2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – pre-race, expo, 5k, and 10k

What better way to start off a new year than with a weekend full of racing in Disney? For the second year in a row, I ran the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. It’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over the course of four days. And it’s a fantastic and wild event! After last year, I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore. It wasn’t because of the running, it was the walking up at 3:30am four days in a row thing. Yet, here we are.


My training was, as has been trend for the last few years, not great. I ran an amazing marathon in Chicago in October, but then have been plagued with near-injury stuff since then. I was able to keep just enough fitness through the last few months to feel confident going in that I’d be fine to finish, but not enough to be feeling good.

The longest run I’d done since Chicago was a 15-miler in early November. And then I DNSed both the Philly Half Marathon and Philly Marathon because of my ankle. Since then, my longest run was just 13 miles and my ankle has been hurting off and on.


Danielle and I woke up at balls o’clock in the morning for a flight down to Orlando on Wednesday. With all the early nights you have because of the races, you need to maximize your time down there so we always take an early flight. After we hopped off Disney’s Magical Express and checked in at the Yacht Club, we got right on a bus over to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo.

When we rolled up, it was a MADHOUSE! There were swarms of people and it was totally unorganized. The expo for Marathon Weekend is always a little crazy, but this was the worst we’d ever seen. The line just to get into the building to pick up our race bigs was queued back and forth on itself a few times. Luckily this went quickly. Unfortunately, the line to get into the Jostens Center, where the actual exhibitor booths and pick up for the half marathon shirts are was even worse. It wasn’t organized at all. For a place that deals heavily with queue management, Disney really didn’t do a good job here.

Once we finally got into the expo, we did a quick lap and then got the heck outta there. Though, on our way out, we did run into my friend Julie who wasn’t just running her first Dopey, but her first marathon ever!


The morning started off with a 3:30am alarm that I wasn’t ready for at all. I just wanted to sleep forever. But I dragged myself out of bed and threw on the clothes I had laid out the night before. We were sharing a room with our friend Ellen who was also doing Dopey for the trip so her and I got our stuff together and headed off to the bus.

5k Flat Amy

The nice thing about the 5k and 10k is the start is a lot more sane than the other races. You start near where the pre-race staging area and bag check are, rather than a 15 minute walk away like the half marathon and marathon. This lets you get there a little later.

It was chilly out. Not so much by my standards for running, but for Florida. I still wore a tank top and shorts, but I’m used to being able to just walk out my door and start running, not having to wait around for and hour and a half before running.

Love these people!

We met up with a bunch of my friends from the We Are Awesome Runner Friends Facebook group and took the first of our group photos before heading off to the corrals. My friend Nathan and I waited too long to go into the A corral and almost didn’t make it. They were closing it off as we were walking up and then forced us run to catch up to the back of the corral, which had already been walked up to the starting line. It seemed unnecessary to make us run to catch up considering there was still 20 minutes before the start, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Anyway, I was fine with starting in the very back of the corral as I wanted to run nice and slow, but Nathan’s coach wanted him to tempo the race.

Disney World 5k starting line

The starting line

The 5k started with “mini waves” which is something I’ve never seen in a race before. Rather than just let each wave go, they broke them up into smaller groups. Part of the corral would go, then two minutes later, another part, and so on. Our corral was broken into three mini waves. It sounds confusing and awful, but it was actually really nice. We were spaced out a lot more on the course and the start-of-the-race stampede was greatly reduced.

So much happy

I kept things nice and easy. I had no desire to push myself hard right off the bat. At about the halfway point, right after we got into the World Showcase in Epcot, I caught up to my friend Jeff and we ended up running the rest of the race together while chatting it up about running and races.

Maybe a little exuberant for a 5k finish, but it’s Disney World!

I crossed the finish line right at 29:00 on the dot, grabbed my medal, and made my way over to the bus. The medals this year were surprisingly nice. In the past, the 5k medals were a rubbery plastic, but this year they were actually medal. A nice little surprise!

2017 Walt Disney World Marathon 5k medal

Quality medal!


Friday morning started off much the same. We didn’t leave quite as early so we had less time to wait around. But there was a bus waiting for us when we walked outside so we still ended up at the starting area nice and early. We took another group pic and then we headed off to the corrals again. This time, we didn’t cut it as close with the closing of the corrals!

10k Flat Amy

Patrick was a playing card! No idea how he ran in that!

I had walked over to the corral with Nathan and Aimee from our group and we hung out in the back of the corral before the start. When the race started, we stuck together for the first two miles, while passing Jeff along the way. After that, I pulled back a little and let them go on ahead. Again, without the training under my belt for Dopey, I didn’t want to push it.

Classic Amy face!

