your half-marathon must haves, a checklist

The date is fast-approaching! There are about 15,000 runners out there who in just 12 days will be gearing up to run a half marathon!  I’m no pro, and I don’t have a degree in physical therapy or any professional experience with athletics, so I rarely feel like I can give proper advice about things like injuries or technique. I’m just a girl who’s been running for 15 years, some years more robustly than others, and the only advice I have to offer is what has worked for me. It may work for some, won’t work for others. Every runner is different! Today I offer such advice as you prep and pack for your trip to Disneyland! I’d like to share with you some of my must-have items for Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. This checklist should apply to any half-marathon really. I’m sure you’ll be able to pick out the Disney specific items 🙂 (e.g. you probably don’t need to bring your Mickey Mouse Ears to the ING NYC Marathon).

Let’s start from head to toe:

1.  Hats! I never know when sunglasses are going to give me a headache, so it’s best to have a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. My runDisney hats are my favorite of course:

running hat from 2013 Tinkerbell Half Marathon
running hat from 2013 Tinkerbell Half Marathon

You’ll want a hat that’s lightweight and has some mesh along the sides that breathe.  Case in point, don’t just go running a half marathon in a regular old baseball hat. After a while you’ll start to feel like you’ve got a winter cap on your head! Visors are a great option because they don’t trap the heat (heat escapes from the top of your head so hats can be tricky on a really hot day). Visors aren’t so much my style but I could learn to embrace them. Maybe they’ll have some at the Health & Fitness Expo!

2. Sweaty Bands. I loooove sweaty bands! I first discovered them at the Dland Half Health & Fitness Expo a couple of years ago and they’re kind of like magic. If you don’t need or want to wear a hat or visor but still want to keep your hair out of your face, you must invest in some Sweaty Bands. They are basically just headbands but the underside is made of this magic velvety material and they DO. NOT. SLIP. I wore one last year when I ran as Alice in Wonderland and the thing didn’t budge once. Nor did it squeeze my head or bother me in any way. Love these things!

proud with our medals
black sparkly Sweaty Band

sweaty-bands3. Hair Ties. This one is for the long-haired ladies and gents. The first year I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon I completely forgot to bring hair ties! You probably wouldn’t make the same glaring oversight but I wanted to mention it juuuuust in case. I was scrambling at 10 pm the night before the race trying to find some hair elastics!

4. Sunglasses. This one is particularly important for the Disneyland Half Marathon. The way the course is laid out, you exit the parks and run east into Anaheim RIGHT as the sun is coming up. The timing is worse depending on what corral you’re in and what time you actually start the race, but for MOST runners you’re going to get stuck right in the eye line of a rising sun. The first year I ran I had to borrow Brad’s sunglasses for this portion. My eyes are super sensitive and his aren’t so much, so he took pity on me. One year we ran the race it was really overcast for most of the morning (as it often is in SoCal) and it wasn’t as much of a problem, but you just never know so it’s better to be safe than sorry. You want to be sure and get athletic sunglasses specifically, and test them out on a run beforehand. A lot of glasses will bounce on your face or fog up when you run and trust me, both are very annoying. Find a pair that work with your stride. Sunglasses.

check
check

5. Sunscreen. Speaking of protection from those UV rays, don’t forget to lay on some sunscreen. You’ll be outside running for 3+ hours. Skin cancer is bad! Brad and I really like the Neutrogena sunscreen shown below. There is nothing worse than sweating sunscreen into your eyes during a run (ouch that burns!) and this one doesn’t seem to do that. It works for us. Also, here’s a pro-tip for you: don’t be fooled by a high SPF number. Anything over 30, i.e. SPF 50, 75, 85, is negligible and is just a marketing ploy put in place by manufacturers to get you to buy their product and charge you more. True story. You’re good with SPF 30. Also make sure to get a broad spectrum sunscreen which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. That is much more important than a high SPF.

neutrogena-ultimate-sport-lotion-sunscreen-broad-spectrum-spf-30

6. Chapstick. I hate running with chapped lips! It makes me feel like I’m running through a desert and desperate for water. I’m usually fine if I put some on before the run. I don’t need to bring it in my fuel belt; but if you’re particularly prone to chapped lips, go ahead and bring a stick on the run.

7. Vaseline. Chafing is no joke people. This is an important one you don’t want to forget! Weak spots for ladies tend to be under the ta-tas right where your sports bra sits. Men, it’s more so on the nips. I personally also get chafing spots on my tricep area, which I’m sure means I need to work a little harder to get rid of those chicken cutlets I’ve got dangling (we can’t all be Michelle Obama!). A lot of people buy fancy athletic anti-chafing stuff like Body Glide, but I’ve never tried it. I’ve heard mixed reviews so I’ve never sprung the extra dough for it. There are a lot of options out there. This article from an ultra-runner gives a great breakdown of different products you can try. You have to see what works for you. Me, I use Vaseline. Works like a charm. I don’t love the idea of smothering petroleum all over my breast area but it’s better than chafing. A lot of people don’t like to use Vaseline because they say it stains their clothes. I guess it depends where you need to apply it. So far I haven’t noticed any staining on my sports bras or running shirts, so I’m going to stick with Vaseline. It’s cheap and easy to find.

8. Clothes! An obvious and very important item. You may be so excited to prep and pack your awesome running costume that you completely forget to pack the athletic clothing that goes with it. Also make sure you bring running clothes that you know don’t bother you. For example I have a couple of sports bras that are way more comfortable than others so I’m going to be sure that they are laundered and ready to be packed. Plan ahead. You’re going to want your most comfortable sports bras, undies, socks, etc. I also like to bring a spare of most things. You just never know! Don’t forget to also pack a swimsuit so you can luxuriate by the pool after your race!

Relaxing at the Grand Californian pool after our 1st half marathon
Relaxing at the Grand Californian pool after our 1st half marathon

The good news is that if you forget anything, there is a Target right down the street from Disneyland so you can pick up pretty much any clothing item you may need.

