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I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

My Quest For Half Fanatics Part Three–Herb Parsons Trail Half Marathon

In case you missed it, parts 1 and 2 were about the Memphis Greenline Half and the runDisney Wine and Dine Half, respectively.  Part 3 was supposed to be about the Memphis St. Jude Half but Mother Nature intervened with an ice storm that caused the race to be cancelled.

Just to review, the basic Half Fanatic requirement is 3 half marathons in 90 days.  Since the first of 3 was on October 13, I’d have until around January 13, to get the third.  With this in mind, I spent the week after the cancelled race scouring the interwebs for anything within driving distance that would help me reach my goal.  I came up empty and resigned myself to just having to try again later.

Then fate intervened, or something like that.  Right before the new year, one of my local friends posted in a Facebook running group we both are members of that she was doing this local trail half on Sunday, January 5, so she could “moon up” this year in Half Fanatics (you can achieve higher levels of membership by completing more half marathons in a year, among other things).  I was elated!  I was going to get to be a Half Fanatic after all!  I completely ignored the part about it being a trail run.  I don’t have trail shoes.  I’m not trail trained.  I’m not sure I’ve ever even set foot on anything that can be considered a bona fide trail for longer than maybe a quarter of a mile.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I also completely ignored the weather, until after I had registered.  Pretty much as soon as I got the email confirmation of my registration, it was only then that I thought to check the forecast.  Freezing rain and snow.  Here we go again!

As the weather forecast continued to materialize over the course of the rest of the week, here’s how things were shaping up: a balmy mid to upper 40s at the start with a cold front moving in throughout the morning, bringing rain and wind, changing over to freezing rain and snow by early afternoon.  Cool!  I’ll be way done by early afternoon, I thought.  And that’s pretty much how the weather went down.  Except I wasn’t done by early afternoon.  See, here’s what happens when 30 mile per hour winds combine with pouring rain and falling temps in the mid to lower 30s within a half hour of race start:  the trail gets muddy.  You get soaked.  No amount of layered wicking clothing can keep you anywhere close to dry in that kind of rain.  A muddy trail without being trail trained and having no trail shoes means you fall down in the mud.  A lot.  Falling in the mud means you become muddy on top of being wet.  And sore.  There were parts of the trail where I literally had to climb up hills while holding on to tree trunks.  Another runner had to pull me out of the mud at one point, otherwise I might still be lying there (I kid). 

This hill was more steep than it looks.  It's where I took my first muddy tumble.

This hill was more steep than it looks. It’s where I took my first muddy tumble.

Other parts were so slippery I had to hang on to trees, almost swinging from trunk to trunk to keep moving forward while trying to stay vertical.  Also, the trail was not marked very well, and I thought I was lost more than once or twice.

Where do I go?

Where do I go?

 

I could go on and on about how miserable it was and how long it took me to finish, but I think you probably get the idea.  It wasn’t all bad, though.  The aid stations, although there were only 3 (well, 2 but we passed one twice), were very well stocked.  Of course you would expect water and electrolyte of some sort but there was also sodas, cookies, chips, m and ms, and chocolate candy bars.  This was much welcomed because I did not anticipate taking as long as I did to finish, and I was out of fuel by the halfway mark.  The sugar and salty snacks helped tremendously!  Also, Herb Parsons is a beautiful lake area, and had it not been pouring rain, I think it would have been very peaceful and enjoyable.

Herb Parsons Lake

Herb Parsons Lake

I’m so glad I did it, though.  Not only did I reach my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic, I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had.

Some of my clothes did not make it.

Some of my clothes did not make it.

 

I finished!

I finished!

I could have quit at three points in the race, but I didn’t.  Quitting is just not an option as far as I’m concerned.  Would I do it again?  Not in those conditions.  I would do a trail again, though, even that trail.  I would incorporate trails into my regular workouts and work my way up in trail mileage, however.  I completely underestimated how much more challenging a trail can be.  I would also get some trail shoes.

What’s the most challenging race you’ve ever finished?  What did you learn?

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My Quest For Half Fanatics Part Two–runDisney Wine and Dine

In case you missed part 1, which was the Memphis Greenline Half, you can find that recap here.

I was so incredibly excited for this race for a few reasons.  First of all, Wine and Dine was my inspiration race, the reason I started running in the first place.  Some of you already know the back story but in case you don’t, here is the short version.  I was at Walt Disney World Resort in October of 2011.  I arrived the same day as that year’s Wine and Dine Half and saw all the preparations being made the afternoon of the race.  The next day I saw lots of people walking around with their medals and wished I could do that.  After I got home, I did some research and decided to make that wish a reality.  I was determined to run in the 2012 Wine and Dine Half, which was scheduled for October but later moved to November to accommodate the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler.  I did the 10 miler instead and resigned myself to never getting to do Wine and Dine until one night in Spring of 2013 when I found myself in front of my computer registering anyway.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The other main reason for my extreme excitement was where we were staying–Beach Club! 

Disney's Beach Club

Disney’s Beach Club

I had never stayed at Beach Club but I got a really, really, really good rate on it, and the fact that it’s located just steps away from the Wine and Dine after party made it a deal I could not turn down!  I had always wanted to stay at Beach Club because of its proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios (but mainly Epcot) so I was stoked.

