Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon

Yesterday morning was the Miami Beach Halloween half marathon.  I ran this race as part of my marathon training schedule.  The forecast for this race was suppose to be rain, but instead it was sunny, hot and humid.  Looking back, not sure which way would have been better.
I don't think I would have run this race if it had not been the plan for my running group.  That is unfortunate since this course was absolutely beautiful!
It started at Jungle Island which is on the MacArthur Causeway, which connects downtown Miami to the beach.  There are several races that run on the Causeway, so this was not my first time.  It is always nice running down a palm tree lined street with water on both sides, cruise ships to the right and multi-million dollar homes to the left.
Once we reached the beach we took a right and followed the path by the marina, past South Pointe park and then headed up Ocean Drive.  Here we entered Lummus Park and ran on the path to the boardwalk.  The boardwalk was the most annoying part of the race because it was crowded, slippery from the rain the night before and hot!  The sun was just baring down on the runners.
A couple of times along this portion I thought I was going to lose it.  Like lose my sanity because I was so hot and also vomit everywhere.  I had a couple of good burps which made me laugh because I know people around me totally heard them :) 
Gross?? TMI??  Ok, probably, but I was ready for this race to be over at mile 7.
Throughout all of this, the ocean was in plain sight pretty much the entire time.  I need to get down to the beach more often to run, it was so beautiful.
At mile 11 the sun went behind the clouds and I enjoyed the last couple of miles of the race.  The finish line was at South Pointe Park.
And the finisher's medal was super scary looking :)
All in all, I ran this like a training run, so it definitely was not my fastest time.  I did the run/walk/run method, took bathroom breaks and also took time to stretch along the way.  It was a nice morning for sure.
While my running group was offered a discounted entry fee, I ended up paying $20 less than that because this race was offered as an Active Swaggle deal for only $45.  It was well worth it for a cool medal, Brooks tech shirt, mexican food at the finish line and decent on course support.  
Most of the volunteers were high school kids and they were great... always cheering us on and were right there offering water and PowerAde at every stop.
Not sure I would have wanted to pay full price.  $100 was the race fee if you had registered at packet pick-up and I don't think it was worth that.

On an unrelated note, I saw 'In Time' this afternoon.  Super weird and out-there premise, but actually entertaining and interesting.  This wasn't my favorite Justin film, but I thought he was ok, definitely got better as the movie went on.  I usually like Amanda Seyfried's movies, and she was good here, though I did not enjoy the short, dark wig.  Blonde actresses should not try to be brunettes and vice versa.  Everyone knows it's fake.

Hope you all had a great weekend!  Any good races out there?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Favorite Thing Friday

Thank you JT for bringing SexyBack while promoting your new movie "In Time"

Source for all 3
That's what I am talkin' about!  Love me some Justin Timberlake!

So I am running the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon tomorrow as a training run with my marathon group.  The course is along the water so I should be looking forward to it.
However, this is what the weather is predicted to be tomorrow morning:
Bummer dude.  
Let's see how that goes...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Favorite Thing Friday

When it's October and the weather in Miami turns to this...
Let's hope the humidity is gone for good.  Time to open the sliding doors at home and drive with the windows down!
Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rest of Wine & Dine Weekend

Friday afternoon after the runDisney Meet Up & Eat Up, I checked into The Beach Club and then headed over to Epcot for some lunch at the Wine & Food Festival.  
This was the 16th year of the Festival and some of things that had evolved at the Festival are the booths the wine and food are in... so cute!

The really good food I tried this year included in the lamb chop from Australia (also mentioned in my race recap post), chipotle taco from Mexico... totally set my mouth on fire, loved it!  Fisherman's Pie from Ireland - yum! 
While at Epcot, I was able to fit in a wine tasting and since my friends were not arriving for a couple more hours, I thought - Why Not!?  It was fun!  
I tried some South Korean wine.  The main ingredient in Asian wines is usually rice (something I learned while in Thailand), which is not that great, and South Korea was no different.  
Apparently that did not keep me from drinking them though :)  Actually their plum wine was really delicious.
I went back to the Beach Club that afternoon and went to hang out by their most amazing pool.  I ran into Leah's parents there!  We hung out while waiting for everyone else to arrive.

Saturday morning I volunteered at the Kids Races at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  It was my most fun volunteering experience to date!  I was one of the volunteers to hand out the medals to the kids at the Finish Line.  

