2017 Philly LOVE Run Half Marathon – 1:39:58

This was like three minutes after finishing. I put warm clothes on right quick!

The last three races I was supposed to run in Philly were all DNSed the morning of—the 2015 Broad Street Run and the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon. But my Philly DNS streak is over! Yesterday, I did not DNS. I actually ran a race! It was my first race in Philly since the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon.

The Philly LOVE Run first of five half marathons I’m running this spring. Yes, I’m running five half marathons this spring. I’m currently training for Grandma’s Marathon and, for this training cycle, I decided to do something different for my long runs. I wanted to change things up a bit and, instead of doing all my long runs along my normal route, earn a few new race medals in the half marathon. This also goes along with my biggest running goal of 2017, running more races and focusing less on PRs.


We drove down to Philly on Saturday and went right to the expo at the Convention Center. CGI Racing expos aren’t particularly huge, but they are well-organized and stress-free. I had my bib, race shirt, and mug without waiting in a single line for anything. After a quick lap, we were out! We hung around the city for a couple hours and got drinks at Brü Craft & Wurst, a great craft beer and wurst bar we happened to stumble upon. After that, it was dinner and ice cream with our friend Hollie.

Got my bib!

Hollie was also nice enough to let us crash at her house the night before which helped make it a cheap weekend with few worries! Of course, Hollie is one of the silliest people I know and when I walked into the bedroom, there was a framed copy of my magazine staring at me. Awkward!

After some foam rolling, it was off to bed before 10pm.


I made Hollie take a picture with it and own it!

I got up at 5:15, got dressed, and hopped in the car. It was a 20 minute drive from Hollie’s to where we parked in Fairmount Park, about a mile from the start. I had 15 miles on the schedule for the day so I needed a couple warmup miles before the race. I gave a quick goodbye to the wife and took off for a mile down Ben Franklin Parkway and a mile back. I finished with just enough time to hit a porta-potty and sprint to my starting corral.

The forecast had some light rain in it for race morning, but luckily it held out and race start was 44º with 10mph winds and overcast. Great racing conditions!

The race

The race started on time with a nice bit of energy. I was in the first corral and lined up between the 1:30 and 1:35 pacers. I wasn’t trying for a big PR or anything so I knew I wasn’t going to be trying to hang with either of those pace groups, but I felt confident with my placement being reasonable enough anyway.

Through the first mile, I hung tight with most of the runners around me and clocked a 7:19 first mile. Oops! Definitely much faster than the 8:00 I was thinking I should have been running. I tried to pull back slightly, but mostly just went with it. If I had stuck with that pace, I’d have had a massive PR, but I knew that wasn’t realistic as I’m not exactly in my best shape right now.

As we were heading around City Hall, Twitter friend Megan came up from behind to introduce herself. She’s just a few months postpartum, but was looking to run a 1:39. We ran together for a bit with some light conversation before I dropped back. Again, this was really just a training run so I knew it was time to get things under control.

Unfortunately, mile 2 totally threw both my Garmin and Apple Watch off so I didn’t have accurate splits at all to compare to how my legs were feeling. It was back to doing mental math based on the clocks at each mile marker—which, luckily, each mile had—just like the old days!

After looping our way back onto the Parkway and to pass through the start/finish area, I started keeping my eyes open for the wife. She said she’d be around mile 4—we had discussed her being around The Oval, which is roughly mile 4.25. It was a good thing I was looking, though, because she was right at mile 4, ahead of where I was expecting her. We waved and I tossed my arm warmers at her.

Things were quiet for a while after that. We rounded The Oval and made our way down MLK Drive and into Fairmount Park where the crowds were mostly non-existent. I was feeling tired, definitely not how I wanted to be feeling to a training run, but it was very par for the course with my running lately. I wasn’t too worried about slowing down if I needed to, my most important thing was not wanting to leave myself too sore or tired to continue my training this week.

As we approached mile 7, I started watching for the lead runners to be coming down the back portion of the out and back. I was able to see the first three men before we veered off MLK Drive and up an onramp at mile 7.5. This is where things got tough, the next half mile was climbing uphill. It was not fun! We don’t really have hills in Jersey City so my hill game is way off these days. The climbing felt like forever, but things leveled off exactly at the 8th mile marker. A guy who had been running near me for a while told me I was helping motivate him and keep him steady here. I was glad to make myself useful!

After some quick looping, we came back down the same hills and I flew. My legs were tired, but gravity, yo. I got a side-stitch halfway down this section, but I was able to work it out pretty quickly.

Before I knew it, we were at the last turn around—mile 9.75ish—and I knew it was a straight shot back to the Art Museum and finish from there. I was feeling tired, but at this point I wanted to keep it steady to the finish. I had been mostly in the 7:30-7:45 range for my splits, except for hillsville mile 8. Coming down this last 5k, a man and woman whom I had passed in the downhill section and who were standing next to me in the corral passed me. I wanted to use them as my rabbit for the rest of the race, but I didn’t want to push myself more than I had been. I kept it close, but didn’t increase my effort level any. As I crossed mile 11, I started getting a little nauseous so I eased back a little for a couple minutes until that subsided.

Once I passed mile 12, I started using the Art Museum as my beacon for the finish. I was ready to be done, but I decided not to push or kick at all to the finish. It wasn’t a goal race and I wasn’t in it for a PR. I did some math at the mile marker and knew I’d be close to my PR, but I thought I was roughly 30 seconds off.

Looking strong at the end!

As I approached the last curve, I spotted the wife and cruised my way to the to the finish line. My mental math was close, but slightly off and it turned out I was only 7 seconds off my PR! If I had known I was that close in the last couple of miles, I would have kicked a little harder. Oh well! I’m not even the slightest bit disappointed, though. Again, this wasn’t a goal race and I was supposed to be running much slower. I was pretty happy.

After the finish, the woman (of the man and woman combo mentioned above) congratulated me and we chatted a little. She snagged a PR! I ended up finding her on Instagram later in the day and we chatted a bit. After talking to her, the guy from mile 8 came up to tell me he PRed and I was helping keep him going all race! In the past, I’ve always hated knowing people were using me to run faster or hold steady, but I was actually pretty psyched about this. I was really happy for him!

After grabbing my medal and some water, I met up with the wife and we walked over to the Whole Foods near the finish to grab some groceries and coffee. A man in the produce section commented on my medal and we talked about races in the city for a few minutes. And then the cashier also struck up a conversation with me about the race. SO MUCH LOVE IN PHILLY THIS WEEKEND!

Final thoughts

This was a great weekend in Philly and I was really happy with the race! CGI Racing puts on great races that are organized and fun without being massively huge and overwhelming.

