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.

pro-compression-purplehigh-compression-socks-from-pro-compression

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.

7dad728e-4815-49bc-8f94-0c748f247cd5clifbar_shotblock_group2gummy_bears

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!

casualties of a 12 mile run

It wouldn’t be a Becky blog unless I had a horrible horrible training run in which something went terribly wrong and I thought I was going to die. Fear not, I have delivered. Luckily I did not die! 

Our training calendar demands that we complete a 12 mile run to prepare for the big day. We are woefully behind schedule so even though I have not finished the prerequisite 11 mile run, I simply must get 12 miles under my belt. If I do 11 and put 12 off until next weekend, that’s way too close to race day for a long run. I would risk injuring myself and would not be able to complete the Half Marathon at all. So I hydrate, throw back a protein smoothie, strap on my water belt and head out the door, Brad in tow. 

I feel solid for the front 5 miles. Brad and I are very sunny and smiley:

lookin' good babe

By now it’s about 12:30. Hmm, it’s getting warm out here. First mistake: running during the hottest part of the day.

Around mile 6 Brad takes me on a new route. We weave through the Venice canals, imagining which house we’re going to live in one day. It is lovely. We exit the canals and turn down a street that seems to be paved with mirrors. The asphalt is very bright, almost white, and the beating sun reflects from my brain to the ground and back up to my brain. We are on this road for 5 minutes but it’s long enough to make my brain feel a like fried egg. My body temperature rises. Second mistake: exploring a new route on an extremely long run. Third mistake: not wearing a hat.

The next part doesn’t have anything to do with why I nearly ended up going to the hospital, but it’s hilarious and I have to share. Around mile 7 I suddenly feel the urge. You know, the bathroom urge. The kind of urge that can lead to a Bridesmaids moment if not relieved immediately. So I say to Brad as quietly as I can that I have to “go.” We’re in the residential streets of Venice. None too populated, so of course Brad waits until we are 2 feet behind a group of Venice hipsters to essentially SHOUT at me “Can you wait to make it to a bathroom?” Said hipsters turn around in alarm and concern until they see two disgruntled (and now one incredibly embarrassed) runners behind them. I scoot past them as fast as I can, hearing them giggle uncontrollably at me as I pass. Mistake #4: running with someone who doesn’t realize how loud his voice is. (Just kidding sweetie.) In hindsight it was hilarious and not nearly as embarrassing as what was to come.

Back to the saga of how I lost a toenail and my dignity. Mile 8. Just 4 miles left to go and it’s a route that I’m very familiar with. Brad was going to stop at this point. He’d been nursing a calf injury the past week and started today’s run with the intention to do 8 miles but he is feeling so good at this point that he figures he’ll soldier on with me. I’m sure I can make it too, even though I feel bad things happening. My stomach has turned, my muscles have tightened, but I figure I can work through it.

Mile 9. Silence. Brad keeps talking to me and I hear him but I cannot speak. Cannot expend the energy. Symptom: extreme fatigue.

There are so many people out. Who cares if it’s a beautiful day, why are there so many stupid people everywhere!? Get off my beach! Symptom: Irritability.

Mile 9.5. What’s happening to my arm? My entire arm is cramping up from my shoulder to my fingers. First my left arm, then my right. Wait, now my jaw. My jaw is cramping shut. Symptom: muscle cramps.

Mile 10.5. The world is fuzzy. My stomach has turned incredibly sour. Every step is a challenge. This really can’t be good. Damnit. I have to stop. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. I have to stop. Symptom: dizziness. Symptom: nausea.

Damn, I have to walk home. But wait a minute. Even walking is difficult. The sun is beating down on me like a spotlight. I feel like a vampire. I cannot stand the feeling of the sun on my skin. I hate the sun! I walk (only because I’m too proud to crawl) from shady spot to shady spot. Symptom: extreme sensitivity to sun.

I make it as far as the grassy knoll that runs parallel to the beach in Santa Monica and succumb to my body’s distress. I park it right under a palm tree and sit. I can’t move… or I’ll puke. I call Brad to see if he’ll come back and get me.

