Sunday, September 11, 2016

Moving, Vacation, and some training

The best part about being in the military is the opportunity to move every few years. It's also the worst part. Throughout August my family endured our latest move, from downtown Baltimore to Fort Drum, NY. In just two days, a team of packers swept through our place, packed everything, and loaded it out. 99% of our current worldly possessions are sitting in a storage unit somewhere in Syracuse. After a week on a cruise and a week at home in Ohio, I've been inprocessing here at Fort Drum and getting ready for 17 weeks of temporary duty at Fort Benning, GA, and Charlottesville, VA, while K and L split their time among California, Ohio, and Virginia. Here's a quick rundown of how August went:

- Early August: getting ready to move
The first two weeks of August were spent recovering from the bar, trying to stop finding liability in everyday actions, getting more time at the gym, and purging my house of the half empty bags of doritos squirreled away in all my study spots. I also spent some time on the phone trying to confirm my movers, which took entirely too much effort. One would think that after 200 years of this, the Army would know how to move people. But it's still a struggle. Finally, on the last two days we were planning on being in the city, everything got finished, some odds and ends were thrown in our storage unit, and we were able to clear out the apartment.


- Cruise!
We then spent a week onboard the MSC Divina, an awesome cruise ship out of Miami. We flew down out of BWI to Fort Lauderdale, took a shuttle service to the port, and set sail. Now, the big question we get: how was cruising with a baby? Obviously it wasn't as lazy or adventure-filled as if we didn't have Lilly, but it was still plenty of fun. Just having the chance to relax, not have to worry about cooking or cleaning or what is going on tonight was nice. On port days, we spent a few hours just exploring the cruise port areas, visited a few beaches, but didn't get to do any fun excursions. I'll do another post in a little bit about what all we did and what we learned about cruising with a baby.

- Time with family and Lilly's first birthday
After getting back, we spent a week in Ohio with my family. We had quite a list of things to do: wrap up our time in Baltimore with several calls to our landlady, buy a new car, and try to organize what is going where for the next couple months. I took advantage of my mom's treadmill and babysitting to get in a few nice bike rides on the Ohio & Erie canal. For Lilly's first birthday, we had family over for a Minnie-themed party!

- Labor Day onward: Fort Drum
This past week I've been inprocessing at Fort Drum, which is quite time consuming. Lilly and K are staying with me in a hotel, since we decided not to sign a lease and receive our household goods since neither of us will be here again until February. Poor Lilly is probably tired of sleeping in foldable cribs, and wondering where all her fun toys are.

