Thursday, February 27, 2014

Race Recap: 2014 Cinderella Royal Family 5K!

Okay, yes, I will be the first to admit it… my last post was BORING.  But so was my day – as it was supposed to be; calm, relaxed, boring in preparation for the insanity about to ensue.

At 3:30am.  Also known as Stupid-Early.  That’s when the insanity ensued.  Leg 1 of my go at the Princess Triple Crown: the Cinderella Royal Family 5K.

The race didn’t start until 6:15am, but we had to be at the start line staging area by 5am, which meant leaving my hotel at 4:15am to fit in time to eat, use a porta-potty and see some friends before getting into our corrals.  And I needed 45 minutes to get myself together because – one of several big firsts for me that weekend – I had an actual costume to don!

Given my now-blonde hair and the 5K’s Cinderella theme, Cindy seemed like a natural fit and my outfit had a number of parts to get on, including a tiara.  Tiaras, of course, leave hair exposed, so I needed time to get my mop of blonde fuzz under control too. 

I opted to drive to the 5K because I’m not a fan of buses.  For one thing, the seats are always so high, my feet don’t reach the ground, which is not comfy before or after a race.  Also, buses would need to make a few stops to pick up folks all around my hotel, which takes time; I knew driving would be faster, allowing me more time to get myself together and eat.  And then there’s this: buses are full of people, and people in February are all too often cesspools of germ activity.  I needed to stay healthy for two more races, so driving my own car was a no-brainer.  For those considering the drive vs. bus conundrum, let me say this: it took me exactly 10 minutes to get from my Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) room to a parking space at Epcot, where the race was to begin and end. No WAY could a bus have gotten me there faster!  Now, that speed was offset some by a pretty decent walk to and from the race start/finish area.  I was fine with that, as my legs needed the stretch anyway, but do keep that in mind when making the decision yourself.

After a breakfast in my car of a bagel with peanut butter and a travel mug of the lukewarm brown water Disney insists on referring to as "coffee", I headed over to the staging area to meet up with my running group, take some pre-race pics and hit the porta-potties a couple times.  This was great for me; I don’t like feeling rushed and stressed about time, and I had ample time to chat away pre-race nerves and sort out any last minute costume issues… like, oh, ill-placed race bib pins.

Note: if you are short-waisted, watch where you're pinning your bib, or the pins can wind up in, er... unfortunate spots.  Many thanks to some good, good running friends for pointing this out before the race started.

I found the pre-race staging area to be amply sized for the 10,000ish folks racing and their accompanying friends/families; we had plenty of room to mill around and porta-potty lines were never too long.  Before long, it was time to get into our corrals and get the party started!

There's the Start line, waiting for us!
My assigned corral for the 5K was D, and corrals ran A through E.  The way things worked this year was that we got into our assigned corrals and waited as each corral, beginning with A, was routed out of its barricades, past the other corrals, and up to the Start.  The National Anthem was sung, the wheelchair participants took off, and then the corrals began.  It took about 5 or so minutes for each corral to start, so D didn’t head out until about 6:30am.

My goal for the 5K was to mostly walk, stop for lots of pictures, and generally just have a fun time with no attention paid to pace at all.  I was lucky to find that a couple of new running friends had the same plan and were in corral D with me.  We had an absolute BLAST!!!  I don’t think I could have asked for better partners in crime for that race; we were equal parts enthusiastic, silly, irreverent and tired and there was pretty much nothing we didn’t find fun along those 3.1 miles.

Our hilarity started early, as the course took us through a great, big parking lot devoid of any entertainment at all.  So.  We made our own, of course.

Most folks wait to stop for pics with Disney characters. We are not most folks. BEHOLD - a Disney power station!  Ooooooo, aaaaaahhhh!!!

So much confusion in one sign... if no pedestrians are allowed, how are we here? I don't recall signing up to allow any inspection of my truck, TYVM. And who the heck resides in Epcot???

Don't make me bust out the canine search, lady.

After a mile or so, we left the parking lot and backstage area to enter Epcot's World Showcase.

Probably the most frequent question asked about Disney races is, "How crowded are they?"
^THIS crowded. ^
Yep, it looked like that the whole way.
This is not the place to score a new PR, folks... unless you're going for a PR in Fun!
Which I was :)

The course then took us around World Showcase, through the pavilions of Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, and Morocco.  

If you do this race, you MUST stop for a picture with the Big Ball.  MUST!

