Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sara's Expert Safety Tips

Hey readers! Recently, reached out to me and, since this is National Running Safety Awareness month, wanted to see if I had any tips to share with readers. 
I wanted to share my original safety ideas for those traveling and running in unfamiliar, less populated areas. When people think of running in Vegas, they typically think of running the Strip. These are my tips for those of you planning to explore the wonders outside of the Sin City!
I think, whether you are running in rural Maine, or the more remote areas outside a city the safety practices are similar. 
I hope everyone enjoys my tips! 

As everyone knows, I am a veritable spokesperson for all things safety related. 
Over the years I have become very conscious of my safety while running. For me, running in a rural area often feels safer than running in a more urban location. There have been a few things over the years that have made me rethink this. (read on to find out what.)

Since Maine is a year round tourist zone I regularly talk to my visiting clients "from away" about outdoor workouts in my area. While I am accustomed to the conditions here (middle of nowhere) the remoteness makes city people quite apprehensive! 
There are the standard safety tips that every blog post everywhere will *help* you out with. "Run with others in blazing daylight in a highly populated area!!!" is one original thought that *never* would have occurred to anyone... (but is actually not a bad tip.) 
However, If you don't live in Boston or a similar big city, read on to learn about how I stay as safe as I can in a small town. These are the gems that I pass along to my clients and friends in hope that maybe I have an original safety idea (probably not.)

Don't be invisible
Pro Tip Number One: Don't be a damn mime. (read: unoriginal suggestion numbah ONE. whoops.)
Really though. Dress all in black and then scream "HIT ME CAR!!!!"
When it is daylight I wear loads of bright colors.
When I must run at night I break out the big guns. 
-Nathan Glow stick vest of magic!
-Blinky flashy arm band (that I got in the second Stridebox, guess my negative first review went unnoticed??? Loved this arm band though!) 
-Sweet, sweet headlamp (available pretty much everywhere.)
-Amazing flashing glowing spur. Yep.

Lit up like a damn Christmas tree. BLINK. FLASH. YO.
Pro Tip Number TWO: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? And what are you gonna do about it???
My top fear while running (other than being eaten by a jabberwocky) is a dog attack.
This is fully legit, I have repeatedly been chased and threatened by local dogs. It is very scary and I have been lucky to emerge unscathed, although emotionally scarred for life.
(this leads to pro top 2 1/2. DO NOT run with music. You MUST be able to hear the little rascals coming. Not to mention that it's extremely important in a rural area with no "breakdown" lane, and rarely a shoulder on the road, to be able to HEAR traffic. Suck it up. Leave the headphones home if you wish to live.)

My "Don't bite me" defense kit

Let's get honest. Most likely, if a vicious dog really wanted to bite me he still might be able to.
But I plan to make it both difficult and unpleasant for him.  I ALWAYS carry one of these pepperspray/mace containers with me. I always know where it is in my flip belt and I have practiced whipping it out and flipping it open. Typically, a good bit of stomping and yelling sends the beasts back into their yard (and yes, I'm going to call animal control on you if your dog is a repeat offender.)
But if my menacing tactics don't work, or if a dog looks wicked scary I'm gonna mace his ass. 
So yes. Dog attacks are my number one concern while running, mostly because it is a real threat in my area and something I have encountered too often. 

Pro Tip number THREE: Protect yourself against Rape Van Killers.
Yes. I watch too much Criminal Minds. 
While I, perhaps naively, feel that I live in a safe place, NO woman is safe when she runs alone. 
It's a bummer but it is true. Especially in an area where there is nobody to hear you yell...
Get a screaming mace. Carry it.
Always carry your phone. 
Be aware. Duh. I run to the other side of the road if there is a parked car. I will not stop to give you driving directions (I will give you directions, but you best be prepared to keep that car moving!) I am even keenly aware of weird little places that people could be lurking, I keep my ears and eyes open at all times.
It is wise to change up your route and time of day that you run. 
Honestly, just be smart. If you truly feel uncomfortable running (anywhere) don't go. No workout is worth it and most of us could use a bit of strength work at home or in the gym (*ahem* self, I speak to you.)