- Training: Incredoubleman Half Aquabike
In addition to just getting back into Army shape, trying to figure out what's going on with my knee, and continuing training for Superfrog 70.3 in two weeks, I decided to look around for any local races I could use to practice my transitions. My last triathlon was two years ago, Nation's Tri 2014, and my summer kind of was full of bar prep, so I was definitely feeling rusty. I found the Incredoubleman, a two day event in Sacket's Harbor, just down the road from Fort Drum. It's one weekend with two half-iron distance races, plus an olympic on Saturday and sprint on Sunday. I originally planned on doing the Olympic, followed by the half aquabike on Sunday, but after some swelling in my knee during a run during the week, I decided to just go for the aquabike on Saturday and see how it went.
Clearly I was more than a little rusty. As I set out my bag the night before, I decided to doublecheck my packing list, and realized I almost forgot to pack my goggles. Whoops. I got my bike there in one piece, though, set up my transition area, shimmied into a wetsuit, and it was go time.
After almost a whole month of no swimming, I should have been more scared before the swim than I was. It was two laps in Lake Ontario; the weather was perfect, right around 75, and the water was very smooth. In the first lap, I jumped right in and started going, then realized I was a little out of shape here. I slowed down, did some back stroking, then got back into it. My sighting was terrible, and apparently I couldn't swim in a straight line to save my life. On the second lap, I took advantage of the shallow part near shore to water jog until it got too deep, which helped me catch my breath and and attack the second lap. I can say that I was NOT the last out of the water, so that's cool.
I slogged up into transition, threw on my shoes, and headed out on the bike. The first five miles felt like the slowest of my life. The wind was pretty strong, there were two huge hills, and probably more incline than I realized. After that, though, it evened out, and I was able to pick up more speed than I expected. I would have appreciated some aero bars, but I've been procrastinating on that particular upgrade all summer. The bike was two loops, and going into the second loop, I felt fine but definitely wished I had just done the Olympic distance. I had that thought again about one thousand times over the next five miles of the second loop, as the wind was much, much worse, I went even slower, and I could definitely feel my energy flagging. I'd only packed one gel and one Picky Bar, and the only water point was at the start of the second loop, so I only had the two bottles on my bike. Definitely going to have to pack more for my next race! By the time I got to the flat parts, and then the fast downhills around mile 52, I was pretty exhausted, but still pushed for some higher cadences to make up for the terrible winds earlier. I ended up finishing the bike in 3:45, right at the upper end of my goal for a training ride. I would have liked to be faster, but I know having 10+ miles of suck made me stronger...here's hoping Superfrog doesn't have high winds and big hills?
The day after that, I actually felt fine. I stretched out and drank a lot of water after the ride, took a cold shower, and scrubbed off all the salt. For my first multisport effort in two years, it wasn't disappointing! I definitely feel like I should have a pretty good confidence boost, having finished two of the distances in training when I usually don't, but I think it's more of a reality check on my goals. With just two weeks left to get my swim stroke back and figure out my ability to run, I'll probably be happy just to not finish dead last.

Sooo, yeah. In two weeks I'll be in California, hopefully, ready to kick some butt, and then on my way to Fort Benning for some good Army training!

Monday, August 8, 2016

July Wrap-Up

July was quite possibly the most boring and yet fastest month so far this year. After the Fourth of July weekend, it was time to really focus on preparing for the bar exam, which took more time and focus than I've ever put into anything before. On top of that, I was trying to maintain fitness and even build a little bit of skill on an abbreviated version of my training plan for Superfrog 70.3. Now that it's all over, all I can say is, I'm glad it's over!

The Highlights: Studying for the Bar Exam

Until the two day bar exam on July 26-27, I spent about ten hours a day studying for the bar exam. Every morning I would do practice questions and essays, then review my answers against sample answers, and create note cards for any rules I didn't know very well, and made notes of techniques that would make me better. Around lunchtime I would go to the gym and eat lunch. In the afternoon, I'd spend a few hours studying substantive law - sometimes it was something I learned in school, like contracts, and sometimes it was something totally new, like business associations. I made notecards as I went along, and lots of highlighting. Then after eating a little bit, I had class every single night Monday through Friday. Saturdays were six hour practice tests, and Sundays were time off from everything.

The actual two days of the exam were a little overwhelming, and I think I let myself huddle up into a ball emotionally. I was excited that it was finally here and I would be getting my life back, incredibly nervous that I would screw it up, anxious because I had no idea what the questions would be, and just worried that I hadn't done enough to prepare. During the exam itself, I just tried to focus as well as I could, consider every possible option, remember all of my test taking techniques, and somehow made it through. There was a brief moment going into the last session where I realized I really didn't want to do this, but it was way too late to quit the law now!

Now, it's over, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what laws are, and all I can do is hope that I passed! Results don't come out until November 4, which sucks, but hopefully it will then be all over. Until I have to take it again in another state.

