Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Countown to the Dopey Challenge 2016!

With less than one week to go until we depart it has just occurred to me that I have barely talked about our (my, Eric and Andy's) upcoming Dopey Challenge adventure.

This has been years in the works, and this is no exaggeration! On our second date Eric and I were both about to take on major athletic challenges. He has his first Ironman a few weeks later and I was basically on the eve of my first marathon. I asked him what would be next for him. After all, an Ironman was basically the most outrageous athletic achievement that I could think of! What on earth would one do next?
It was then that he mentioned taking on the Dopey Challenge (for those of you who don't know, because I did not, the Dopey Challenge is 4 races at Disney on 4 consecutive days. A 5k, 10k, 13.1 and 26.2)
My reaction to this wasn't the most positive. First, having never done a marathon I could not see the wisdom in running a bunch or races beforehand (I still see the issue here.) Furthermore, I could not comprehend why someone would travel to Orlando, get up at 2AM every day to race, hardly be able to stay awake to enjoy the parks and ALSO pay about a gazzilion dollars to do so. I also spewed some stuff about feeding the corporate giant blah, blah. (at this point I feel like I do a bit of everything, big corporate giant and tiny homegrown. it's all ok)

As it so often happens as the years passed I began to get on board with this insane idea.
When Eric and I were in Orlando in 2015 we concluded that 2016 would be the year that we would take a crack at it. This may have been fueled by the fact that is was about 48 degrees while we were in Florida, so basically perfect running weather. We also might have had some wine. It's hard to say.

And THEN Eric and Andy turned 40 this year and that's a perfect excuse. Bucket list race! Spend all the coin! (which we did.)

So here we are TODAY. One week until the 3 of us hop on a plane to claim our destiny, or some such bullshit! It really should be a blast, I do enjoy a good Disney trip. Thus far, "RunDisney" has not exactly met the high standards that I expect from a Disney experience but I plan to head into this adventure with an open mind. If nothing else, we are going to be spending 5 days in Florida away from the dumb cold weather and that sounds excellent.

Here is what has happened to this point:
-Sometime last MAY the 3 of us waited with bated breath to drop about $550 each the second the race registration opened. For me, registration was chaos. Everything that you don't want to have happen did (the site would not load, it booted me out half way thru my registration, and THEN after completing the form AGAIN after I put in my credit card it took so long to try to process that it timed out and I had to do the whole damn thing AGAIN.) I know traffic was high and it happens but it was frustrating to me. I was ready to put in my race finishing times to improve my corral placement and there was no obvious or easy way to do this (runDisney- there must be a better way!) And you all know what happened then. I dropped the ball on figuring out what to do/who to email and am now enjoying life in corral P. Totally my mistake but big game changer. But it's cool- it's gonna be about 90 so no need to hustle!

-I literally bought plane tickets the day they went on sale. That was easy. Smart. It's just easier to fly out of Portland and flights sell out so damn fast (lesson learned on previous trips.)

-There was hemming and hawing about where to stay. I did an embarrassing amount of research on onsite vs offsite, the costs involved, transportation, getting to the parks easily. No stone was left unturned.  I should probably consider a career change and be a travel agent, jeesh.
In the end, we decided to stay onsite. Yes, you certainly can get somewhat more spacious accommodations offsite but within the budget we were working with the most logical and time saving conclusion was to stay in a Disney resort and use their transportation.

-I have been to Disney enough to know that if you want to sit down and eat, you get a damn reservation and you get it early. While I wasn't as on the ball as some, we are guaranteed a place to eat each and every night. Done.

-There has been some other behind the scenes crap. Typical stuff like making sure we are in the BEST building (haha I have a preference. Close to the pub. And the extra restrooms since there are 3 of us in a room.) Customizing magic bands (important) Locking down the Fast Pass (CRITICAL) Again, why am I not working in the travel industry? So confusing. 

And that's about it. There are some other details that will make for another amusing pre adventure blog (if I have time!)

I can't speak for Eric and Andy but I'm really looking forward to heading south for a few days. Doing a race like this is certainly something you only do once and I'm planning to slow down a bit (not that I have a choice, corral x for the win) and enjoy the sights!


Monday, December 14, 2015

LOCO Jingle Bell Half Marathon

On Saturday (FYI, a Saturday race is delightful!!) Eric, Andy and I ran the Jingle Bell Half in Atkinson, NH.

Thus far, the weather this winter has been truly delightful. Saturday was no exception with sunny skies and temps soaring into the upper 50's. YES PLEASE. F**K YEAH.

All of us had been having our share of issues, Andy had a foot problem, Eric was getting over a virus, and I had managed to strain BOTH by calves the prior Sunday which seemed stupid. Luckily, I was feeling 100% but had some lingering feelings of caution as one often does after a few painful days.