Screaming mace. Available at your local Wal-Mart.
Pro Tip Number FOUR. A continuation of tip number 3: Let people know where you are going. (the right people, that is....)
Before every run I let my peeps know where I am headed. I use map my run and leave my route right up on the computer, for all to see.
If I decide to change my route I text Eric and let him know.
If I am on a particularly long run I give a good estimate of how long I plan to be gone, and I often check in mid run.

Make it easy for (the right kind of) people to find you. 
In other wise thoughts.
Don't be a dummy and post to all of your twitter, snapchat, whatever accounts, that you are heading off on a run through no man's land where there is no cell service and no other humans. Ugh! I see this happen more often that you would think.
Strava also makes me a bit leery at times, as I run from my home and the map clearly shows that. I used to run around the corner before starting it up but I have slacked on that. UGH. So much danger!
*EDIT!!!* Literally, five seconds after this blog dropped I was given a valuable piece of information. You can totally make your home invisible on Strava. This is fabulous information! (and I immediately updated my security settings! Not to worry, if I invite you over for beers I will still give you my address....)

*I honestly feel very safe when I run in my town. However, I really think it is always wise to be aware of your surroundings. This applies whether you are in the random countryside or in a big mall parking lot. Keep your ears and eyes open!*

Maine Fashion
Pro Tip number FIVE: Don't get mistaken for a deer and get shot.
Yes, it is hunting season here in Maine. In reality, one should be more concerned about hunters than rape-van-killers in my neck of the woods.
Wear your blaze orange. Look hot af. Bring the hick look wherever you go.
And you won't get hunted in the process so it's a win win.

So there you have it. Pro safety tips for people who wish to experience the adventure of running in a place that is NOT a city.
I am aware that I left our bear and bobcat attack prevention. Thus far, we have learned that bobcats are more afraid of us then we are of them. As far as bears go, I actually have a can of bear spray somewhere up here. But I don't mess with them...
My final Pro Tip is just that: If there are bears, stay indoors!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon, Lumiere's Challenge 2016 part 2.

Sunday morning, after not nearly enough sleep we were up again at 3:00 for the big event of the weekend. The half marathon.
The lines to get onto the buses that would take us to the start were remarkably long. There is a huge difference in the crowd level at Port Orleans Riverside vs French Quarter. Luckily, there always seem to be abundant buses and we were on our way in less than 15 minutes. (in January, at POFQ the lines were small. no wait. spoiled, we are.)

Rather than heading over to Epcot and the delightful parking lot, we headed to ESPN Wide World of sports for a refreshing combo of parking lot and highway. Change is good.

A nice change of scenery. Road. Whoot!
Because of the bus lines, and then taking our time in the interim (porta-potty stop, catching pokemon) by the time we got to our corral we were only about 30 minutes to the start. The corrals seemed to be more relaxed than at Dopey, meaning, on marathon weekend if you showed up to a front corral late you'd be kicked out (not out of the race, but moved to a later corral.) At this race, people were loading into the corral as it started.
Since Eric was in corral B (I moved back to be with him). Running together seemed like a fun idea since we had gone our separate ways in the 10k!
"What pace are we running" I inquired. "8:30's" replied Eric. For some reason this seemed completely sensible.
Right on schedule, at 5:32 off we ran. Into the dark, dark night (see people? this is a night race!) 

The scene: Quite dark. Neither of us looks thrilled.
We actually got off to a good start. There were some miles of dark highway. So, we ran away from ESPN and banged a left on the Osceola Parkway (in my head I mix this up with the Okeechobee parkway, but whatever!)
After that, close to the 5k mark we transitioned to some fine Animal Kingdom parking lot (very little, thankfully) and then into Animal Kingdom. As much as I enjoyed running there in January I found it a bit tricky in the dark. Not terrible, but tricky. More fun than parking lots though.
There are quite a few pictures of the two of us running through AK, me looking DEAD AHEAD (because terror?) and Eric looking sad. I remember being ok at this point so our faces were not reflecting our true feelings....