Wine and Dine is a bit different from other runDisney half marathons in that it is at night, starting at 10 pm.  Since I had done Tower of Terror, which is also a night race, I was better prepared for the challenge of a night race.  So on the morning of November 9, 2013 I got up, had a sensible breakfast at the France pastry shop in Epcot, went back to the resort and chilled by the pool for a few hours. 

Relaxing By the Pool

Relaxing By the Pool

Then I took a nap and at some point I also ate a turkey sandwich for lunch that I had purchased at the France pastry shop that morning.  My parents were out enjoying Epcot so I texted them to pick up a cheese plate for me also at the France pastry shop.  That was my dinner along with some sliced apples I had picked up at the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the night before, some crackers, and a Luna bar.  Normally I wouldn’t go into such great detail about what I ate before a race but with it being a night race lots of people ask how to eat during the day.

Ready to head out to the busses!

Ready to head out to the busses!

 

Around 7 pm I headed to the buses to go to the start line. 

Transportation Information

Transportation Information

Yes, 7 pm for a 10 pm start.  It really does take that long to get everyone there and in place.  Busses for runners only run between 7 and 8, and I wanted to be on an earlier one.  As soon as I got there I noticed 3 long lines right down the middle of the staging area.  I correctly guessed they were character lines but I could not tell who they were for.  I jumped in one and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Until finally I saw I was in line for Chef Goofy. 

Me with Chef Goofy

Me with Chef Goofy

The other lines were Chef Minnie and Chef Mickey.  Once I got my photo with Goofy it was time to meet some of my Princess Posse friends for our group photo. 

Princess Posse Friends

Princess Posse Friends

We sat around chatting for a bit, listening to the DJ, and trying to relax. 

I can't believe people were actually dancing before a half marathon.

I can’t believe people were actually dancing before a half marathon.

Before long it was time to head to the corrals.  I stopped at the potty then took my place.  Shortly thereafter, off we went!

Each corral got their own fireworks start.

Each corral got their own fireworks start.

Wine and Dine Start Line

Wine and Dine Start Line, complete with bubbles coming out of the champagne glass

We headed toward Animal Kingdom and took a quick loop around the park.  I loved the light up elephant tusks that welcomed us into the park.  I also loved seeing Everest all lit up at night.  Unfortunately I did not take any photos on the course so, sadly, I have nothing to show you.  This part was very dark and crowded so I really had to watch my step.  After leaving Animal Kingdom we headed back down Osceola Parkway toward Hollywood Studios.  This is the part that really made this race seem short to me.  It felt like we approached Hollywood Studios way earlier than I had anticipated.  So the last half of the race was filled with things to keep my mind occupied, and it flew by.

Running through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Hollywood Studios is the highlight for many during this race, and it did not disappoint.  You do have to run through the Studios for quite a bit before getting to them, though.  This only added to the anticipation of it for me and made it that much better when I finally got there.  Shortly after the lights, it was time to exit the Studios and head for the Boardwalk area between Studios and Epcot.  It was right at the exit of Studios that I had my biggest regret of the race.  I did not stop for a pic with Darth Vader.  The line was fairly short and I should have stopped.  I don’t know why I didn’t because it was the only pic I really wanted.

After exiting Studios, we ran along the path between Studios and Epcot and even ran right past the Beach Club.  I thought I might be tempted to stop at the hotel and just go to bed by that point, but nope!  I was still going strong.  We then ran through some backstage areas of Epcot before heading through Future World and out the front of the park towards the finish line.

At the finish line area I got my medal, food box, water, Powerade, banana, and my beer.  Wine and Dine is the only runDisney race that gives runners alcohol at the finish.  You get your choice of beer or wine.  Then it was time to head back to the entrance of Epcot for the after party, which was happening in World Showcase.  I took one look at how far away I was from the entrance, thought about how far Future World was from where I was standing, and almost wished I could just grab a bus back to my hotel.  I knew my parents were waiting for me at the after party so I just sucked it up and started walking.  I did text my mom to have my dad meet me as close to the entrance as he could so I could get my flip-flops and compression calf sleeves from him.  I don’t check a bag when my parents are there since my dad can just stash some of my things in his back pack.  This is one race that I wish I had, though.  I could have had my flip-flops and compression sleeves much sooner had I checked my bag there.

Once I got to the after party, I saw they were selling race merchandise.  I was hopeful that they were also selling the race banners from the displays at the expo. 

See the "I Did It" banners hanging in the expo?  I got one of those!

See the “I Did It” banners hanging in the expo? I got one of those!

Luckily they were, and I got the last “I Did It” banner.  I will figure out a place to hang that at some point in the future.  Dad and I met up with my mom, and I really didn’t want anything to eat.  I drank my beer and chatted with a few other runners.  Shortly thereafter I decided I would rather just go back to the room than fight the crowds for food and rides.  I always end up wishing I had stayed longer.  This was no exception but at that moment, leaving was what I wanted to do.

I really loved my Wine and Dine experience!  I do wish I had taken some photos along the course and stopped for Darth Vader.  If I ever do this race again I will check my bag so I can get to my stuff quickly.  Like always, I wish I had stayed at the party longer.  While it lacked the magic that Princess Half Marathon had, I think I like the course better.  It goes through 3 of the 4 parks so there is quite a bit to look at. 

With that, I was two-thirds of the way towards my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic.  Just to review, that’s 3 half marathons in 90 days.  The third was coming up in just four weeks, the Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon.  If you’ve been following along, you already know what happened with that race.  It was cancelled due to an ice storm.  My goal of becoming a half fanatic was all but gone.  Or was it?  Check back soon for part 3 of my quest and see if I was successful. 

