Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Running Route Review: Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort

Hi again!  I’m freshly back from our long summer vacation at Disney World…

… our worst Disney vacation ever.

 So bad, we sought refuge in the Tiki Room.  The TIKI ROOM, people!  It doesn’t get much worse.

(See that middle guy up top – with the drum?  That’s what I looked like for nine days.)

It was HOT.  And CROWDED.  And RAINY.  And there was a whole lotta Magic missing. 

Seriously- Worst. Disney trip. EVER.

I have many thoughts about what went wrong, what was within and outside of Disney’s ability to control and how things could be vastly improved… but, frankly, I’m sick of wasting any more energy on such a crappy vacation.  I just want to move on, y’know?  Truth is, we’re local, WDW is a cheap getaway, and I’m already invested thanks to DVC and annual passes; we’ll go back and Mickey knows it. 

Instead of griping about what went so spectacularly wrong, I want to share what went RIGHT – the couple of training runs I put in!

It’s crazy, I know, but morning temps in central FL are more pleasant than at my home on Florida’s Gulf coast.  Still humid, but cooler and with some movement to the air.  So, despite that fact that it was, indeed, a HOT trip, my morning runs were almost refreshing.  If by “refreshing” one means temps in the mid-70s and 100% humidity.  Trust V – that trumps high-80s and 100% humidity!

Run 1: short run at Saratoga Springs Resort

I went into this one with absolutely dead legs and feet that hurt from the start; speed was not going to happen.  I decided I’d settle for 35 minutes of whatever type of forward motion I could muster and set out just after sunrise, around 6:40am.

I'd gotten a jogging map from the front desk, but didn’t need it; I know my way around pretty well at this point and I was just planning to run loops until I hit my time goal.

Our room was in the Grandstand section of Saratoga Springs Resort (SSR), so I walked a bit from there and then took a loop through the Treehouse Villas, thinking it would make for a shaded and scenic first mile or so.  Meh.  It is shaded, but not so scenic; mostly road and tall pine trees.  No sidewalks and a fairly narrow roadway, so I paid close attention to buses coming and going.

Leaving the Treehouses behind, I ran back past the Grandstand and over to the Springs, which houses the main pool, restaurants, golf shop, front desk, spa and DVC preview center.  There were a few sleepy folks there getting coffee and the maintenance team was setting up the pool deck, but I had plenty of room to run at that early hour.

Crossing back behind the Springs, I looped around Congress Park, which features a lovely view across the water of Downtown Disney.

From there, I crossed the main street and made a partial loop through the Paddock.  I really liked that section – plenty of shade, a nice breeze off the lake and these super-cute markers that measure distance in furlongs!


I made it through 35 minutes, 11 seconds for a total distance of 2.75 miles.  Yeah, that’s a 12:48 average pace. Bleh.  But I was happy to have gotten it done.  I was happy right up until I faced the first set of stairs at Typhoon Lagoon an hour or so later.  I do not recommend a water park after running.  Trust V.

Run 2: 6 miles through SSR and Downtown Disney

My training plan called for 6 miles at the tail end of my vacation.  I considered saving it for when I got home, but I was tense and irritated from the aforementioned issues at WDW and thought a good, long run was just what I needed.  I was right.

This time, I ran my SSR loop in reverse, partially looping the Grandstand, up to the Springs, over around the Paddock and Willow Lake, and down the lake side of Congress Park.  From there, I continued on the path instead of circling back and landed at the far end of Downtown Disney's Marketplace.  As I neared the Marketplace, I heard my iSmoothRun app’s voice tell me I’d hit 2 miles.  I planned to do my Galloway Magic Mile in mile 3, so I focused on that instead of pausing for pictures as I continued down through the Marketplace, Pleasure Island and into Downtown Disney’s Westside.  Sorry.

FYI - Downtown Disney?  Hilly.  I feel pretty sure there are no natural hills there, but Disney placed all sorts of ups and downs, including one torturous climb up to Pleasure Island, in the landscape.  Had I known this, I’d have done my Magic Mile elsewhere.  But once I’d committed, I pushed hard and produced a pace of 11:21 for mile 3.  That’s 11 seconds faster than my previous Magic Mile – but with hills!  And on deaddeaddead Disney legs!  Yeah, I’m pretty happy with that.

Wiped out, I finished the rest of my run at an easy pace, reversing my course back through Congress Park and the Paddock, around the Grandstand, through a partial loop of the Treehouse Villas, and back to the Grandstand, where I filled a laundry bag with ice and gave my legs a good cool down in an ice bath.

In the end, I cut the run to 5.56 miles in 1:10:04.  Add in my warm-up and cool-down walks, not to mention the couple miles walked later in the day, and I’m totally fine with five and a half instead of six.

We moved to Port Orleans Riverside (POR) that morning, which was, admittedly a little rough – hauling luggage up and down stairs after running was not fun.  But then I crashed at the POR pool for a few hours, which I HIGHLY recommend!  Getting off my feet in a lounge chair or floating weightlessly in the cool pool water made for a great recovery.  I was tired that night, but woke the next day feeling up to tackling Blizzard Beach and its many, many stairs.