9. Fuel Belt. Everyone requires different amounts of water at different times on a long race, but I’m just going to tell you from my personal experience, I really don’t think you need to bring water on your fuel belt. RunDisney races are so well fueled. I’ve never ever been thirsty. Every time I feel like I really want a drink of water, there’s a water station right around the corner. Also, through the parks you will run past several water fountains. Water on my belt weighs me down and slows me down. I only wear it when I absolutely have to, like times that I know there won’t be a lot of water along my route. All that being said, I do still wear a belt, just minus the water, and I’d recommend you wear one too. It’s a must for holding various things you probably will need like an iPod, phone, earbuds, ID, gels, etc. The hard part is trying to find one that will match your running costume 😉

10. Phone/Camera. You will most likely want to snap at least a few pics along the course. Especially if it’s your first runDisney race! The parks look so lovely with all of the runners racing through, and they have so much entertainment along the course. Even the city of Anaheim provides a lot of great entertainment throughout the city. I just bring my phone which doubles as my music and camera. It’d be a bit much to have an iPod and a camera, though there are those who do it. Snapping pics with your phone will drain the battery faster, so there’s that.

11. Earbuds. You’ll be so sad to reach for your iPod to start your kick-ass running playlist only to discover you forgot your headphones. Wah wah waahhh. My absolute favorite brand is Yurbuds. I have been on a quest for YEARS to find earbuds that don’t fall out when I run. Never really found a winning pair, until now. I’ve been wearing my pink Yurbuds for a year and they have never ever fallen out while running. Not even once. They are awesome.

Yurbuds-Ironman-Series-Pink-HSDyurbuds1

12. Compression socks/sleeves. I really love to wear compression socks on a long run. I don’t know if it’s in my head, but I feel like I recover much quicker when I run long with compression socks. Pro Compression socks are nice. They’ll also have a good selection at the Health & Fitness Expo if you want to wait and buy some when you get there.

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13. Shoes! It would be pretty silly to forget your running shoes on your trip to a race, but I’m sure it’s happened! And you know what, it’s totally something I would do. I haven’t yet, but there’s a first time for everything. So I’m saying it here, don’t forget your shoes! And make sure you bring a pair that you’ve already broken in. You may be tempted to buy a brand new glistening pair of sneaks to commemorate your half marathon, but you do NOT want to run 13.1 miles in new shoes. Blisters! You’ve got to give yourself a few weeks to break in those puppies. Make sure to pack your race shoes, as well as whatever shoes you’re going to wear AFTER the race and in the parks. Your feet might be pretty swollen from running 13.1 miles so you might want to bring some comfortable walking sandals to wear on the following days. Give those ol’ dogs a chance to get back to their normal size 🙂

14. Running Fuel. You’ll get a Clif Shot, which is basically Gu, at mile 9, but if you’re like me and the mere sound of the word Gu makes your stomach turn, you’ll need to bring your own fuel. At Jeff Galloway’s suggestion, I use gummy bears! They work like a charm. Recently I tried a Honey Stinger Waffle on a 12 mile run and it was actually quite delicious and didn’t upset my stomach, so I recommend those as well. You can also try Clif Shot Blocks. They are nowhere near as gross as Gu, but they still provide replenishing electrolytes. Sometimes I’ll have one or two of these on a long run and they don’t bother my tummy too much.

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15. First Aid. Hopefully you won’t really need any first aid from running your half marathon but you might get a blister or two and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be sore. Really smart to bring the essentials: band-aids, ibuprofen (or whatever pain reliever you prefer), antibacterial wipes. If you want to get more advanced, throw in an ACE bandage, some neosporin, an ice pack, or even some biofreeze. If you’re struggling with a running injury, I HIGHLY recommend you get some KT Tape for the run. It’s kind of like magic. They’ll have a booth at the Health & Fitness Expo and you can have one of their reps apply it for you. In short, it’s a very flexible synthetic tape that works optimally with your body movement. As you move, the tape lifts your skin away from your muscle allowing for more flexibility and circulation to the injured area, while also providing support without constricting movement. It kind of helps your body heal itself.  You remember Kerri Walsh in the Summer Olympics:

the-kt-tape-story

15. Park stuff. Are you going into the parks after your race?? I hope so! The best part is parading around in your awesome runDisney bling and/or race shirt so all of the cast members and guests can say congratulations to you! Also, Disneyland, duh. You didn’t travel all this way to run past Radiator Springs Racers but not RIDE it! So make sure to pack your park stuff. Comfy walking clothes, shoes, hats, and a backpack or fanny pack or comfortable bag you don’t mind lugging around all day. And of course, don’t forget your Mickey Mouse ears!

In review, here is your list:

  • Hat/Visor
  • Sweaty Bands or other headband to keep hair out of your face
  • Hair elastics (for the long-haired runners)
  • Running Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Vaseline or other anti-chafing gel
  • Running clothes: your most comfy
  • Swimsuit
  • Running belt
  • Phone and/or Camera and/or iPod
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Compression socks
  • Broken in running shoes
  • Extra socks, undies, sports bras
  • Walking sandals
  • Running fuel: Gu, sport beans, gummy bears, Clif Shot Bloks, etc.
  • First Aid: band-aids, pain relievers, antibacterial wipes
  • Park gear: backpack, Mickey Ears, comfy walking clothes, etc.

There you have it. Your basic checklist of things to pack for the Disneyland Half Marathon. Did I forget anything? Add on to the list by commenting below. Help other runners prepare for this awesome weekend!

You Never Forget Your First Time

The buzz and excitement continues for the upcoming Disneyland Half Marathon. I’ve been following all of the tweets and Facebook Group posts about it and at this point it’s pretty much all I can think about! Such is always the case a month or so before race weekend. I turn into a giddy little child counting down to Christmas. Today I can’t help but feel nostalgic. The reason I’m so giddy year after year (and so willing to fork over the dough for registration fees) is because my first year at the Disneyland Half Marathon was so special. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? Just a short one. I promise. I know you all have runs to get in 😉

The year was 2010. I really can’t remember the month but let’s say it was March. This was back in the old days before runDisney. I know, hard to believe there was a time before runDisney, but it’s true! This was in the time when each park, the Land or the World, organized racing events on their own.  Sometime in the early part of the year (we decided on March, yes?) I came across a pamphlet in a coffee shop for the Disneyland Half Marathon. (This was also back in the days when the races didn’t sell out in 48 hours and you learned about local events from pamphlets in coffee shops). I really couldn’t believe my eyes. How did I not know about this? Running at Disneyland? That sounded like the coolest thing ever. Turned out it was 🙂

I had never run more than 9 miles but I figured, what’s 4 more? I can do it! I decided I wanted to raise money for a good cause while training and that’s exactly how I got into blogging. I launched The Happiest Runner on Earth to reach out to donors and share my training progress. The Disneyland Half Marathon is responsible for many things. It’s responsible for getting me back in shape, getting me running consistently again, and getting my writing out there. Although first-person narrative non-fiction isn’t my writing career target, it gets me writing, and it keeps me connected with all of the other thousands of running freaks and Disney nerds out there. Raise your hands people.