The Downsides: Knee Injury

One of the ways I was able to stay focused during bar prep was because I had a knee injury. As I mentioned before, my knee was pretty niggly after the marathon, and swollen after the BWC 5K. I finally went to the doctor who said it was most likely a pretty bad MCL sprain, and referred me to physical therapy. My PT at Fort Meade said to just focus on studying and NO RUNNING for at least three weeks.....while that would normally be painful, it definitely took a little bit of guilt off for all the workouts I missed!
As a result, I took out all of the run workouts on my training plan, and added just one or two eliptical trainer sessions a week. I was still swimming and biking about three days a week each, but not doing any of the long workouts, so my work is cut out for me now to get up to speed. At least I feel like my swimming is getting stronger, and I've already surpassed the mileage I rode during training for my first half distance (which was 30 miles). Now that I'm slowly running about a half mile at a time, and carefully building up distance, I'm taking advantage of the time to build upper body strength, work on some core, and make sure that as I add mileage, I'm not slacking on speed.

Moving On:
Time to pack up, leave Baltimore, take a little bit of vacation, and get ready for Superfrog 70.3 and my next assignment! We will be moving to Fort Drum in upstate New York, trying to settle there, while I spend October through February in Georgia and Virginia for even more training. It's going to be an interesting winter.

But for now, it's time to take advantage of these few weeks of "vacation" to massively build up mileage, and enjoy the Olympics!! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baltimore Women's Classic 5K: June 26, 2016

So, bar review has been fun. Said no one ever. This is most of my life:
All day, every day. Four-six hours of study and reading, followed by a 3.5-4 hour class every night, and this past Saturday even included a 6 hour practice test. On the one hand, I definitely feel very prepared - on the other, I just want to sleep. And go outside. 

On top of that, Lilly and K have been in San Diego for three weeks, but they're home now! 

To break it up, I recruited a little group of friends to run the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K this past Sunday. This is one of the oldest and largest all-women's events on the east coast, and it's the third year I've done it. The course is great, it starts just a few blocks from where I live, and the swag is great.

Charm City Run hosts packet pickup and late registration in each o their stores throughout the week, but they also have bib pickup on the morning of the race. CCR is really great with pre-race emails, and send out almost daily reminders of your bib number, their hours for that day, plus all you need to know for race day, from parking, photos, to a map of the entire neighborhood. 

I got the race start around 7:30, and didn't have to wait in line at all, just got my bib, t shirt, and bag, and then met up with my friends. The t shirts this year were full on technical t shirts from New Balance; in the past they were technical cotton, which wasn't bad. As usual, they  matched the logo and the medal (yes, it's just a 5K but there's a medal!).

The start/finish area is around Rash Field, a big sand volleyball court on the harbour in downtown Baltimore. There's a big stage, and a number of fitness instructors were leading dance warm ups and pumping out some loud music to get everyone ready. A few minutes for the 8am start, my friends and I walked over to bag check, dropped our bags, and then hopped up to the start line. They had pacers with goal paces marking where you should stand to start, but no waves, and the back as for walkers and strollers. I fell in with the 9-10:00 pace group, but the start was so crowded, I don't think we got up to a 9:00 pace until about a third of a mile in. 

The course winds through Federal Hill, an older section of Baltimore, with a variety of rowhomes, bars, and cobblestone streets. Around the first half mile mark, there is a fairly big hill that kills most dreams of a fast first mile. Once you get to the top, though, it's an easy, if twisty, run, with two water stops, a mild uphill after mile 2, and then a loop onto the waterfront promenade for the last 1/3 of a mile. 
I really love when race photos only capture me flat footed, never mid-stride. Apparently gazelle isn't my look.
I was hoping to break 27:00 on this race, which would at least tie my college PR, back when a 5K was the longest race I thought I would ever run. After the SD marathon, my right knee had been pretty tender and as a result, I didn't run at all for three weeks. I was hoping that would be enough to heal whatever was wrong, so I could attack my Superfrog training with a vengeance. 
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. A little after mile 1, I could feel my MCL starting to hurt a little bit, and by mile 2, my knee was throbbing with every impact. I didn't slow down to walk, but tried to adjust my stride to lessen the impact. My first two miles were at about 8:45 and 8:55, but mile three killed me. I managed to finish in 28:32, placing 232/2882 overall. 