I had a third run planned for our final morning at POR, but I bailed on it.  We stayed out late the night before and sometimes sleep trumps a run; that was one of those times.

But… we’re still planning to go back to POR over July 4th.  And I’ve got a short run planned while there.  So you can bet I’ll be back with another Disney running route review!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Make a New Plan, Stan... er, V.

So, having registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge… which comes on the heels of the WDW Half-Marathon… which is preceded by a late October Halloween Halfathon… which immediately follows the Tower of Terror 10-Miler…

I need a PLAN.

Not just any plan.  A Plan that’ll get me through these races without injury.  A Plan that’ll prevent physical and mental burnout.  A Plan that helps me improve my pace.  A Plan that also allows for a social life outside of convening with pavement.  (Not that I have one of those – a social life – but I’d settle for some nap time in its place…)  In short, I need a Plan with the strength and precision of a D-Day invasion.

I got to work on creating said Plan before I even registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge (GSC).  I started with Jeff Galloway’s Time Improvement Plan for the Wine & DineHalf-Marathon (I’m not racing that one, but it’s near the date of my October half, so it seemed like a good pick), and cross-pollinated it with his Tower10-Miler Time Improvement Plan.  Then, I added a layer of his Dumbo Double Dare Plan (because there isn’t a plan yet for the GSC), and filled in the small gap between it and the Wine & Dine Plan with Galloway’s WDW Half-Marathon Time Improvement Plan.  Finally, I sprinkled on top a bit of Hal Higdon’s distance training plans and filled in my own cross-training/strength training regimen.  And…


Note how I’ve pre-scheduled myself at the ER every other week.  That’s pro-active, baybee.

No, no, I’m not really planning on being in the ER!  Not that often, anyway.

ER = Easy Recovery run
ST = Strength Training
Hills = bridge repeats… we don’t have hills here in coastal Florida
MM = Galloway’s “Magic Mile”

I’ll make the final call as I get to that time, but my thought is to race the 10-Miler for time, spend a couple weeks recovering well, race the Halloween Halfathon hard for time, recover and build up again to race the WDW Half for time, recover and build again to race the Enchanted 10K hard for time and go easy on the Princess Half the next day.  We’ll see.

Anyone else getting their Plans in order? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Glass Slipper for One, Please.

I have to admit it – I was having second (third, fourth…) thoughts about tackling the Princess Half-Marathon again in 2014.  Not because I have any doubts about my physical abilities… but because of the drama that seems drawn to this race, especially.

Until a week or so ago, I’d been feeling pretty good about trying the GlassSlipper Challenge, which combines the Enchanted 10K on Saturday with the Princess Half-Marathon the following day.  I like the distance – 19.3 miles over 2 days; more than a half, less than a full, with a long nap in-between.  I’ve been saving money from my grocery budget each week (don’t worry – we’re all still well fed!) to pay the gigantic registration fee.  Most of all, I’ve been chatting with a GREAT group of stranger-friends on the Internet – new runners, accomplished runners, never-run-before runners, just talking about training plans, race logistics, registration processes, sharing what I learned from my own experience, cheering on and supporting the folks who are where I was a year ago, all have made me pretty darned sure I wanted another crack at Princess.

And then the drama hit.  Some folks found a “secret” link to register before registration actually opened.  Some folks thought taking advantage of that situation was very, very wrong.  Others felt it was perfectly fine.  Some wanted the link to be shared; others said “no.”  Feelings were hurt.  Frustrations were expressed.  Resentment set in.  Judgments of character were made.


Personally, I don’t have an opinion on the “secret” link situation.  I chose not to use it, for a number of reasons.  I also chose not to be offended by anyone who did try it because, really, it’s not my place to police others’ behavior.   But the whole thing brought back to me the not-so-Fuzzy feelings I had going into the 2013 Princess Half.  By Saturday, June 1, I’d decided to skip the whole dang Princess weekend.

And then I saw this:

The 2013 Prefontaine Classic.  Seventeen-year-old Mary Cain came in 5th in the 800 meters… setting a new high school record.  And was promptly celebrated  by her competitor, Alysia Montano, in a big, big, classy way.  (As an aside, this is particularly special to me – a gal who loveloveloves wearing a big, flamboyant flower in her hair.)

Not gonna lie – it made me cry.

Because that’s what the running community is to me: a place in which we support and encourage one another and celebrate the success of our fellow runners, whether they be proven elites or newcomers.  Seeing an athlete of that caliber take a moment to say “Good job!” instead of indulging in a round of self-pity for not coming in first reminded me that the drama isn’t everywhere, and it doesn’t have to impact my enjoyment of running any race.

So, THANK YOU Alysia Montano, for being a class-act and for showing us all how to create some positive drama in our running lives.  As for me, well…

Dear Vanessa,
Congratulations! You are now registered for 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Please check the event's official website for updates:http://www.runDisney.com
View your complete registration details »
This is for the 2014 Glass Slipper Challenge on Saturday, February 22, 2014 and Sunday, February 23, 2014.

Bring it. :)