That first race was magical. Running through the parks early in the morning with Paradise Bay all lit up, the fog still sitting low on the ground, and the surprise of cheerful characters around every corner; it was a perfect run. The surprise of how many runners were in attendance (I would’ve never dreamed to see 14,000!), and the joyful gratitude I held for each and every volunteer there to either hand out water, or simply hold up a sign to cheer on strangers crazy enough to run 13.1 miles; it was a perfect run. The experience of running a RACE for the first time ever, getting a little bit competitive with that other girl with Tinker Bell wings who I haven’t managed to pass for the past 4 miles, hitting the wall at mile 11 and figuring out how to dig up true willpower to finish, crossing a finish line for the first time: it was a perfect run. I’ve written before about how you can never quite recapture the magic of the first time, and how there’s something inherently sad about that, but every year that I run this race I get a glimmer of the first year’s excitement; and no it’s not quite the same, but it’s worth it. And it’s worth it for all of the NEW memories we create every single year. Like falling down the rabbit hole at mile 9, or discovering the magic of gummy bears. Every race holds some new lesson buried within it. In running the race you dig up the lesson and you move on to the next exciting event wiser, faster, stronger. It’s a pleasant addiction. 

Your first day at school, first trip to Disneyland, first time seeing the Grand Canyon, first love, first kiss. Firsts are just plain awesome. You only get them once for a fleeting moment yet they leave a lifelong impact. You really never forget your first time. Thankfully my first half marathon was at Disneyland, and I’ll honor that joyful memory by running it every year until my legs (or my pocketbook) give out. 

Here are the videos of our first Disneyland Half Marathon to complete the stroll down memory lane. Ahh, memories 🙂

Tink, Minnie, Alice… now what?

As we gear up for Disneyland Half Marathon weekend 2013, we face one of the year’s most important questions: what costume will we wear? The first two years that we ran the race I had zero success in convincing Brad to dress up with me. He was concerned about comfort while running and I certainly wasn’t going to push him. For some reason in year 3 my skills of coercion must have developed to a higher level and I successfully convinced him to be the White Rabbit to my Alice. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look back:

First year I went simple. Tink fairy wings and a green shirt. It was more of a hint of a costume than a costume.

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Disneyland Half Marathon 2010

 

Year 2 I kicked it up just slightly. Red and white polka dot running skirt, heart-detailed compression socks, and fuzzy Minnie Mouse ears.

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Disneyland Half Marathon 2011

 

In year 3 things started to get real. I finally convinced Brad to partner with me on the costume front. This was certainly the best costume choice so far.

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Disneyland Half Marathon 2012. Alice and the White Rabbit
ready to race
ready to race
shot of the bunny tail
shot of the bunny tail

 

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Chasing my White Rabbit

I managed to convince Brad to dress up with me because even though he was the White Rabbit, he was able to dress as such in pretty much entirely running clothes. Grey running shorts, white long-sleeve tech tee and red jersey pullover. Only thing not from the athletic department was the bunny ears headband. He wants to be comfortable and doesn’t want to be slowed down by heavy non-running attire for the sake of good pictures. Understandable. So this leads to today’s query, what about this year?

I need your ideas! What should we dress up as this year, keeping in mind that I have to be able to get Brad in something that can be portrayed in running attire. Here’s where my mind is currently:

mary-poppins-1964-03-g

Or maybe the chimney sweep look
Or maybe the chimney sweep look

 

When I get an idea in my head it’s hard to get it out, so now I’m brainstorming ways to modify Mary Poppins and Burt with running attire. It can be done.

However, we ARE running the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare so maybe something Dumbo-themed would be fun.

So cuuute
So cuuute.
Dumbo-movie-03
Easy peasy with a grey sweat suit, ears, cap, and a little red and yellow collar
Creepy circus clowns anyone?
Creepy circus clowns anyone?

 

The sky is really the limit. What are your ideas?

Are you dressing up for the Disneyland Half Marathon this year? Or how about the 10k? Share your favorite costume ideas in the comments below!

 

 

How to Cure Vacation Withdrawal… More Vacation

Brad and I just got back from a glorious week-long mountain adventure in Colorado. Activities included whitewater rafting, exploring a ghost town, hiking to the top of a mountain to discover a heavenly meadow of wildflowers and a trout-filled lake, touring our wedding venue, and taking on some serious trail runs at 9,000 feet. To sum up, I need a vacation from my vacation. Answer: Disneyland in 5 weeks.

You thought I forgot, didn’t you? It’s Disneyland Half Marathon time!! The most wonderful running time of the year. I’m so excited to be participating in our 4th straight year of running 13.1 miles through the Happiest Place Race on Earth. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Last week I got a taste of paradise and now Monday has brought with it some serious vacation withdrawal depression. What a relief from the back-to-work blues, knowing that I have this race to look forward to in just a little over a month.

The stakes are higher this year. In case you haven’t heard, runDisney has introduced new madness to Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. For the first time ever they’ve introduced a 10k to the weekend’s activities, the Disneyland 10k specifically. The 10k is a great distance because it’s accessible to pretty much everyone. For those who don’t quite have the motivation to train for a half marathon, the 10k (6.2 miles) is a worthy challenge. And for seasoned marathoners and half marathoners, 10k is still a great workout and provides the perfect opportunity for challenging speed work and the chance to PR time and again. This 10k is going to be particulary fantastic because it’s short enough that most of the race will actually be in the Disneyland resort instead of sprawled out onto the streets of Anaheim. In short, it’s going to rock and I hope you signed up.