#2 hahaha
Immediately after concluding our trip through, and then away from AK, a potty break was needed. I took the opportunity to take immature photos of the shitters. Someday I will grow up!

After Animal Kingdom came my favorite stretch of road ever in the history of races: Bear Island Road and the Wonderful World Of Waste Water Treatment. In true Disney fashion, there are distinct notes of Febreeze to make you think you aren't smelling noxious fumes.
Ahhhhhh. So lovely!

In reality, nobody loves that stretch of road and when you FINALLY make a right onto Floridian Way you are happy to see it.

Our pace is pretty damn steady except for the potty and water breaks.
While we were able to keep a relatively steady pace throughout the race, neither one of us was having an easy time. The combo of a brisk 10k the previous day, the humidity (high by our standards) and being just a *touch* untrained were taking a toll.

While we didn't totally throw in the towel we did take a couple water breaks. Mostly, we tried to stay positive, count down the miles and, (if you were me) you tried to avoid Eric's sprinkler system sweat (impressive!)

There was no on course congestion, it was extremely easy to proceed at a comfortable (or uncomfortable) pace without having to get creative. No off road running needed.
As we all know, I don't pay a ton of attention to character stops but my feeling is, there weren't very many. I have been to random races with more on course entertainment than this had. 

 YOU ALL KNOW WHAT THIS IS!!! All together now: "glorious PARKING LOT FINISH!!"
So yeah, despite being passed aggressively by Belle, Tink (and a sweaty Peter Pan) and a man-cat in the final mile, we finished.
We miiiiight not have won this one but we did pull off a sub 2 hour finish (1:57:19 I believe.)
Next time we are feeling a bit tired at a Disney race, we might opt out of running and become character photo people. This race, for both of us, was neither the best nor the worst. It was a solid "MEH" across the board. So maybe we need more time with the Country Bear Jamboree or what have you.

Disney does race medals RIGHT.
We got on a bus, sweatily, and cruised back to the resort (where we should have taken naps!)
The takeaway message from the many Disney race experiences we have had this year: The medals are frigging pimp. HAAAAYOUGE. The 10k medal we earned this weekend was larger than 98% of my marathon medals. The Half and Challenge medals were equally robust.
I like this kind of overkill. 

You really can't beat Disney Bling

After hastily showering and briskly preparing for the day, we were off (again..)
We had a bit of bad Disney juju at this point...
We had a 9:30 breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest (which is one of those d-bag pain in the ass reservations to get....) We gave ourselves 75 minutes to get there, and 75 minutes later had been unable to even get to the park. UGH. Any other park you can Uber too, but not the MK. Anyway, after being up for hours, running, and not eating, this was maddening.
So, we got mad and then moved on and ate a hot dog.

Magic Kingdom

A fuck ton of people
Everybody and their brother was at the MK so after a couple hours we had to peace out. *sigh*

Disney Christmas tree plus that guy with his kid
We took a moment to rest up and regroup. The problem with the 3:00am wake up calls is that it leaves you with very little gas in the tank to run on. We fully intended to spend ALL the time at Epcot for the after party and we needed to snooze a little and prep for the jugs of wine we planned to consume.

"jugs" of wine
The after party was fine, as far as I could tell. It just felt like a normal night in Epcot, at Wine and Dine plus an extra half hour of standing in line to get a wristband.
Since this was a "perk" for our race we tried to stick around for a while.
However, not much changed between "normal" hours and "party" hours. Except for some food vendors closing up for the night (bummer.)
We sampled some food and tiny wine, and enjoyed the fireworks. It was a really beautiful night and we focused on soaking in the warmth before returning home the next day.
Pro tip: skip everything at W&D and simply head to Canada for the amazing tiny steaks!! What a bargain and so delicious!!