Both the kids and the medals were so cute!  

Imagine a bunch of little people charging towards you... absolutely adorable!  Some kids were seriously killing the competition, they were so good!  Obviously Disney Kids Races are untimed and a fun, family event so it really didn't matter who crossed first.  A lot of kids were just running for fun and even went past all of us volunteers with the medals.  I chased after a couple just to give them a medal.
Before the races started a runDisney employee told us that medals were for kids only, no adults.  I thought to myself "Who would want a Kids Races medal?"  Well wouldn't you know, about half way through the morning an older woman in her 60s came up to me.  Here was our exchange:
Her:  "Excuse me, my daughter ran the Kids Races and did not get a medal"
Me:  "Is your daughter a grown up?"
Her: "Yes, she was running with my granddaughter"
Me:  "I'm sorry Kids Races medals are only for kids"
Are you seriously kidding me?!  Aye.

Saturday afternoon before the race was spent at the pool.
Sunday afternoon after the race was spent at the pool.

Sunday night, Leah, her parents and I had a great dinner at Cape May Cafe right at the hotel.  Sunday night was even cool enough for me to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt!  I was so happy!  The girl from Miami was ready to wear warm clothes, and Leah (who is from NY) wanted to wear a sun dress one last time of the season :)  She ended up with jeans, because it really was cool that night - yipee!
After dinner Leah & I headed over to the Dolphin to meet up with Sue, Mark & Geoff.  We did a bit of a bar crawl around the Boardwalk area.  Beach Club (for Leah & I), Dolphin, ESPN Sports Club 

and ended the night at Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar.  They weren't playing super upbeat music which was kind of a bummer.  But we still had fun.

Leah especially had fun with my camera.  Off I went to get more drinks and she posed for a ton of pics with her medal.  I wonder if I could ever have too many pictures of her with her first medal?????

Apparently not.
This picture below has a funny story...
We asked a random guy to take our picture and he turned around, looked at us and was speechless.  He thought we were twins!  It was so funny!
I guess the bloodshot, glassy, light colored eyes and blonde hair could makes us look sort of similar.  Especially if you are also hammered.
Aahhh...  more good times had at Disney World!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Race Recap!

I want to run this race every year of my life!  Why do I think this race weekend is so great?  
First, it is Disney.  
Second, it is during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  
Third, it is run at night.
Fourth, we stay at the Beach Club Resort.
This year was the second time I have run this race and this time around our cast of characters included: Annette & her husband Brian ran the relay.  Myself, one of my BFFs Leah, two of her co-workers, Sue & Geoff, and one of her high school friends, Scott, all ran the half marathon.  Scott's wife, Jamie, ran the Halloween 5K on Saturday morning.
Brian's BFF, Dave and his girlfriend, Wendy attended the Post Race Party.  This is Dave's 3rd Post Race Party and I dub him the professional Disney Post Race Party attender :)  
Start Area:  Since we stayed at the Beach Club, a race host hotel, we caught the shuttle to the start area right from there.  We got outside at 7:30pm and there was a long line, but it went pretty quick and we were still there in plenty of time.  On the bus, I loved the runDisney info video playing.  Maybe it is because I work in the hospitality industry, but I love the little details.  Just another sign that runDisney has come into their own over the last year.  
While on the bus Leah took one of her famous self portraits of her, Sue & I.
The start area for the race was the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  It is a huge grassy area with bag check, water, port-a-potties, entertainment, etc.  All very organized.  When we arrived, my first order of business was my glow bracelets.  
I had them on both arms, but I am not sure how bright they actually were.  Oh well, it was just for fun.  Sue put some through her shoe laces, Geoff made a necklace and I am not sure what Leah did with hers.
After those were taken care of we checked our bags and went to wait on the port-a-pottie line. Once through one time, we had some water, got back in line and then it was time to go to our corrals.  runDisney pushed back all of the times this year (when to be there, when to check bags, when to get corrals) and to me, it was perfect.  I hope it stays the same next year.  Everything seemed calm and organized from this participants perspective!

Race Goal:  My goal for this race was not to fall since I had dislocated my shoulder the week before.  Luckily I accomplished that :)  I had also decided to run without music.  Loved that!  And I decided to try the run/walk/run method.  