But I’m not done! Not only did runDisney introduce a 10k into the mix, but they’ve officially laid down the west coast version of the Goofy Challenge, only slightly less totally insane Goofy. Brad and I are training for the Dumbo Double Dare, which means we’ll be running the 10k on Saturday morning, and the half marathon on Sunday morning. We’re Dumbo! I’ve never run that much mileage back to back, but I’m not too worried. We’re going to take it real easy on the 10k, stopping for photos and enjoying the gentle jog through the parks, and then we’ll really let the motors go for the half marathon. Besides, we ran at 9,000 feet altitude last week (you can feel the the oxygen deprivation!) so our runs at sea level from here on out will pretty much make us feel like superheroes. I understand now why Olympians train at high altitudes!

We had a great 8 mile run last night at sunset. Hard to believe we were in the Rocky Mountains on Saturday and gazing out at the Pacific on Sunday. I really can’t complain about life. It’s really really good. 

Here are some pics from our mountain adventure! 

Hiking in the San Isabel National Forest
Hiking in the San Isabel National Forest
fields of wildflowers on top of a mountain
fields of wildflowers on top of a mountain
St. Elmo ghost town. One of many old abandoned mining towns in the Rockies. Spooky and beautiful.
St. Elmo ghost town. One of many old abandoned mining towns in the Rockies. Spooky and beautiful.
lots of hummingbirds at St. Elmo
lots of hummingbirds at St. Elmo

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There's a corner of St. Elmo home to hundreds of friendly chipmunks. You can buy feed for 50c and these little critters will crawl all over you nibbling away at their seeds. They are incredibly adorable.
There’s a corner of St. Elmo home to hundreds of friendly chipmunks. You can buy feed for 50c and these little critters will crawl all over you nibbling away at their seeds. They are incredibly adorable. What do you think? Is this little guy Chip or Dale?

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My first experience whitewater rafting. I'm hooked.
My first experience whitewater rafting. I’m hooked.
big drop
big drop

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Touring our wedding venue! That meadow is where we'll say "I Do!"
Touring our wedding venue! That meadow is where we’ll say “I Do!”
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Bathing in warm natural spring water at Mt Princeton Hot Springs. Yeah, our wedding is going to rock.
and of course...
and of course…
... running
… running

 

 

Have you taken a vacation yet this year? Where did you adventure?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Run, You Can Run, You Can Run! 2014 Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon

Registration for the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon is now open! In true runDisney fashion, after just one day the race is already 87% full (at the time of this posting Wednesday morning). Don’t miss out, and don’t over think it. Just sign up! Chances are it will fill up by the end of the week. The registration fee is a bit steep, but fellow runDisney fans will concur, it’s worth it. Sign up today!

http://www.rundisney.com/tinker-bell-half-marathon/

R Minnie

Laguna Hills Half Marathon Recap

It’s so simple. Running is the perfect metaphor for life. You get out of it pretty much exactly what you put into it. So when I train hard and strong I get a really great race in return, and maybe even a PR. When I train half-heartedly and make excuses for myself, I struggle and I suffer. No matter how long I run I suppose I need refresher courses in this lesson every once in a while. The Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon provided such a lesson.

Let me start by saying that this is a fantastic race. I’m so glad we signed up and actually ran it. The only reason we did was because Brad wanted to find a half marathon for us to run other than the Disneyland Half. We get in this pattern where we train really well for the Dland Half, run it, and then we don’t run as diligently until June or July of the next year when training starts up again. So Brad’s philosophy was that we should sign up for a race in the spring that would keep us on track. Good idea Brad. It sort of worked 😛

The morning started off… early. Here I thought getting up for a runDisney race was brutal, but that’s like sleeping in compared to this. In an effort to save money, we decided to forego getting a hotel in Laguna Hills the night before the race and instead would drive down the morning of. The difficult part of that scenario is that the race started at 7:30, Laguna Hills was over an hour away, and we had to be there an hour early to pick up our bibs. The night before the race we set the alarm for 4:00 and snuggled in for essentially a nap.

Luckily there was no traffic on the way down, and the race starting area was easy to find right off the highway. It was a beautiful morning for a race!

Lots of activity at the starting line. I was impressed by the turnout!

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Sleepy, but ready and rarin’

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Morning bathroom time. We all need it. We don’t like to talk about it. But for runners, it’s a very crucial part of your pre-race prep. Unfortunately neither Brad nor I had to use the facilities until we’d already arrived at the registration area. Even more unfortunate, the bathroom lines looked like this:

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This picture doesn’t accurately depict how long the lines were, but when ya gotta go… Every time I run a non-Disney race, no matter how good it is, I’m somehow reminded of why runDisney reigns supreme. At the start line for all of the runDisney races I’ve participated in, I’ve never waited more than a few minutes to use the loo. These lines were a good 20 minutes long. *Sigh*. They can’t all be Disney.

The real bummer about waiting in this line was that it forced us to start the race late. They counted down and runners started running, but we still had to go! So by the time we got started running, the race course looked like this:

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LH Half 6

 

Just a handful of stragglers bringing up the rear. The race was chip-timed, so it didn’t really matter, except the whole point of running a big race is to feel the energy of that big crowd. I wore my shirt that reads on the back: “Dear God, Please let there be someone behind me to read this” and I was actually worried there might not be! I really didn’t want to run in last place so I put on some speed to catch up with the crowd. In hindsight that was a mistake. Never burn too much fuel in the beginning of a race.

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The first few miles of the race were lovely. We ran through a quiet residential neighborhood in Laguna Hills. I believe it was actually a retirement community as there were several lovely retired people sitting out on their front lawns to cheer on the runners. Honestly, there is nothing better than cheering, enthusiastic, spectators. Ok, maybe there are some things better, but it’s really high on the list. One of my favorite parts about a race is getting cheered on by a stranger. There’s something so pure and hopeful about it. A total stranger willing the success of another total stranger. It’s as life should be.