So thus concludes the final installment (of 2016) of the Disney Race Shenanigans.
This was a good weekend and there are always plenty of wonderful moments at Disney.
For me, personally, it's probably time to move on to some other race/travel adventures for the next year. The key is variety and as seamlessly as RunDisney manages their races there are many more places to see, and to run in. (long story short: I doubt I'll ever want to run every single Disney race in one year. There are other Disney races that interest us, but they can wait!)
I wouldn't be shocked if we end up back in Disney at some point for more running. It really is the perfect place for a trip with friends and family, who might enjoy running and racing on different levels. You go out and enjoy  race or two (and a park or two!) and then relax and hang out. It would be a blast to go back with our little nieces and nephews (AND their parents...) We'll probably spend some time away from Orlando next year and then, who knows!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Disney Wine & Dine 10K: part one of Lumiere's Challenge 2016

Earlier this year, when there was internet buzz about how the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon weekend was going to change in 2016 I paid attention.
Up until this year, the 13.1 had been a night race. And a late one at that, with a 10:00PM start. This was a race start that seemed to be loved by many, but for my tired ass held zero interest.
When (much to the dismay of many, it seemed) the race received a morning start, and the weekend turned into a challenge with the addition of a 10k, Eric and I splurged for our second Disney Race experience of 2016. We had enjoyed the Dopey Challenge so much more than we expected that we concluded book-ending the year with Disney races would be fun. (needless to say, our budget wasn't as psyched about this as we were. We cut many other race weekend out to do this....)

Beautiful weather, uneventful travels.
We had an uneventful travel day on Thursday, November 3rd and landed in Orlando around Noon to find some of the best weather we have experienced there. The theme of 80, mostly sunny and perfect would continue all week (thank the LORD. We have felt screwed by the weather during previous trips!)

Beautiful Port Orleans Riverside. Perfect, as long as you don't mind sharing bus stops with 10,000 people
We had already had a long day of travel by the time we checked in. For the second time in as many trips, check in was a nuisance, and we found that we had been downgraded to a far lesser room that the one we had booked about 700 years ago. I have heard of upgrades but what's the deal with getting a downgrade!? The issue was resolved but it was time consuming and an annoying first world problem.

Expo and bib pick up. Easy as pie.
After getting our room fiasco sorted, we hopped on a bus to the expo which, after Dopey, we were experts at zipping through. It was DEAD. We easily could have been in and out in 10 minutes or less but we took a bit of time to look at some merchandise and pick up some new shoes for Eric, as he was getting horrible blisters.

Perfect Florida night
We continued our day of non-stop transportation by heading off to dinner at Il Mulino. This was an enjoyable dinner (at The Swan) and we always enjoy a boat ride (to then get on a bus!)

Harry Potter world fun!
We planned our trip to have an extra, non race day on Friday which we made good use of. 
Neither of us had ever been to Universal before. We decided to make visiting a priority on this trip since we don't plan to head back to Orlando for a while. Since we are both Harry Potter aficionados it's pretty amazing that we waited this long to go! (we had planned to go in January but the weather was just too horrid.) We lucked out in the weather department and had a lovely day exploring Universal and feeling too scared to ride most of the attractions. Universal is certainly more of a thrill seekers park! While I personally love a good thrill I don't like feeling motion sick.... In my old age I find that I hit the barf button pretty quickly.  
Knowing that we had a VERY early wake up call the next day we had planned to leave before the park closed. This was made easy, Universal closed very early for a Halloween event so even if we had wished to stay and ruin our feet with miles of walking we could not have!
Back to our resort we went, and we had a low key evening.
Eric and I are perennial fans of Disney "pool bars" and we enjoyed a perfect Florida evening sipping wine and avoiding mosquitoes.

As expected we were up quite early the next day.
We followed our Dopey prep plan, alarm at 3:00, coffee and breakfast in the room, out the door and on a bus as close to 3:30 as we could manage.
While the lines for the buses were significant, we had very little wait.Mostly because we don't mind standing room only.
We zipped right over to the DAMN GLORIOUS EPCOT PARKING LOT, which almost feels like a second home to us now!!