More Classic Amy

Amelia Gapin and Pluto at 2017 Walt Disney World 10k


I kept things nice and comfortable and had some fun. The race was over before I even knew it! I kind of regret not stopping for many photos, but I was running nice and comfortably and just wanted to keep my rhythm. I cruised across the finish line with a 56:26.

After the race, I waited in a loooong line to get a photo with Dopey and then sprinted off to just barely make it on a bus before it pulled away.

All-in-all, the days 0-2 of the Dopey Challenge were relatively uneventful and low key. Not bad!

Amelia Gapin with Dopey

Hanging with Dopey!


2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

I’m going to try to do a recap of all of the runDisney Dopey Challenge in a single post here. We’ll see how this goes, but I’ll try to keep it short.

This was my first time doing the Dopey Challenge–if you’re not familiar, it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over four days in Disney World. I’d done the Goofy Challenge, just the half marathon and marathon part, three previous times and the half marathon by itself once before that. So I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going it.


My training was pretty weak, much like how most of 2015 was. Looking back, it was much better than my training was for the 2015 Goofy Challenge, but I came into this race with 300 fewer miles in 2015 than I ran in 2014. While my training was short (we’ll call it nine weeks) and overall mileage was much lower than I’d like, if you just looked at the last two weeks, you’d think I was in good shape. My peak week was 52 miles with an unplanned-but-totally-felt-amazing 20-miler. This is what I held onto going into the race, knowing that I felt great running 20 miles when I had planned 15. Not to mention that last year’s Goofy Challenge went really well with less training so I was feeling like I’d at least have fun and not struggle too much. I mean, with this being my eight marathon and my goal being “have fun,” I felt like i had the experience and attitude to overcome short training.

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I made the trip down to Disney with my wife and our friend, Ellen. We flew down on Wednesday and promptly went to the expo. We didn’t actually spend much time there because we wanted to get a little Magic Kingdom time in before calling it an early night.

5k – 27:39

Because the 5k starts a little later than the other races–6am, as opposed to 5:30am–we got to “sleep in” a little until 3:45 before getting up to head to the buses. Unfortunately, there was a major bus issue and we waited for over 40 minutes for any bus to come at all. Still, we had plenty of time, but it was definitely annoying!

Flat Amy for the 5k

Flat Amy for the 5k

Ellen and I quickly hit the porta-potties and then hopped in the corral. Before we knew it, the race was off!

Knowing it was just the first of four races, we kept things nice and easy and just had fun with it. It was over in the blink of an eye!

Before the 5k with Ellen

Before the 5k with Ellen



10k – 57:36

My wife joined Ellen and I for the 10k with our slightly earlier wake up time of 3:30. Other than a slightly earlier wake up, our morning was much the same as the 5k was. While waiting in the corral, an old radio station friend, Jaclyn, found us to say hi. I hadn’t seen her in probably close to a decade at this point, many many years before I even thought about transitioning, so it was nice to see her.

Flat Amy for the 10k

Flat Amy for the 10k

Once the race was off, Ellen and Danielle (my wife) took off and left me behind. I didn’t mind too much, I just was going to do my own thing. But after a minute or two, I found myself right next to Ellen again. My wife was no where to be found. It turns out that she ran an accidental PR and was 29th overall and 5th in her age group. Typical.

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

The 10k really wasn’t much different than the 5k except for the fact it was raining a bit. Nothing too bad, though. Besides, I love running in the rain! For real, it’s my favorite.



With about a half mile left, we passed Phineas and Ferb and you KNOW I had to get a photo with them. Ellen kept on running and after two other runners rudely cut me in line before I could get my photo, I took off at a 6:15 min/mile or so pace to catch up to Ellen before the finish line. Probably not the smartest thing to do.

Phineas and Ferb!

Phineas and Ferb!

And almost as quickly as the 5k was over, so was the 10k! I had planned a 60-minute even 10k, but ended up running a bit faster and finished with a 57:36, which was still well within my “taking it real slow and easy” range.416807_216760450_XLarge

After the race, I showered and ran over to the Boardwalk for a meetup with Lauren, Patrick, Nathan, Amanda, and a few others.

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Through the afternoon, my calves were feeling really tight. While I attributed this to just being on my feet a lot while in the parks, I was pretty worried about it and tried to rest them as much as possible throughout the day. We called it a day pretty early, around 6:30 or so, and I spent some time stretching, foam rolling, and ice bathing my legs to make sure they’d be good to go for the half marathon. Even with all of that, I was able to get to bed by 8:30!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Half Marathon – 2:14:02

Waking up at 3:15, my legs felt a little better. They were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, but there was some improvement. The weather was warm, around 60º and very humid, 100%. I met up with a few of my #runchat friends before getting in the corral, but I was a little nervous about how tight my legs were feeling.