Character photo stops were available all through there, including Mulan and Mushu, Dopey, and Aladdin and Jasmine.  We kept passing them by because the lines were sooooo long.  And we wanted to have time for more power station photos, of course.

Raise your hand if you got this reference...

And then, there was this, in France:

Remember me, V? I. Don't. Do. Character. Pics.  Only... now I do!  Another big first - I got over the weird factor of posing with some dude in a fur suit and got my photo opp on.  Go V!!!

But for every normal pic, there needs to be a bizarre-o one, so here:

Doesn't everyone stop for a little thoughtful rest in the middle of a race???

At that point, the course took us backstage again, which meant more rare photo stops.

KEGS! Disney KEGS!
This can only be captioned "WTF?!?!"

Just for the record, we were not the only ones taking weird pictures and laughing our asses off.  I don't know about the other corrals, but D was Party Central.  When our firework (yes, just one <sad trombone>) went off at the start, NO ONE in that corral ran!  We all just sauntered on through, acting like it was just another day in a theme park. La-di-dah, just strollin' along... Okay, there had to be some runners in there, but they were noticeably few and far between and that slow, fun pace continued throughout the race.  It was such a huge departure from how I've tried to race the past couple years, and you know what?  I LOVED it!

Just about as I was thinking "I could do this ALL day!", we cruised into Future World, past the Big Ball (Spaceship Earth, really, but it will forever be the "Big Ball" in my family), and back out to the parking lot to the Finish.  I got my first medal of the weekend, hugged my awesome friends goodbye, as they were heading home after the race, and thanked my lucky stars for such fun ladies to race with. :)

By the time I grabbed my post-race banana, water and box o' snacks, walked back to my car, and drove to CBR, it was nearing 9am and I felt like I'd already had a very full day.  But there was still more excitement to come!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Princess Triple Crown Weekend Recap - Part 1!

First things first… did ya hear today’s announcement? A new runDisney race weekend!  With… an AVENGERS theme!!!  I adore the Avengers.  Okay, I think Capt. America’s a little prissy, and I’d really like the Hulk to get some language lessons, but yeah – big, HUGE fan of the Avengers here.  Phil is my hero.  Nick Fury rocks my world.  RDJ as Ironman?  Please… ~SWOON~  So I’d be all sorts of stoked for this race, except… it’s in Disneyland.  Which is NOT in Florida.  

Yeah, not gonna happen for me.  But rumors continue to swirl about a possible STAR WARS themed race and you know who has this thing called STARWARS Weekends every year?  Walt Disney World.  In Florida!  Know what I adore even more than the Avengers?  STAR WARS!!!  Here’s hoping.

Okay, back to business… a 2014 Princess Half-Marathon Weekend Recap!

Oh my goodness – what a weekend!  The runDisney Cinderella Royal Family 5K Friday, Inaugural Enchanted 10K Saturday, and the Princess Half-Marathon Sunday, plus lots of amazing time spent with running friends between equals one very, VERY tired, but very, very VERY happy PrincessV!

This would be one epically long recap if I were to tackle it all at once.  And frankly, as a reader of blogs, I don’t ever want to see a post that long, let alone be the writer of it.  So I’ll take a small steps approach if you’re willing to keep coming back for more, dear reader.

I am so happy to report that Disney moved the Princess expo back to its original ESPN Wide World of Sports location this year and gave it more room to spread out, too.  Last year’s fiasco of an expo at the Coronado Springs Resort was a special kind of hell: long on lines, short on space, and bursting at the seams with disgruntled Princesses.  Not so this year!

I arrived at the expo around 11am, after making the drive to WDW and checking in at my hotel.  As they’d done for Marathon Weekend in January, Disney spread things out by housing bib pickup in a building separate from the expo itself and providing ample room for folks to get their race shirts, commemorative items and Race Retreat wristbands.

Plenty of space to move around at packet pickup!

The main expo floor, where vendors sell their wares, was loud and busy, but still felt better than last year.  There was a huge section of real estate given over to official race and runDisney (rD) merchandise, which eliminated the insane lines and congestion of last year.

rD merchandise was at the far end, while New Balance set up its shoe shop at the near end, with assorted other vendors in between.
After picking up my bibs and race shirts, I was on a mission to find the booth for one of my favorite brands – Another Mother Runner.  You may recall that I sported a Badass Mother Runner shirt in my first long distance race, the 2012 Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  Well, that super-awesome shirt is now much too big on me, so I wanted something new, plus I hoped to see one of the Mother Runners again, as it had been so nice to meet Sarah last year.  I was in luck!  I came away with two shirts that fit and a nice visit with Dimity!