We saw this guy! The 10K/13.1 was "Lumeire's Challenge"

When you remember to submit proof of time you get Corral A!
Since we are the ultimate Disney race experts at this point, we knew the importance of submitting proof of race times. As much as we had enjoyed our view from Corral LAST in January we wanted a different experience this time.
Well, we got it!
The most obvious difference was the much shortened wait time for the start. Compared to the long and tedious waits that we enjoyed (haha) during Dopey, this time we felt like it was instant gratification! The other notable change was the traffic. The runners in Corral A are quick people so we found that running at any pace was comfortable. We were never impeded by other people and, had we been fit to do so (I, personally was NOT) we could have easily been faster. However, that requires fitness which wasn't a thing.
Also, take note of my outfit. Those stripes are enviable.

And just like that, we were starting!
As mentioned, the wait to start was brief. It was a warm and pleasant morning and by 5:00 they had our corral moving to the starting line.

Everyone's taking the selfies
Originally, many months ago, I had a ridiculous plan to lay down a sweet age group PR in the 10k at this race. I rarely run 10k's, and rarely run them well so I figured if, after Hartford I focused a bit on short speed work I could manage this feat with ease. I was secretly hoping to really hammer on it and manage a 45:xx which I have not been able to do in quite some time. I was pretty fit in October and I dreamed that a focus shift to speed work would yield results.
As it happened, the only thing I focused on after Hartford was slacking off.
My fastest run since then had been an 8:58 ap and my longest run was 6 miles. HA! Not exactly a recipe for success but oh well, this has taught me that I really shouldn't have lofty goals so soon after a fast marathon.

At this point, most of you know that, despite everything I did pull off a small AG PR, beating my time from the BAA 10K by a bit,and finishing in 47:16. 
All things being taken into account, I was completely happy with my results and only pulled them off because Florida is bone flat. Despite being somewhat unfit, I can grind through 6 miles at mid 7:xx pace.
Dudes, it felt fast though and was a gross and sweaty effort!

I enjoyed the course, it was exactly the same as the 10k in Dopey.
There were 3 miles of boring bone flat highway which was pretty fun because it was so flat that it basically felt like running downhill with a strong tailwind. 
I don't think that these were popular miles for the Disney diehards, it was dark and quiet. Not much going on. For me, it felt like a normal race day (but dark.) Not much princess photo potential though. 
Then, there were a few miles of Boardwalk/Epcot which, while more pleasant to look at were a bit jarring because twists and turns in the dark tend to trip me up.
I emerged unscathed.
And, I emerged, victorious into a GLORIOUS parking lot to take top honors.
*ahem* *ahem*

Since we basically won the whole race we had to wait a bit for a bus because the road was still closed! Oh dear, the many challenges of being in Corral A, and being *elite* athletes.
Eric had enjoyed a good run, with one unfortunate potty break. Despite Reggie making life difficult he still finished in 52:00 and fresh as a daisy. (or something, it was quite muggy!)
It was still absolutely pitch black dark which made me think that the people who were sad about things being changed to "daytime" racing needed to rethink! It certainly still felt like night!

Chilling with Andy
Per the norm after a Disney race, we were back to the resort, showered and fed before 7AM. For the remainder of the day we moseyed around enjoying the weather, sitting poolside and sending lots of snaps to Andy since we missed him! (Andy joined in for the Dopey Challenge adventure back in January, we amused ourselves by sending him pics of glorious parking lots, magical buses, porta potties and such...)

I must admit that I noticed my lack of fitness as the day progressed. My speedwork muscles were crying a little and, overall, I felt rather stiff and uncomfortable. Of course, this was completely and totally deserved! One can't expect to feel great when they aren't particularly well trained.

Much rest required !

We enjoyed our afternoon of relaxation and, other than a trip to Disney Springs for dinner (and a shocking amount of walking to be honest) we did very little.
Once again, we tried to make it an early night as 3:00 is a painful hour to wake at....

Next up: The 13.1, does it turn into a splash 'n dash like the past 2 years? Do we remember to set our clocks back? Do we win the whole challenge or simply whimper our ways to the finish??