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Ellen, Danielle, and I all started in the corral together, but as soon as the race started, we got separated. They were off and I was left behind on my own. I didn’t mind too much as I prefer to run alone, but I would have preferred to plan that from the start so I could have started in my own corral and had slightly shorter waits for photos.

Fireworks to start the race!

Fireworks to start the race!


Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom!



My plan for the half was to take it extra, extra slow. I stopped for a quick pee break in the first mile and then just took photos and had a good time. At one point around mile three, I had almost caught up to Danielle and Ellen. I was maybe 20-30 feet back from them, but then I saw Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph and needed to get my Sugar Rush on a photo with them. The line was super long though and I waited for a solid five minutes. Still, it was worth it!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!


It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!



Serious high five at the finish!

Most of the rest of the race went by uneventfully. I kept things slow and easy and took a bunch of photos. I just had a lot of fun with it. I took water and ate a gel, two things I don’t normally do in a half marathon, but I wanted to help my body get through and be ready for the marathon. When the race was over, I was so soaked in sweat that I could wring my tank top out four or five times and water still poured out of it like it had be dunked in a bucket of water.416807_217027044_XLarge

After the race, I tried to follow the same course of action as the previous day, rest my legs as much as possible. We had dinner at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios–I had a beer, which is something I’ve never done the night before a marathon. After dinner, it was pouring rain, but we still walked all the way back to Beach Club, where we were staying. With my calves being a worry, this wasn’t the smartest idea, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As soon as we stepped foot out of the park, I took my sandals off and walked the rest of the 1.3 miles back barefoot in the rain. It actually felt great! I really enjoy feeling the ground on my bare feet.

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

When we got to the room, I followed the same routine as the night before, stretching, foam rolling, and ice-bathing. Got to bed around 8:30 again. Perfect!

Marathon – 3:59:51

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

We went with another 3:15am wakeup, but I felt great when I woke up. My legs were feeling good and I was awake. The weather was about the same as it was for the half, but without all the fog. Danielle wasn’t running the marathon so Ellen and I quickly got dressed and made our way to the bus. I, again, met up with a few #runchat friends before the race, which was a little too much energy for Ellen, she headed off to the corral early. I got a huge hug from Lauren Bailey…twice! And I made sure to photobomb my friends Erin and Katherine (thanks Christina for making sure I got in it!).

When I got in my corral, I was lined up just behind the 3:45 pacer, a little fast for the level of training I put in and being the day after a half marathon. And that gets me to my race plan, I should probably tell you about that because it was a really good race plan for the training I had and for being the last day of Dopey. I planned a 4:30 finish, taking water at every stop in the first half and Powerade at every stop in the second half, gels every five miles, walking all hills and water stops, and taking all the photos. And, of course, not pooping my pants like I was 100% sure was going to happen last year. So that’s a pretty good plan going into a race as I was and I had been planning that for a couple months. Well, because Race Amy thought she was SOOOOO much smarter than Last Couple of Months Amy, I told a perfectly good race plan to go fuck itself for no reason whatsoever. I stood there in my corral and revised my plan to be no walking and 4:15 or better. Because I’m smart. Yup. </sarcasm>416807_217458443_XLarge


Totally taken before I was ready!



When the race started, I tried to still keep some control over my pace. I was in the C corral so I wasn’t exactly surrounded with slow runners. I let them pass me and kept on a reasonable pace for my new 4:15 goal. As soon as I started running, my legs went from feeling good to feeling like crap, though. Figures.

I kept things steady and just enjoyed myself–the theme of the whole weekend. I took some photos here and there, but didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for anything.

Going through Magic Kingdom, I was feeling okay and running a little ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed the course changes to include New Fantasyland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.416807_217945231_XLarge

With Disney World Speedway not existing anymore (I can’t believe how quickly that tore that thing out of there!), the trip from Magic to Animal Kingdom was back to the way it used to be prior to the 20th anniversary course changes. I actually didn’t mind the removal of the Speedway from the course, but it would have been nice to have something else in its place to break it up a little besides an additional out-and-back down a random road. Also, the relocation of the RVers messed me up a little. They’re one of my favorite parts of the marathon and I was keeping an eye out for them to take my annual selfie with them.

Again taken before I was ready!

Again taken before I was ready!