Corrals:  There were 5 corrals in all, A-E.  Each corral was clearly marked with huge signs, loved it!   I was in B.  Love the ego boost Disney races give me :)  Brian also started as Relay Runner #1 in B.  Sue was in C, but went back to E with Leah since her & Geoff hadn't sent in a previous race time.  Those girls are faster than me, so I figured they would catch up to me during the race.  

Race Start:  The race started at 10pm, and the weather was PERFECT!  Like the best running weather I have felt in FLA in at least 7 months.  A-maz-ing!  By 10:05 I was off.  I ran for the first mile which is down Victory Way and turning left on Osceola Parkway.  I knew it would be crowded here at the beginning (and it was), so I didn't want to annoy people by doing the run/walk/run thing here.

Miles 2 to 5:  Once I cleared the Mile 1 marker I started my interval timer for 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking.  That worked ok.  Sometimes when there was loud music in the area I couldn't hear the dinging sound which told me to run or walk, so I definitely missed a few here or there.  Oh well.
I was loving running without music and plan on doing that for any other Disney race I run.  Compared to the Princess half, there are hardly any characters out, but I was still entertained from start to finish.
Let's see, in the first few miles we saw stilt walkers, some Fantasia characters and a DJ.  There was a band set up in the middle of Osceola Parkway.  I have no idea if this was the same band as last year, but I loved them then and I loved them again this year!  There was also random music being piped onto the course. 
It is also at this point where we get to see the leaders of the race heading down the other side of the Parkway.  I was cheering them on!  How can you not?  They were rocking it!
By Mile 3.5 we were approaching our first park, Animal Kingdom.  In the parking lot, there were Electrical Light parade floats... those twirling fish (I think they are fish?).  Once in the park it is dark, narrow and crowded.  I have no problem running here during Expedition Everest but I feel so closed in during Wine & Dine.  I still love that park at night and thought it was great.  Last year, around Mile 4.5 we were still in the park and I was attempting to take a GU.  It was too winding and annoying to open the packet, take the GU, etc... so this year I waited until we were back out in the parking lot, at Mile 5 for the GU and it worked perfectly!  Experience on a course definitely helps.  I did not use the run/walk/run through Animal Kingdom because I did not want to have to stop on the narrow road ways.

Miles 6 to 9:  By the half way mark we were heading back down Osceola Parkway.  Music, stilt walkers and band are all still there to entertain.  At about Mile 7.5 we turn left to head onto World Drive.  We ran up a little incline and a Green Army Man from Toy Story is barking orders at us :)
It was also here that Leah's friend, Geoff, caught up to me.  I was in the middle of a minute of walking, so I told him to keep going.  He yelled over his shoulder "This sucks!".  Pretty funny!
Heading up World Drive we passed another DJ who was giving out college football and baseball playoff scores.  I think Victoria was probably happy Alabama beat Florida that day!  This DJ was also cool because he was standing on the top of a mini orange VW bus.  Leah lost her brother 3 years ago and he drove an orange VW bus.  Seeing that bus made me & Leah smile because it was like PJ was there to support his sister during her first half marathon.  Really nice moment of the night.

Miles 10 to 13.1:  Mile 10 we were now in Hollywood Studios (MGM for us old school Disney folks).  It is the longest we run through any Disney park and it is probably the park I have now run through the most.   As we were entering the park, cast members or volunteers (or both) were yelling "Welcome to Hollywood", loved it!  Love running past the Tower of Terror at night, seems so creepy!  Ran through Pixar Place and then after this point I got all turned around - LOL!  I do know we went through the costuming department tunnel.  This year they had the lights and fans on.  Two things that were missing last year - thank you!  
We headed through Lights, Motor, Action! and on to the backlot and the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights.  Last year more lights were lit and it truly took my breath away.  This year, only half of the lights were on, but I was still enjoying the atmosphere and the christmas music!  
Once we exit Hollywood Studios, there is only about 1.5 Miles to go.  I then headed down the path towards the Boardwalk and past the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.  I just missed seeing Leah's parents outside the Beach Club :(  This is a great part of the course because there are so many spectators cheering you on!  
Is it just me, but no matter how many of these things you run, are you always digging deep through the last mile or so?  I was taking all the energy I could from the spectators and the volunteers in that last mile. 
Once past the Beach Club we headed towards International Gateway (back entrance to Epcot), and took a left into the Epcot backstage area.  We ran behind Canada, Journey into Imagination, The Land, Living Seas with Nemo, before finishing outside of Epcot in the parking lot.  
The volunteers and the encouraging signs they were holding at the end of the race were fantastic!  Mixed with the "Olympic" music and the "Rocky" music... what a fun way to end the race!  I saw my "Cold Beer Ahead" sign, so I was as happy as can be :)

Race Results:  Not my fastest time and not my slowest time.  I did beat last year's Wine & Dine time by 11 minutes, so that makes me happy!  It also makes me happy to realize how far I have come over the last year.  Taking the Disneyland half into consideration, I have taken 20 minutes off my half mary time.  Yup, I'll take it!