The finish line area is great - after passing over the finish line, there was ice cold bottles of water, a cold towel, as well as roses and medals. There was a spot to get a free finisher's photo, and then cool tents with vendors, and tables piled high with bananas, chewy bars, pretzels, chips, and watermelon slices. There was also the chance to refill your bottle with water or gatorade. The morning was getting HOT fast, though, and, in typical Bmore style, more than comfortably muggy. Once all of my friends were done, we high tailed it out of there for some coffee, brunch and a shower.

This is one of my favorite events in Baltimore, and I'll be sad to not be here next year. It is a great race for a fast time with some challenges, if you're competitive, but also super supportive if this is your very first race! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Disneyland Trip June 2016

Obviously, the very best thing to do after running a marathon is spend a day at Disneyland!! This wasn't the plan when I first registered for the race, but I really didn't want to miss the Disneyland 60 Celebration, so we tacked on a day at the end of my long weekend in the middle of bar prep.

Planning

Planning for a day trip to Disneyland isn't quite the same as planning a vacation at Walt Disney World. For WDW, there's hotels and flights to consider, meals, usually a race or two, on top of the parks. The options are endless: meal plan or no? On property or off property? What Fastpasses should we book? What color mAgicBand should I get? What adorable new t shirt should I order?

With Disneyland, the entire experience is usually much more chill. There is less booking ahead, fewer parks, fewer restaurants to pick from, and no pre-booking fastpasses. In preparation, all I did was pick the day we were going, make breakfast reservations about a month out, and then make a short list of the must-dos: Indiana Jones ride, eat everything, Tangled stage show. Done.

Hotel

In order to maximize the time we would have in the park, and also to give Lilly a chance to take a nap, we decided to get a hotel room near the park. The on property hotels were pretty much sold out, so at the last minute I booked a night at the Hotel Menage, which was recently bought by Starwood. We drove up Sunday night and checked in around 6:30. There is self-parking, which is easy enough, plus a really nice pool area. The room was big, and included a king size bed and a sitting area with a couch that I think folded out. I requested a crib in my reservation, and asked about it again at check in, and one was brought to our room within about ten minutes of getting there.

My best friend came down for dinner, and we sat down at the restaurant in the lobby, but since Lilly was being cranky, after ordering we just had the food sent up to our room. There's also a tiki bar out at the pool, but it was closing by the time we went down for dinner. Our room overlooked the pool, so it was a little protected from the noise of the I-5 freeway and Harbor Rd, and we could see the Disneyland fireworks from our window at 9:30! I wasn't planning on seeing any fireworks because I didn't want to stay late with Lilly and I thought she would't like the noise, so this was a nice bonus.

The next day, it was about a twelve minute walk down Harbor to enter the parks plaza on the side opposite Downtown Disney. It might be faster if it wasn't the morning after a marathon. When we left in the late morning to pack up and checkout (we ended up getting a 1pm checkout), the walk did seem farther than when we were fresh, but again, if we hadn't just finished 26.2 miles, I would say this hotel is a great, cheap option if you aren't looking for the immersive Disney experience.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I made the first available reservation at the Surf's Up! breakfast at PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel. We were definitely late because we walked to the Disneyland Hotel instead first, but they didn't seem to get busy until a little bit later, around 8:30 or so.
It was a buffet breakfast, and even though I did eat a good amount, I still didn't try everything. There was an omelette bar, breakfast pizza, breakfast nachos, french toast, mickey waffles, fruit, and a ton more.

Disneyland

We had bought out tickets early, so just had to fight though the security lines and then entrance lines to get into the park, around 9am.

Number one item on my list: the Indiana Jones ride. I have been to Disneyland I think four times before, but have NEVER gone on this ride, because it was broken EVERY SINGLE TIME. While K and Lilly grabbed Star Tours fast passes, I got in the single rider line, and literally skipped through the exit towards the front of the line. Man, when you're waiting in line and snaking your way through all the twists and turns, it doesn't seem like a long wait, but it's a long line!
And the ride was totally worth the wait! So much fun! Definitely top of my list for favorite Disney ride!