I was feeling good when I got to Animal Kingdom and, as I crossed the halfway mark, I was ready to take on the second half. I hit 13.1 at 2:03:52, way ahead of schedule for 4:15. So, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going for sub-4.” Because, again, I’m smart. I started doing some math in my head on how to run the second half in a 1:56 and then started slowly taking my pace down into the mid-8s. I also started taking Powerade at water stops from here on out.416807_217583363_XLarge

I was pretty damn sweaty at this point. I didn’t feel dehydrated, but my clothes were dripping sweat. When I stopped at the graveyard for a photo, I wasted close to a full minute trying to unlock my phone and, eventually, gave up. I was just too sweaty. So sweaty, in fact, that that was the last time I ever saw my phone’s screen turn on. More on that later.

Definitely my favorite photo!

Definitely my favorite photo!

The graveyard photo op was the spot last year where I decided to stop holding back and just let myself go and it felt like a good place to start thinking about the same this year. There were still 12 miles to go, so I couldn’t just let it all go, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in conserve mode anymore.

I grabbed a gel at mile 15.4 where they were handing them out. I had taken my 0, 5, 10 mile ones on plan, but had held off the 15-mile one. I ended up not finishing this one, my stomach actually wasn’t into it, despite it being my preferred flavor and brand. I didn’t take another gel after this and only took Powerade every other stop.416807_217586448_XLarge

Heading towards ESPN Wide World of Sports and the 17th mile marker, I was starting to feel it a bit. I was still okay, but I was not looking forward to the three miles in Wide World of Sports, which are full of turns and generally feel like eternity. Though, I did end up slightly picking up the pace in here. I also took a banana, but tossed it after one disgusting bite. I hate bananas.

This looks like a baseball card photo!

This looks like a baseball card photo!

I got my name called in the baseball stadium which was nice and got this amazing photo of me looking like I belong on a baseball card. I hit mile 20 on my way out of ESPN and did some mental math, I had 55 minutes to go 10k for a sub-4 finish. Basically, I just had to keep the pace I’d been running and I’d be good. It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!416807_217535962_XLarge

As I started into the big banked onramp where the Toy Story army men like to hang out (in between the 21st and 22nd mile markers), I was starting to feel real tired, but I knew what was ahead of me: the energy and crowds of Hollywood Studios, the walkway to Epcot, and then the World Showcase. I had this.

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling super awesome. I knew I was going to be dealing with some nausea for the rest of the race, but I wanted to just stay as strong as long as I could. Miles 22 and 23 were my fastest at 8:07 and 8:10, but my stomach was getting worse and my legs were starting to get pretty tired and sore. I don’t typically have stomach issues while racing, but I have had them before so I knew what the last few miles were going to be like. I knew I was going to have to slow it down a bit and was hoping I’d picked up enough time to still stay under four hours, but I was already starting to feel like I was going to have to let it go…not unlike Elsa.416807_217663099_XLarge

As I came out of Hollywood Studios, I knew my nausea was only going to get worse, but it wasn’t too much farther to go. I crossed the bridge from Boardwalk over to Yacht Club and knew I’d be coming up on where my wife was cheering soon, but I needed a short walk break for my stomach. I was really trying to hold it down. I started running again after a few seconds and passed my wife right where she said she’d be on a bench in front of Beach Club. As I ran by, I yelled “Ice bath! Ice bath! Ice bath!” Channeling my inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (you know, when he yells “Sandlot! Sandlot! Sandlot!” at the end of the movie while running from The Beast). I really wanted that ice bath. <- Never though that’d be a sentence I’d say!

After I rounded the corner into the back of the World Showcase in Epcot, I knew it was going to be a fight for that sub-4 finish. I was down to a run/walk thing to deal with the nausea and eventually gave in and realized I’d be more like a 4:01 or so. I was doing the math and looking at the clock and knew I was losing too much time with the walking.

When I rounded my way out of the World Showcase and into Futureworld, I was determined to run the rest of the way. I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-4. Then…I took my final walk break just after passing Spaceship Earth and accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. <Judi Dench> Or so I thought…</Judi Dench> something came over me and I decided I was going to run the rest of the way as fast as my legs would go even if I threw up all over myself. I picked it up and made a break for it. I knew it was going to be a buzzer-beater and, when I got within sight of the clock, I gave it everything I had left. I couldn’t believe it, but I snuck in at 3:59:51! Not bad! I also stopped immediately and bent over about to throw up. A volunteer came running over to help me to the side and held a bag for me, but I ended up keeping everything down.416807_217774363_XLarge

I had SO much fun with this race! I feel like I always do. Unfortunately, I took my phone-which was in a plastic bag-out of my pocket to tweet about my great race only to find that the screen wouldn’t turn on. I sweat so much that I shorted out my phone…not the first time I’ve done this. So I spent the next three days in Disney World with no phone.416807_217927185_XLarge


I really couldn’t be happier about going sub-4 for this race. That’s my third fastest marathon since transitioning and my fastest Disney Marathon by 24 minutes. I’m also now four-for-four with negative splitting this race. If only I could do that in any other marathon!