LOCO hosts great races. I have run quite a few of their events and have always been very happy! Signing up is easy, prices are reasonable, they have some of the best and most helpful communication in the business and (most importantly) have fun, safe courses for us to run on.
Actually the most important thing they do is to offer you a Smuttynose beer and REAL food at the finish. Let's be honest.

We were planning a Holiday gathering with Eric (and Andy's) Sister/Husband/Mom/Kids/Teenage exchange student later in the day, and since the kids had a morning of skating and youthful shenanigans to contend with we decided to drive most of the way there and run. Good choice. Holidays are always best when both the kids and the hyperactive adults (me) are given a workout beforehand!

A useful headband. Also, gloves, not pictured. GOOD race swag!
We arrived early enough to change, apply body glide in public, feel amused that they handed out flyers telling us "not to run around barefoot" or "wander around the resort" OR "jump into the pond..." (runners be craaaaazy last year.) We also had time to run two warm up miles which, frankly, felt just dreadful.

Lousy warm up BUT: TANK TOP. On December 12. Yes.
What didn't feel dreadful was the DAMN GORGEOUS weather! I was so happy about the nice conditions that nothing else bothered me.

We started on time, and thru the first few miles I felt MEH but the magical sunshine and weather warm enough for a tank top kept my spirits high.

The start. I took this pic with my arms wayyyy over my head! #short
Right on cue at mile 4 my legs woke up and I loved everything! I really had a delightful time and ran along at a pleasant, marathon paced feeling clip basically enjoying the world tremendously. Sometimes running is THE MOST FUN and after mile 4 that was the kind of day that I had.

Crappy mid race snap. HAHA!
The course wasn't flat but it was very runnable. There were plenty of water stations, well marked intersections and a good number of other athletes to run with. I felt that it was a strong group of runners and I spent quite a bit of the race with people who maintained my exact pace. Very pleasant.

Because I am a jerk I made it my mission to pass a few people and I did. They were:

-The slightly provocative "reindeer" (I caught her when she tied her shoe, while she bent over to do so many of us reflected on why it is not good (or, good depending on who you are) to wear the most tiny shorts imaginable under your tutu. FULL VIEW. Whoops.)

-The guy in a Hawaiian Holiday shirt. (he was very nice.)

-The one woman who I randomly decided was my nemesis. I caught her while she was showboating for a photographer at mile 10 and she ate my dust. Bwahahah. I'm getting coal in my stocking.    

I ran through the finish in 1:44:38 which is a 2015 Half PR for me. I felt good throughout the race and excellent afterwards. I seem to be a bit stuck in the 8:00 pace currently but I understand why and am (currently) fine with it.

I'm also fine with the Floridian sunshine in New Hampshire...

A short time later both Andy and Eric finished. I cheered for them obnoxiously and the man standing next to me said "I think they hate you." I agreed.

I'm not sure if they loved life as much as I did at this point. (but they both met their race goals and were only bleeding a little so that is a win.) Also, they did not appear to hate me any more than is expected. If they can't take finish line harassment then we really can't be friends.....

Twins. Yeah, it can be confusing.
Even after a good race I am thankful when beer drinking time arrives!!

The best part of a race.
Since our next big event (for all three of us) is the Dopey Challenge it was fun to get together for a good run.
While I don't expect  Disney to be as generous with the post race beer, if they can put on the kind of well run event that we have been spoiled with here in the Northeast I'll be impressed. I will be the first to admit that I am picky about the details and between the flawless execution of MDI and the fabulous job that LOCO does I am hard to impress.

Basically winning!
This was a great race to wrap up 2015 with and another smart and solid effort in what (for me) has been a smart and solid year of running and racing.

I plan to recap 2015 a bit over the next couple weeks as well as start the chatter about the upcoming Disney experience (and yes, I already have lots to say and we are still a few weeks out!)

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Holiday season and that all of you are excited for 2016 and what the New Year holds.
I know that I am taking a moment to reflect on what a great year 2015 was and how thankful I am for my amazing family, friends, and running community who I have really grown to appriciate more than ever during the past year!

Merry running Christmas!


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Final Philly Thoughts

It has indeed taken me two weeks to complete my Philly Marathon musings!
I suppose since the most interesting part of the race report was part one, nobody minds.

Our trip to Philly was fast, too fast to be honest but with a big race week planned for January (plus work, plus a whole slew of other things!) we just didn't have the time or cash available for a more leisurely trip.

I had a few concerns leading up to race weekend. I have never flown to a race before and I didn't know how I would feel. (its a 45 minute flight as it turns out- totally worth it, saved us many hours in the car!) I also didn't have a ton of time to research anything about this race, and unlike Boston or NYCM there wasn't an overload of first hand info (meaning, personal accounts from bloggers and real people.)