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My Quest For Half Fanatics Part One–Memphis Greenline Half

Back in the summer when I was figuring out my race schedule and training plan for the rest of 2013, it occurred to me that on the weekend I had a 12.5 mile planned, there was a half marathon starting and finishing in the very park where I’d be doing my 12.5 and covered much of the same ground I’d be covering anyway.  When I also realized that it, along with the other 2 half marathons I already had planned, would qualify me for Half Fanatics, it became a no-brainer.  A few clicks later, I was registered.

Greenline Half Marathon

Greenline Half Marathon

So Half Fanatics is kind of like a club for people who like to run half marathons.  The minimum requirement to qualify for membership is either finishing 2 half marathons in a 2-week period or 3 in 90 days.  I never really thought that I would get an opportunity to qualify so when I saw that I did, I jumped on it.  I also became really excited about it.

Half Fanatics

Half Fanatics

On October 13, 2013, the day had come for me to begin my quest.

Flat me for Greenline Half

Flat me for Greenline Half

The day started out with fairly good running weather.  It was foggy, so it was humid but temps were not too bad.  Even once the fog lifted it was overcast for a while.  It was right around mile 6 before the clouds lifted and the sun came out.

I am one who obsesses over weather.  That is the one thing that can ruin my run faster than anything, even faster than hydration or nutrition issues.  I don’t do well in heat and sun so as long as it’s overcast, I am usually ok.  If the sun comes out and temps start rising, I can have problems and they can happen fast!  So the sun was not a welcome sight to me that day.  By mile 7 I had abandoned the run for the most part and resigned myself to walking only.  However, here is where I came to appreciate what I would consider my favorite part of the race.  National Guardsmen were riding the course with us on ATVs.  I guess one of them could see that I was having a hard time and kept circling around me, talking to me and encouraging me.  It felt like I had my own private escort, and it helped me so much.  Before long, I was right back at running.  Somewhere between 8 and 9 my runner’s high kicked in and my legs just kind of did their thing without me having to worry about it.  At mile 11 I was struggling again.  By mile 12 I was just ready for it to be over and 1.1 miles later, it was.

Overall, this was definitely not my favorite race, and it has nothing to do with struggling in the sun for a few miles.  It was a very small race, less than 200 runners.  While I appreciate a course that is not crowded, when you have 200 runners spread out over 13.1 miles, not only is it not crowded, it is pretty much empty.  So, except for the National Guard escorts (which I LOVED), it really felt more like a training run with course support than a race.  It was also boring.  The only real scenic areas were in the park and along the Memphis Greenline.  I’m on those trails all the time anyway so it wasn’t new for me.  The spectator support was non-existent.  We went through a few residential areas but no one seemed interested.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  Like I said, I loved having the Guard riding along side me at times.

It was fun having these guys ride along side us on the course.

It was fun having these guys ride along side us on the course.

The awards were really cool, too, for the winners.  I also really loved the start.  Again, it was foggy out, and instead of a vocalist to perform the national anthem, there was a violinist.  It was beautiful and serene.

The start was very peaceful.

The start was very peaceful.

Finishers did get a medal, which is always fun.

The finisher's medal features a buffalo, symbolic of the park.

The finisher’s medal features a buffalo, symbolic of the park.

The after party was fun, too, with a band and Mexican food.  The only bummer about that is they ran out of plates so I didn’t get any food.  A funny story about that is what happened as I was leaving.  I had given up on food and started walking the quarter-mile back to my car, all downhill.  I was almost to my car when I heard a guy behind me trying to get my attention.  He ran all the way down the hill to tell me they had found more plates.  Bless his heart!  I thanked him but there was no food in the world that was worth walking back up that hill for.

The most unique feature of this race is that it is the only green certified sporting event in the state of Tennessee.  Everything about this race is designed to reduce the carbon footprint compared to that of a traditional event.  The tech shirt we got as part of our registration is actually made from recycled milk cartons and feels so soft.

The race tech shirt is made from recycled milk cartons.

They asked that we bring our own water bottles to cut down on race waste, which I always do anyway.  They had battery and cell phone recycling stations at the start/finish line area.  The awards that I mentioned earlier were made by locals artists out of reclaimed wood from the park, and were really neat.

The awards were made by local artists and were really cool!

The awards were made by local artists and were really cool!

Would I do it again?  Maybe if I needed a training run of around that distance at around the same time, as was the case this time.  As a stand-alone or target event, I wouldn’t recommend it unless a person needs a race with virtually no crowds.  I do hope the event continues for many years to come.  It raises funds for the Shelby Farms Greenline, which is important to me.

With that, I was one-third of the way toward my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic.

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Mission: Bondi Band Ragnar Team

Bondi Band recently announced it will be sponsoring a team at Ragnar Adirondacks and at Ragnar Las Vegas. I read this one morning as I was trying to wake from my sleepy slumber. I first thought, “Oh, cool! I can’t wait to follow along with that!” Then I kept reading. They are looking for female bloggers to be on their teams. Wait! What?! I’m a female blogger! That got my attention. I was wide awake then.

Bondi Band announces its team sponsorship for Ragnar Adirondacks and Las Vegas.

Bondi Band announces its team sponsorship for Ragnar Adirondacks and Las Vegas.