Look, after you've done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Look, after you’ve done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Overall thoughts

Dopey was great! I had a lot of fun and found it really not that hard to do all the races. However, I don’t know that I’d do it again. It wasn’t the running. The running was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. Dopey is just tough logistically. It’s a lot of extra running stuff to pack (two pairs of running shoes instead of one, etc), a lot of early nights and early wakeup, and a lot of saving your legs instead of enjoying Disney World.

I was really pissed about my phone. Not so much because of the cost to replace it when I got home, but more because I just didn’t have it for taking photos and I felt super disconnected and helpless for the rest of my trip. I also ended up losing some great shots from the first half of the marathon: a selfie with Mr Skellington, my selfie with the RVers, the turtle with a race bib outside of Animal Kingdom, and the starting fireworks.


Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza – 26:20

Downtown Westfield Pizza Run 5k

Mmmmm pizza!

Okay, I think six days is enough time to have recovered from the mental beating I took thanks to this race and I can throw together a quick recap.

This was just not a good race for me. As I keep writing about recently, I’m in a pretty rough rut with running right now and I knew that going into the race so I didn’t expect a lot. Additionally, this race has a knack for falling on particularly hot and humid nights and this year was no different. Still, I thought I could shoot for 24:00 and that would be pretty reasonable. I was wrong.

Before the race, I did a very easy two-mile warm-up run around Westfield and felt reasonably okay, despite the horrible heat and humidity. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. When it was time to lineup at the start, I was careful to seed myself appropriately. The race actually had signs on the side to indicate the pace you should be able to run if you’re lining up there. I put myself a little in front of the 8 min/mile sign. I looked around and, judging other runners by their looks, figured I was in a pretty good spot for what I was looking to do.

Things were tight at the start of the race, but I tried my best to keep from going out too fast. Unfortunately, my first half mile was around a 7 min/mile pace and I knew I needed to back that off. Thanks to a big hill in the second half of the first mile, I had no trouble dropping my pace quite a bit before crossing the first mile marker.

Sadly, I was already feeling like crap after that hill and had to back it off a lot more in mile two. I couldn’t believe how much I was struggling through a 5k, but there I was. At this point, I just wanted to hang on and get the thing over with.

Mile three was even worse, though. As I got about a quarter mile into it, I started feeling nauseous. With less than I mile to go, I wanted to push through and deal with it on the other side of the finish, but it was the kind of nausea that can’t be reasoned with. That’s when it happened and I did something I never thought I’d have to do. I walked in a 5k. I pretty much hated everything about my life, but I knew if I didn’t walk, I was going to puke. I spent a couple tenths of a mile power walking before picking it back up again and running it out to the finish.

I crossed at 26:20 which, while not even close to a personal worst, is very slow for me. I nearly had a breakdown and sent out this tweet:

Not cool of me at all. I was frustrated and running has been entirely not fun for me lately, but I shouldn’t have tweeted anything that implied it’s not okay to walk during a run if you have to. I apologized when I got home and had calmed down a bit, but I really was down on myself all night.

I think it’s most disappointing to have such a horrible race because I had a kick-ass race just a few weeks ago on the 4th of July. But, you know, it happens, right? This year seems to be all about learning this lesson over and over again.

At least I got pizza at the finish and Chipotle for dinner. Oh, and a nice rain run back to the car since the skies absolutely opened up while they were doing the awards after the race.


CJRRC’s 32nd Hangover 5k – 23:24

Hangover 5k with @FueledByLolz, @FoodosaurusRex, @RunningBun, and @EntirelyAmelia

Yup, I look like a dude here. Photo credit: FueledByLOLZ (http://instagram.com/fueledbylolz)

I don’t know whose idea it was to run a race on New Year’s Day, but I gotta tell you, it felt about as pleasant as you’d imagine it would.

After having a few too many drinks last night and possibly getting a little emotional and ending up in a bedroom at my friends’ house holding back some tears, this morning wasn’t exactly awesome. I didn’t get much sleep so when the alarm when off and it was time to get out of bed, I wanted nothing to do with anything. My wife’s pleas to stay in bed and just accept a DNS didn’t help much either, but knowing we’d be meeting Ms LOLZ herself, Hollie, and seeing Ashley the Running Bun, we found a way to roll out of bed and make things happen.

CJRRC’s 32nd HANGOVER 5k Westfield, NJ

WTF is this image of?

After picking up our bibs and hoodies, we did a couple warmup laps around the park’s .8 mile loop. It was cold out, but not too cold as long as you kept moving. Before I knew it, it was time to lineup and get this race started. I didn’t have much of a plan other than keep it easy and try not to let my hangover get in the way.