My performance was much better than I expected. I’ve been in a bit of a running rut lately, but to get so close to my PR without putting in a race effort was a nice boost. I had a big burger and greasy fries the night before and didn’t do anything to prepare for this as a race. And I went at about 90-95% of a half marathon race effort. So it was nice to find out I still have a lot of the strength I’ve been struggling to find lately.

Lastly, I felt like this run helped me really start to hammer home some of what I’ve been working on in PT lately. I’m a very quad-dominant runner. My quads and calves do all the work and everything else is just along for the ride so I’ve been trying to work on engaging my glutes, hamstrings, and core while running. It seems I’m finally starting to get this as I could feel them working all race. And I could feel the work being spread from just my quads to the rest of my legs as well. I still have some work to do, but this felt like a major contributor to running so well without pushing my effort level.


2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – DIY half marathon

This is post two of three for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. Checkout my recap for the expo, 5k, and 10k here.

No disappointment here!

So this was the weird day of this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. We’d been watching the weather all week and knew it was going to be rainy. I don’t mind running in the rain if it’s not too cold, but thunderstorms were in the forecast, which…is a problem. runDisney had been sending out tweets that they were monitoring the forecast and would make a decision accordingly. We all had our fingers crossed that the thunderstorms would miss us or the timing would work out.

Unfortunately, at around 7:30 on Friday night, runDisney put up a post on Facebook stating “out of an abundance of caution” they were deciding to cancel the half marathon. I was shocked. As far as I know, they’ve never had to cancel a race before and it felt really early to be making that call. I understood their decision, but I didn’t have to like it!

I was literally snapping this Flat Amy pic when I got the cancelation notification!

Everyone was bummed. Twitter and Facebook immediately went crazy with people reacting. In the end, runDisney made the right decision. They had to think of the fact that they wouldn’t be able to evacuate all of the runners from the course if there was lightning in the area and also about their volunteers setting up throughout the night. As it turned out, it did lightning in the area throughout the night and continued well into the morning. It was the right call.

I have to give runDisney a lot of credit for how generous they were. Runners were offered refunds in the form of Disney gift cards, park tickets, entry into another runDisney race, or the option to run the full marathon the next day. Surprisingly 1,500 runners took that option! Dopey and Goofy runners are getting automatic refunds via electronic gift cards. And everyone got/gets their medals.

Still, many of us came to run and I didn’t feel right taking a medal for a race I didn’t run or taking Dopey and Goofy medals when I didn’t do the full challenge. This where things actually started to get fun. People started making all kinds of plans to run on their own. Some woke up at the same time they would have otherwise, others opted for a little extra sleep first. At first, doing laps around resorts sounded like it was going to be kinda miserable, but I’m stubborn and wanted to take part.

The half was the one race Danielle was planning on running so she still wanted to run too. We slept into just a little since we could and then got out there for our own half marathon. We were staying at the Yacht Club which is one of the Crescent Lake resorts so pulling this off was really easy. We did laps around the Boardwalk and out and back to Hollywood Studios. Each lap was just about 2 miles and quite scenic.

Just doing our thing!

When we got outside, there were already a bunch of other runners and the number of them just kept increasing throughout our run. Many even had their bibs on! It was amazing and there was so much camaraderie among everyone. Having that many people out there running at the same time almost made it feel like it was still a race! Some people even came out to cheer! At other resorts, people started setting up water and aid stops for runners.

Throughout the run, there was lightning that we could see in the distance, but it was never right over us. The good thing about where we were running was we had shelter most of the way that we could have ducked into if we needed. The rain held out for most of our run until about ten miles in, but it was so humid and warm out that it felt great! At one point, we got a pretty decent downpour going and it was probably my favorite thing ever!

Figured that the day that was 70º in the morning was the day the race got canceled.

We ended up doing our DIY half marathon in 2:00:29 and finished right at the lighthouse with huge smiles on our faces! It was an incredible experience, possibly even more fun than the actual race would have been. I’m so glad we decided to go out there and do it. By the time we were done, I had a huge smile and zero disappointment about the race being canceled.

All done! We perfectly nailed it so we finished exactly here.


2016 Newport Liberty Half Marathon – 1:39:51

img_0075I haven’t raced a half marathon in a long time. Sure, I’ve run half marathons, but it’s been about four and a half years since I actually tried to run a fast half and cared about my time. That was about a month before I decided to transition. Granted, I also haven’t raced much in the way of any distance in the last two years, but it’s certainly been the longest for the half. So I was due.

I should also mention the bigger point here, this was also my first race of any kind since having surgery in January. It’s definitely been a while since I’ve pinned a bib on.

I signed up for this race way back in like March before I even knew for sure when I’d be running again after surgery. They had a thing were you could register for the Newport 10k and Newport Liberty Half Marathon together, so I went for that. The 10k is in the spring, the half is in the fall. Unfortunately, I ended up DNSing the 10k thanks to some complications in my surgery healing. Boo! Anyway, I had my deferred entry for Chicago Marathon on October 9 so a half marathon three weeks before then seemed like a good way to test out my training. Plus, the race isn’t just in Jersey City (where I live) but it swings through my neighborhood and all the areas I spend my time. It even does a nice big lap of Liberty State Park which is where I log the vast majority of my miles. What more could a girl ask for? Though, I will say that this course map had a few WTFs in it…



I had 20 miles on the schedule for the day and I tend to prefer to do extra miles before a race rather than after. I like being able to run the race without needing to worry about leaving something in my legs for after. So I got up early to knock out 10k before the race. I ran my normal four mile route and then ran to the race start where my wife was waiting for me with a towel, some water, and a Kind bar. My run ended up being more like 6.4 miles than an even 6.2, but close enough. I was already dripping sweat thanks to 93% humidity so I decided it was gonna be a sports bra only race for me…a first. I even took a poll on Twitter the night before to see where most people pin their bibs. I went with on my shorts on my left hip. It was perfect.

I didn’t have a hard goal in mind for the race. I wanted to push it hard, but not a full 100%. With this coming at the end of my first marathon training peak week, I wanted to test out my training and get a good feel for where I was at for Chicago in three weeks. At the same time, I hadn’t tapered or done anything to set myself up for success—which is fine because my number one priority is my marathon. I figured I’d run in the low 1:40s with an appropriate effort. Yeah, I don’t really know what “appropriate effort” means either, but that’s about how I’d describe my plan.

fullsizerender-3I got into the corral and started with my friend Miranda. She’s also marathon training and her goal was to stay just under an 8:00 mile pace. That seemed like a good place to be so I said I’d probably stick near her.

When the race started, we took off at what felt like an easy and slow pace. I truly thought I was running just over an 8:00 mile until we got to the first mile marker at around a 7:36. Oops. In my head, I knew this was a little too fast, but in my legs and lungs, I felt right where I wanted to be. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Mile 2 flew by in the blink of an eye. We dropped just over 20 seconds off the pace. Big oops. Just before the marker, I saw my wife on the side cheering. I flew by waving at her with both hands and being all around silly about it. This is about when I started to lose Miranda.