Ragnar is totally on my race priority list (I don’t like the term “bucket list”). It’s a 12 person team relay across 200 miles of wherever that particular location is. It’s a constant race, so that means middle-of-the-night and daytime running. It’s basically a two-day road trip meets camping trip meets road races of varying distances. It’s pretty much everything I love about life. Sounds like a BLAST! So, I want in!

So, why do I want to be on Team Bondi Band? First off, I love the idea of running as a team sport. I started running for myself, by myself over two years ago. Along the way, I’ve met some of the best people and have made some really amazing friendships. It’s the camaraderie that keeps me going. That’s what makes Ragnar so appealing.

Next, I’m a huge Bondi Band fan! I cannot think of any other product I’d be happier to be associated with than it. Don’t believe me? Check out my collection!

My Bondi Band collection

My Bondi Band collection

Finally, I’m ready for a new challenge. My initial goal when I started running was to complete a half marathon. I’ve completed 5 now, the biggest challenge of which was a trail half marathon, in rain, sleet and snow, with 30 mph winds, in the mud.

I've completed 5 half marathons and several other races of varying distances.

I’ve completed 5 half marathons and several other races of varying distances.

I’m not afraid to try anything. I set a goal, and I work toward it. Finishing is the only option. I’ve lost 30 pounds so far on this journey, and my speed improves every month. Ragnar will be a huge challenge, maybe the biggest I’ve faced so far. I’m 100% confident I’m up to it.

Stay tuned to see who will be on Team Ragnar Las Vegas and Adirondacks. I hope I’m lucky enough to be a part of the story. It will definitely be the experience of a lifetime!

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To Do Rock and Roll Nashville or Not

To do Rock and Roll Nashville or not, that is the question.  If you recall back in December when the Memphis St. Jude Marathon Weekend was cancelled (I was registered for the half) we were given an option of registering for one of three upcoming Rock and Roll events in lieu of a refund.  I chose to register for Nashville.  Fast forward 2 months and now I’m having second thoughts.  Let’s go through the pros and cons and hopefully I can make a decision once and for all.

Rock and Roll Nashville

Rock and Roll Nashville

Pros

  1. It’s a race that’s always been on my radar and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get another opportunity to participate without paying a registration fee again.
  2. I’ve heard so many great things about this race.  Local spectator support is supposed to be second to none.
  3. There are country music bands at each mile marker.
  4. It’s a destination race within driving distance.
  5. My sister and her family live there. (Whether or not they would come out to support me is unknown at this point but it’s nice to know I have family nearby.)
  6. It’s a goal to work toward that would get me back on a training plan, which is always good for my personal fitness.
  7. Training weather should be great.
  8. Race weather should be great as well.
  9. runDisney usually is there, and they give out pretty sweet sling bags if you register for one of their races.  I’m planning on going back for Wine and Dine weekend this year.  While I’ll already be registered for the half by then, I plan to do the 5k and can register for that then.
  10. I’ve never done a Rock and Roll event, and it would be an opportunity to try one out.

Cons

  1. I would have to board my dog for yet another weekend trip.
  2. Hotel rooms are pretty outrageous in downtown Nashville for that weekend.  (I already have one booked, and I’m still suffering from sticker shock.)
  3. Hills!  Oh the hills!  I don’t have access to hills here in Memphis to train on that would even come close to the hills on that race course.
  4. For some reason even though it’s a random weekend in April, three people in my office want that Friday off.  Only one of us can have it and since I’m the manager I get to decide.  I feel guilty taking it away from someone else.
  5. I would have to get on the training pretty immediately since I haven’t run since the Minnie 10k.
  6. I’m not sure my heart is in it.  This is probably the biggest con.  If I’m going to spend that much for a race weekend, I feel like I need to be excited about it.  For some reason, I’m not.

So, what do you think?  Should I do it or not?  I probably need to decide this week.  I’m open to any and all thoughts.

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Into and Over It Part Two, Over It

In case you missed Part One, in which I covered what I’m into lately, you can find it here.  Go ahead.  Take a moment.  Catch yourself up.  All caught up?  Here are some of the things I’m totally and completely over.

Over it

Winter–To be fair, we haven’t had any real winter weather to speak of here.  The ice that caused my St. Jude Half Marathon to be cancelled and just one little dusting of snow is about it.  Yet, I’m totally and completely over winter!  My skin is itchy and dry.  Some days I just can’t get warm.  I don’t like being cold, and I don’t like having to bundle up to avoid it.  Bring on flip flop weather!  Please!

This is all the snow we've had but I'm still over winter.

This is all the snow we’ve had but I’m still over winter.

Rachel from Biggest Loser–I admit it.  I was just as shocked as the next person at her frail, skin-and-bones physique.  At the same time, I’ve heard enough about it.  I’m over it!

Traveling–This is a shocker for all who know me.  I love traveling and am always up for a trip.  With three pretty big trips in just a few months, two of them within two weeks of each other, I want to stay put for a while, as does my dog and my bank account.  That being said, I’m sure I’ll be getting over being over traveling pretty soon as I’m already starting to feel a tiny twinge of wanderlust.

I want to stay on the ground for a bit.

I want to stay on the ground for a bit.

5ks–Another shocker!  I still love running and races, just not really 5ks anymore, especially local ones.  Don’t get me wrong!  There are some great charities doing 5ks as fund-raisers.  I want them to have successful events.  It’s just not a distance that I enjoy, and, well, I’m over them.  I’m not saying I’ll never do another one.  I’m relatively certain I’ll do one before the year is over.  At the moment, I’m a bit disinterested.