Right away, I took off a bit too fast for what I had in me for the day, but I couldn’t get my legs to slow down. Mile one was around a 7:45 or so mile, but…you know…hangover. Mile two was actually a bit faster at 7:26. I’m not sure how I hung on, to be honest. I was pushing myself more than I wanted to, but I felt okay enough to keep at it.

As we entered back into the park for the last mile, my legs wanted to give up, my lungs wanted to quit, and I wanted to take a nap…or six. I figured it was less than a mile at this point so I’d just hang on as best I could and use other runners as motivation to keep the pace up. I didn’t quite get to my PR pace, but mile three clocked in a 7:15 which isn’t too shabby!

With about 50 feet to go, I saw another runner coming up along my left while being cheered on by a spectator. I had actually just passed him less than a quarter mile back and I wasn’t about to let him in front of me again. Somewhere, I pulled out the energy for an all out sprint to the finish line to keep him behind me and cross the finish line at a respectable 23:24.

Despite the cold weather and the hangover, this was a fun race. It was a nice motivator to get up and out of bed and I ran a better race than expected. I came in just 33 seconds off my 5k PR and fourth in my age group. I’m not sure I ever want to run another race feeling like I did when I woke up this morning, but I’m glad I did it!


Sean Hanna Foundation 6th Annual 5k – 22:51

3rd place in my age group!

3rd place in my age group!

This is one of my favorite races. It doesn’t seem like anything special, just another small community 5k, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s for a great cause. The Sean Hanna Foundation was created by the family of a friend of mine who passed away from cancer in 2007. Sean was one of the best people I know, always giving, caring about others, and making people smile. I like to think that this race is just him doing what he always did, creating smiles and happiness.

With the race falling exactly seven weeks before the Richmond Marathon, I had a 15-miler scheduled for the day and it didn’t make sense to move my long run just because of a 5k. I decided I could probably get away with running a bunch of miles both before and after the 5k to total up to fifteen for the day. I wasn’t sure the best way to break it up, but I decided running eight miles before the race would be doable. I got to the park two hours before the race, did a quick warmup, and headed off for eight miles. After a quick shirt change and a trip to the registration table, I still had about a half hour until the race started so I just tried to keep moving to keep the legs loose.

I didn’t have much of a plan for the race, I didn’t want to give it 100% and actually race it, but I didn’t want to take it super easy either. I planned to run somewhere around an eight min/mile pace. The race always has a small field of 200-250 runners so I knew I could line up near the front. When the race started, I tried not to take it out too fast, but I had a few other runners I needed to get around first. Once around them, I settled into a pretty quick pace and parked myself near a couple of other runners who seemed to be running at the same pace I was. By halfway through, I was now running just in front of them instead of just behind them. I knew I was running much faster than I planned, but my legs felt great. My lungs were barely keeping up, but it felt doable. The race doesn’t have any mile markers so I didn’t quite know what my pace was, but since I’ve run this race three times before and know the park very well–I run there after work sometimes–I knew about how far in I was and what was left.

By the time I was two miles in, I was starting to feel the eight miles I already had on my legs before the race and my lungs hated me, but with a mile to go, I wanted to just hang on and finish it out. I started to feel my body getting that pukey feeling I sometimes get at the end of shorter races, but I just kept it down and pushed to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line at 22:51 to be the 16th finisher overall! A 7:21 pace and I really couldn’t be happier with this time. It was way better than I was expecting and hoping for. And even with eight miles on my legs prior to the race, my legs didn’t even feel tired either. It’s weird to be excited by a running a 5k at a pace nine sec/mile slower than I ran the Chicago Marathon in last fall, but my goal since starting hormones has been to keep paces within 60 seconds of what I used to run for any given effort level and race distance. My pre-HRT 5k PR pace is 6:36 min/mile so I was only 41 seconds slower! Amazing!

After waiting a little while for most of the rest of the runners and walkers to finish and clear off the course, I set out for my final four miles for the day. I was still feeling pretty good so I keep a much quicker pace than I would have otherwise, but I didn’t push too hard. When I was finished, I made my way back to the parking lot were my car was and the post-race BBQ was still happening. I decided to stick around for a few minutes which ended up being a good idea, they were also just starting awards. I didn’t think I placed for anything, but I figured I’d stay anyway. It turned out that I came in 3rd in my age group! I was super psyched about this! Unfortunately, I was registered as a man because, technically, the rules state that I’m supposed to register as such at this point in my transition, but I was also running the race in “boy mode,” so it sort of made sense. To me, I think that makes it all the more awesome that I was able to place.

