January 26, 2015

How to Survive Winter Running

There are a million and one posts on this topic floating around the internet, but after toughing it out through the snow and wind on my run yesterday, I decided I wanted to share my own tips for winter running.
1. Find a beautiful place with clear paths to run
The biggest thing that helped me transition from a fair-weather runner to an all-weather runner was finding a place where I could run year-round.  Before, once snow covered my favorite trails and bike paths leaving me with only the slushy street to run on, it was tough to find the motivation to get outside.  Last winter I joined a local arboretum where the quiet roads are kept clear.  Between the amazing scenery and the opportunity to run on a clear road with minimal cars, I'm much more pumped to get out there!
2. Invest in some good shoes and yak trax
Last year I got my first pair of YakTrax and immediately wondered what had took me so long to buy them!  They're a lifesaver on icy winter roads.
Check out my YakTrax!  #lifesaver

This winter, though, I bought a pair of trail shoes.  Oh my gosh, another awesome investment!  They are perfect for days when it's slushy or icy out, but there isn't enough snow for yaktrax.  I also love how much drier my feet stay in these compared to my regular running shoes.
Absolutely love my Brooks Pure Grits.  Perfect trail shoes for anyone who likes a lightweight feel but is still looking for serious traction.

3. Get a few high quality pieces of winter running apparel
Here's what you need: Warm fleece-lined tights, thick socks (love the Smart Wool pair I got this winter), warm base layer turtleneck, light jacket, something to keep your neck warm, and gloves or mittens.
I bought this lululemon neck warmer last winter--it's great for keeping my face warm on windy days!

4. Protect your skin
I ALWAYS carry chapstick or carmex when running in the winter because my lips get so dry.  Also, moisturizer/sunscreen is a must.  Wind can do a number on your skin in winter, and the sun can still be fierce, especially when it reflects off the snow.  On super cold/windy days, though, I go one step further--coat my face with a little bit of Vaseline.  My skin was so chapped last winter that this was the only thing that saved it!

5.  Find some all-weather running buddies!
Nothing is quiet as motivating on a cold, snowy day than knowing your friends are meeting you for your miles. :)

January 18, 2015

Race Recap: Disney Marathon

Marathon #3 is on the books!  Sunday, January 11th I finished my third 26.2 in the happiest place on Earth--and revisited the site of my very first half marathon four years ago!

Six word race recap:
Running Buddy, Humid Weather, Finished Strong.

Now the full version.  Honestly, this race recap feels hard to write!  After the surprise proposal in Disney last Friday, the race that took place two days later felt like an after thought and a blur!  I'll do my best, though!

Thursday I arrived in Florida and hit up the race expo with my Dad.  I was very impressed with the organization of the event.  Disney used two huge event spaces at the Wide World of Sports, so it didn't feel crowded ever.  I didn't even have to wait in a line to get my bib or shirt.  We browsed a little, and while I resisted buying one of the many awesome finishers shirts, I of course bought two headbands.  Naturally.
Sunday morning came with a bright  dark and early 2:30am wake up call.  YAWN.  I got dressed and ready, sunscreened up, and hopped on the first shuttle from my hotel to the start line.  If you are doing a Disney race at any point, I highly recommend staying on property.  The shuttles to the expo and to and from the race are awesome.  Once I got to the race site, I waited around for an hour and a half or so before my running buddy, Cathy, and I started the long trek to our corrals.  Cathy said we'd logged almost two miles before the race even started!  

The start of a Disney race is truly special, with fireworks instead of a starting gun.  Cathy and I stuck to our plan of running 3/1 intervals and held a pretty consistent 11:30ish pace.  We ran the five miles from just outside of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom.  Almost immediately after the start, I had to use the restroom, but the lines at the porta potties were ridiculous as they usually are at the start of a race!  Soooo...I can now say that I've peed behind a tree on Disney property.  #classact  

Before we knew it, we were in the Magic Kingdom!  This is definitely the best part of any Disney race.  I still remember the elation I felt running down Main Street during my first half marathon, the 2011 Princess Half, and the novelty certainly hasn't worn off!  When you're running and catch your first glimpse of the castle, it feels pretty amazing.  Some highlights of the Magic Kingdom: Seeing my brand new fiance cheering for me on Main Street, running through Cinderella's castle, and running past the spot where I'd gotten engaged two days before.  Loved it!
The race temporarily loses a little spark after the Magic Kingdom because it's a fairly long trek to park #2, Animal Kingdom.  However, during that time we got to run along the track of the Disney Speedway which was pretty cool!  They had brought out a bunch of race cars and classic cars, and Cathy and I welcomed the distraction.  After that, our next stop was Animal Kingdom!  While we didn't hop off the course to ride the Everest ride (many runners actually do, believe it or not!!), this park was great to run through.  I love all of the unique decorative touches in Animal Kingdom that make you feel like you're in Nepal or Africa depending on which corner you turn around.  