I kept things steady through mile three, but started realizing in mile four that I should slow myself down a bit. Miles four and five were 7:22 and 7:24. By mile six I was starting to feel the effects of starting out too fast and slowed down into the low 7:30s.

graphics-interchange-format-gif-42e8f027a5f9-1The miles in Liberty State Park were nice and familiar. There were no surprises which helped keep me on track and made it feel just like a training run—even though the route was a bit different than I typically do through the park. Approaching mile ten, I was really feeling it, but kept telling myself I just had 5k left. As we passed by the marina, I tried to make sure I had the room I needed for the bumpy part of the path right before the boat launch. I run this section of the path in both directions almost every day and it’s a bit rough. The path is really uneven and bumpy. But I’ve run it so much that I’ve mapped out where each step should land through the entire stretch to get through as easily as possible. I came down this section on the right side of the path nice and clean and then looped around the boat launch and out of the park.

From here on, it was just hang on and make it to the finish. The eleventh mile marker snuck right up as my time slowed a tad more to 7:39. I had passed the twelfth mile marker on my pre-race miles so I knew exactly where it was and just focused on getting to that point. And from there, the course followed along the same way I finished my pre-run miles so I just replayed that in my head. I knew exactly where I was going and what was left. This was a huge boost.

Some numbers

Some numbers

As I came down the last stretch, I passed my wife again, as well as my speedy friend Sarah—she placed 5th overall!—just before the final turn to the finish. I looked at the clock and saw I had just enough time left to squeeze in under 1:40 without having to push more. I was beat so I just coasted my way in. Any extra seconds I could have knocked off here weren’t important to me at that point. I cruised past the finish line and bent over like I was going to throw up, just like how I finish most races!

After gulping down some water, I met up with my wife and checked the printout of the times. My ears were literally clogged with sweat, I was dehydrated, and I was still in a post-race daze so when I looked my time, I only looked at the clock time and not my chip time. I wasn’t really thinking quite straight yet. I saw 1:40:03! I was pissed! I thought I had a few extra seconds there at the finish! I could have pushed enough to make it! It was stupid, but I was bummed about that. It wasn’t until about a half hour later when I checked online that I saw my chip time was 1:39:51 and I came in 7th in my age group. Everything felt right again!

We hung around for a little bit with Miranda and grabbed our free beers before calling it a day and walking home. I was pretty proud of my effort!

This is a sign I trust

This is a sign I trust


Usually, I think you learn a lot more from failure or a bad race, but I actually have a lot of takeaways from this race. Mostly, they’re things I already knew, but had forgotten since it’s been little while.

fullsizerenderFirst off, I need to race more. I’m rusty. I forgot what it’s like to push through at the end of race. It’s nothing like pushing on a hard run.

Control is also a thing I need to work on. I’ve never been particularly good at controlling my pace early in a race and this has definitely been a big worry for me over the last few weeks as I look ahead to marathon day. I’m worried about starting off too fast. I’m really bad at slowing myself down even when I know I need to. It’s like my legs get into a certain rhythm and I can’t pull them back from there. If I can find the right pace early, I can usually keep it and even end up with a negative split. I took off too fast for the first few miles of this race and got in trouble later because of it. I just happened to be lucky enough to still sneak in with a great time, but I was struggling through the last 5k.

Running a race on a familiar route can make a huge difference. When you know the course like the back of your hand, it’s easy to wrap your head around the miles ahead. You know where they are and where they go. A trick I often do late in marathons is pretend I’m running on my normal route at home. I visualize myself with the same distance left on a training run as I have left in the race. I picture where I would be and what would be around me. With this course, I didn’t even have to do that. I was already on familiar paths and streets. It absolutely helped a lot!

Lastly, I’ve forgotten how to drink water while running at race effort, it would seem. I only took water twice, but I splashed it right up my nose the second time. I swear I used to be really good at this. I probably should have taken more water during the race as practice.img_0092-copy


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.


Asbury Park Half Marathon – 1:48:11

RunAPalooza Asbury Park Half Marathon 2015

Ignore the nail polish situation here. It came off as soon as I got home.

Oddly, before Saturday, I hadn’t raced a half marathon in three years. Yes, THREE! I’ve run four half marathons (raced two of them) in that period of time, but the last half marathon I did outside of Disney World or Disneyland and wasn’t just for fun was three years ago, April 2012. That’s before I even decided to transition! Really, I guess it’s just because I don’t run a lot of races and I’ve been staying focused on the marathon, but I don’t think this is doing my any favors. In order to get better at the marathon, I need to be running half marathons too.

Enter the Asbury Park Half Marathon at RunAPalooza.

I was back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to do this race. Last year, it was the day before the New Jersey Marathon and my wife ran it–she massively PRed! The race seemed reasonably well put together and it’s not too far away, so it seemed like a good candidate for a tune-race. Plus, it fell on a 16-mile long run day this year. Perfect!

Race Day

I woke up around 5:30–which is roughly when I wake up most weekday mornings these days–and was able to hop right out of bed. I wasn’t quite feeling energized, but I had no trouble getting up. I got dressed real quick, ate some oatmeal, and ran out the door. Unfortunately, I ended up being a few minutes behind schedule thanks to forgetting my glasses and having to head back to the house to get them and needing to stop for gas. Still, I made it down to Asbury Park in good time.

I parked and ran into the Convention Hall to grab my bib. Since I had 16 miles on the schedule, I wanted to knock out a three-mile warmup before the race. As I was throwing my bib on, my friend Lauren saw me and came over to say hi. We had planned to run the race together so we had to meet up anyway. After a quick hello, we set a meeting spot and I went out for my warmup. My timing ended up being pretty close to perfect and I finished my warmup with less than ten minutes to go before the race. Lauren and I quickly found each other again and snagged our spot in the corral.

Lauren wanted to keep around an 8:10 pace which sounded good to me. Ideally, that pace shouldn’t be too difficult for me right now. My only real concern was the weather. Last year, the weather was cool, but super windy. This year was nothing like that. The high for the day was set to be near 80 and the wind didn’t even exist. None of us East Coasters are anywhere near acclimated to that kind of warmth yet.

Anyway, after a couple minutes in the corral, the race started and we were off. We quickly found our pace and settled right in. Our race strategy was pretty simple, even 8:10s for 13.1 miles.

For the most part, things were extremely uneventful early on. We kept things steady with a nice conversation. Shortly before the halfway mark, we saw Aimee coming down the out part of the out-and-back in this part of the race. We waved and continued on.

If we’re being honest, I was already not feeling anywhere near how I wanted to be feeling. I felt like I was working too hard for the pace we were keeping. While I still haven’t set an official goal for Grandma’s Marathon in two months, I do know it’ll be somewhere in this realm, plus/minus 10 seconds. Considering that, I need to be able to keep this pace with no problem for a half marathon. The fact that I couldn’t is a major concern.

