Saturday, April 25, 2015

2014 BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon

I'm going to run a half?
Two years ago, I ran my first long race, the 2013 Tower of Terror 10 Miler. I was vastly undertrained and terrified of earning a DNF, but I finished. Last year, I ran the TOT 10 Miler again, but was more in shape and actually trained! It was a great experience and reminded me why I love running so much, even though I never considered myself a real runner.

After taking some time off and focusing lesson on running for a while, I got a Facebook message from my coach at About Face Boot Camp that pretty much said, "Hey, I think you need to run a half in March." One of my goals for 2015 is to run 2 half marathons, so without even thinking about it, I said okay and signed up for the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon on March 7.

When I signed up, I had a pretty solid 3 mile running base and knew without a doubt that I'd be training using Jeff Galloway's Run-Walk-Run method. Implementing his methods has meant a major improvement in my running and recovery times. However, I signed up without enough time to follow the mileage on his half training plans, so I used Hal Higdon's training plan mileage while implementing the Galloway walk-run-walk method. During training, I missed a couple long runs thanks to aggravating an old knee injury and catching a stomach bug, but went into the half with a long run of 10 miles, so I felt pretty confident about being able to finish the distance.

What I wasn't confident about was finishing 13.1 miles in the time limit. While my speed has improved a whole lot in the last two years (thanks to consistent runs and lots of hill sprints and strength training at AFBC classes), I'm still nowhere near being a fast runner! I started with no real time goal, except for to finish within the time limit of 3 hours.  In fact, I was so nervous about it that I barely told anyone that I was running, never posted anything on social media about registration or picking up, even up to the morning of the race.

Packet Pickup
My mom went with me to pick up the packet on Friday afternoon before the race. Finding the location and parking was super simple. After experiencing a couple of runDisney race expos, I was a little shocked at just being handed a bib and my T-shirt and that's it. There were a few vendors, but it was a tiny little pickup. Next year, I'd feel comfortable waiting until the morning of the race to pick up my bib.  After getting home, we went on a walk to try to get rid of my nerves, I made sure that I had all my race stuff together since I was spending the night at my parents, and tried to get to bed early.

Race Day
On race morning, I woke up way before my alarm because of my nerves! It was the morning of my first half marathon! And despite successful training runs and knowing I was in much better shape than in a few months before when I'd run the 10 miler, I was still doubting myself. But, I forced down a Bagelthin with peanut butter (my long run go to), coffee, and water and got myself ready to go. I was undecided on what to wear since it was SO cold and windy, but ended up wearing running leggings, a Raw Threads sleeveless shirt, a longsleeved 2nd later, and my lightweight running jacket. Of course I wore my trusty Brooks Ravenna 5s and taped my knee! I also had my Fitletic hydration belt with one bottle of water, one bottle of Nuun, and a pack of Shot Blocks.

I found the parking garage in uptown Charlotte with ease, and within a few minutes I was standing the atrium waiting for the start. I had enough time to find a bathroom (a real one!), second-guess my coat wearing decision, go back to my car to leave my coat, and walk leisurely to the starting line. Several people from my gym were running, but in the crowd of people I never found anyone. I was so nervous that it was probably just as well, especially since I think I needed to run my own race on that day.

There were no corrals, and all half marathon and 5k runners started at the same time. If anything, that's what I would love to see changed. I love corrals where you start with runners who are at about the same pace. I got as far to the right as I could since I figured I'd be a slower runner than most, started my Garmin and my Nike+ app, and started running! It was super hard to make myself run intervals from the beginning, but from reading the course description and other recaps, I knew the course would be flat to start but pretty hilly in later miles. Knowing that made me really want to try to stick to my intervals at the start, even if I felt like running the whole thing. I knew that I'd need energy in the last half. As far as pace goes, I was hoping to stay around 12:30 minute miles.
Corporate Cup Half Splits 

Let me say here that I've had my Garmin F10 for 3 years, and it has been great with no problems whatsoever! Of course though during this race, it completely shut down and stopped during Mile 7. Which means that I lost the data for those 7 miles! I am so glad that I was also using the Nike+ running app on my phone. I was able to restart it, but it only has the last half of the race. As you can see, I started out super fast for me! I felt great and was running a 2:1 interval (so run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute). During the first 6.5 or so miles, I felt like I could run forever! Well, I should have made myself stick closer to the goal pace during those first 7 flat miles, because I paid for it during the last half of hilly miles! 
Corporate Cup Half Splits 2

You can definitely tell that by mile 8, "rolling hills" had started and my legs were feeling it. Somewhere around mile 9 I stopped and took my shoe off because I was feeling like my sock was bunched and thought I had a really bad blister. Nothing was actually wrong, but I loosened the laces on my shoe and that helped.  I think it was around mile 10.5 or so that started a hill that was at least a mile long. I dropped down to a 1:1 interval and just tried to run as much as I could. During those hills my left knee also started KILLING me, and by halfway through mile 11 I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to keep walking on it, much less run!

