Monday, June 23, 2014

Confessions of a Run/Walking Princess

So, it’s begun.  

What up, Snow? Haters gotcha down?

A couple weeks out from the opening of 2015 Princess Half-Marathon registration, eight months before the race, long before anyone has even begun training in earnest for it, the ranting and debates about this race have already started.

From what I’ve seen in various online groups, the primary issue seems to have to do with participants who walk and on-course congestion.  As a mid-to-back of the pack racer, I am entirely familiar with both of these topics, so I’ll say a little something here and leave it at that.

Confessions of a run/walking Princess.

That’s right – I walk some of my races.  In fact, I’ve even walked most of several races.  Sometimes due to injury, sometimes because I’m not feeling great, and sometimes because I don’t care about time and just want to have some fun chatting with a friend, stopping to take pictures, or otherwise enjoying the scene. 

And here’s the thing: I am not alone.  Lots and lots and LOTS of people walk in runDisney races.  And a fairly huge percentage of Princess racers will walk some or all of the race.  In a perfect world, all of us walking folks would be kept far away from the running folk, and we’d all only travel in groups going the exact same pace, and we’d never, ever bunch up and block another runner or walker in their quest to go faster. 

Guess what?  That scenario’s about as likely to happen as world peace.  

"What is the one most important thing our society needs?"
"Harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan."

The reality is that, whether walking or running, a race with almost 30,000 participants is going to have a huge variety of individual speeds, all trying to move forward.  runDinsey tries hard to get us starting with folks close to our own speed by asking our estimated finishing times… but registering eight months out makes that tough; how does someone who’s never before run a half-marathon distance know how fast they’ll be that far in the future?  She doesn’t.  We guess, runDinsey guesses, and we all do our best to make that an educated guess.  If one is able to race a 10K or greater distance and submit that finishing time to runDisney, the guess is based on greater validity, but the end result is still just a guess that can’t take into account illness, injury, or other life happenings that can increase or decrease a racer’s speed. 

So, come race day, a whole lot of individual situations converge onto a single race course.  One person trained to run/walk set intervals, stayed healthy and is ready to stick to those intervals all 13.1 miles.  The person next to her trained the same, but woke up feeling icky and has to walk more than she ever did in training.  Someone in a corral ahead of them turned in a super-fast proof of time and regularly runs a sub-7:00 pace, but pulled a hamstring playing football with his kid a week before the race.  Someone else in the very last corral is just as fast, but has been traveling non-stop for work and was unable to provide a proof of time.  The race turns out to be hotter than expected and several hundred women end up walking, when they planned to run.  The race turns out to be cooler than expected and several hundred women run more than they ever thought they could.  Tutus turn out to be harder to run in than imagined.  New shoes hurt.  Characters on both sides of the course cause racers of all abilities to zig-zag back and forth to get photos.  Runners not wanting to stop try to go around slower racers, but suddenly find the course narrowing. 

Picture all of this happening, times 30,000, over 13.1 miles.  Got a mental picture?  A bit chaotic, no?  

So, is it any wonder that sometimes a slow walker ends up smack-dab in front of a faster runner?  Or that a speedy runner accidentally clips a person standing in line for a photo?  I myself am guilty of the following infractions: walking in the center of the course, bumping arms as I passed a slower racer, walking more than two abreast, moving slower than my estimated finish placement.  And I am sure that I've frustrated other racers. 

What those frustrated folks didn't know was that I chose to walk in the middle because, before I slowed down, I looked around and saw that there were no walkers, only fast runners, on either side, but  someone else walking in the middle, so to avoid clogging things up, I opted to walk behind him.  And the woman with whom I bumped arms probably didn't know that I did so after someone on my other side bumped me, even though I did say "I'm so sorry!" as it happened.  I'm sure the folks coming around a corner to see me and two other racers walking three abreast had no idea that I began walking in a wide open space, only to be joined by two strangers seconds later.  And, certainly, there was no way for other racers to realize that I qualified for my corral placement with a personal record in another race, but had since sustained an injury.

I'm not excusing obvious, intentional rudeness here; that, too, happens on the race course, as it does in every other facet of life.  But I want people - especially people new to runDisney and the Princess Half-Marathon - to realize that not every infraction against "proper race etiquette" is intentional or malicious.  The reality is that there are a whole lotta folks with a whole lotta different abilities and experiences converging in one place and, well... shit happens.