As we approached back towards the Convention Hall for our pass-by of the finish line on the boardwalk, I was starting to have serious concerns about keeping the pace up. We weren’t even at nine miles yet. Lauren wasn’t feeling too great either. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun last four miles.

After passing the finish line, for an out-and-back in the other direction from where we had just came, we hooked a right turn onto a 30ft patch OF FRIGGIN’ SAND! It was the worst surprise ever! That really sucked and I felt it in my legs for a few minutes afterwards. This was the final nail in the coffin for having any sort of a decent race. Lauren needed a walk break because of a side stitch and, since I already established we’re being totally honest here, I wasn’t really opposed to the idea. We walked for a few seconds and then started back up again, but it didn’t last long before we needed another break. This time, though, I decided to power on.

From this point on, my pace dropped to about 8:30. I just wanted things to be over. I was hot and not having fun anymore. After the last turnaround, I just did my best to keep up as I had been, but it was rough. As a final insult, the course took us BACK OVER THE DAMN SAND with only like a quarter mile left to go! Ah!

As I approached the finish, I didn’t really try to give much else for the finish. It didn’t feel worth it. There was a guy running next to me that I made sure to beat but that was about it.

I crossed the finish at 1:48:11 and was just glad it was over.

I grabbed some water and waited for Lauren to finish so we could lament about how much that sucked.


I really don’t know what to make of this. As I mentioned, if I want to hit the goal I’d like to be setting for Grandma’s, this race shouldn’t have been so difficult. On the other hand, it was hot. Take off 15-20º and I think this would have been a very different day. I’m just not acclimated yet. My hope is I’ll acclimate just fine over the next two months and then head off to Duluth to race and it’ll be a little cooler than back here. We’ll see how that works out. Besides, my legs felt totally fine afterwards and the day after the race, so that’s a solid indication I wasn’t anywhere near pushing them.

There’s also the fact that I didn’t really have a great week running at all last week and didn’t do any taper at all. All my runs were slow and tough. I was just tired and not on top of my game. I wasn’t super surprised the race didn’t go great. Taking the entirety of my training so far into account, I think my expectation that this wouldn’t be a difficult pace to keep was correct, rather than this being a huge wake up call.

And even on top of that, I haven’t actually raced any race since July of last year. I was a bit rusty going in so, at the least, it was good to have a race to just get the cobwebs out a bit.

Anyway, I’m still not setting a goal in stone for my marathon yet. I’m going to see how the rest of training goes and then make a decision.


2015 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

I can’t remember the last time I was this unprepared to run a race. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been this unprepared, to be honest. Since early July, the longest I had run had been 13.1 miles. For months, I’d run anywhere from 10 to 25 miles a week and recently I started throwing in spin class once a week. That’s just enough to be prepared for a half marathon, but not enough to actually earn a solid time. It’s certainly not enough to run a marathon. And it’s definitely not enough to run a half marathon and a marathon on back-to-back days.

So what does one do when they’re not anywhere near where they should be to complete a half marathon and a marathon in the same weekend? They do the runDisney Goofy Challenge. That’s what.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Flat Amy ready to go!

Flat Amy ready to go!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon morning started much like most runDisney races do for me. I cursed my alarm clock at 3am and rolled myself out of bed and into my race day clothes. I shoved a Picky Bar in my mouth, grabbed my apple slices from the fridge, and made my way out the door to catch a 3:45 bus down to the starting area.

Once I got there, I quickly met up with my friend Danielle who was conquering not only her first Goofy, but also her first marathon. We chatted for a bit and then I dropped my bag off and bumped into my Twitter buddies Heather and Nathan who were doing something even dumber than me, the Dopey Challenge–add a 5k and a 10k onto the half marathon and marathon. After a few minutes of standing around in the the cold, it was time to get into my corral and be prepared for the nice and early 5:35am start.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Waiting around for the start!

Time went by surprisingly quickly in the corral and then it was time to go–in typical runDisney fashion with fireworks, of course. Knowing that I really had no business running a marathon the next day, I knew I’d have to take the race extra easy. I set my goal at an easy 2:15 so I could just take my time, take some photos, and have fun. The few 13.1 milers I’ve done in “training” recently were all around 1:57 without too much effort so I knew this shouldn’t be too hard on my legs.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon start

Gotta love runDisney starts!

Less than a mile into the race, I stopped at a bank of porta-potties to let out a quick pee that I’d been holding. From there, I stopped quickly for a photo here and there, but just kept my pace nice and easy.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon


2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Main Street Magic Kingdom

Main Street USA

Somewhere before the 5k mark, I ran into my friend Melody who was doing Dopey. She had a faster goal in mind than I did and, though she had started a corral back from me, had caught up and recognized me from behind. We ran together all the way to Magic Kingdom and down Main Street before I lost her after I stopped to take a quick photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Cinderella's Castle

What up, Cindy!

By this point, I had picked up my pace a little from where I was, something I would continue to do throughout the race, but I was feeling fine as we made our way through Tomorrowland and into Fantasyland. After running through Cindy’s castle–which had been taken over by Anna and Elsa–I stopped for another photo in front of the castle, this time with one of the official race photographers.

Making my way around to the sixth mile marker and then out of the back of the park next to Splash Mountain, I was simply enjoying things and having fun. Except for the last mile, the rest of the race is kind of boring from here. You’re on back roads between Magic Kingdom and Epcot and there isn’t a ton going on. There is a bit of entertainment, but not quite enough for this stretch. Though, there was a DJ playing “Shake It Off” on repeat which made me think about great this song still is.

Somewhere around mile nine, I ran into Patrick, whom I had just met at Wine & Dine two months ago. We ran together for a bit before I pulled my pace back a bit to save energy for the next day. From there to the finish was pretty uneventful. I kept it steady and cruised in for a 2:08:07 finish. A bit faster than planned, but it happens.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Phineas and Ferb

Best race photo EVER!

After the race, I quickly hopped on a bus back to the resort to get ready for the day in the parks. I wanted to get right out there so I wouldn’t have to feel bad about making it an early night.

Walt Disney World Marathon

Marathon outfit

Marathon outfit

Marathon morning started off similar to the day before. Though, as I started to spread the peanut butter I brought with my onto my bagel, I noticed it had expired months ago so the peanut butter and half my bagel went right into the trash. This left me with less pre-race nutrition than I would have liked. I ended up with half a plain bagel, some apple slices, a Larabar, and a Cliff Shots gel. Could be worse, but still not ideal.

My real worry was that I was somehow sore from the day before. Not terribly sore, but I felt it in my quads. Sure, I wasn’t really trained for a marathon, but I shouldn’t have been sore from a half marathon ten minutes slower than the 13.1 milers I’d been doing every week without pushing myself. It wasn’t enough to make me think I should pull a DNS, but it was enough to have me concerned.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon start

Some more fireworks to start off day two!