My Old Glasses–If you saw part one, you know that I broke my glasses a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to have to depend on my contacts for every single waking hour, so I used duct tape to hold them together.  For obvious reasons, I’m really over them.

I kind of can't believe I'm sharing this pic but you can see why I'm over them.

I kind of can’t believe I’m sharing this pic but you can see why I’m over them.

Paying Someone to Do My Yard–I’ve always had a problem with paying someone to do something I’m capable of doing myself.  It’s not really about the money.  It’s more about being thankful that I can and using my abilities.  Last year, however, I got completely behind and overwhelmed with the yard work for the first time ever.  So, I hired it done.  I’m hoping to stay on top of it this year.

Sure, it looks nice when it's professionally done, but I'd really like to go back to doing it myself.

Sure, it looks nice when it’s professionally done, but I’d really like to go back to doing it myself.

Yogurt Shops–They are popping up on every street corner lately, and they are all just alike.  You self-serve your yogurt, which I find a bit icky to start with.  Dispensers are sticky, and, well, I have no idea whose hands have touched the dispenser.  Call me a germophobe, but I don’t like it.  Then, you add in whatever toppings you want, again self-serve.  Again, there’s the potential for yucky germs having touched the toppings.  Plus, if I want a treat, I want real ice cream!  To me, frozen yogurt is just a way to trick yourself into thinking you had something healthy.  Chances are, by the time you fill the container up and top it with all kinds of junk, you would have been better off just having ice cream anyway.  Ok, getting off my yogurt soap box now!

Valentine’s Day–I’m aware it’s today.  Painfully aware!  Call me cynical, and maybe I’m just bitter because I won’t be getting flowers and candy.  I have gotten flowers and candy in the past, though, and even then I was over it.  There is just so much pressure to the day.  And for what?  Show your loved ones you care all year-long not just one day.  Of course, I might change my tune if someone wanted to offer up a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon or Washington (you get this if you read part one).

So over Valentine's Day!

So over Valentine’s Day!

What are you over?

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Volunteering at runDisney’s Marathon Weekend

About a month ago, I headed down to my favorite place, the Walt Disney World Resort, to volunteer at runDisney’s Marathon Weekend.  As you may know, I’ve participated as a runner in several runDisney events but never as a volunteer.  Without the volunteers, the races simply would not be possible so I was excited to experience that side of it.

Volunteer registration for runDisney events is just about as popular as runner registration.  Many events fill up within hours of registration so it takes some planning if you want to participate.  Several of my friends and I wanted to volunteer together so when registration opened up, we were in communication with each other almost immediately so we could coordinate our requests.  During the registration process, you actually choose what assignment you want and what location on the course.  The assignments include bag check, screaming fan, water stops, food stops, and even volunteers helping to check volunteers in.  My group chose the food stop for the half marathon, which was Clif gel and the water stop at mile 13.1 for the full marathon.

For this event, volunteer registration opened up about 3 months prior.  Assignments are not guaranteed so even if you register, your request is not guaranteed.  In my group, we all got our requests, though.  About a month before the event, I got a letter in the mail confirming my assignment and giving final instructions.  We were also required to pick up our volunteer credentials prior to the event.  For locals, runDisney had several options prior to the expo.  Credential pick-up was also available at the expo for those from out-of-town.  Since most of us were also running the 10k, we had to go to the expo anyway so expo pick-up was very convenient.  My flight was delayed so my friend Heather ended up picking up my credentials for me.

Both of our shifts were from 4 am to 11 am so we had to get up super early, 2:30 am.  Transportation is not provided to the volunteer staging area so Heather drove us there.  We left the resort around 3:30 for a 4 am arrival because we knew there would be road closures due to the race.  The staging area was at the Blizzard Beach parking lot.  When we got there, a huge tent was set up for volunteer check-in.  We walked in, they scanned our credentials, directed us to jacket pick-up and then to snack pick-up.  For snacks, we were each given a big Ziploc bag and were told to pick out 5 snacks.  I got fruit snacks, Chex mix, an Uncrustables, a granola bar and some trail mix.  Within minutes we were through the check-in area and headed to find our numbered bus, which matched the number on our credentials.  In true Disney fashion it was all super organized and effortless.

Half Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Around 4:30 am our bus took off for our assignment location.  For the half marathon, we were stationed at the Clif gel stop, and there was quite a bit of setup to be done once we got there.

Mocha Clif Gel with Caffiene

Mocha Clif Gel with Caffeine

Tables had to be set up, and we opened the boxes of gel.  Everything had to be sanitized, too, and we were required to wear rubber gloves when handling the product.

Our Group ready to hand out lots of Clif Mocha gel

Our Group ready to hand out lots of Clif Mocha gel

Once we got everything set up, there was a little time before the first runners were expected so a few of us walked to the Hess station right up the road.  I was thankful for real restrooms nearby.  Once the runners started getting to our area, everything moved very quickly.  There was a little bit of a learning curve to holding the gel so the runner can grab it on the way by.  It really only took a few hours for all of the runners to come through and then it was time to break everything down.  Breakdown was a breeze and pretty soon it was time to get back on the bus to Blizzard Beach.  Once we got back to the staging area, we had to be checked out just as we were checked in.  Once again, our credentials were scanned, and we handed in our one day park ticket vouchers in exchange for the ticket.