This was a combo race. In other words there was a 5k, a 10k, and a Half Marathon, but they all started at the same time. So as we approached the three mile marker a lot of people cheered to the runners, “You’re almost done! You can do it!” I giggled as I heard a lady next to me reply, “No we’re not!” because I was thinking the exact same thing. Combo races are deceptive. I started the morning thinking this was a large race. By the numbers, it was. About 8,000 runners participated I believe. But as we ran on it became clear that most of those thousands of runners were doing the 5k or the 10k, and a somewhat small number of crazies were running on to the Half Marathon. I was worried that it would actually be a really small percentage, but as we passed the 10k turnaround, I felt relieved to be in the presence of a still solid group of runners. Probably about 1,000 half marathoners would be my guess.

Hills!

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Hills!

20130527_074506More hills!

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You can’t quite get the right perspective from the pictures, but this race had hills. Not crazy hills. Mild rolling hills. I know that I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the race was called the Laguna Hills Half Marathon, and I wasn’t really; I just quickly realized that we should have done a lot more hill training. Long story short, I pretty much completely ran out of steam around mile 10, and that had a lot to do with poor training, but was definitely compounded by the challenge of these hills.

The beauty of the course made up for it though. We winded down through a nature preserve and ran along a lovely hiking trail alongside a creek. Course aesthetics are super important to me, and this course gets points for beauty. Sure, it’s not Hawaii or anything, but it really made me appreciate the beauty of Southern California.

Running up along a ridge, we could see the whole valley below and the city of Laguna Hills.

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Running along the creek, Brad spots some local wildlife.

 

LH Half 2

 

I think we look kind of bad-ass in this one. I like it 🙂

 

LH Half 5

 

LH Half 4

 

Mile 8, things start to change.

 

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Through mile 8 I was having a pretty great run considering the hills. Did I mention there were hills? Oh yeah, there were hills. I could tell at this mile marker though that the winds were changing, and not in my favor. By the time I got to mile 10, I was toast.

It’s hard to describe the difference between good tired and bad tired, except to say that I can honestly imagine what my car feels like when it’s running on fumes. By the end of a half marathon, I’m always tired. That’s a given. When I’m good tired, I still have magic runner energy. I’m winded and my muscles hurt and I’m fantasizing about crossing that finish line, but my legs still move in a steady rhythm with gusto. When I’m bad tired, every move is torture. My legs feel like they’re made of leaden spaghetti (did you know there was such a thing as leaden spaghetti), I can’t seem to get my breathing in a set rhythm, and the worst adversary of all, my brain. I heard a runner once say about ultra-marathoning that the hardest distance you have to defeat is the 6 inches between your ears. I love that. It’s absolutely so true about distance running. A lot of it is in your head and you have to learn to balance and control your thoughts to achieve things you didn’t know you could. But when you hit the wall and run out of energy, those 6 inches between your ears become the longest distance ever. The willpower I summoned through the mantra in my head is the only thing that got me across the finish line. My body was toast.

I finished. We finished. But I had to walk a bit. At mile 9 we walked for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then again at mile 11. I ran the last mile, proudly. I knew that I wouldn’t feel great afterwards though and that it was my own fault. This is what happens to me when I don’t train. Lesson learned. Again.

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We managed to cross the finish line with big silly grins on our faces. I’m telling you, no matter how tired you are, you can’t help but smile when you cross that finish line.

And then of course there’s the bling. Gotta love the bling.

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The medals were actually quite impressive. We shall proudly add them to our collection.

 

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There was a really great expo and celebration at the finish line complete with food trucks, DJs, vendors, and a beer garden. Unfortunately because I was totally wiped out, I didn’t really get to enjoy any of it. All I wanted to do was find somewhere shady and cool to sit down and rest.

The most important thing about this day was that it was Memorial Day, and that we were there to first: honor our fallen veterans, and second: run a race. I have mixed feelings about the military; and yes I harbor plenty of lefty-hippie opinions about war and peace and our bloated defense budget, but NONE of that mattered on this day. Because no matter how I feel about the military, the men and women who put on a uniform and fight to defend my right to have lefty-hippie opinions deserve my respect and my undying gratitude. And they have it. And I get choked up just thinking about it. So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who serve.

The race specifically honored the Marine Corps Dark Horse Battalion. The Marines had quite a set up at the finish line complete with a tank, weaponry, and lots of soldiers available to talk to the runners and educate all those present about what they do. It was a very interesting display. Brad reverted to his 10 year old self when he saw the tank. He wanted a picture.

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On one hand I was glad that the community had the opportunity to actually witness all of this first-hand, so that it became real and not just a news reel. I think it’s important for us to resist detachment from the reality of war as much as possible. The more removed we are, the more dangerous. On the other hand I was a bit sad to see little kids like the one above look at this giant automatic weapon like a toy. Again, mixed feelings. Again, doesn’t really matter. I’m going to choose to be optimistic and say that the opportunity for these soldiers to educate these little kids about weapons was ultimately a good thing and will make them take guns very seriously as they get older.

All in all, we had a great time. We started training for this race in February after I finished the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. We started strong and stuck to our schedule, but then I got in a play and Brad got in a play, and suddenly we’re missing almost all of our weekly runs and getting about half the weekend mileage we should. Like I said, I got out of this race exactly what I put into it in terms of performance, and I learned a huge lesson. Training pays off. I guess part of me started to wonder if, since I’ve run several half marathons, maybe I’d gotten to a point where I could just go out there and run 13 miles without trying. Nope. Training never stops. You can only run half marathons as long as you are training for half marathons, and when you stop training, you’re preparedness stops with it. No matter how much your heart and mind feel like you can distance-race, your body has to participate.

Brad and I give this race two enthusiastic thumbs up and we will run it again next year. Join us!

How about you? Can you run a half marathon without a lot of training? Or are you like me and have to put in the prep?

 

 

 

 

Happy Places

I recently had a revelation while pondering what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’ve spent countless hours pondering that question when in fact I believe the answer has been staring me in the face.

Do you have places in the world that you would describe as your happy places? I do. And I don’t mean a metaphorical happy place wherein you imagine yourself surrounded by bluebirds as a warm light washes over you. No. I mean a real, tangible, physical, happy place. Places you go where, no matter what, you feel instant glee. Not just cool places. Not just places you enjoy or find fun or pleasant. Places that have something special. Places with a magical power to transplant you from the dullest of dolddrums to the utmost place of hope and contentment. I have some.

