took a dive. Looking at the mile splits, I went from sub 10s to 10:30s. Still not bad, but I had my goal in mind. I knew that it hurt and felt awful, but I also knew that meeting my goal would take all that pain away! ;) So I decided to skip the last several walk intervals and just push forward, since I couldn't muster any additional speed.

And it worked! Just as I was coming around to make a final push to the finish, I heard my friend Patrick give me a shout out and that gave me a little extra umph... but looking at my finish line photo you can tell that I am wiped out!

But I did it! Official time is 2:12:50! My 2nd best half marathon EVER!! I am SORE and I actually took a nap this afternoon! But I really did enjoy pushing and I'm looking forward to pushing again on another race when I'm actually fully trained!

And now I'm one step closer to Dopey! I updated my POT this afternoon as soon as the results were posted! Woohoo! Now to recover this week and then get ready for the Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July and possibly a Sprint or Oly tri in 4 weeks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Race Report: 26.2 with Donna

Here I am! I bet you thought I was never going to blog again. Or maybe you just hoped so? Well, either way... I'm BAAACK! Why now? Two reasons: the first is that this year I have been chosen to be ambassador for two of my favorite brands: Nuun and Skirt Sports (more on that another day!) And the second reason is why I'm writing today - to write a Race Report about Marathon Number 5!! 

This past weekend I drove down to Jacksonville, Florida to 2 of my dear friends to meet up with 20+ of my friends from Running of the Ears to participate in one of the best marathon weekends around - the 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer! I have been hearing about this race weekend for the last few years. My running friends simply RAVE about it. Since this year was the 10th anniversary, and since it would be my 5th full marathon, I decided to go for it! 

Friday Night Pizza Party with the ROTE gang!

I registered way back last summer and was planning for this to be the marathon where I would finally GO for it. I would push hard and I was hoping to finish between 30 seconds to a minute per mile faster than my MCM 2015 time. I wanted so badly to set a PR since this would be the first time I was going to be training for only one marathon. The last two times I did marathon training, I was trying to become a Marathon Maniac and I would have to complete two marathons in short succession. But this time was going to be different and I was so excited. 

But as we all know, the best-laid plans...

Last August while I was training for Ragnar Trail Carolinas, I took several hard falls and many small tweaks in my left ankle. I didn't think much of it, and right after the relay, I jumped head-long into marathon training - incorporating hills and speed right off the bat. I would notice that my ankle flexibility was diminishing and I would have some pain for awhile after my workouts. But it wasn't too much to handle. And since I wasn't feeling anything during my runs, I didn't worry about it too much. In early December rolled around and we experienced our first cold snap. I noticed that I would feel something in my ankle at the beginning of my runs, too, but it would go away a couple of miles in. Again, I didn't worry too much. But then there was a run in sub freezing weather and I felt my ankle the entire time - so I cut it early and made an appointment with the doctor. 

Luckily for me, the doctor was able to see me right away and he had good news fore me: I had not torn or strained a ligament or tendon! The problem was with my tight hamstrings and calves - they had tightened up during the big falls to protect the ankle joint and since I didn't rest them so they could release, they just continued to tighten. As the muscle warmed up, it would loosen up which is why it didn't hurt while I was running - but then post-run they would tighten again and it would hurt again. He gave me foam rolling, balancing, and exercises designed to rehab the weak ankle and relax the muscles. And I didn't have to stop running but just needed to cut back on my intensity and shorten my intervals. I was only able to get up to 14 miles twice in training but my recovery was doing very well leading up to the marathon. I felt about 97% recovered by the time I left for race weekend and figured I'd be able to complete the race. :)

I was in for a big surprise! 

My marathon buddy, Jill, and I were the only ones in our group who were doing the full so we planned to stick together. I had set up my watch for 1/2 intervals and planned to start with 1 run/2 walk until the halfway point and then if I felt good, I'd flip it around and do a 2 run/1 walk which is what I did during most of my training after I'd seen the doctor. It was a good plan!

Jen and Jill looking Pretty in Pink!
The weather forecast called for highs in the mid to upper 70s and bright sunshine, but on race morning we were greeted with overcast skies. This was something to be taken advantage of, no doubt! We started off with the 1/2 and about 2 miles in, my ankle hadn't given me ANY grief at all. Not even a little twinge - and the clouds were hanging in there - so we decided to push it a bit and run through two intervals (3 minutes) and then walk the next interval (which would alternate between 1 or 2 minutes). This felt great and we were able to keep that up for the entire first half - crossing the 13.1 mat with a time of 2:28! I was feeling strong and enjoying the most incredible crowd support of any race I have EVER participated in! 