The next morning, we did it all over again.  For the full marathon, we were stationed at the 13.1 mile water stop right outside of Animal Kingdom.

Water ready to hand out

Water ready to hand out

In fact, we were right behind the Dinosaur ride building, and once the park opened, I could hear the sounds from the ride.  Again, we had to set everything up including the tables and this time, pour the cups of water.

Our group ready to hand water out

Our group ready to hand water out

Everything once again moved quickly once it started.  Again, there was a learning curve to balancing the cups on your hand so the runners could grab them.  This part was tougher than I thought.  Holding your arm out, balancing a cup of water on it for 3 hours straight was not easy.

One of my favorite parts of volunteering was being able to see the race from start to finish.  Runner interaction was great for both races.  I also got to see all of my friends who were running, some of whom even stopped for pictures with us.

Our friend Aimee took time out of her race to stop for a pic with us.

Our friend Aimee took time out of her race to stop for a pic with us.

Day 2 Erica and Aimee stopped for a pic with us, looking great at the halfway point!

Day 2 Erica and Aimee stopped for a pic with us, looking great at the halfway point!

I saw one of my sorority sisters from college whom I’ve not seen in 18 years!  I also was able to spend quality time with some of my favorite running friends volunteering with me.  I loved getting to know them better!

As an incentive, volunteers always get snacks and a piece of apparel to wear for the shift, which you get to keep.  In this case, we got jackets both days, and we were thrilled when we found out they were different for the different events.  When volunteering for a half or the full marathon, volunteers also get a one day park ticket, so we each got two.  What I was given doesn’t expire until March of next year so hopefully I can plan a trip between the time my annual pass expires and the time these passes expire to put them to use.

I learned some things from volunteering.  You’ll get dirty, much dirtier than I anticipated.  The water stops are WET!  Yes, that should go without saying, but I didn’t think to wear old shoes.  About halfway through the second day I started calling out names on the bibs to give as many people as I could a little lift.  The response from that was overwhelming!  I wish I had done that from the very beginning.  I had no idea what hard work volunteering was.  Many runners thanked us, and yes, it felt great when they did.  I was actually almost as tired and sore after volunteering as I am after running.  Almost.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

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WDW Inaugural Minnie 10k

On Friday, January 10 I got to participate in the Inaugural Minnie 10k as part of Marathon Weekend at the Walt Disney World Resort.  For daytime races, this always means a very early wake up call.  2:30 came very early, especially since my body was on Central time which means it felt like 1:30 to me.  Buses started running at 3:30, which seems a bit insane for a 5:30 start.  However, it really does take that much time to get 10,000 runners in place for an on-time start.

Minnie 10k starting line

Minnie 10k starting line

The first 3 miles were a bit boring.  I knew this part was outside of the parks but I thought there would be lots of character stops and other entertainment to distract us from 3 miles of boring, straight road.  Unfortunately, there was only a DJ right after the start and one character stop that I saw before entering Epcot.

This DJ was right after the start of the Minnie 10k.

This DJ was right after the start of the Minnie 10k.

I did take time to stop at each and every mile marker to have my pic taken, which I’ve never done.  Lines were really long for the character stops but not too bad for the mile markers.

All the Mile Markers

All the Mile Markers

After the first 3 miles, we headed into Epcot by way of a backstage entrance close to Test Track.  There were several more character stops in Epcot, but lines were still longish.  We ran about halfway around World Showcase before heading out to the Boardwalk area.  A great part about this leg of the race is access to real restrooms.  I took the opportunity to stop in Germany.  Here, I ran into my friends Heather, Katie, Sarah, Jenn, and Penny, who were all running together.  They passed me shortly after I saw them.  We ran past Boardwalk, circled around by the Swan and Dolphin resorts, past Yacht and Beach Club resorts, then back to the International Gateway.

Football Goofy by the Boardwalk

Football Goofy by the Boardwalk

I ran into my friends again, who were in line for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  They motioned for me to join them in line so I did.  We only took one pic with all of us, so it’s not like my joining them held the line up.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the Minnie 10k

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the Minnie 10k

I stuck with them for most of the rest of Epcot.  We spotted Chip and Dale, and since we were close to the end, we took time to jump in that line, too.  I love how this pic turned out.

Chip and Dale at the Minnie 10k

Chip and Dale at the Minnie 10k

I again kept up with them until we got to the 6 mile marker.  I wanted my pic with it so I got in that line and they kept going.

I had plenty of energy to sprint to the finish and just like that, the Inaugural Minnie 10k was over!

The finish line at the Minnie 10k

The finish line at the Minnie 10k

My thoughts about this race are mixed.  I loved the race shirt, bib and medal!

Love the shirt, bib and medal!

Love the shirt, bib and medal!

I also really loved that lots of people were dressed in costumes, and most everyone I saw was running for fun.  It makes for a very fun race when everyone around you is enjoying it.  I really thought they should have stepped up the entertainment for the boring first 3 miles.  There were also too few water stops, only 3 for the entire race.  It was a very warm and humid morning, and 3 stops for more than 6 miles is not enough.  There were also all water stops only, no electrolytes.  This needs to be corrected.  I did like the post-race food box.

Minnie 10k runDisney food box

Minnie 10k runDisney food box

These tend to still get mixed reviews but I think they are great.  They seem to be stepping it up on the contents, too.  Hello, Skittles!