This time when the race started, I made sure to pull it back even more on the pace and I, again, stopped inside the first mile to pee. Given my soreness at the start, I decided I would walk all hills and walk through each water stop. And since the weather was going to get up into the 70s, I planned to take water at every stop anyway. My goal was to, at worst, get to the halfway point before falling back to a run/walk effort and, at best, make it to mile sixteen before that happened. I fully expected a lot of walking in the last third of the race. I figured shooting for a 5:00 finish gave me plenty of time to walk as much as I needed in the second half of the race.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope

Glitchin’ with Vanellope!

I stuck to this plan pretty well, but my pace was a lot faster than planned. Even with all my photo stops, through the first third of the race, I was keeping about a 10:35 min/mile average which was about as slow as I could get my legs to go at the time. The problem was I was kind of having a blast out there. I was just having fun and not worrying about much. Okay, that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that I kind of had to poop…and was starting to feel some thigh chafing show up.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Magic Kingdom

Oh, hey, Magic Kingdom

As we made our way into the Speedway after Magic Kingdom, I started eying up the porta-potties. I didn’t want to have to do it, but I knew what needed to be done and went for it. I think I lost about three minutes or so in there. After that was taken care of, I stopped at the next aid station to throw some vaseline between my legs to ward off the chafing. Despite both of these things, I was having all kinds of fun out there. I had a HUGE smile on my face and couldn’t stop feeling totally in love with running.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

My favorite RVers!!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Quick little jamboree! And, yes, that is indeed vaseline on my camera lens.

Finally, the temperature started to rise a bit more and I broke out into a heavy enough sweat for my thighs to be able to keep themselves all lubed up and free from chafing. And it was around that time we started to make our way into Animal Kingdom. The fun thing about starting a race sore is you completely lose all ability to accurately judge how your legs are holding up through things. I hadn’t run an inch of the race without feeling at least some soreness and things had only gotten marginally worse so I was pretty happy with where I was. In fact, I was otherwise feeling really good.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

I made a very cute friend on my way into Animal Kingdom!

We ran through Animal Kingdom and as we passed the halfway part of the race Samwise Gamgee passed me on left. Not someone dressed like him, it was Sean Astin. This was my second runDisney event I’d run with him (not with him; you know what I mean). The first was the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland back in 2013. Though, that time I passed him. He ran just in front of me for a few seconds and then stopped to walk and I never saw him again.

Anyway, like I said, I was feeling pretty good and my pace was slowly picking up. I was pretty much in heaven…which isn’t exactly where you’d expect someone in my situation going into the race to be. I had about 18 minutes banked for the second half of the race to keep under 5:00.

After passing the fourteenth mile marker, I got up to the graveyard photo op and just had to go for it this year. I waited in a line as about ten runners ahead of me took their photos and probably lost a good two or three minutes, but I didn’t care, my photo was great and totally worth it!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 14 just KILLED me!

I was afraid that laying down on the ground to take the photo would be the end of me. After standing there for a couple minutes and then having to stand back up from the ground, I figured my legs would be done and that would be that. Instead, this is where things got weird.

I got up just fine and then, I don’t know, I just kind of started to go for it. My legs were feeling good and I was passing runner after runner. I knew I still had a lot of race ahead of me so I tried to pull back a bit, but I really just wanted to go. At mile sixteen, where I had hoped to make it before needing to walk, I was starting to really feel in my element. My pace was getting down into the low nine-minute-mile range and I stopped taking water. Oddly, I felt completely hydrated, much more so than when I started the race even.

Coming around into Wide World of Sports, I couldn’t have felt better or been happier…except for the fact that I had another poop brewing. I didn’t want to stop again, though, I was feeling too good. So I squeezed some cheek and motored on while continuing to pass runners through the narrow parts of the course in Wide World of Sports. With 10k to go, I was in the zone and kicking ass. Instead of stopping to poop like I should have, I decided to “go for it” a little more. At this point, the race was really on. What was going to come first, the finish line or my poop?

I rounded into Hollywood Studios after somehow missing the 22nd mile marker entirely and turned it on a little more. I’m running out of ways to say how good I was feeling, but I really was. My legs were saying “Go! Go! Go!”

Coming up on the 23rd marker, I did some quick math and realized at my current pace I was going to score a WDW Marathon PR. Though, I’ve only ever done WDW Marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge and, therefore, never raced it, this still seemed like a pretty big deal to me. Back at mile 20, I thought I would be close, but a minute or two over. Here, I knew I just had to keep it steady.

But I didn’t keep it steady. I picked it up some more. It’s weird, I know, but my legs were only slightly more sore than when I started the race and, somehow, not tired at all. I was at mile 23 of a marathon I shouldn’t have been running at all, I shouldn’t have been feeling good. I shouldn’t have been able to pick it up. It shouldn’t have mattered that I took the first half of the race really slow and easy. I should have been struggling. I wasn’t.

Mile 24 came in at a brisk 8:07, just a hair slower than my goal marathon pace from back in April. I flew through Hollywood Studios like I had a rocket strapped to me.

Coming down along the river behind the Boardwalk, I was doing my best to get around people in the cramped space, but I was still flying. Only problem was, I was really struggling to hold the poop in. I was squeezing my butt as tight as I could and just praying to not shit my shorts. This and the crowdedness of the course here caused me to lose a little time, but I was still putting down an 8:30 min/mile.

I don’t know why I did it, but I grabbed a Twizzler from a girl handing them out behind the Boardwalk. I took a few bites and then tossed it. Unfortunately, as I was chewing it, it slid into the back of my mouth and I started choking on it. Luckily, I was able to deal with that without having to slow down. Almost ruined everything, though!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 25.5 and nothing about that smile is fake.

Coming down along by the Beach Club, I was still passing runner after runner. Some spots got a little tight and, rather than slowing down, I decided to just hop over some of the cones around the trees. I flew around into the World Showcase and would have been really flying if I didn’t have to poop so badly. Though, I was still running an 8:30 pace. At this point, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finish without pooping my pants. I strongly debated stopping real quick, but I wanted that PR bad so I kept on squeezing. I was 100% convinced that the moment I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I was going to crap all over myself. It wasn’t going to be pretty.

Quick high-five from Mickey!

Quick high-five from Mickey!

I made my way around the World Showcase, through Futureworld, and out of the park. The finish line came into view, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it. I high-fived Mickey in my last few steps and crossed at 4:23:21, a four minute WDW Marathon PR. And, of course, my GI immediately felt better. I grabbed my medal and felt on top of the world.