And then - the sun came out. 

It wasn't even a gradual thing... it was like BAM! Here is the Florida sun right in your face! The temps soared, the sun was relentless and there was no more shade, and everything went south in a hurry. My ankle was twinging towards the end of the intervals and we decided to cut them back down, and then my feet started to really, really hurt. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before! We pushed through for the next few miles and then around mile 18 we had to stop running and start walking. And that's how we finished the race. It was hot and bright and miserable - still we kept a decent walking pace the entire time. But my gosh my feet HURT. I have never experienced anything like that before. I wasn't sure if it's because I've been wearing Hokas at work and my feet became used to the cushioning, or it it was just a result of being severely undertrained, or if it was just the crazy heat. But my feet were killing me. The good news, though, is that my IT Band/knees that have always bothered me in previous marathons didn't bother me one bit! My feet more than made up for it! LOL

I was so surprised at how the spectators will still everywhere even in the waning hours of the race! People in neighborhoods were cheering and thanking us for participating! Jeff Galloway and his wife passed us and said, "You're getting it done!" I said, as he passed, "Hey! That's -" and before I got the words out, he gave us a wave as he and his wife continued on! Their finish time was less than 20 minutes before ours! :) Our next brush with fame came when "THE Donna" and her husband passed us right before the bridge! They were being interviewed by the local news guy who was running alongside them - all the while, we were walking behind them! Their finish time was than 3 minutes before ours! 

There was only one situation that caused my ankle to give me grief and that was when the camber of the road was steep - like on the ramp up to the bridge and then several places on the bridge itself. And that was towards the very end of the race so it was especially hard. But as soon as the road evened out, then my ankle was fine! Yep, even at the end of 26.2 miles! And once I crossed the finish line and had a minute to relax, then my feet also stopped hurting so badly. Our finish time was 5:52:38! I was thrilled! Two months ago, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish at all. Even a month ago, I was considering dropping down to the half. The fact that I finished, and that my ankle wasn't severely messed up, and that I managed a smile at the finish? That was just icing on the cake! 

Marathon Finisher for the 5th time!!
I'm now 48 hours post-marathon and I'm getting around marvelously! Foam rolling still makes me want to cry, but it's getting better! I went to the grocery store this afternoon and walked across the parking lot and around the store with ease! Isn't that the most wonderful thing?!

Now, despite the fact that I'm feeling really well, I'm still planning to take a week or more off from all exercise (except the PT exercises for my ankle which I will resume just as soon as my hamstrings feel back to normal). I think my body and mind could really use a little bit of a break. I haven't taken much time off (except for a week after my doctor's appointment in December) in the last 12 months. And late 2017 is going to be a big one for me as I prepare for the Dopey Challenge in January 2018! So now is the time to rest and reset for my next big adventures! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Race Report: Grayson Day Road Race

Ok, this is going to be a short race report - mostly because the race was already 8 days ago and I didn't even take any pictures! LOL

We decided to do this 5K race the night before - "we" being my husband and I. He is nearly done with the Couch to 5K program on his way to his first 10K race on the 4th of July, and he wanted to see if he could improve his time from last year. For me, I wanted to run this race that I'd heard is "fast and flat".

I have not done ANY speed training in well over a year, thanks to marathon and Dark Side Challenge training. My focus has been elsewhere. And I was only 2 weeks out from the Dark Side Challenge and technically still in the Recovery phase. I had tried earlier in the week to add a little "umph" to my runs and had seen a little success, so I decided to set a goal of coming in under 30 minutes.

The morning of the race was pleasantly cool and we drove the 15 minutes to the race start area. That was very nice! I decided to do a 20 minute warm up since I do not really get into a groove with running until the 4th mile, so if I don't do a fairly long warm up before a 5K then I never really get into it before the finish line.

I timed my warm up almost too perfectly and my husband was texting me that folks were lining up for the start! Oops! But I did get there just in time to start - and we were off!

The course has 2 loops with some out-and-backs on the 2nd loop. And while it is pretty 'flat and fast' there are so many turns for the out and back that I lost some of the momentum I had. But that's OK. I was pushing my pace, but not to the point where I couldn't breathe through it. And I wasn't taking any walk breaks. It was a challenge but not an overwhelming one. I felt like I was working hard but not that I was going to be sick.