Next up, we wandered around for a while as K traded pins, and got some Dole Whip for second breakfast. We also took some time to check out the Baby Care Center, which is at the end of Main Street. It's very nice, with a large play area, a curtained off breastfeeding area, kitchen, and large area to change diapers and help little ones use a tiny toilet.

Since the plan was to eat as much as possible, we wandered over to the French Quarter for some beignets and a mint julep. The line for the Pirates line was HUGE! Good thing I don't really are about that. We did hop up to the railway station to look at the train cars, and learned that the Lilly Belle was at the Main Street Station. After skipping our Star Tours fast passes, we headed towards the entrance to head back and take a nap.

BUT FIRST, we had to stop to check out the Lilly Belle! The conductor who was hanging out said it was being sent for preservation the next weekend, so this was the last time it would be out all year. Even if we didn't get to ride it in, at least it was nice to see it.

After a nap and packing out of our room, we headed back to Disneyland for the afternoon Tangled show at the theater in Fantasyland. While waiting in line, I got a Matterhorn Macaroon from Jolly Holiday Bakery. At this point I think I realized I had mostly been eating sugar all day, but it was time for some Rapunzel!

The stage show was hilarious! We hung around after because sometimes the characters come out after for photos, and they did! Flynn Rider isn't out everyday at Disney World, so I haven't seen him there, but he was all over the place in California! Woot!

California Adventure

By 4:30, I was starting to melt, I was hungry, and I just wanted to go to California Adventure, because K HAS NEVER BEEN THERE. This alone was half the reason we were visiting, and besides, he wanted a turkey leg. I originally wanted to sit down at the Cove Bar for some lobster nachos and a few glasses of wine, but there was line (maybe ten minutes) and K hates lines. We ended up just walking around Paradise Pier, getting a turkey leg and corn on the cob, and then heading back out. So much for experiencing CA. Next trip....

At the very end we slowly made our way over to the Disneyland Hotel for drinks at Tiki Sam's. We didn't get to sit inside, because, stroller, but did get some ahi tuna and fun drinks out on the poch. I'm sure I'll be seeing this dumb cup around a lot (K got the shrunken zombie head, which came in a shrunken zombie head).
We made the poor choice of taking the monorail back towards the park instead of walking. It would have been faster to walk. Unless you're in line right when the park opens and plan on sprinting to Star Tours, don't use the monorail as a primary source of transportation. Plus you have to fold up the stroller. Lilly was an absolute doll all day though, and took a few good naps in her stroller while we walked around. She really loves looking at people and listening to the music everywhere, so I think she had a pretty good time! I think her favorite part of the day was breakfast, though. All those characters! Stitch is still her favorite though, for sure:
I'm really glad I had the chance to see Disneyland in all its diamond anniversary glory. Even if I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure it was the best day ever! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon - June 5, 2016

Marathon number 3, in the books! This was probably one of the hardest races I’ve done so far, for a number of reasons, and I’m so proud to say I finished!

Training

Between law school and a baby, there wasn’t a lot of time for training. The bigges portion of my training was a few long runs (two Disney half marathons, plus one that was about 15 miles on my own) with shorter, faster runs during the week. I tried to run four days a week, even if one was just a quick two or three miles, and I think I succeeded most weeks. I also made sure to include a good amount of core, as well as strength and short HIIT workouts once or twice a week, especially on days that I was really busy.

Was it the most ideal training that I imagined I could do? No, not at all, but I think I kept a pretty good balance between getting enough rest, prioritizing school, and fitting in workouts without taking too much time away from my family. Would I change anything about it? I wish I had more time for long runs, because that’s what killed me at the end of the race, and that I went to bed a little bit earlier on those nights I drank too much caffeine before my 6:30 class. All lessons learned (again).