Libraries/Book stores

Sports supplies stores (especially running stores)

Craft and art supplies stores (Michael’s, Utrecht, even Home Depot fits into this category. Places where you can get stuff to build other stuff)

Disneyland

Museums/Observatories

The woods

Office supplies stores

The ocean

On my couch with my fiance and my cats

London

I would say that pretty much covers my happy places. I could get more specific (The Griffith Observatory, The American Museum of Natural History, Northern California redwoods, etc.), but these are the main categories. Kind of a weird hodge-podge wouldn’t you say? I’m kind of weird.

As I’ve been mulling over what I should do with the rest of my life, I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that my happy places might be providing me with an answer.

How did I come to this realization? I thought about the things I’m currently doing that I don’t make a living off of, but that I love doing, and I realized there is potential to make a living off of them if I put my mind to it. I own and operate Whimsy Do. I write this blog. I run. I go to Disneyland (ok so maybe there’s not potential to make a living off of going to Disneyland but I have a point, which I’ll get to shortly). A light bulb went off as I realized that these things directly correlated to my top happy places.

  1. I own and operate Whimsy Do. I’m instantly happy in art and/or craft supplies stores a la Utrecht or Michael’s.
  2. I write. I write this blog and I write stories. I’m instantly happy in a book store or library.
  3. I run. I’m instantly happy in a running store and on the running trail. My blog is also a running blog so 2 and 3 tie in together.

I’m creating, writing, running; but I’m not currently making a living off of any of these things. I could though. I could invest more time and energy into Whimsy Do. I could actually get my stories published. I could turn this blog into a source of income with the right strategy and determination. And here is how Disneyland ties in. Disneyland Half Marathon weekend is one of my ultimate happy places (and training starts this week!). I could work for runDisney. Running and Disneyland, two happy places combined. If runDisney ever starts up a California office, I’m there. I could, and I should, and I would. Somehow.

I know what you’re thinking. If you make what you love your job, you run the risk of not loving it as much. You might ruin it. What a sad thought. Think about what that means for a moment. That means we are not only willing to, but deliberately choose to do things we dislike for the majority of our waking lives (8+ hrs of every day!) because we’ve somehow bought into the notion that work = something to be tolerated. I say we change that presumption. I say it’s time for a paradigm shift. It’s time we spend the majority of our lives doing things that feel right in our bones. That feel meaningful and make us, yes, happy. And will we feel happy all of the time? Of course not. Will it sometimes feel like work, even though we supposedly love it? Of course. Anything worth doing is hard. Marriage, parenthood, career aspirations. All challenging. All worth it. Because there is meaning in the challenge. You think it’s easy to climb Mt. Everest? I guarantee you the people who do it aren’t doing it for the paycheck. Passion is hard, but there is a payoff that directly feeds into our core, our selfness, our most precious part of ourselves that generates love and spirit and hope and life. It’s the right kind of hard work. Most of us spend our lives doing the wrong kind of work. The kind that makes us stare at the clock until 5:00. The kind that makes us steal as many Facebook minutes as possible throughout the day. Anything to distract us from that paperwork, right? The kind that makes us live for the weekend. As if two days make up for the other lost 5.

So idealistic right? I know. It’s easy to talk about. It’s hard to do. There are bills. There are mortgages. There are children to send to college. There are debts to pay off. I hear ya. I’m in a version of that boat myself. But it doesn’t stop me from believing that it’s possible. It must be possible to honor our fiscal responsibilities while the work we do gives our life meaning. We just spend too much of our lives at work for that not to be possible. 33.33% of my life is spent sleeping, 33.33% of my life is spent working, and 33.33% of my life is mine to do with as I please. That tiny third also has to include laundry, cooking, cleaning, bill pay, errands, etc. It’s not enough. Life is too precious. I want more than a third of it with which to make a difference. I want more than a third of it with which to accomplish something magical and more importantly something meaningful. I want to love and not to regret more than a third of my life. I know it’s possible. Because I feel it happening. 4 years ago I left an office job I didn’t like and I turned my back on the restaurant business because they were sucking my soul. I took a leap of faith, and a week later I got a call to work for a non-profit that is changing lives. I have a great job. I don’t love it every day, and I don’t believe it’s where I’m meant to end up, but my days aren’t wasted. I’m grateful for that. And because I took that leap, the next stepping stones are becoming clearer and clearer.

If you’re lost, floating, drifting, unsure of what move to make next, first of all you’re not alone. Maybe think about a happy place. They really are quite neat. As if the universe gave them to us, as to whisper in our ear “This. Do more of this. You were born to do this.”

I’m genuinely curious. What are your happy places? Universities? Science labs? Boardrooms? Churches? Kitchens? Let Tahiti readers know by leaving your happy place in the comments below. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else!

Mountains in the snow. Happy Place.
Mountains in the snow. Happy Place.
Brad and I touring the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Happy happy.
Brad and I touring the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Happy happy.
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On our beach. Happy.
The Los Angeles Public Library. Happy place.
The Los Angeles Public Library. Happy place.
Michael's (especially at Halloween). Happy place.
Michael’s (especially at Halloween). Happy place.
Running the Disneyland Half Marathon. Can't you tell by our faces? Happy places.
Running the Disneyland Half Marathon. Can’t you tell by our faces? Happy places.
A Friday night with my boys. Completely perfect happy place.
A Friday night with my guys. Completely perfect happy place. Although Sharky doesn’t look too happy 🙂
And of course, Tahiti. I have a feeling that's going to be one helluva happy place.
And of course, Tahiti. I have a feeling that’s going to be one helluva happy place.

BIG announcement, like, big

Last weekend I watched my friend not only finish the L.A. Marathon, but kick it in the butt. Brad and I drove him to the starting line at 6:00 am. The sun continued to sleep soundly somewhere past the horizon while Dodgers Stadium overflowed with 20,000+ eager and excited runners. As we pulled into the drop-off area, inspiration filled my lungs. I couldn’t believe not only how many people took on the challenge of running a marathon, but how many of them were in the same physical condition (and maybe even a bit worse) than me. I couldn’t help but excitedly think if they could do this, I could do this. And I can.

With no further ado I have an announcement to make. I will run a marathon in 2015.