When my mile 1 pace came in at 8:58, I was like, "Game ON!" :D Mile 2 was also 8:58 and I was trying to remember what my 5K PR was. Doing math in my head while I'm running is simply NOT good for me! Mile 3 had the most of the incline and the out and back where I had to turn around and then go up the incline, so I lost a little speed and ended up with 9:01. Still - simply amazing for not having done any speed work!

I crossed the finish officially at 28:12 - and my Garmin had me running slightly over the distance at 3.15 miles. It was an 8:57 per mile average but since they keep the course official, it was 9:05 average. So now I need to do some actual speed work and come in with an official average under 9 minute miles! :D

And yes, it was a PR by around 15 seconds! Not much faster, but for no training? Heck yeah, I'll take it!

And next year... I'll be back. And trained! So, look out!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Race Report: Star Wars Dark Side Challenge

My goodness, I don't even know where to start!! This weekend's trip to Walt Disney World for the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side races was simply incredible! I had more fun than I've had in quite awhile and everything worked out beautifully. It was truly Practically Perfect in every way! ;)

It may seem hard to believe but it's been over 3 years since I have participated in a Run Disney event. The last race I did was Princess in 2013, as part of the Coast to Coast Challenge that included the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland earlier that same year. It was NOT a good experience for me at Walt Disney World (you can read that report here) and I was in not hurry to return. In that post, I mentioned that I planned to go back in 2017 for the 20th anniversary of the half marathon! How funny! But when this Inaugural race was announced, I couldn't resist!

And I'm so glad I did!

Perhaps it's because it's been so long since I've done a Run Disney race. Or perhaps the difference comes from within me, as I feel like I'm a very different person from who I was back then. Or maybe it's a little bit of both? Regardless, I had a blast!

First off, before I start in on the report, I need to acknowledge two people who made this weekend possible for me. First, my mom who gave me most of the entry fee money as a birthday present (last year and this year) and then who also purchased the Memory Maker so I could have all of my race and park pictures. And second, my friend Cindy, who allowed me to stay with her in her room totally free and who even paid for an extra night so I wouldn't have to drive home after the race, even though she had to fly home that same afternoon and wouldn't even be there! As it turned out, I was able to fly to WDW so I had a whole extra day in the parks thanks to her generosity! I am extremely grateful to both of them for making it possible for me to have this fantastic weekend! You're the greatest!

So now, the race report:

Packet Pick Up/Expo

As I mentioned before, I was able to fly to WDW instead of drive - which was fantastic! I had been saving up since Christmas and found a flight in March that came in under my budget. I flew on Delta and had to take a super early flight to get that great deal, but that was OK! I cashed in all of my Disney Points for a 4-day One Park per Day ticket and spent Friday at Animal Kingdom! LOL

I arrived at our resort (All Star Sports - my first time staying there) early and our room was not ready. I left my bags at Bell Services and hit the bus to the Expo. Cindy and her co-worker, Dave, would not be arriving until the evening and going to the Expo then, and I would definitely go with them, but I was going to be a nervous wreck all day long if I didn't go ahead and pick up my race bib. And an anxious Niffercoo is not ever a good thing. So I boarded a bus and headed over to the Wide World of Sports!

They had the bib pick up and t-shirt pick up in one building and the Expo in another, so I just went to the pick up side and then went home. I had not planned to buy anything at the Expo anyway, but they had a few shirts and other items at the bib pick up location so I looked around. And I found this guy:

Runner Mickey!

He even has the year on his foot!
I collect this size Mickey anyway, and I always like to get a little something to commemorate a race weekend, so I had to have him! :)

Since my room wasn't ready, I left the Wide World of Sports and went back to the resort solely to pick up a bus to the Animal Kingdom. I had my race stuff with me but I brought a sling bag to carry it all in so it wouldn't get ruined. I had a great time at AK, and made sure not to do too much walking around so my legs wouldn't get too tired!

Just about the time I was planning to go back, I got a text that the room was ready! So I went back, got my stuff in the room, ate some dinner, wandered around the resort to take pictures, then went down to the Magical Express location to wait for Cindy and Dave!

The Princess has arrived!!
We dropped their bags off in a hurry at Bell Services and hustled to the Expo on one of the last buses! Again, there was no line for pick up! We even spent about 10 minutes at the shopping side of the Expo before it closed and made it on the last bus back to the resort! Yes, I'm glad I went early to get my stuff because I would have been a complete wreck! I'm not sure how Cindy does that each and every time she races at Disney!

We got back to the room and had to make a trip back down to Bell Services to collect their bags - which the lady had said they had no record of. ACK! But they were ultimately found and our one snafu of the trip was resolved. We got our stuff ready, set the alarms for 2:30 AM for the first bus, and got some sleep!