Yes, I am very short - but Dimity is also very tall.
Two of my favorite running brands together - yay!

The Mother Runners just recently announced their official partnership with the rD brand and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them.  WTG ladies!

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the expo because, well, I’m not a shopper.  So I got in, ate some lunch (and enjoyed a quick visit with the lovely Tracy from my running group!), grabbed my stuff, and got out.  If you are a shopper, and are thinking about a future Princess race, plan to spend some time and money there – there was lots and lots to peruse!

By the time I’d finished up, I’d gotten a text alert that my room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) was ready, and I still had a car full of stuff to unload, so that’s where I headed.  I love the CBR and have stayed there many times over the years, but this was my first stay there over a race weekend.  I’ll give a full review on it as a race resort later, I promise.

I’d had thoughts of heading over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (it’ll always be MGM to me!) for a ride or two and dinner, but after getting all of my stuff unloaded, and getting tings arranged and prepped for the 5K the next morning, I was pretty tired.  So I opted to grab dinner at CBR’s food court and enjoyed this lovely view as I relaxed and ate.

With a start time of 6:15am, I needed to be up at 3:45am to get ready, and in my car by 4:45 to get to Epcot before they closed down roads for the Royal Family 5K: bedtime came early for the first of three nights.  I was in bed, falling asleep by 8pm, ready to get the party started the next day.

Shirts and bibs for #ALLTHERACES!

PSST: want another review of the expo? Head over to Run.Walk.FASTPASS.Repeat.!

Friday, February 14, 2014

2014 Princess Goals - One week to go!

Well, it’s almost here… today marks ONE WEEK until runDisney’s Princess Half-Marathon Weekend, in which I plan to go for the Princess Triple Crown!  What, you may ask, is a Princess Triple Crown?   The P3C is an unofficial term for running ALL the weekend’s races: the Cinderella Royal Family 5K on Friday, the Princess Enchanted 10K on Saturday, and the Princess Half-Marathon on Sunday.  #ALLTHERACES, people!

I ran a mini-P3C last week, just to get a sense of what three races over three days might do to me – I mostly walked 2.5 miles day one, ran/walked 5 miles day two, and put in 10 run/walk miles day three.  And it went really well!  I was shocked to find that my legs felt fine by day three; I really expected them to feel like dead weight, but no.  But I was feeling pretty run down and tired from battling the pollen flying around here in FL in quantities that could rival the snow coming down to our north… I wasn’t into that 10-mile run at all.  My mental state was utter garbage and I thought every mile, “I could totally bail at 7 or 8 miles and be fine…”  And I would have.  Bailed.  Save for the fact that I once again misjudged how far I was from home.

Capt. Picard could get the Enterprise home faster with a broken warp core.

So anyway – yeah, I completed a test run, I felt fine afterward, I recovered well, and in ONE WEEK I’ll do it again… only longer!

I’m pretty jazzed.  As perhaps you can tell.  I’m also tapering.  Which means I’m antsy… and anxious… and easily distracted.  So, to get my thoughts in order and relieve a little stress, I’ve decided to list some goals for Princess Weekend.

1. Stay healthy, inside and out.  It’s cold and flu season and I have the great misfortune of being unable to get the flu vaccine and having a moderately compromised immune system.  So I’ll be washing my hands often, turning/stepping away from anyone coughing up a lung, eating properly, and making sure I get adequate rest, even if that means a 6pm bedtime all three nights.

I’ll also be taking care of my overworked body.  Ice.  Stretching.  Foam rolling.  Rest.  And I need to…

2. Stick to the PLAN.  In order to finish all three races, and finish them feeling good, I. Must. Stick. To. The. Plan.  The Plan being: mostly walk the 5K, walk at least half of the 10K, start slow and listen to my body in the half-marathon, speeding up or slowing down as needed.  This is critical because if I stick to The Plan, I’ll…

3. Have FUN and FINISH!  I have NO time goal for these races.  None at all.  Though I do hope to get a new PR in Fun!  I want to notice my surroundings, take in the energy and entertainment, enjoy every moment.  I plan to stop for plenty of pics in the 5K, grab some more pics in the 10K, and at least stop for a castle pic in the half.  If I do that, stick to The Plan, and stay healthy, finishing should be the easiest part of the whole challenge!