On our way out, I spotted my family!  I ran off the course to get a quick kiss from my niece which I swear gave me a little energy boost. :)
After Animal Kingdom, we ran a several mile stretch before arriving in the Wide World of Sports.  This was the meat and potatoes of the marathon for Cathy and me, and the humidity that'd been plaguing us all morning turned to rain.  I don't usually mind running in rain, but in the latter miles of a marathon, I can't say I welcomed the wet shoes!!  Cathy and I stuck together up until mile 19 when she encouraged me to go ahead.  I picked up my pace a little bit and continued on with my mind focused on just getting to Hollywood Studios, the next park.
Running through Hollywood Studios was pretty darn cool.  I loved running though the area the Back Lot Tour ride travels through, running by the giant Sorcerer's Apprentice hat, and running down the New York City mock movie set.  Sometime around this point I stopped taking my walk breaks, and instead only walked when I took water.  That was definitely challenging, but I knew that I'd run the first 19 miles conservatively and had plenty of energy left in the tank for a strong finish.  

After Hollywood Studios, it was only a few short miles to Epcot and the race finish.  By this point I was really wanting to see my fiance and family.  My energy was definitely getting low, although my legs still felt good!  (No one is more shocked by this fact than me.)  I absolutely loved the run through Epcot, especially the world showcase.  Running by the Eiffel Tower, Mayan pyramid, and other famous sites from around the world was pretty darn cool.  And in the last mile from the finish line, there were my fans!  Seeing them gave me the extra boost I needed to dig deep and finish strong.
 I gave it everything I had and crossed the finish line with tears and a smile, as always. :)
Final finish time: 5:04:57
I felt great about this time considering I took it easy the first 19 miles and my training wasn't what it should have been.  However, my Garmin clocked 26.7 miles--an extra half mile!!  If I'd finished at 26.2 on the dot, I definitely would have come in under 5 hours!  Note to self: run the tangents.
After the marathon, I decided to forego a nap/recovery in favor of maximizing my Disney time.  We hit up Hollywood Studios and ended the night in Epcot, toasting our engagement in "Paris." 
Sporting compression sleeves, my medal, and my "Just Engaged!" button.  :) 
All in all, it was another great race and the perfect end to a perfect weekend.  I came to Florida with my eye on this amazing Mickey Medal, and left with the medal + something sparkly for my ring finger.  Not bad. :)  

And now, since it's the first time since last February that I'm not actively training for a race, I need a break!!!

January 16, 2015

Went to Florida for a medal...Came home with a ring!

Hey friends!  I had a very exciting weekend last week, and I can't wait to tell you all about it!  In a nutshell: Flew-to-Florida-for-Disney-Marathon-boyfriend-surprised-me-I-said-yes!  Phew!
Ready for the real story?  Telling it never gets old. :)
I escaped the bitter Chicago cold last Thursday morning on a plane headed for Florida.  Even though training through the winter did a number on me, I'd been looking forward to running the Disney Marathon (My third 26.2) since I registered in April.  I also couldn't wait to spend the weekend with my parents who were also coming down, as well as my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids who call the Sunshine State home.  I'd invited my boyfriend to come along for the weekend, but he told me that it was a busy time after the holidays and would be kind of a long trip to watch a marathon.  No worries!  I said goodbye to him at the airport Thursday morning, and he promised he'd be at my next race.  I hopped on a plane in -8 degree Chicago weather, more than ready for some family time, running, sunshine, and Disney magic!
Riding the rocket ships in Tomorrowland with Dad!

My family spent Friday at the Magic Kingdom where I had a blast playing with my niece and nephew and catching up with my brother and sister-in-law.  I will always love Disney, but it is even more fun when you're there with a little kid!  We took a brief stop back at the hotel in the afternoon to layer on more clothes (it was chilly!) and give the kids (and me...) a little nap break before heading back to the Magic Kingdom around 4.  Heading for the Haunted Mansion ride, we walked through the entrance to the park and over the bridge next to Cinderella's castle when I heard my name.  I looked up and saw my boyfriend walking towards me!  Honestly, according to him he had to call my name several times because I looked right past him!  I certainly wasn't expecting to see him there!  It took me a few seconds of staring at him for it to sink in that he was really here in Florida, and I must have asked him what he was doing there 5 times.  
Crying like a baby just from seeing him

I started crying almost immediately as he told me that he was here to see my race, and would never miss it.  "Of course I came.  I told you I'd be at your next race.  I'll always be there for you," he told me--or something like that, my emotional memory is a little fuzzy!  I couldn't believe he'd flown to Florida to surprise me in Disney World the weekend of my marathon.  I have never been so surprised in my life!
Can I just say that it's probably perfect that I'm wearing running shoes and a running jacket?  

As shocked as I was to see him there, never in a million years did I expect there to be more to the surprise--but there was!  Superstitious marathon runners that the two of us are, he said, "I know it's bad luck to wear anything new for a race, but I'm hoping you'll make an exception."  And in that second as he reached into his pocket, it finally clicked.  He pulled out a ring, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him in front of my family, Cinderella's castle, and a crowd of random strangers.  I about lost my mind crying, shaking, and saying, "YES!  OF COURSE!!"    

  We spent the rest of the day wandering around Disney, then headed to Downtown Disney in the evening to celebrate with some champagne.  The perfect end to a perfect day.
After that, running the marathon Sunday seemed like such an afterthought!  I still cannot believe that this all happened.  It truly felt like a Disney fairytale!
 Disney Magic :) 

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