Would I do it again?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  I like the distance for what it was to me, a way to participate without having a race be the center of my vacation.  The purpose of my trip was to volunteer (more on that later).  It was nice not to have pre-race jitters, not have to deal with the usual taper stress and not have to watch what I ate and drank the days before.  I was also ready to head straight to the parks after a quick shower, so it was nice to have that extra energy.  I still like the half distance for when the race is the main part of my vacation, though.  Minnie seemed impressed to finally have her own race, too.

Minnie loved that she was featured on the 10k medal!

Minnie loved that she was featured on the 10k medal!

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St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend 2013-The Race That Wasn’t

Memphis does not do winter weather well.  Any threat of winter weather usually turns into a non-event, but even the hint of some sort of frozen precipitation sends the entire city into a tailspin.  That happened this weekend, and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend was cancelled.

When December 7 first appeared on the 10 day forecast, it was supposed to be in the 40s at race time, warming up to the 50s throughout the day, perfect!  Every day after that, it looked worse and worse.  Even though it was in the 70s here on Wednesday, it was predicted to be a historical ice storm.  By Thursday, schools and events were being cancelled all over the city, yet it was still in the 50s.  The SJMMW event directors kept saying the race would go on as planned unless the course was deemed to be unsafe.  Friday came, the day of the epic ice storm.  Yes, it rained pretty much all day long.  Yes temps hovered around freezing.  Yes, ice accumulated in trees and bushes.  However, the roads remained clear.

Ice accumulations thwarted race plans.

Ice accumulations thwarted race plans.

I was in good spirits as I headed to the Heroes Pasta Party.

St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party

St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party

I was sad my parents had decided against making the trip for the weekend, but I was meeting friends there so all appeared well.  I had been so concerned that I would not make it downtown from the suburbs on race day that I had not even allowed myself to get excited for the weekend.  Arriving at the pasta party, realizing the roads were in good shape and I was going to make it after all, I finally got excited.  My friends and I made another trip through the expo, and I let myself look at the medal for the first time.

We went into the ball room, took our seats and got our food.  I then received a text from another friend that she was sorry the race had been cancelled.  Cancelled?!  No!  We are here!  At the event!  It’s not cancelled!  Then a text from another friend.  Cancelled!  Then a news bulletin came across my phone.  Cancelled!  Still no official word from the race directors and we were at the event!  How could they not tell us?  About 20 more minutes passed, and by then the whole room knew.  The ALSAC CEO took the stage and gave us the official news.  It was then that I got the text notification from St. Jude.  Reality started to set in.  My 2013 St. Jude Half Marathon was not going to happen.

The expo had been great!

SJMMW Expo

SJMMW Expo

I went on Thursday after work.  It wasn’t very crowded so packet pick up was a breeze!  There were lots of vendors, and more freebies than I’ve ever gotten at an expo.  There was an area to write a message on a wall to the kids of St. Jude.

My message to the kids of St. Jude

My message to the kids of St. Jude

The coolest thing was the official pace car provided by Landers Ford.

The names of all the Heroes were on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

The names of all the Heroes were on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

There was an overlay on it with all of the names of the Heroes.

My name was on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

My name was on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

They also had a photographer to take your picture by your name with your bib.  We stayed about an hour then headed to dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse.

Other than disappointing news, the Pasta Party was fabulous!

The St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party was truly a festive occasion.

The St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party was truly a festive occasion.

It was the largest plated dinner in the history of Memphis, we were told.  They were very prepared, too, with 11 buffet lines, and about a dozen drink coolers along the walls with soda, bottled water, and tea.  There were only 2 beer lines but they moved quickly.  After Rick Shadyac gave us the bad news, they continued on with the featured speaker.  Hillary Husband, a 6 year patient of St. Jude, told us her story.  She was diagnosed when she was 14 and is still being treated.  She recently walked an entire marathon in the halls of St. Jude because she did not want her disease to get in the way of her goals.  The staff even set up a finish line for her to cross.  Even more impressive is that her route was around the radiation unit.  She figured out that 11 times around was a mile.  Can you imagine the mind-numbing boredom that would come with that many laps?  And to do that more than 26 times?  She is an amazing young lady, to say the least.  I almost lost it when she said we are the ones who inspire her.

I left the party thinking that was the end of my SJMMW 2013 but I was wrong.  Later that night, one of my friends texted me and told me his friend, who was here from Texas and who was planning to run her first marathon here, wanted to take a St. Jude Hospital tour since she couldn’t do the marathon.  He asked if I could help make that happen.  I told him I would try.  So, I contacted one of my friends who works there, and he was able to do the tour.  So, Saturday afternoon, 4 of us headed to the hospital for the tour.  Three of us had taken the tour back in the fall (read about that here), but we still learned even more.  It truly is an amazing place!

Elvis Presley was a St. Jude donor.

Elvis Presley was a St. Jude donor.

This gingerbread house at St. Jude is about the size of a small bathroom.

This gingerbread house at St. Jude is about the size of a small bathroom.

I also learned that many people decided to run the route anyway, and the race personnel greeted finishers with their medals.  What a neat thing for them to do!  I wish I had thought of it.  I will run my tribute miles at some point in the future.  I’m just not sure when yet.