I just know it’s going to be a super-fantastic weekend, full of good times, with good friends, yummy food, Magical entertainment and, yes, even some running – 22.4 miles of it.  My very best wishes go out to all of the other Princesses partaking of the weekend’s events: we’re all going to have a BLAST!  See you at the Finish!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Shoe Review: Mizuno Wave Sayonara!

Okay, here’s the deal on this delayed review…

I really didn’t want to like this shoe.  I have more than enough in the running shoe department, and I’m really happy with the Brooks Ravennas I just got.  So I was hoping the Mizuno Wave Sayonara would be a dud and I could return it for a refund.  I’ve worn this pair almost every day, even if I didn’t run, hoping some irritating little thing would pop up to show me they should go back.

No dice.

In fact, every time I put them on, they feel better, as if they’re starting to mold to my feet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

My first thought as I pulled the Sayonaras out of the box?  “What kind of idiot buys white running shoes in Florida, where I regularly have to run through mud puddles?!”  Answer: the kind who wants to coordinate her shoes with a race outfit, of course.  I could have gone for a bright fuchsia color instead, but don’t these just scream “Cinderella!”?!

Glass slippers, right?!

 Other thoughts included:

“Hey look – bright green laces again! Must be a trend.”

“These sure feel stiff…”

And, “That’s a nice heel!”

For a shoe that’s hardly what anyone would call “minimalist”, the Sayonara is surprisingly light and fast-looking.  I like the lack of a gigantic heel coupled with a non-pointy toe box.  And, after spending 10 miles constantly fiddling with the laces on my Ravennas, I was happy with the Sayonaras’ bumpy laces.

See that little label on the heel? It says "Wave Sayonara", or "Wave Goodbye!" Fun!

Trying them on, I was initially put off by how snuggly they hold my feet.  But after wearing them around the house for half an hour, I found that the snugness just may be what replaces a medial post for stability; the way the uppers are shaped give my feet lots of support without any sense of pushing them one way or another.  V likey.

Taking them on a short walk on the treadmill, I found that what I’ve read about the Sayonara is true: they offer stability on an as-needed basis.  In other words, my right foot, which requires no assistance to do its job, was allowed to move as it so desires, while my left foot, which tends to roll off my big toe while walking swiftly, received some counterbalance at toe-off, redirecting movement back toward the center of my foot.  I also found that the heel was equal parts cushiony and bouncy, which offered a very fluid transition from heel to toe.  V likey a lot.

Following another walk or two, I decided to test the Sayonara with a 4-mile run/walk, secretly hoping they’d feel lousy on the run.  Oh.  My.  Heck.  No.  They felt even better on the run!  The forefoot didn’t feel all that exceptional while walking, but running?  It felt like a little springboard under each foot!  As with the Ravennas, I found that the heel didn’t get in my way, despite a higher heel-to-toe drop (10mm) than I’m used to, and I was able to land forefoot first without effort.  I noticed, too, that as I transitioned from walk to run and back again, I wasn’t shifting weight forward or backward in my hips as I’m used to with the lower drop (4mm) Brooks PureFlows I’ve been wearing for the past year or so.  Maybe that’s thanks to the higher heel height?  I don’t know, but… V really likey.

My last run in the Sayonaras consisted of four miles of hill (bridge – we don’t have high hills in coastal Florida!) repeats in fog so thick I couldn’t actually see the bridge.  That meant very wet pavement, too, which the super-grippy treads of the Sayonaras handled beautifully.  One thing I didn’t like was that in the cool air, the soles initially felt very stiff and the thin mesh uppers left my toes feeling quite chilly.  But once warmed-up, I found the shoes to be very responsive on both ascent and descent and could really feel the high level of support in both directions.  V likey a whole bunch!

The other night, I opted to wear a pair of Brooks PureFlows for a short run – a pair with about 150 miles on them.  This was after two weeks of running and walking only in the Ravennas and Sayonaras.  And… I hated the PureFlows in comparison.  They felt much too squishy, like I was sinking down into the pavement with every landing, and after 20 minutes in them I was riddled with weird little pains in my knees, ankles, hips and feet.  All of which were remedied by a switch to the Ravennas for the last 15 minutes. 

I’ve concluded that either the PureFlows wear out for me around 150 miles (since I experienced the same thing with my first pair), or something has changed in my running that doesn’t mesh well with that shoe.  So… despite the fact that I have a pair of PureFlow 2’s with only 60 miles on them, and another brand-new pair in my closet, yes – I’m keeping both the Ravennas and Sayonaras.

The only question left is which pair for which race as I go for the Triple Crown (Princess 5K, 10K and Half-Marathon)?!