As it turned out we had zero issues. We flew in to Philly (again let me say, totally worth it.) Flying from Portland was silly expensive, taking a flight from Logan was reasonable and still easy. We chose to drive to the South Shore the night before to see my family, and to shorten the drive for the following morning. The flights in both directions were on time, super short (as mentioned) and we both felt that it was a no brainer. 9 plus hour drive, or about 4 hours total travel time which includes the drive? Not a hard choice.
PLANES. I love PLANES. Flying, not so much. But planes, YESSSSS.
Upon arrival into Philly we figured out that taking the train into the city would be both cheap and easy ($8 per person, 30 minute trip.) To Uber it would have been about $45 one way and we didn't think that was a worthwhile way to spend our travel dollars.

My lucky Cheetah on the train. I am cool.
There are a ton (A TON) of lodging options in Philly, all decent, many in basically the same price point. As it turned out our hotel (The Hilton Garden Inn on Arch St at $195 a night) was conviniently located to both the train station AND the expo.
There are places to stay that are closer to the start line but at about 1.2 miles away we had decided that the walk would be something we could manage. (editors note: getting to the start was a piece of cake. Getting back to the hotel, with significant time restraints was tough. Doable, but tough. #sobrave)

We had about a half day to do some touristy things once we settled in. I have experienced the pain of doing TOO many touristy things the day before a big race (ahem, NYCM) so we had very, very few plans. With the number of interesting things to do in Philly (I would have loved to see more of the city, see a museum or two) it was a hard choice but a good one in the end.

We flew thru the expo (I've already mentioned that I was not blown away, it had the basics and not much else. HASHTAG spoiled by Boston, I admit it.) The plus of our swift exit was that we had time for a leisurely walk/shakeout run to scope out the start line.

Here's the basic expo, with all the basic stuff.
We enjoyed our wanderings to the start line and did a nice amount of looking around. The foot traffic was low and it was easy to get where we needed to go.

Whoot! Start line! And, more importantly, FINISH LINE.
Not shockingly, after we located where my corral was (black corral, very easy to find) we sprinted up the Art Museum steps and took the required fist pumping photos.

Obligatory shot!
It was a beautiful. beautiful day and while the weather was good enough to wait in line for a Rocky statue pic neither of us had the patience to do so.

So, we sat atop the steps and took in the view....
I hadn't made dinner reservations which I knew was a risky move. We (I) wanted something pretty generic and when we discovered a Maggiano's on our block we were sold. Remembering the crowds at the Boston location we showed up shockingly early to get on the wait list.
We spent our hour of waiting doing a few random things. Running to the CVS for some cough syrup for sick Eric. Checking out the Reading market which had everything you might ever want, EVER. It was quite the experience and hard to resist eating a huge variety of amazing looking foods.

When we ventured back to Maggiano's they had forgotten that we existed but fortunately rectified that within about 10 minutes or so. The good news was that we sat down at about 6:30 and we were out of there before 7:00. Pretty amazing, so amazing in fact that I can excuse the kind of sticky condition that my silverware was in and the rough shape that my meal looked to be in. It didn't kill me and damn, it was fast! (Boston location, you win!)
Going to Maggiano's is always fun pre Boston race because everyone there is a runner in a Boston jacket, pumped for the next day. It was exactly the same in Philly, right down to the Boston jacket fashion statement!

After dinner we went straight to bed. To not sleep. Hey- it makes getting up easier! Evidently Eric's cough was not going to be thwarted and he was a bit cough-y, and I can never sleep the night before a race anyway so we were awake for a while. Oh well! (and the cough waited to get me until post race- THANK HEAVENS!)

When I can't sleep I make Flat Sara's.
We got to the start pretty early, certainly before 6:00. While I didn't have any traffic issues getting through security the line promptly got a bit out of hand. From what I understand it took the later arriving runners almost an hour to get through. From my perspective, it was because they were letting "everyone" in and they did not have the staffing to support that. Yeah, it's awesome to have your cheering squad hang out with you pre race but it did clog things up a bit from what I could tell (safely, on the correct side of the fence....)

We all know the story from here. I run a race, book it (limpingly) back to the hotel, jump on a train, into a plane, into a car and make it home before dark!

I think the moral of the story is this: if you are a Mainer and want to do Philly weekend in the shortest amount of time possible this is a good way to do it. While we didn't get the tourist experience that would have been enjoyable I did what I went there to do with zero stress and that counts for a lot! We stayed under budget and I really enjoyed the tinnnnny bit of the city that we got to see. I would certainly enjoy exploring Philly in much more detail at some point. There are quite a few things there that interest me and I didn't even get to have a damn cheesesteak!!

If I manage to ever blog again I will discuss in depth my recovery (pretty easy) my re-entry into the world of running (not that I really left...) my strained calf muscle (wtf ouch) and the upcoming Dopey Challenge which might be more Dopey that Challenging for a variety of reasons to be discussed at a later time.