Finish Line Area:  Amazing!  Large, spacious, easy to get around.  After crossing the finish line, I got my medal, went through the picture, water, Powerade and food lines. 
Geoff had mentioned to me on Sunday night that he was surprised I had not caught up to him by the end of the race.  He started to have serious knee issues once he had passed me at Mile 9, so his pace slowed down.  That got me thinking, so I looked up our clock times... we finished 3 seconds apart.
Check out the photo... so funny and goes to show just how much you are focused on nothing but the finish line at the end of 13.1
Bag check was so super easy this year.  In... out... no problem at all.  
runDisney had two huge tents set up as changing areas (one male and one female).  No need to be modest in here.  Change yo' shirt and go and party!  Loved the changing areas - thank you!  My only suggestion would be... could there be port-a-potties set up out there? If there were, I missed them and should have had my glasses on.  There were really long lines throughout the park and sometimes you just gotta go after 13.1 miles :)
Once through the runners area, I handed over my "drink coupon" which was attached to my race bib.  They had soda, Bud and Bud Light for us.  I was disappointed they did not have better beer to choose from (maybe throw in a Heineken or a plastic cup of wine?), but I took a Bud.  Like I would say no to a beer.  With a cold beer in hand less than 15 minutes after the race and heading to Epcot to meet up with friends sounds like a mighty good night to me!

Post Race Party: This year for the post race party all of Epcot was open to the runners and their guests.  This worked out much better than having only World Showcase open like last year.  The lines for the food & beverage stands were not too long and we really got to enjoy our late night in Epcot!  
My favorite food at the festival this year... the lamb chop from Australia, loved it!  We made stops at the UK pub (Leah prefers Gin &Tonics above all else) and then one final stop at the US stand for lobster rolls!  As someone whose family lives in Maine, I thought the lobster was pretty good.
We were there until closing (again).  Since we were staying at the Beach Club we only had to walk a short distance back to our hotel.  No cars, no buses, it was great!
Unfortunately not all of us got to enjoy the post race party.  Sue was not feeling great during and after the race and Geoff's knees were really bothering him, so they headed out early.  They stayed at the Dolphin Resort, which is another great choice for this weekend since it is also in walking distance to Epcot.  Sue has what you would call FOMO (Fear of missing out), so she left Epcot that night with a heavy heart.  Don't worry Sue, there's always Princess weekend and of course, you could come back next year for Wine & Dine :) 

Overall thoughts:  I thought this was a phenomenal runDisney event.  My favorite by far.  Granted there is not as much entertainment on the course as other races, but the fun you can have at Epcot afterwards makes up for it!  The whole weekend was very organized and easy to get around.

My year of running Disney:  In February I started this blog as a way of documenting my year running through the Disney Parks.  Of course, my blog has become about more than just the Disney races (though those are always my most popular posts).  
I started off the year with the Princess half marathon and now I am just 87 days from running the Disney Marathon, my first!  Wow, what a fun year filled with a lot of good memories and great times with my family & friends.  The best part is, it's not over yet!  My parents, sister, niece, two of my good friends from home, aunt and cousin will be here in January to cheer on me, Amanda and my uncle in Marathon.
And then the year starts all over again when Leah, Sue and Annette (of course!) run the Princess half in February.  Good times!