As a consolation, we are able to transfer our registration to Rock and Roll Phoenix, Rock and Roll New Orleans, or Rock and Roll Nashville.  Other options are a full refund or donating your entry fee to St. Jude.  At the moment, I’m leaning toward Nashville.  If I don’t do that, I will definitely let them keep the fee.

So, you may be wondering why it was cancelled if the streets were clear.  Again, Memphis does not handle these things well.  The finish line was a solid sheet of ice, sidewalks were unsafe, and there were trees down along part of the course, due to the weight of the ice.

The finish line was a solid sheet of ice.  This photo was taken by a volunteer and posted on the Memphis Runners Track Club Facebook page.

The finish line was a solid sheet of ice. This photo was taken by a volunteer and posted on the Memphis Runners Track Club Facebook page.

Several thousand people in Memphis were without power, and since temps were going to be below freezing for a few days, they were concerned more trees and power lines would fall, causing more people to be without power.  30% of the volunteers had already backed out, as had 15% of the medical staff.  Additionally, the City of Memphis told race officials resources such as police, fire, and medical support could not be dedicated to the race while the city was under a state of emergency and might be needed elsewhere.  It’s disappointing because it really did turn into a non-event, like it almost always does.  At the same time, there was so much uncertainty about conditions in the hours leading up to the start that a decision had to be made.  They made the best decision they could.

Race or no race, St. Jude Heroes raised $8.2 million for the kids of St. Jude.  The average donation is $33.  That’s a lot of people wanting to help support St. Jude’s lifelong mission of finding cures and saving lives.  God willing, I will participate as a hero again in 2014.

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How I Got Into a runDisney Meet-Up

Squeeeeeee!!!!  I’m so excited!  Yesterday was a great day because I got into my very first runDisney meet-up, which is pretty much like hitting the runDisney lottery.  This is something I’ve wanted about as long as I’ve wanted to do a runDisney race, which is as long as I’ve been running.

runDisney

runDisney

Traditionally, these meet-ups have taken place early in the morning before the expo opens on marathon and half marathon weekends at Disney Parks.  A week or two before the event, a post will appear on the Disney Parks Blog that will instruct those interested to send an email to a designated email address.  Once the blog post goes up, runDisney will send out a tweet telling people to go visit the blog.  Usually the tweet happens about a minute after the blog post goes up, although not always.  Disney doesn’t say exactly when this will happen, but they usually send out a series of “teaser” tweets alerting everyone that the time is close.  So, people will literally stalk the blog for days for their chance.  They fill up so fast that usually if you don’t send the email within 2-3 minutes of the blog post going up, you are out of luck.  Even then, it comes down to whose emails got there the fastest.  I honestly never thought I’d actually get in, so I’m thrilled!

Here’s how it went down.  I’m off work this week with no plans and nowhere to go, which almost never happens.  I originally had the week before last off and was going to do fall cleaning on my house.  I had a hunch that the meet-up post for the upcoming Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend would happen this week, so I figured I could fall clean this week as good as I could two weeks ago and moved my vacation to this week.  That would put me in a better position to at least be watchful.  I had my Twitter alerts set so that I would get a notification for all runDisney tweets, and I already had an email drafted from my gmail account (I’ve read that gmail sends faster than yahoo).  I really wasn’t expecting the post until later in the week, but I was as prepared as I could be.

Yesterday morning, I had to go to my weekly Rotary Club meeting.  I am the President, and our District Governor was coming for his official annual visit.  So, I couldn’t skip that.  About 20 minutes into the meeting, the first (and what ended up being the only) “teaser”  tweet came.

Teaser Tweet

Teaser Tweet

I thought to myself, “Please don’t do this now!  This is literally the only obligation I have all week!”  So, I went ahead and pulled up my email draft so it would be ready for “go time”.  After the meeting was over, I had to have my official photo taken with our District Governor, and of course, his wife had to take about a bazillion photos (it was probably only 2).  I shook his hand, thanked him for coming, said a few pleasantries to his wife, and then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my phone on the table light up.  I practically leaped over to it and saw that it was the Twitter notification for THE tweet!

THE Tweet

THE Tweet

I didn’t even read it.  I went straight to my email, hit send, watch the circle go round and round for what felt like 5 minutes (more like 20 seconds) and THEN went back to read the tweet.  I then read the blog post to make sure they hadn’t changed anything about the method to register for it (they hadn’t).

It was also then that I saw it was going to be the very first nighttime meet-up and would feature a viewing area for attendees to watch Illuminations, Epcot’s nightly fireworks and laser show.  Attendees would then get to sample food and wine featured as part of Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival and hear Olympic athletes share training and nighttime running tips.  The evening would be capped by a run through an empty Epcot and many other surprises.  This was one meet-up I wanted to get in very badly!  Not only is the Wine and Dine Half Marathon my inspiration race and the reason I started running 2 years ago, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is my favorite event at Disney.

So, for the next 3+ hours, I anxiously waited for them to post the list of attendees!  I hoped with every ounce of hope I had that my name would be on the list.  I knew I sent the email as fast as I possibly could, but did it get there fast enough?  Finally, the list was up, and I found my name there!

I made the list!

I made the list!

So, in a couple of weeks when I head down to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, my trip will begin with this awesome event, and I cannot be more excited!

This cute pic was in the teaser tweet.

This cute pic was in the teaser tweet.

I’ll be tweeting live and posting on Instagram during the event so make sure you follow me if you want to join the fun.  Look for a blog post later about it, too!

Have you ever done a runDisney meet-up?

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