But, eventually, I saw the Finish Line! One of the awesome AFBC coaches, Misty, was cheering on the sides and at that point it was great seeing a familiar face. Running across the finish line at my first half marathon was one of the best experiences I've ever had! 
BB&T Corporate Cup Results

I grabbed half a banana and a Gatorade, took a couple pictures, and made my way back to the car to head to my parents' house where I INHALED brunch that my dad made. I was super happy with my first half results, and maybe even more importantly, I learned a lot that I can use to improve next time! 
Half Marathon Finisher!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Surviving a Kidani Christmas

Kidani Christmas

Even though it has taken 4 months to start writing about this trip, it was so fabulous that it has be documented!

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love for Disney World, evident in the number of times I've managed to visit in the last few years.  One thing I never thought I'd do was spend Christmas at Disney. Well, last year, my family did just that. That's right- my parents, my brother, and I braved the Christmas week crowds to celebrate the season at Disney.

And you know what? It was wonderful. In many ways, it was the best trip we've ever taken. I could never put into words just how wonderful our trip was, but I do want to document a few thoughts and highlights about our trip, which took place December 21-27, 2014.

  1. For this trip, we rented points from The DVC Rental Store. This was my second experience working with Lauren, and it was great from start to finish! Originally we booked at Coronado Springs with free dining, but found that for about the same price, we could rent points at Kidani Village and just pay out of pocket for the dining plan. We booked a Savannah View Studio at Kidani, and it was amazing! There's nothing like waking up to this view every morning! We did take an air bed with us, and we never really felt crowded in the room, even with 4 people staying in a studio. Of course, we didn't spend a ton of time inside, and having the balcony and really helped!
  2. We went in with realistic expectations about crowds. During Christmas week, Disney is crowded. In fact, it is one of the most (if not THE most) crowded weeks of the year. We've been lucky enough to experience Disney during very low crowd periods and knew that this trip would be drastically different. We planned accordingly, making our dining reservations at the 180 day mark and Fastpass + reservations at the 60 day mark. We went in not really expecting to ride much other than what we had Fastpasses for and planned on spending a lot of time exploring resorts and taking advantage of things we wouldn't normally do instead of fighting crowds in line for rides. This worked perfectly! We got to ride all the head liners thanks to our Fastpasses without waits.  
  3. We enjoyed a few amazing meals! We did the Deluxe Dining Plan, which was way too much food. But, it was great to have two meals a day scheduled so that we knew we had a break from crowds. As always, we tried to do an early lunch or late breakfast along with a signature dinner each day. This worked out well, and there was no way we could have eaten three meals every day! Not only was the food amazing, but it was great to end each day with a relaxing dinner where we could all just talk and rehash the day. 
    California Grill dinner
  4. We took advantage of what our resort had to offer. Kidani's table service restaurant, Sanaa, offers free cultural tours each afternoon! Animal Kingdom Lodge does the same for their restaurants, Boma and Jiko. My family were the only ones in attendance the afternoon we toured Sanaa, and there weren't many others for the Boma and Jiko tours. It was really interesting to learn more about these restaurants, meet the cultural ambassadors, and get to taste a few appetizers! We also spent time just relaxing at the animal viewing areas and walking around the resort. Usually we're only in the resort long enough to change clothes or sleep, so it was really nice to relax a bit, especially at a resort as beautiful as Kidani!
  5. We were flexible. Remember how I said that all our dining reservations and Fastpasses were made well in advance? They were, but we also were open to change. For example, we ended up canceling a pre-park opening breakfast at Crystal Palace. After a long first day in the parks, we realized we weren't going to want to get up and ready early enough to make our breakfast, so we cancelled it. We did it before midnight so that we wouldn't be charged, and were even able to find a later breakfast in our resort so that we could sleep a little later and not have to travel to eat. My brother and I also spent a last minute late night in Magic Kingdom after dinner on Christmas night and it was one of the best decisions we made! We ended up there because it was the first bus that came after dinner, and even on Christmas night we managed to ride 8 rides in two hours! It was amazing how empty the park was after Wishes, even on Christmas! We rode Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Big Thunder, Space Mountain, and the People Mover all between 10pm and midnight. In fact, the longest line we stood in during the whole trip was for Winnie the Pooh! We laughed at ourselves, but it was the only ride in the park that I had never ridden, so we waited 15 or so minutes to ride. During those two hours we also managed a stop at Starbucks, shopping, and Photopass stops. It was pretty magical! 
Spending Christmas at Disney with my family was a once in a lifetime experience that I'll always be thankful for!