After the race, my legs felt the best they ever have after a marathon. They were sore as heck, sure, but I was walking just fine and not even in the same ballpark of soreness I usually feel. The next day and the day after, I still was significantly less sore than normal.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon and Goofy Challenge

Obligatory hardware photo.


2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Seriously, happy as a clam. Not even a clam…all the clams. Every clam.

Sure, 4:23 is not a fast marathon for me when you look at my faster times, but this was a race that should have been difficult to finish at all given how much I had been running. Even though the last eight months of running really sucked for me, I still racked up 1,504 miles I 2014 and I have to believe that really came into play here.

Every marathon has a story behind it. Every one is unique. Just looking at my marathon times in chronological order can tell you that. 3:24, 4:58, 3:08, 4:27, 3:44, 3:48, and 4:23. All of these races have their own story. Different goals, different training, and different takeaways. This marathon was my third slowest, but it slapped me in the face and told me to quit my whining. It told me to get my shit together and start pushing myself for real again. It told me to believe in myself. And it reminded me of what I’m capable of.

You really have to love running to do the Goofy Challenge and I’ve struggled with that a lot for the last eight months, but I just can’t doubt that anymore. I am in love with running. After the New Jersey Marathon last year, I wrote about what I learned from that race and I wrote about how much I love the marathon. This race reminded me that I just simply love running too. I couldn’t have had a better and more fun time out there running it. I had a huge smile the whole time and loved every second of it. I only wanted it to end because of the whole poop situation. Otherwise, I was in heaven.

I’m not making any definite plans yet for this year, but I want to get out there and get my shit together again. I want to work hard. I want 3:30 to be a reasonable marathon goal again.


2013 runDisney Dumbo Double Dare

Disney Dumbo Double Dare medal collection runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon Disneyland 10k

I’m kind of sucker for runDisney races. Some people don’t get the love-affair and simply see the Disney races as expensive, crowded, and gimmicky. I’ll concede that they’re not cheap, but I’m a kid at heart and I love Disney—since we started dating, my wife and I have taken at least one trip to Disney each year. Being able to combine Disney with running is exciting to me, they’re two of my favorite things. It’s also nice to schedule races that are just for fun, which is what Disney is for me. While I love train hard and push myself as far as I can, I’m not the kind of person that has it in her to be constantly pushing. Breaking it up and throwing some easier and fun races in the mix keeps it fresh for me.

Dumbo Double Dare medal collection

Being that this was our first trip to Disneyland, it was also our first runDisney race in Disneyland. To be honest, I think I liked it a little more than I do in Disney World for the simple fact that you can wake up and walk right to the start. You don’t have to catch a bus and then walk for a half hour to get there. So, extra sleep! The other plus to the Disneyland races is when you’re not actually running in a park, you’re on the regular streets of Anaheim instead of Disney service roads. There’s a bit more to look at and they’re less monotonous.

With the Dumbo Double Dare being part of a challenge with races on back to back days, there was an extra medal in it for runners who took part. And on top of that, my wife and I were also completing the Coast-to-Coast Challenge, a race of half marathon distance or longer on each coast in the same year, so there was fourth medal in it for the two of us. Bling Central!

Disneyland 10k – 55:34

Disneyland 10k startWith the wife and I being East Coasters, waking up early on Saturday morning wasn’t too difficult and it wasn’t made any harder by the fact that the Disneyland 10k started later than any other runDisney event we’ve taken part in before. We quickly got ready, scarfed down some Picky Bars, and then made out for the short walk over to the starting area. There was some confusion before lining up in our corrals due to slow turnover in switching the starting line over from the 5k to the 10k, but this was the only hiccup we experienced all weekend.

Without too much of a wait, we were off down the streets of Anaheim! While we’re both marathoners and have done the Goofy Challenge a couple of times, neither of us have been in the best of shape lately. I’m mostly recovered from my injury earlier this year, but I’m still very much getting used to my new life as a trans runner. Hormone replacement therapy zapped most of my testosterone and took with it most of the speed I used to have before. I’m Disneyland 10k Finish Linestill feeling out what kind of paces I can expect to run. Taking that and my wife’s recent injuries into account, we wanted to take it extra slow. The goal was to just have fun and not work our legs too much.

The first couple of miles were out on the streets, but it wasn’t long before we made our way into the parks for the real fun! This was actually our first time in either of the parks in Anaheim so it made for a nice little tour of what we were going to be doing after the race.

The Disneyland 10k is the shortest runDisney race I’ve done, but it certainly wasn’t short on fun!

Disneyland Half Marathon – 1:57:47

After the 10k, we spent most of the day at Disney’s California Adventure and a little bit of time at Disneyland, but we called it a night right after our 6pm dinner. Despite the half starting at the time we were used to for runDisney events (EARLY), getting up on Sunday was, again, no problem since we were still running on East Coast time.  Just like the day before, we scarfed down our Picky Bars and made our way over to the start.

While waiting in the corral for the race to start, we ran in our best-Twitter-friend Krissy Murphy and chatted it up for a bit while we watched a marriage proposal and interviews with Joey Fatone and Sean Astin up on the screen. Once we were sent on our way by Mickey and friends, Krissy took off and it was just the two of us again.

Our goal for the day was to keep our time around two hours, again, we take Disney races easy and just have fun. We found a nice pace at just under a nine-minute mile and held steady. Despite a couple early bathroom stops, we kept it locked in at a fun pace and just enjoyed ourselves.

Unlike the 10k, the half marathon starts in the parks first before taking you onto the streets. We again had a blast running through the parks and our photos really show it. Unfortunately, I didn’t run the race as “me” so I won’t post the photos, but I can say without hesitation that they’re my best race photos ever.

After the parks, the course dumped us onto the streets of Anaheim again for a trek over Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Being that we were out on the regular streets, there was plenty look at and there was a ton of course entertainment along the way. Without a doubt, this was the best “dead zone” of any runDisney race we’ve run.

After a quick loop around the field in a very roaring Angel Stadium, it was time to head back to Disney. As has become typical for us on the second day of a runDisney challenge, we picked up the pace significantly for the last few miles. Taking it easy the way we do always leaves us with a lot left for a huge finish. We passed a few hundred other runners in the last three miles and crossed the finish line hands held!

At the finish line, we were given our Disneyland Half Marthon medals, our Dumbo Double Dare medals, and our Coast-to-Coast medals. There was some serious clanking going on!

In comparison to the Goofy Challenge, I think I’d have to say that I enjoyed the Dumbo Double Dare a lot more. It’s an easier challenge that not only leaves more time in the parks, but also leaves your legs in a usable state for a couple of days on your feet in the parks.


2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (pre-HRT)

Goofy-4As if running 39.3 miles once wasn’t enough, I enlisted myself to take on the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge again this year. For those not familiar with the race, it’s a half marathon one day and a marathon the next. And both run through Walt Disney World! Last year, I combined both races into one recap, but I think that got a little long so, this year, I wrote two separate posts to recap each separately. You can follow through to each one below.