So after an amazing race in the middle of my 15-miler, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I had a huge runner’s high all day!


2012 Beerfest 5k – 22:55 (pre-HRT)

Okay, so this race happened a week ago, but I forgot to post about it, so here goes!

The Beerfest 5k in Rahway is a fun little event that my wife and I took part in for the first time this year. There are race bibs and a race clock, but no official results or timing chips. It’s really just for fun. And at the end, there’s all the beer you want! I actually had a pint of Yuengling before the race even started! It was delicious.

Since this was just three weeks after the Chicago Marathon and I’ve been struggling to bounce back from the destruction I inflicted upon my body, I had no plans to run this race hard. The wife, however, was looking to run a new PR…even if it was technically not “official.” I figured I could put myself to use by running with her and keeping her on target.

Since it was a very small race and really just for fun, we figured we’d start out right in the front without getting in anyone’s way. However, there was a flip side to that, my wife has never really started a race in the front of the pack so she was easily swept up in the start of the race energy. We ended up running something like a 6:45 first mile which felt great for me, but was a bit too fast for her. After that mile, we took it back down to something more manageable and she was able to snatch a shiny new PR of 22:55. Congrats to her!


Downtown Westfield 5k & Pizza Extravaganza – 20:31 (pre-HRT)

Ah, yes, the Downtown Westfield 5k pizza run. This was year number four running this race. Historically, it’s a slow race for me. It’s always a Wednesday after a full day of work and has a bad habit of falling on one of the hottest days of the year. It’s a recipe for disappointment every time. I’m rarely happy with my time.

This year, the weather was surprisingly nice, possibly the coolest year I’ve run it. This was a nice relief since I planning big things for this race; I wanted to break under 20 minutes. I knew that setting my goal so aggressively for this race was probably going to result in disappointment, but that’s just how I do things.

Unfortunately, right off the bat, within the first 200 feet, I knew it wasn’t going to be my race. My legs didn’t feel fast and I could feel it in my lungs that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain a 6:25 pace…even though that was exactly my pace for mile one. I gave it what I had, but I was already losing steam in the second mile. I dropped down to a 6:35 pace for mile two. Mile three was even slower.

I finished at 20:31 which is two seconds slower than my PR. TWO SECONDS! So not only did I miss my goal by quite a bit, but I didn’t even PR! I know, I know, you can’t PR every race, but this PR is almost two years old at this point. I mean, I don’t run a lot of 5ks, but still.

Oh well. At least I beat my best time for this race by two full minutes.


Downtown Westfield 5k & Pizza Extravaganza – 22:32

Yesterday was hot, so very hot. So what was a good thing to do? Run a race! Right? No, I know. It was rough and hot, but the fiancée and I run this race every year. It’s in her hometown and there’s pizza at the end, how could we not do it?

Each year seems to be hotter than the previous one so this time I was smart and set my expectations a bit low. Given that we’re in the middle of a heatwave and the humidity is always awful in New Jersey in the Summer, I gave myself a goal of 22 minutes. I thought was fair for me and my ability.

I started off with a quick first mile (mostly uphill) at 6:35, but that wasn’t sustainable and I knew it. Even that first mile was hard with the humidity. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I was pretty much willing to pay someone to inject some oxygen straight into my lungs. Being way ahead of where I wanted to be for the race, I decided to pull it back a bit, not that I really had a lot of say in the matter anyway. It was much more of my body’s decision than mine. It turned out that I pulled it back way too much and finished with a 7:15 minute/mile pace overall. That’s quite a drop for a 3.1 mile race.

Some days you just don’t have it and the weather has no interest in helping you out. Yesterday was one of those days. Even with all of that considered, I was pretty disappointed with my time. I’ll get over it though. I mean, that time still put me at 190 out of ~2200 runners. Not bad.

On the plus side though, the fiancée earned herself a PR at 23:50 (chip). Hot diggity!

On a side note, this was also the last run in my Vibram Five Fingers KSOs. They are officially retired now–from running, at least. They got me just about 470 miles of road running which isn’t half bad at all. They still could have some life in them, but a few of my toes have worn through and I can feel the asphalt through the holes. It’s time to move onto my second pair of Five Fingers, this time the Bikila model which is specifically designed for runners and has a bit of tread on the bottom.

Pace: 7:15
Overall time: 22:34 (gun) / 22:32 (chip)


3rd Annual Sean Hanna Foundation 5k – 20:41 (pre-HRT)

Last year, the Sean Hanna Foundation 5k was where I set what was my personal best 5k time which took until last Saturday’s race at Rutgers for me to beat. This year, I didn’t set out to PR again. I mean, it would have been awesome, but after last Saturday’s race, I was still so happy that I wasn’t about to hurt myself pushing harder.