Expo

K, Lilly, and I flew into San Diego early Friday morning, and after loading up our bags and dropping my MIL off at her office, we headed downtown for the expo. I thought it would be less hectic in the middle of a Friday, rather than wait until Saturday. With 30,000 runners expected, I knew the convention center would turn into a madhouse.

Bib pickup was very smooth, and we breezed through the line with our bibs, got t shirts, and tried on the sample marathon finishers jackets that would be at the finish line. The line in the Brooks store was HUUGE, so we skipped that and headed straight for the expo floor.

Since this is the flagship RnR race, one would expect it to the most organized run they have, and it probably is. The expo usually has a TON of vendors, but with all the space they have available, I still think they make the aisles too small. Even with how little crowded it was, it still felt cramped, and people were running into each other. I can’t even imagine Saturday. We wandered around, K showing off Lilly to everyone who would look at her, and picked up tons of free samples of stuff. Some other highlights included the Nuun booth, where I did get a few tubes with a free water bottle, and we also arrived just in time to see Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan do an interview after they picked up their bibs for the half.

I also loved the Suja booth right inside the main entrance. Suja juice is the name sponsor for the race, and I do love their juices and smoothies. I did think that their booth was a little bit too women-focused, which I didn’t mind, but K felt a little left out of the fun. They had a little hair braiding studio, and I got a gorgeous, tight French braid crown that lasted through the entire weekend. I also got a few full bottles of juice to try out. They had a pretty cute little wall that I’m sure was featured in many an Insta photo.

After wrapping up, we headed out to try to beat the traffic, and rest up after a long flight. On Saturday, I woke up early with Lilly and got in a few hours of studying before meeting friends for brunch and an afternoon at Balboa Park. The weather was, as expected, absolutely beautiful, so I was a little surprised to get a heat advisory email from the race director. They were strongly encouraging everyone to take it easy due to expected high temperatures (predicted high of 85 I think) and were adding a few more cooling stations to the course. Since the weather has been 90+ in Baltimore for the past two weeks, I wasn’t too worried, but did make sure I was hydrating enough the day before.

Race Day

Race Day came bright and early. The first corral went off at 6:15, and we were both in corral 20. Our plan was to drive and park at Qualcomm stadium, about 20 minutes from home, then take the trolley in. I ate a cupcake for breakfast, since that seemed like better than eating nothing, and we were at the trolley station by about 5:30. There was only a special train running that morning, from Qualcomm to 5th Ave, the nearest station to the start line, and about a mile from the back of the corrals in Balboa Park. I checked my bag, with shoes, my phone, and a few odds and ends, then hopped into Corral 20 as it was slowly moving forward.

Since this race is so big, I don’t think they have ever been able to get quite enough volunteers for it, so they’ve had to strategically place them for maximum efficiency, or just in places that absolutely must have people, like bag check. In the corral area, there were no volunteers checking bib numbers or enforcing corrals, so it effectively was just a free for all, with people assigned to corral 25 jumping corral 5, and even people running into the corral just as it was released at the start line, pushing everyone else back. Corrals were released about 2 minutes apart, so I started just over 40 minutes after the first corral, around 7am.

What I wore

I’ve never worn shorts for a marathon, but since it’s been so hot in Baltimore lately, I’ve been wearing shorts outside for runs a lot more often, and now that I’m not fat and pregnant, I have less of an issue with severe chub rub. I ended up deciding to wear my SOAS run shorts and matching razor tank in their new Aquarius design, as well as a blue SOAS sports bra with a really nice cleavage pocket. I stuck a gel and my ipod in the shorts pocket, and managed to keep my id, credit card, a $5 bill, a tiny tube of body glide, and two more gels in the bra pocket. After a full marathon, I can honestly say that these are still the most comfortable shorts I have ever worn: they were never in the way, kept me nice and dry, didn’t chafe anywhere, and, the sign of the perfect race outfit, I pretty forgot I was wearing anything. As usual, five stars for SOAS gear!