Saturday - Star Wars Tie Fighter 10K

The alarm went off "Disney Early" and I remembered that I am crazy to do this! LOL But I was genuinely excited and was ready to get this adventure started. The weather forecast was iffy, but this was a 10K and I had run in worse conditions. I packed a check bag accordingly and we set out to get the first bus!

Walked right on the bus and got the last 3 seats! The driver left right away and made it to EPCOT and the starting line area with no trouble at all. We walked around a little bit since we were early and saw a lot of lines for characters! We got in the BB8 line and waited - I really don't know how long we waited, but it wasn't overwhelming. And the picture was worth it!

He's definitely not on the "Dark Side" but it was nice to see him there!
Speaking of pictures, new this race was that the pictures have been taken over by the Photo Pass Photographers and are tied to your bib number. As a result, you can add your pictures to your Memory Maker account and download them all along with your park pictures! We found these photographers to be far superior to the marathonfoto photographers! These folks were all friendly and encouraging and really tried to get GOOD pictures! And they were ALL over the place!  Many more than I remember with any previous Run Disney event that I have done. I was very, very pleased and the quality of the pictures is fantastic! Great improvement! Big thumbs up!

The lines for the other characters, including Boba Fett with Han Solo in carbonite freeze (which I HAD to get) were closed down early to get them to the finish line area at WWoS so we decided to come and get those pictures the next day before the half when we would have much more time. We hit the porta potties, checked our bags, and then tried to go to the start area but they wouldn't let anyone through. Finally they opened it up around 4:30 and the line moved quite slowly. But the walk wasn't as far as it was for the Princess Half so that was nice.

The weather still couldn't make up its mind. Was it going to rain? It sure felt like it! But it was a bit windy as well, and I ended up putting on my disposable poncho to keep from feeling chilled. Glad I went ahead and brought that with me! We got to our corral (B for the 10K) and said goodbye to speedy Dave who was in A. It was the usual start line/corral stuff with music and movie clips and lots of fun! And with some beautiful fireworks to get us going, we were on our way!

Cindy has been dealing with an angry hip for the last month or so, so our plan was to do 3/1 intervals and go nice and slowly with the knowledge that we still had a half marathon to do the next day! About 5 minutes into the race, the humidity hit like a ton of bricks, but thankfully there was still a nice breeze which made it bearable.

We hit our intervals just fine, thanks to Cindy's Gymboss timer which I really liked. I kept our mile pace using my Garmin, and that was nice to have. Plus I wanted to be able to change up the intervals if needed and you can't do that with Garmin. We kept the target pace I had in my head for the first 2 miles but then sped up for mile 3 by well over a minute per mile. I was glad that we could check that and we could slow back down so that we didn't blow out our legs!

The course took us through EPCOT and then on to Hollywood Studios before turning to WWoS for the finish line. I've only run through HS one time (during the full marathon) so this was a lot of fun for me! We stopped and got our picture taken in front of the Tower of Terror - there was NO line at all!

Looking cute and having fun!
A light mist started to fall as we made our way through WWoS, but it really felt good! We crossed the finish line in the dark with smiles on our faces!

Halfway done with our Challenge!
The finish line area was well organized and we waited in no lines to get medals, pictures, food boxes, or to pick up our checked bags! We stretched and took a few pictures, then found Dave and went to get on a bus.

Our medals are adorable - and so are we! Love these outfits!
We also had no trouble for the bus back to the resort. We walked up to our designated stop, there was no line and we got on a bus and left shortly after we got on. We were back at the resort within 15 minutes. I understand that it was NOT that smooth for folks who parked at EPCOT and had to take a bus back there - waits of an hour or more!! Yikes!

Back at the resort, we got cleaned up and tried to eat something but the food court was jam packed with the high school kids who had taken over the resort. So we decided to get something to eat at Hollywood Studios which was our planned park for that day. The park was a good choice because it allowed us to walk a little, and then sit a little for rides and shows. But it was hard to find something to eat because most of the restaurants didn't open until 11. Probably not a problem unless you woke up at 2 AM! LOL

We all were on the same page about getting back to the resort early and eating there and getting to bed early, which was nice! I was able to get my pizza that I like and even though I enjoy going to Wolfgang Puck Express, it simply was going to add too much time to our day and we needed sleep! We ended up being able to shut off the lights at 7:30 and, thanks to that 2 AM wake up, fell right to sleep!