In case you missed any of my 2010 runDisney recaps... here you go:

Monday, October 10, 2011

runDisney Meet Up & Eat Up

On the Friday morning before the Wine & Dine half marathon, I was lucky enough to be one of the participants of the runDisney Meet Up & Eat Up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  They announced the meet up on the Disney Parks blog and the first 25 or so people to RSVP were to be included in the group. 
We met at the sports complex at 7am, where we checked in and met Bob Hitchcock from runDisney's PR department, and our gracious host for the morning, as well as the other participants.  I met a couple of fellow bloggers, Heather from Run Faster Mommy, and Rachel from Runner’s Tales.
We were then taken down to the track where we met Brooks Johnson, an Olympic track coach.  He has coached a runner in every Olympics since the 60’s.  
He spoke to us about form and how relaxing our shoulders and using our arms will help us to go faster without having to move our legs any faster.  We broke into groups and gave this a try under his watchful eye.  Great tips I will not soon forget.
Once Brooks was done speaking with us, we then met Jeff Galloway, official training consultant for runDisney.  He is a well known running coach of thousands, known for his run/walk/run method.  He also happens to be a former Olympian, has run over 130 marathons (including every Disney Marathon) and has been running for over 50 years.
He spoke with us about the race the next night and how to properly fuel yourself throughout the day on Saturday.
At that time we also heard from Anton Van Zyl and Melissa Wisner winners of last year’s inaugural Wine & Dine half marathon.  
They gave us tips on what to expect from the course and as Anton was talking, he looked over at the runDisney folks and said something along the  lines of "The course will be well marked again this year, right?"  Can you imagine being worried about the course being well-marked?  I would never be worried about that :)  Ahhh, the concerns of the elite runners, right?  Good thing Anton asked, because he went on to repeat as champion again this year.  Melissa finished 5th this year, both awesome results!
The group then went on a 1.8 mile run with either Jeff or Melissa and Anton around the sports complex.  I joined the group that was running with Jeff, because well, he's like a legend. 

During the run he spoke about his run/walk/run method.  He believes that this method of completing a race will help you prevent injuries over time.  He even mentioned one time when he was in Athens to run THE Marathon, his group was visiting a museum where they came across an article about how all the participants of the very first marathon ran/walked the course.  Interesting little tidbit.

Both Brooks and Jeff have so much experience in this sport it was great to hear from both of them.  They also have different opinions on running, which I found very interesting.  
Once we were done with the run we went up to the ESPN Sports Grill for a cooking demonstration with Disney chef Gary Jones.  
He is a fellow athlete and spoke to us about nutrition.  He made some delicious Quinoa Birchermuesli which we all got to taste.  I'll be sure to share the recipe soon!
Mickey Mouse was taking an interest on how the volunteers were doing mixing all the ingredients.  These characters sure do have character.  Mickey was making me laugh :)
We also heard from Farron Kelly of runDisney and he mentioned that a possible 4th running weekend was in the works for Walt Disney World!  I don’t care what it is, I am in! 
He also mentioned that if all goes well at the inaugural Tinker Bell half marathon this year, there may be more races for Disneyland!  AND they are even in the beginning stages of talks with the overseas parks for race weekends at those locations.
Farron discussed how it just a little over a year ago that the Disney races were re-branded ‘runDisney’.  Comparing what I experienced this year, compared to the 2010 race weekend, you can tell they have found their groove.  Signage was super clear everywhere from the expo, to the hotels, to the start line to the finish line area.  Cast members around property are becoming more aware of these events and when I checked into the Beach Club, I received a race weekend program guide.  They are definitely a more recognized division within the WDW organization.  It must be a very exciting time for them!
Following the presentation we took a group picture with Chef Mickey, love that Mouse!
runDisney also had goody bags for all of us, love the swag!  We also received WWoS bags and individualized t-shirts commerating our meetup event.  They even had our twitter handles printed on our shirts.
What a thoughtful souvenir, I absolutely love mine!
The group was then able to shop the runDisney merchandise at the expo before it opened to the public.

I was hoping for the pink Coast to Coast tech shirts they had in California, but there were none, so I got this awesome tech shirt instead.
I love Epcot, I love drinking around the world there and I love the Wine & Dine half marathon.  Love, love, love this shirt!
After the shopping extravaganza, we were brought over to the HP Field House where we were able to jump to the front of the line for packet pick-up before everyone else (Do not look anyone in the eyes) It was great!

After that our VIP treatment was over… sad face :(
I was so glad to be a part of it!  Bob Hitchcock from runDisney was a great host, always ensuring his guests were having a good time.  Thank you Bob!
I know that I love the runDisney brand, thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere at their events, and will always encourage friends and family to participate with me in these races. 
If you haven't done so already, "like" runDisney on Facebook and follow them @DisneySports on Twitter.  Who knows... maybe you could participate in their next Meet Up!