In case you weren’t sure, that’s 26.2 miles.

I’ve been toying with the idea since about one week after I finished my first half marathon. Immediately after finishing I thought that running that distance twice in a row sounded like the most insane idea I’d ever heard of, and I couldn’t believe ANYone actually did it. But it only took about a week to forget the pain before I started thinking not only of running another half as soon as possible, but entertaining the notion of greater challenges. I imagine it’s a bit like having children. During childbirth and immediately after I think most women curse their spouse’s name and swear they’ll never do this again. Doesn’t take long before that cuddly little bundle wipes away the memory of the pain and you start prepping another baby’s room. So yes, I’ve been thinking about it for years, (the marathon thing, not the baby thing) and I’m done thinking. The only way I’m going to find out if I can actually do it, is to just frickin’ do it.

So I’m going to do it.

Why wait until 2015 you ask? Well I’ve got this little thing called a wedding to plan. Brad and I are getting hitched in July 2014 (BRAD AND I ARE GETTING HITCHED JULY 2014!!!!!) and I don’t need to add to the stress of wedding planning by trying to squeeze in 15 mile runs on the weekends. 2014 is the year ‘o’ love. As soon as we get back from our honeymoon, let the training begin.

The goal right now (and I hope I hope I hope I can make it work) is to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. We’re talking about a marathon people. My FIRST marathon. It’s a big deal. You want your first time to be special, y’know? Whether or not we’ll have enough money leftover to fly to Florida for a running vacay after saving for a wedding and honeymoon remains to be seen. If it doesn’t happen, then it’ll either be the LA Marathon or the California International Marathon that takes my marathon V-Card.

So there you have it! You heard it here first. Accountability officially in print on Running to Tahiti.

I will run a marathon.

special idiots run marathon copy

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Recap

I realize it’s been 2 months since the Tinker Bell Half Marathon but what can I say, better late than never? I always intend to do these incredible, inspiring, reflective, life-changing race recaps but the task becomes so daunting that I put it off and never get to it. Hence, nothing gets done in my life. So, in an effort to do things I say I’m going to do, I’m going to go ahead and write my race recap anyway because you know what, I had a great time and I’d like to share.

As is often the case, the race was not without its hiccups and challenges. The hectic holiday season (especially hectic this year) made training rather difficult and because I thought I was going to run/walk with my Mom and not worry about a PR, I wasn’t too concerned about a strict training regimen. It was only a couple of weeks before the race that my Mom decided she wasn’t going to be able to run with me. *Gulp*. Guess I should have trained harder, since now it looked like I was going to run with my fast fiance and our rather fast friend Chris, who was taking my mom’s place.

Sometime around the new year I realized another potential road block to Neverland. It was flu season. So far I had escaped unscathed, as had my fiance; but we got our hopes up too soon. Right after New Year’s Brad went down in battle. The flu got him good. He was out of commission for a solid 3 weeks. I grew paranoid about so many things.

A) His health and well-being. I became concerned his illness was turning into pneumonia and stubborn man that he was, he refused to go the doctor.

B) My own health and well-being. I mean, I can’t NOT kiss the guy for three weeks!

C) The race. Whose idea was it to schedule a half marathon during flu season. Curses!

About a week before the race, it happened. I started to feel it. The tickle in the back of your throat and the general ooginess that lets you know you’re being preyed upon by an unwanted bug. I’ve never fought off a cold so hard. Never drank so much water and OJ. Never took so many vitamins. Never slept so much. I don’t know if it was the copious amounts of echinacea and vitamin C or rather my strong will to race, but something got me through. I got sick, but never full blown. I was bad for about a day and half and started to feel better about 3 days before the race. Still, my immune system was obviously compromised and I had a half marathon to run. How I would reconcile those two things, I had no idea.

20130119_121409Chris, Brad, and I drove down to the Health & Fitness Expo the day before the race to pick up our bibs. Brad came with us armed with an ample dose of magical thinking, hoping there was a way he could still run. That pipe dream was soon dashed. Poor baby was still so sick, and obviously really frustrated that he was completely out of commission. Come on people, you know those runDisney races aren’t cheap. When you pay for that, you want to run it. As we left the Expo he admitted defeat. He wouldn’t run.

I turned to Chris and realized, it’s just him and me now, and gosh darnit, we WERE going to run tomorrow and we were going to have fun!

I had made reservations to stay at a hotel that night since the race started at 5:00 am. Just too difficult to drive down from Venice that early in the morning.  Suddenly it dawned on me. A joyous long weekend of running in Disneyland with my mother and fiance had devolved into a night in the Travelodge with this guy:

Neiman
Neiman

The room smelled like pine sol and cigarettes and Chris had to sleep on a roll-away that barely fit in the room. What can I say? The universe is unpredictable. The important thing is, this makes a pretty good story now, and the MOST important thing is, we had a great time.

Got my running costume all ready the night before. Ok, so it’s not the most original costume choice in the world for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. I was sick! I had other things on my mind!

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On the shuttle to the start line. SO early.

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At this point Chris became aware that he was pretty much the only dude on the bus. I reminded him it was a “woman focused” event. He found the male/female ratio intriguing to say the least. (I love the look on the girl’s face right behind him, to the right. Classic)

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At the starting line!

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A sea of runners. Always majorly impressed by the turnout at runDisney events!

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Getting some encouragement from Minnie and Daisy.

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I LOVE all of the signs that the chEAR squad and spectators hold up along the course. This one had to be my favorite!

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After this we were off and running. I’d never run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon course before and it was significantly different than the Disneyland Half. I had to admit, jury was still out on which I preferred. In the Tinker Bell Half you spent the first mile running up Disneyland Drive and then around Ball Rd and back down Harbor. You ran a solid mile and half before you even made it into the first park. I do think there’s a benefit to that because it delays gratification a little bit and builds up the excitement for running in the parks. It also made me feel like I was in the parks longer before we headed out onto the streets of Anaheim. Getting that big hill on Ball Rd out of the way in the beginning when we were running on excitement and adrenaline was also a major plus. In the Disneyland Half you hit that hill just as you’re leaving the parks, which is a downer unto itself. To be greeted by a huge hill as you’re leaving? A challenge to say the least.