2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Half Marathon – 1:58:00

2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Marathon – 4:27:06

Just like last year, the Goofy Challenge and the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend as a whole was a great experience. Lots of fun! This year marked the 20th running of the marathon so there was a completely new medal to commemorate that and it was heavy! It’s a beautiful medal, so beautiful, in fact, that I had a tough time deciding which medal to wear to the parks afterwards. I wanted to wear my Goofy medal to show off my accomplishment, but the new Mickey medal was too awesome to leave back in the room. I ended up wearing the Goofy medal around my neck with the Mickey medal on the back of my camera bag.

runDisney updated the course to mark the 20th running, as well. This year, the course included the Richard Petty Driving Experience race track and ESPN Wide World of Sports. Both additions were very welcomed and helped the make the time between the parks much more enjoyable. They also went with handing out a little box of food to finishers of both races instead of individual food items. When you’re trying to make your way through the finishers’ area while gulping down as much water/Powerade as possible, getting some nutrition into your body, and tweeting/texting/Facebooking/whatevering about your accomplishment, hands come at a premium, so having everything in a box helps a lot!

With two Goofy Challenges under my belt, I’m torn about doing it again next year. I love doing both races and getting three medals, but it’s a big commitment and has a sizable effect on how you can enjoy a large portion of your trip to Disney. The reality is that I’ll probably do it again soon, but we’ll see!

Coming up over the next few months, I’m planning to run two half marathons and another full marathon in the Spring. I’m considering one of the half marathons and the full marathon being for the NY/NJ Challenge. After that, the wife and I are planning on taking on the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland. This time it’s just the new Disneyland 10k and the Disneyland Half Marathon so it’s a much easier challenge than Goofy. Still, it comes with a bonus medal for doing the challenge and it will earn us the Disney Coast to Coast medal! That’s SEVEN runDisney medals in one year! Finally, I’d like to put a fall marathon into my schedule, but I haven’t really put much thought into which one yet.


2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Half Marathon – 1:58:00 (pre-HRT)

Half Marathon start

With only two theme parks and just thirteen point one miles, the half marathon is the easy part of the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, but being that it’s the first race of the two, it can really make or break your weekend. The key to getting through the Goofy Challenge in one piece is to take this race easy.

After getting down to Orlando and picking up our race packets, we kept Friday simple. With no park passes for the day, all we had planned was just to head on over to the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports and then some relaxing at the hotel. I think we were even asleep by 7pm, which is good because race day starts with a 2:15am alarm to get us out of bed. When we woke up, my wife was complaining that she was having some pain the arch of her foot. After toying back and forth with what to do, she decided to go for it and we would just take it extra easy. But as we started walking out to the bus stop, the pain was a bit too much and she made a quick decision to sit the half out so she could rest up for the full marathon. It didn’t seem worth it to risk having to sit marathon race out. Losing my running partner for the race hit me a bit hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about her the entire time. I knew she was back in the room beating herself up over it. After months of training, it’s a huge blow to have to make a decision the day of the race to not run.

After a short bus ride, I was in the Epcot parking lot and ready to make my way over to the starting line. For some reason, I was in the B corral even though my previous race times put me well into the A corral for both races. However, since I was planning to run with my wife, I didn’t bother having my corral changed, so it was a B corral start for me! My real concerns at this point were with my wife’s choice to not run and my shoe choice for the day. I decided to run in my New Balance 1600s, marking the first race longer than 5 miles that I wasn’t running in my Vibram Five Fingers in over two years. I’d only even done a handful of training runs over thirteen miles in them over the course of the last six months, but I knew that they’re easier on my ankles…even if my performance is much better in the Vibrams.

After the twenty minute walk to the starting area, I got into my corral and did what warming up I could manage in the space I had available. While I was doing that, I saw the Galloway pacers for a two hour finish making their way through the corral up to the front. Since I was going to have to pace myself without going too fast, I figured running with a pacer might be a good idea so I followed them up to the front and stuck with them. My wife was looking to do a 2:05 finish and that’s what we trained for so a two hour finish seemed like a good target for me to aim for. Unfortunately, because it was a Galloway pacer, this group would be following Jeff Galloway’s run/walk program. I had no interest in that so I planned on just trying to keep steady when they started walking. Not having my wife with me definitely threw my whole race plan off!

Half Marathon startAfter a blast of fireworks, the first wave was off and just a few minutes later it was time for my corral to go! As usual, the race started off pretty tight with a lot of people packed in despite the wide road road for the first mile and a half. After we got moving, I spotted the balloons for the 2:00 Clif Bar Pace Team just up ahead and I knew this was a better group for me to run with. Even with a marathon coming up the next day, I knew that I could easily expend the energy to quickly catch up and then park myself with them, but just before I caught up to them I saw a member of the Oiselle Team and struck up a quick conversation with her. Since my wife just made the team, I figured I’d ask the girl if she knew her. It turned out that her and my wife had talked a bit via Twitter and had planned to try to meet up. Since she was running while injured, she was keeping her pace super slow and I fell back quite a bit from the pace group I was trying to catch up to, but I wasn’t too concerned. After a couple minutes, I left her and made my way back up to the pace group. I decided to just go for it and pick my pace up to my normal race pace for about a quarter mile or so to get up to them quickly. Since my pace was around two minutes/mile faster than theirs, it didn’t take me too long to catch up!

Once I got with the pace group, I parked myself there and didn’t budge from the pacer’s side. Knowing that the temperature was going to be approaching 80 by the time I finished and the humidity was around 100%, I wanted to do everything I could to be smart and make the half marathon as much of a net-zero for my body as possible. I took Powerade at every stop except for a mile before the finish and I even ate an energy gel around mile seven or eight. For a half marathon, this was complete overkill for me, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

As the race rounded into Magic Kingdom for our run down Main Street, USA, I could feel the energy of the crowd. This is always the best part of these races. Knowing that it would be really easy to be swept up in the energy and lose the pacer behind me, I took extra care to keep my pace under control and stick right next to the pacer. As awesome of the energy of running in Magic Kingdom is, I was still thinking about my wife and missing her by my side and I was a bit worried she wouldn’t be able to make it out for the marathon. I think this helped keep the adrenaline down a bit so staying on target wasn’t too hard.

After a quick run through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Cinderella’s Castle, and finally Fontierland, Magic Kingdom was done and it was time to make the trek back to Epcot. This portion of the race can be a bit boring as it’s just back roads without too much to look at. Still, for a more seasoned runner, it’s not too bad. We’re used to that kind of thing.