I forgot to mention that by this time Brad had pulled ahead of me. He was feeling oh, you know, GREAT, at mile 10 and wanted to sprint home. He was worried about me but of course in my stubbornness I convinced him I was fine and that he should run ahead. Mistake #5: if you feel bad pain, STOP! Mistake #6: if you’re too stubborn to stop, at least run with someone so they can drag your body back home.

I sit under that tree for a solid 15 minutes. When not moving, I can manage the pain and discomfort. The second I move bad things happen. Hey, at least it’s not a terrible place to potentially lose consciousness:

collapsed runner POV

I can’t sit here forever. My body is not in a good way and I have to get home. I somehow trudge on. Uh-oh. Nope, not gonna make it. But I can’t stop now. No shade. Dying in the sun. At least there’s a garbage can up ahead. Aaannd…

A young dude runs past me just as I’m letting go of my breakfast into a Santa Monica public garbage can. He looks like an endurance runner. I’m hoping he has some solidarity. Brad finally comes to get me in his car and I make it home. I collapse on the couch and all the symptoms return at the same time accompanied by a brand new one: hyperventilation. After doing some very quick Web MD’ing, Brad knows exactly what happened to me. Heat exhaustion. He takes my temperature and luckily I haven’t got one, which is a good sign. If I had, it would have been hospital time. After one more round of the Barf-o-rama, I get some fluids and food in me and I’m on the road to recovery.

I write with my tongue in my cheek, but in all seriousness, heat exhaustion is not something to mess around with. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition and at the very least can cause permanent brain damage. I was dumb. I should have stopped when I felt my arms and jaw cramping up. That was a new and uncomfortable kind of running pain and I didn’t listen to my instinct which said “This is not good. Stop.” I was lucky that I was close to home, and that I have an incredible boyfriend who nursed me back to health and made sure I was ok before he left my side. Do not do as I do. Do as I say. If you ever develop the symptoms I’ve listed here, STOP. Allow me to repeat them:

  1.  Extreme fatigue (and I mean extreme, not just feeling a kick in the butt from a hard workout) 
  2. Irritability (and I don’t just mean general annoyance from having to work out. I mean having a strong and uncontrollable disgust for every face you see in the world)
  3. Muscle Cramps (not a little side-ache or foot cramp people. I’m talking your entire muscle clenching like it’s got something to prove)
  4. Extreme sensitivity to sunlight (think Maurice in Little Monsters)
  5. Dizziness
  6. Nausea
  7. Hyperventilation
And here’s how to be smart and avoid ever developing these symptoms:
  1. Run when it’s cool. Do not run during the hottest part of the day, ever. Think mornings. Think twilight. Think fall.
  2. If the sun is out, wear a hat. Your brain needs protection.
  3. When embarking on a really long run or bike ride or whatever, stick to familiar territory. You want to be physically challenged, but you don’t want to encounter any surprises that are going to put you at risk like a huge hill or a field full of rattlesnakes or a street paved with mirrors.
  4. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Concentrate on hydrating the day before. If you get dehydrated during a workout, it’s too late. 
  5. Wear clothes that ventilate.
  6. Wear a water belt so that you can sip during the entire workout
  7. Bring your phone with you on long runs. If anything happens, like your pride has been wounded in a park in Santa Monica and you can’t get home, you’re going to want to be able to call someone who won’t judge you. Or you know, 911.
Everyone is built of different stock. Brad and I did the exact same run and he finished 12 miles with flying colors. He surpassed what he thought he was capable of, and I totally tanked. Exact same conditions, totally different outcomes. Further proof that running is a customized sport. Each runner’s limitations are different. I am more of a withering violet than I would like to admit, but at least I now know where my boundaries are.
Like I said, it just wouldn’t be a half marathon training experience if I didn’t have at least one health crisis. Last year it was my blood sugar. I seemed to have figured that one out by carrying a Larabar with me on the run and nibbling on it every 30 minutes or so. I didn’t feel a sugar crash, so that’s good. I just didn’t anticipate heat exhaustion. So now of course I’m totally bummed and scared and worried that it’s going to happen during the race. I just have to trudge on. I will not be beaten. I’m finishing that race. A lot of people have donated to Running for Wonderlust and I shall not let them down. I’ve learned my lesson and will take extreme caution to avoid any signs of heat exhaustion. An ice cold mojito after the race should also help to cool things off, dontcha think?