I love this race for a few reasons. First, it’s in the name of a friend of mine who unfortunately passed three years ago from cancer. So unlike any other race, this one has a little more personal meaning to me. Second, the first year they did this race was my first ever 5k (let’s just say my time was more than seven minutes slower then than this year). Third, the race is run in Duke Island Park in Bridgewater. I really love this park. It’s where my fiancée and I run after work and it has a nice mix of forest, open park, and riverside paths. Forth, it’s a small race with a great vibe. Now, it’s not always the best organized race, but it was better than last week’s Rutgers race. This year, the race started really late, about 20 minutes, which was awkward and kind of rough after spending a little bit of time moving around and loosening up.

Like last week, I started off right in the front so I wouldn’t have to run around anyone. At this point, I know what kind of a runner I am and where I should be starting. I didn’t take off quite like I did last week when the race started, but I still started off quickly to separate myself from most of the pack a little. From there, there was very little position change, I think I passed one or two people through the rest of the race and that was it. My first mile was about the same speed as last week’s, but somehow I lost a lot in my second mile. I thought I was picking it up, but I guess not. I did pick it up for real in my third mile, but my legs started to feel like rubber a bit. I was pushing, but not quite 100%. As much as I would have loved to beat last week’s time, for the first time ever, I didn’t feel like I had to beat my best time so I didn’t push as much as I could have. And to be honest, I really didn’t have much more to give.

I finished just a little slower than last week, only 12 seconds off, but I didn’t feel like I was going to puke which was nice. I’m really happy with my time. Even though the weather was a little nicer for this race than it was last week, I was just glad to know it wasn’t a fluke and this is really where I’m at right now. 20:41 was good enough to get me in at 7th overall and 2nd for my age group. Even though it was a small race with just 179 runners, you can’t be unhappy with numbers like that.


Rutgers Homecoming Run for RAH 5K – 20:29 (pre-HRT)

This morning, I ran the Rutgers Alumni Run for Rutgers Against Hunger as part of the homecoming festivities. This was a small race, only 253 runners total. The course was pretty nice, very flat, but it wasn’t well marked at all. There were some small, easy to miss signs and a person or two standing at corners where you needed to turn, but they weren’t wearing anything to make them stand out from students on campus. The roads also weren’t entirely blocked off so you couldn’t go by that either. Because of the small size of the race, it was easy to end up all by yourself for a little while so if you weren’t paying attention and looking down the road at where other runners were turning, it was easy to miss a turn. Luckily, I did not.

Since the race was so small, I made sure to start right in the very front so I wouldn’t have to run around anyone. This was also helpful since there was no sensor at the start of the race leaving you with just the gun time at the end which doesn’t take into count how long it takes you to actually cross the starting line. The first mile of the race was straight into a long gust of wind, but I powered though it as best I could at a solid pace. The wind must have been around 20mph at the time and it was taking my breath away a little. Breathing was definitely a little difficult through this and starting out that way didn’t give me much of a chance to ever catch my breath again. I just powered through as much as I could though.

The second mile was my slowest of the three. I’m not sure why, actually. I was trying to pick it up a little, but I just couldn’t breathe deeply. I think I may need to do more intense cardio training to get my breathing up to par. Once I hit a pace faster than about 7:20/mile, I start losing the ability to breathe deeply with my diaphragm and I end up with nothing but short little breaths that just don’t get the job done.

Once I hit the third mile, I started to push a little more, but as I got down to the last half mile, I started feeling the throw up feeling coming out to play. I kept steady and fought it back, but couldn’t break out into the end-of-race sprint that I generally try to do. I wasn’t able to start sprinting until the last 50-100ft. Then I crossed the finish line…and threw up. This seems to be my new thing lately. Maybe it’s the peanut butter sandwiches I’ve been eating an hour before the race?

At any rate, this was by far my best race ever. My time was 20:29 which completely smashes my previous 5k personal record of 23:07. I’m utterly ecstatic about it, actually. My goal was 21 minutes and I beat that by a good chunk of time. Very happy about this! That time put me at 11th overall. The winner was 16:51 which is a time I don’t kid myself into ever thinking I’ll be able hit, but being able to finish in the top 5% is absolutely amazing.

In addition to that, this was a fun race because of the amount of people I knew running it. I knew six or seven other runners so it was great to be able to stand on the side near the finish and cheer for everyone as they finished.

I’ve got another 5k coming up on Saturday for the Sean Hanna Foundation. It’s their third annual race and I’ve been a part since the beginning so I don’t plan to ever miss one. I’m excited to see what this race has in store for me. I don’t know that I’ll be able to beat today’s time, but even if I can come close, I’ll be happy.