At the mile eight water stop, I lost the pacer behind me somewhere. Worried that I might slowly end up picking up the pace without him, I took extra effort to really bring my pace down to let him catch up, but when I looked over my shoulder, I couldn’t see him. I practically felt like I was walking, but I didn’t want to risk anything. I still have no idea how I could have lost him so badly in the span of just an eighth of a mile or so, but it happened. Eventually, right at the ninth mile marker, he caught back up to me and I playfully asked him what took so long. Once I was back with the group, I was able to get back to the rhythm I’d been running with all race and things felt more natural again.

By the time we got to the eleventh mile, it seemed like there was only one other runner left with the pacer and me. As we approached the last hill of the course, we could see the sun rising over it with Spaceship Earth just off to the right and, with a layer of fog still over everything, it was a very beautiful sight to see! After a remark about the beauty by the pacer, I mentioned to the other guy running with us that the hill we were approaching was the worst of the race, but that it’s nice and flat afterwards. I think I may have freaked him out a bit, but he powered up the hill and left the pacer behind. I ended up doing the same and, with just around a mile and a half left to go, I let myself have a nice strong finish. I picked up the pace slightly and left the pacer behind for good.

As I made my way into Epcot towards where Future World and the World Showcase meet, I was disappointed to the see that the big Christmas tree had already been taken down. This is when it hit me that I hadn’t seen any of the Christmas decorations in Magic Kingdom either. Usually, these are still up for Marathon Weekend.

From here, the course doubles back on itself a bit before making its way out to the parking lot. I kept my pace nice and steady and finished with a nice 1:58:00 time. This was a bit faster than I had planned prior to race day, but I felt great. Taking all of the water throughout the race really made a difference. I was insanely sweaty, but I wasn’t too dehydrated feeling. And most importantly, my legs felt good. I hung around just past the finish line so I could wait for the pacer to shake his hand and thank him for keeping me on track. Then I quickly got my medal and made my way through the finisher area. This year runDisney opted to hand out little boxes filled with food instead of a bunch of individual things. This makes life a lot easier and eliminates the struggle of holding everything while also trying to eat and drink it all post-race.

Since I was eager to get back to my wife, I didn’t waste any additional time. I hopped on a bus back to the hotel right away, I didn’t even stop for a post-race photo! To be honest, I was still really bummed that she couldn’t run and didn’t really want much to do with anything other than getting back to her.

Overall, this half marathon was probably the most controlled that I’ve ever run…which is important when you have a full marathon the next day!


RU Unite “Half Marathon” (9.55 miles due to flooding) – 1:11:53 (pre-HRT)

Unite 2011 medalYesterday, I set out for what was to be my third half marathon over the course of 364 days. I wish I could say I actually ran 13.1 miles though. Unfortunately, due to some pretty torrential downpours on Saturday, one of the parks the race runs through was flooded. Thanks to this flooding, the course had to be adjusted to just 9.55 miles.

While I only had a month to train for this race after two months off from tendinitis that I’m still not fully recovered from, I really wanted to run the full half marathon. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from my body given the circumstances, but I was hoping to at least repeat my 1:47:11 from the same race last year. The RU Unite Half Marathon last year was my first half marathon ever and even though I said I didn’t think I’d do it again after that, I’m now addicted. Three months ago, I ran my second half marathon, the Disney Half Marathon, and pulled off an incredible time of 1:33:05 that I’m still extremely proud of…especially considering that I ran in pain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to touch that time yesterday, but I did feel good enough to at least know my time from last year was doable again.

Like everyone else that ran yesterday, I prepared for and woke up for a 13.1 mile race. I think just about everyone was disappointed when they heard the announcement that a large portion of the course was flooded and the race would have to be scaled back. We paid for 13.1 miles. We trained for 13.1 miles. Some of us ate (or were planning to eat) for 13.1 miles. A lot of things were done expecting 13.1 miles. Obviously, no one can control the weather, but it is no secret Johnson Park in Piscataway floods often. It really doesn’t take much, a little drizzle can make that park flood. My unscientific estimate based solely on anecdotal evidence would be that Johnson Park floods at least 3-5 times each year. It’s just something that’s expected by anyone who lives around here. It is a wonderful park and I really enjoy running through it, but if you’re going to plan a race that runs through it, you have to have a plan B. You just have to. You’d be silly not to. Unfortunately, CGI Racing did not have a plan B for yesterday. Again, I know they can’t control the weather, but this was something that should have been planned for. I know putting together an event this size and getting road closures and such is not easy, but when you’re putting that much work into something, you need to plan for things like this.

What made the length of the race even worse was that at the start, runners were told over and over that the course was shortened to 10 miles. 10 miles, not 9.55 miles. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to make a difference. I think most people felt lied to about this. I know I did and I know my fiancée and our co-worker also did.

Not cool.

Alright, enough complaining, right?

The weather was sunny for most of the race and the temperature was nice, if not a little on the warm side, but the wind was strong. The wind was so strong that it was a definite factor for everyone. Parts of the course were with the wind at our backs, but it felt like the majority of the time was spent with a strong crosswind that noticeably moved runners around. At two different points, gusts were so strong it they blew my left leg sideways into the back of my right leg mid-stride as I was pulling it forward, almost causing me to face plant. It also seemed that every uphill portion was straight into the wind.

With a significantly shorter course, I adjusted my expectations and my plan. I ran faster than I would have for a full 13.1 miles, but still, I didn’t feel as strong as I would have liked. In fact, I felt downright weak early on. It took me a while to get my stride on and settle into the run, but it never really felt quite right. I averaged a 7:32 mile which is pretty respectable, but that’s still 10 seconds slower than the 13-mile training runs I was doing four months ago and almost 30 seconds slower than my pace for the half marathon three months ago. But with an injury, you’ve got to be happy with anything and I am…ish.

I finished up with a semi-sprint and crossed the finish line at 1:11:53 (chip time) to place at 290 out of 2881 participants. My knees felt like they were going to give out during that last little push. It was awful. I ran 12 miles last weekend and felt stronger at the end of that than I did yesterday. What gives? At mile 8, I had a nice little second wind boost, but that didn’t last long, only about a mile. I came home and felt dead, the rest of my day was shot. Even taking into account how much harder we all had to work because of the wind, I shouldn’t have been beaten up like that for a sub-10 mile run. I really shouldn’t have. I hadn’t felt like that since the half marathon last year. I could make excuses for it like my injury and the wind and whatever else, but I was just off and that’s that.

Despite not feeling strong at the end, I still wanted a 13.1-mile race. I wanted to get a third half marathon under my belt. I really did.

So the fiancée and I have decided that we’re going to sign up for another half marathon next month that we were on the fence about. I want it, but I do want to be careful about my ankle. It’s still healing and, while it does feel better than it did a month ago, it has a little ways to go still.

More importantly, we signed up for the Philly Marathon in November. It’ll be our first and we’re super excited, yet insanely nervous about it. A year ago, after my first half, I said I would never run a marathon, but here I am, already signed up for one.