I'm seeing that some folks have had it with the realities of the Princess Half and have chosen not to participate in the race again.  I totally understand this and have had such thoughts, myself. But at some point I realized that, for me, the fun of running at Walt Disney World outweighs some of its challenges.  And that I have lots of choices about how to handle the actions of others.  Personally, I choose to assume no one out there is trying to screw up my race.  I choose to assume we're all doing the best we can with the situation at hand.  I choose to adjust my expectations and roll with whatever comes my way.  I choose to be courteous, and kind, and supportive of my fellow racers.  I choose to be honest and open with readers looking for information about races, to not launch into rants about who "should" or "shouldn't" be allowed to race, or how everyone "must" behave, in order to best prepare them for the realities of runDisney races.

As you may have deduced by now, yes - I'm planning to run Princess again.  The Glass Slipper Challenge, in fact.  And maybe - just maybe - the Triple Crown again.  And I am determined to make it a great experience, for myself and for others!

Happy Princesses make better dancers - and runners!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Running SKIRTS Review: C9, Skirt Sports, Sparkle Skirts

I know – I am way, way, WAY overdue for a new post.  I’d like to say I’ve been ever so busy, but… mostly I’ve been bitter.  About this:

photo from runDisney

Yep, runDisney finally announced the long-rumored Star Wars race weekend.  To be held in DisneyLAND.  Nowhere near Florida, the state I can’t afford to leave for the foreseeable future.


That’ s a personal issue and I won’t waste time complaining about it here.  But it has been a downer.

Know what else has been a downer?  Summer.  In Florida.  The state I can’t afford to leave anytime soon.  Yes, the deep, dank, soul-sucking season of equatorial heat and monsoons is here and I’m already sick of it.


But you’re not here to listen to me whine about races I’m not running or weather I can’t control, right?  Let’s get back on track…

…with a RUNNING SKIRTS REVIEW!  Yep, that’s skirts, plural.  

C9 from Target

I've been exercising in C9 (a partnership brand between Champion and Target) clothing since its inception, and have found the brand to be inexpensive, comfortable and durable.  So when I wanted to try a running skirt, a C9 model was the first I tried.  And it was the only skirt I used for the better part of two years.  But last year, C9 changed up its skirts with some new shapes and fabrics, just as my old ones were getting a touch too big from a combination of weight loss and wear and tear.  So I bought this one as a replacement:

Photo from
Photo from

I'm not in love with it, sadly.

  • A drawstring at the waist is a really nice touch and means that as I lose pounds on a summer run, I can quickly adjust the waist to a more secure fit.
  • This is so lightweight, I'm nearly unaware of wearing it.  Fabric is really thin, but opaque; no see-through issues. And it dries very quickly - a major plus when using it for non-running activities such as water rides at theme parks.
  • The black front panel/grey back panel is surprisingly flattering.  I worried that it would make my backside look overly ample, but no. And the A-line shape and length is perfect on me.
  • Only one: the legs roll up.  The legs rolling up thing isn't new; it happens with every one of my C9 skirts.  I've just accepted it; if it's hot enough to bare my legs entirely, then it's also hot and humid enough that I'm sleek with sweat - no need to worry about chafing.  So I was happily running in this skirt regularly.  Until I tried...

Skirt Sports - Gym Girl Ultra

A sale coupled with free shipping and the recommendation from several friends led me to give this beauty a try.  First reaction: overall, it felt a bit heavier than my C9 skirts, but the fabric itself was thin and light.  The skirt is split on both sides to facilitate movement and access to pockets on each leg of the shorts.  

This is upside-down. Blogger won't let me fix that. Sorry.
I have trust issues, hence the safety pin to keep my keys from falling out.
It was unnecessary, though - keys stayed put just fine!

So did a Clif Shot.
The shorts are made of a mesh material, and there is an exterior zippered pocket on the back of the waist.  This is a beautifully engineered skirt that is incredibly well-made.  It was $45 on sale, so almost double what I paid for my C9 skirt, but the superior quality was evident immediately.  I took this on a seven mile run for a test...