Sunday - Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

1:45 AM. That's what I set my alarm for on Sunday morning. I may have said a bad word when the alarm went off, despite having slept quite well! It's just not normal to be waking up at that hour! LOL

But we did it! We got up and we got dressed and we made it, yet again, to that first bus to leave the resort! Another easy trip to EPCOT - and this time we made a bee line to the character photo ops!

Boba Fett and Carbonite Han

Darth Maul

We made it through each of the lines fairly quickly, and then dropped off bags and hit porta potty lines! The weather was great on Sunday! The skies were clear and there was a gentle breeze - we sure got lucky for Florida in April! I wore another disposable poncho just to keep myself from getting chills. I'm so cold natured!

The lines to the porta potties were worse this time but the trek to the corrals was better! We were in Corral E for the half marathon which I thought was ridiculous, but the corrals were smaller and we were released more quickly than at the 10K (I think it was 8 to 10 minutes between corrals on Saturday! Crazy!). We had about 4 minutes between A-B, B-C, and C-D. We had maybe 5-6 minutes between D and us in E. I'm not sure about the rest of the corrals after us.

My friend BJ joined us in the corral to wait for the start! She lives 15 minutes from me but I hadn't seen her since right after Christmas! Funny that I had to travel to Florida to spend some time with her! More music, more movie clips, more fireworks - and we were off!

The plan was 2/1 intervals for the half for as long as we were able to manage it. Cindy's hip was feeling no worse than the day before which was great news! She credits the moving around at Hollywood Studios as well as the ice pack she picked up from the medical tent after the 10K for making that difference. The nice weather helped a lot as well! It was much less humid on Sunday and since we had a lot longer to go, and we would be running after the sun came up, we would need that!

The race started in EPCOT but we went the long way through the World Showcase which was beautiful and fun! Then we went through the Board Walk Resort again, but it seemed to be a little different. The Hollywood Studios route was also different and I thought that was well-planned, especially for those of us doing the Challenge!

After Hollywood Studios, it was time for the part that I was looking forward to the most - Animal Kingdom! I had only gotten to run at AK for the full marathon and I wasn't in the best frame of mind at that point! This time, I was so excited and very, very ready for it! That long run on Osceola Parkway and through the parking lot of AK leaves a lot to be desired, but my goodness the time was flying by running with Cindy! It's amazing how that happens! We were talking and laughing and having a great time and the miles just seemed to come up before I even knew it. And the 2/1 intervals kept us switching up and we were keeping a very, very consistent pace!

The sun was up by the time we got to AK and it was beautiful! I made Cindy stop for many pictures!

Running past Expedition Everest, though you can't really see it because of the sun!

NOW you can see Expedition Everest, as well as the revamped area where the new night show will be!

Tree of Life!! Gorgeous!! 
And you want to see how far I've come?? Check out this picture:

Walk Breaking and Happy!
A couple of years ago, I would have seen the photographer and started to run again so it wouldn't be recorded that I was walking! GASP! And if I would have been caught on camera, I never would have posted it! But now? I gave him my best smile! :D

Coming out of AK we were faced with the toughest part of the course, physically and mentally! We were running into bright sunshine on the parkway, and we had to go up two overpasses. Not easy at any time and certainly not at miles 10-13 of a half marathon! But being the amazing runners we are, we kept within 10 seconds of our target pace the ENTIRE way! Because we're just that awesome!

We turned onto the dirt path leading to WWoS, which was much nicer to navigate when it's not dark, and knew that we were "almost there"! We crossed the finish line, smiling yet again!

Happy Happy!! 
Another smooth finish line experience the whole way! My only complaint was that the volunteers were telling us to take as many of the food boxes as we wanted. I said I was only take one because there were still LOTS of runners out on the course. I sure hope they had enough food boxes for everyone. I haven't heard any complaints about that, so I hope it went well.

We headed over to the Challenge tent and picked up our extra medals - including the Princess with her Kessel Run medal that she wouldn't even share with me! :P

And let me tell you - that Kessel Run medal is awesome!! 
There was a line for the resort bus this time but we waited just a minute or two before being loaded onto a bus and made it back to the resort again in about 15-20 minutes! We got cleaned up and ate at the resort this time, and then hung out until the Magical Express bus came to take Cindy and Dave away. I spent the rest of Sunday with BJ and her husband at Magic Kingdom!

So if you can't guess already - I LOVED the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend! I couldn't have asked for a better experience and it made me fall back in love with Run Disney! :D I sure hope it won't be another 3 years before I can return!

I took a couple of days of rest (not counting the day spent at Magic Kingdom on Monday) and now it's time to get back into triathlon mode! I have an Olympic distance tri in 9 weeks! Yikes!!