When we turned into the resort, we ran into a mysterious tunnel.

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I tell ya what, this place never ceases to surprise me. I know those parks backward and forward, and I had no idea this tunnel  existed. I have to admit, it was a little bit creepy; especially since it was still totally dark out. Ominous!

After that we finally ran into Disney California Adventure. The first thing we did was run through Paradise Pier. They had the lights and fountains going for World of Color and it was an inspiring sight. A perfect kickoff to this race. The sun STILL hadn’t come up so the fountains and lights looked gorgeous.

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Since I was feeling a bit ooky from my cold, I had decided that I wasn’t going to push myself in any way on this run. The goal was to have fun and to finish. That being the case, this was the perfect race to stop and take pictures! Each time we stopped to take a picture with a character Chris basically made it sound like I was subjecting him to torture, but I knew he secretly loved it. How could you not?

With Mary Poppins and Burt. Chris is a penguin.

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Stealing a pic with the Peter Pan characters. Even I could admit the line for this gang was ridiculously long, so we just sneaked in the back and slyly pointed in their direction.

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Me and Miss Bell

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Love this one! Two of my faves. Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. And here you can get a shot of Chris’ EVIL compression socks. Aren’t those rad? Meanwhile I look like a doofus in my 3/4 pants and black compression socks. I don’t care though. Gotta have my compression!

Tangled

This had to be around mile 3 or 4 and yes, it’s STILL dark out

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Running through the castle!

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Disney custodial is all about the runDisney. And we THANK YOU Disney custodial!

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We made our way through the rest of DCA and Disneyland and I have to say, it was more fun than the Disneyland Half course through the parks. I don’t know if it was that first mile and half we burned before we even got there, but it really felt like we were in the parks for so much longer than the Dland Half. We approached mile 6 as we finally left Disneyland!

Then we were off on the streets of Anaheim. At this point Chris took off ahead of me. He was training for the LA Marathon and wanted to keep his pace up. I was still icky and just wanted to finish. I struggled at certain points along the rest of the course so I decided to employ the run/walk/run method to make sure I reserved enough energy to make it to the finish line. I have to tell you, that was the first time I’d ever officially run a sizable distance doing run/walk/run and I felt awesome! I couldn’t believe how good my time was considering I was under the weather. It’s basically magic. I don’t know if I’ll do it all the time, but I will say that when I finally do get around to running the Walt Disney World Marathon, I’m calling Jeff Galloway.

Let’s talk briefly about the course. I’m really split on my opinion of the Tinker Bell course vs. the Disneyland Half. There are pros and cons to both so in the end they probably come out evenly matched. The pros of the Tinker Bell half were that it was definitely more scenic. You ran through some rather charming residential neighborhoods and a really nice shopping area of Anaheim that I didn’t even know existed. On the Disneyland Half you spent a ton of time on the big, I’m sorry to say ugly, boulevards of Anaheim. The major pro of the Disneyland Half however was that you got to run through Angel Stadium. That was one of my absolute favorite things about that race, even though it’s where I bit the dust last year. It’s hard to leave behind the energy of the parks, but getting to run through a crowded cheering baseball stadium at mile 9 and see everyone’s faces on the Jumbotron gave all of us runners the exact burst of energy needed to finish the race. If the Tinker Bell course ran through the stadium, it would be better hands down. HOWEVER, I’m glad it doesn’t. I’m glad that the Disneyland Half Marathon course gets to distinguish itself by having that treat.

Getting close to the finish! Unfortunately by way of that creepy tunnel.

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R finish 4

One more mile!

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Both feet off the ground!

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At the finish line with Minnie. Don’t you think this should be an ad for runDisney?? I think so 🙂

R Minnie

Aaaand DONE!

I was so excited to get my thermal blanket. You just don’t feel like a distance runner until you get an astronaut blanket.

R finish 1

I really couldn’t believe how fantastic I felt finishing this race. Sometimes it pays to give yourself a break, do what you can, and re-calibrate your goals to what you can actually accomplish. If I hadn’t gone easy on myself for being sick and insisted on pushing to meet my average pace for a half marathon, I would have made myself seriously ill, and very likely wouldn’t have even finished. I cut myself some slack and the running Gods rewarded me with a beautiful new medal to add to my collection.

I don’t even remember my final chip time or my splits and I’m not even going to look them up because I’m not worried about it. Sometimes it’s ok just to run.

After the race I met up with Chris who also had a really great run. First thing on our minds? Breakfast! We ate at Catal in Downtown Disney. I hadn’t eaten there in years and I must say, their brunch was amazing! I had the smoked salmon hash. 

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Chris had shrimp grits, southern boy that he is.

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After that we headed home. Unfortunately no time for fun in the parks this trip. With a sick fiance at home and my own immune system pushed to the max, what we needed was sleep.

Thanks to runDisney for another great event! My bank account however has quite a beef with you as I think I’m now addicted to another race. BUT, the price of admission is worth it to have so much fun while staying healthy. 

Did you run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon this year? How did you do?

back to our regularly scheduled programming

Now that my deep searching of soul and life confessions are out of the way, it’s time to get back to business, the business of running! We have to get to Tahiti! The Tinkerbell Half Marathon is in 51 days and I know that if I don’t get motivated to train, my mom won’t either, and we ARE running this race together. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one to ever deal with a little (or a lot) of anxiety, am I right? For me, there are a few things that calm my nerves. A heartfelt talk with someone I love, a warm cup of tea, meditation… and running. Running grounds all of the crazy thoughts that tend to shake around in my brain during a panic attack. Those endorphins don’t hurt either. What gets you out of panic mode? We neurotics have to stick together and share our survival tips!

In other news…

Brad is seriously whooping my butt this month with the mileage count:

49 miles. Way to go Brad!

Becky? Not so much…

10… wah, wah, whhaaah

Will definitely be stepping up the mileage next week.

In all seriousness though, everyone, thank you so much for reading yesterday’s post. I actually wrote that post over a week ago but it took me that long to get up the nerve to publish it. I’m relieved that it’s out in the universe! I have no idea what exactly lies ahead, but I’m discovering the meaning of faith, and I have faith that the journey looks promising. Your outpouring of love and support means more than you’ll ever know.