  • Not quite as noticeably light as my C9 skirt, but still very lightweight.
  • So cool and airy!  The mesh shorts and split skirt made this super comfortable on a very hot run.
  • Low and not too-squeezy waistband.  This may actually be a low-rise on a taller person.  On me, it fits just where and how I like it: below my belly-button, but above my hip bones, and securely without digging-in in any way.
  • Pockets!  The leg pockets are awesome. I can stuff a few gels in each, lip balm, car key, etc.  My iPhone 4S fits, too, but I prefer to keep it elsewhere.  The back pocket is pretty big and could also fit some gels, keys, etc.
  • Shape - not quite as flattering as the A-line of the C9, but good enough that I don't feel silly in it.  And roomy enough to not hamper my stride in any way.
  • Leg openings that DO. NOT. BUDGE.  I truly didn't know what I'd been missing until this skirt came into my life!  The legs stayed put for all 7 miles and I realized at some point that was much more comfortable than the rolled-up legs of my C9 skirts.
  • Um... there really aren't any!  I might not want to overload the back pocket, as I think too much weight in there could pull the waistband down uncomfortably.  But with the other two side pockets available, I can't see any need to overload it anyway.  That's all I've got for cons.  I LOVE this skirt! Truly worth every penny of its cost.

Sparkle Skirts - Sparkle Tech in Swing and Slim styles

HUGE pocket on the side of each shorts leg.

First, know that the Sparkle Skirt brand is pretty much legendary among the ladies who run Disney.  Join any Disney-focused running group and you'll hear the virtues of these skirts extolled: "The pockets! The legs that don't ride up! The patterns!"  People adore this brand!  I had to give it a try and I couldn't decide between two patterns of the SparkleTech skirt.  So I got both!  And have tried each...

  • Both of these are fabulous alternatives to wearing shorts in the summer for non-running activities.  Which is really great, since I can't seem to find shorts that fit properly and are flattering on me.
  • The leg pockets are enormous!  There's almost no limit to what can be stuffed in there. There's also a zippered waist pocket that can be worn in front or in back and it would hold quite a bit, too.
  • It's true: the legs don't roll up at all!
  • The patterns available (with new ones being added regularly) are pretty amazing.  These two skirts collectively coordinate with nearly every running and non-running shirt I own!
  • I ordered the Slim cut a size bigger to get a bit more A-line shape, as I'd heard that it can look a little too squeezy otherwise.  It's not exactly A-line, but does seem to hang nicely on me.  
Rockin' Comic Relief at WDW's Star Wars Weekend!

  • These skirts feel surprisingly heavy to me.  The skirt fabric is quite lightweight, but the shorts are a thicker, denser material.  I'd bet that's perfectly fine almost anywhere else in the US, but they felt a little much for running in the heat here.  They weren't causing heat stroke or anything, but compared to the Skirt Sports skirt, the Sparkle Skirts aren't nearly as light and airy feeling.
  • I don't love the height and tension of the waistband.  These are cut to land at the natural waist, which is just plain higher than I like.  I find that I'm acutely aware of the tight waistband as I run. 
  • I'm not thrilled with the shape of the Swing style, at least not for running.  I found that the extra material kept getting caught between my legs - not a mechanical problem, but annoying.  It's quite cute, though, for non-running activities, I think.

  • Price.  Sparkle Skirts aren't cheap.  You are paying for a well-made product, but at $60+ per skirt, they're more than I can reasonably afford for running apparel.  In the end, I decided to pool my budget for running and non-running bottoms, figuring I could use these for both, otherwise this would be a no-go for me.

In the end, I'm glad I got the Sparkle Skirts; they've already become my go-to bottoms for summer.  Even if I never run in them again, they're great alternatives to shorts for our frequent theme park days!  

I may not ever again buy a C9 skirt, which is a shame.  The shape is so nice, the fabric so light, but I've been spoiled by legs that don't ride up and my poor C9 skirts now reside at the bottom of my drawer.

I am now a total devotee of the Skirt Sport brand.  I bought a 2nd Gym Girl Ultra, also on sale, and also tried out a Marathon Chick skirt that was on clearance.  The Marathon Chick skirt has built-in spankies instead of shorts, is entirely composed of a breezy mesh fabric, and is really nice on particularly hot days.  

In the end, I encourage anyone thinking of a new running skirt to try a few brands and see what works best for your preferences, shape and style.  It's great that we have so many choices - something for everyone!