Course

The course winds through a lot of neighborhoods throughout San Diego, from Balboa Park, Normal Heights, North Park, Mission Valley, and finishes in downtown. I planned on the first six miles or so being fairly easy, no major hills, and no major sites. There were plenty of spectators out, even at 7am, and kept the less scenic areas motivating. I really enjoy looking at the cute little houses or shops as I run by. Also, at Mile 5, Run Blue to Remember had their remembrance mile up. 
The course split just after Mile 8, and that's the point of no return. Going into Mile 8, I was feeling great, averaging maybe a 10:00 pace, and even did two 9:30 miles in the first half, to keep myself amused. Even going into the 13 mile marker, the weather was gorgeous (overcast but humid), and nothing was bothering me. By mile 14.5, though, I hit my first WALL. All of a sudden my legs felt like lead, my back started cramping, which I know is my first sign of dehydration, and I started to worry about doing another 12 miles. At the next water station, I grabbed a salt packet and two cups of water, and perked up a little bit, but never really picked up more speed. 
The next 6 miles were a yoyo between feeling fine and chugging along, and wanting to just be done. Around Mile 16, the course hit Mission ay Park, which is a lovely stretch along the bay. The breeze off the bay was chilly when I stopped to walk, and we were running along a narrower sidewalk, past beaches, playgrounds, and piers. I think this was my favorite part of the course, even though I felt pretty crappy going through. If I didn't have that motivation, I can't imagine how slow I would've been.

My goal was to hit Mile 20 before 4:00, and I did, crossing Mile 20 at 3:57. And it was all downhill from there, but not literally. Around Mile 21.5, the course looped down onto 163, a freeway that cuts through the suburbs, but does have a slight incline up then down. Just as I was coming onto the freeway, trying to find the innter strength to finish the last 5 miles in an hour, the sun came out, the asphalt heated up, and I wanted to be done. No more. I slowed to a crawl, my feet hurt, my calves and back were cramping, and my music was so annoying. I tried to run 200 steps (about a quarter mile for me) every time someone on the other side of the freeway honked, but that didn't last long after my legs started cramping up. I was looking for the next water station, but apparently the next station, around mile 23, was REPLACED with a cooling bus. I should have stopped, but I thought there would be water ahead, so I chugged past the icy cool bus....and didn't find water until mile 24.5. Talk about miserable. On top of that, my sunblock had all worn off, and I ended up with a nasty sunburn. 
Also, I missed the Mile 25 marker, resulting in what I thought was the slowest, most miserable, longest mile of my life before I realized I was heading downhill into the city. My watch died shortly after Mile 24, so the last two miles were just the worst. 
By the time I hit the exit ramp, though, and started cruising into the last half mile, I knew it was just a right and then a left turn into the finish line, and managed to trot at a pretty good pace, focusing on form more than speed. Once I caught sight of the finish line, there was no stopping me, and I was elated! I ended up finishing in !!5:50!!, which I think is just as bad as my first marathon, and I still can't beleive that last 10K took me almost two hours. Ugh. 

Music/entertainment

Because the race starts very early, RnR usually reminds runners to not be too obnoxious as they run through residential areas at 7am on a Sunday. Since I’m usually zoned out with earbuds in, I feel like I’m not bothering anyone and try to practice good racer etiquette. However, in SD, you could be the most obnoxious runner in the world, and it still would pale next to some of these residents. There were people in their driveways with loudspeakers, spectators with bullhorns and bells and drums, front yard bloody mary bars, and on couple even set up a makeshift misting station. It’s really amazing how much the locals support this race, and it makes it all the better!

There are bands every couple of miles along the course, and they can be pretty hit or miss. I’d still recommend bringing headphones because they just aren’t close enough to keep one entertained. The packs of cheerleaders at random points is kind of weird and funny, though, I guess this year’s trend is the tulle tutu skirt, originally of runDisney fame, because pretty much every squad was wearing some sort of handmade tutu in neon colors, plus way too much makeup for a 13 year old, especially on a Sunday morning. Sorry, just a little mom judgement.

Course support

I believe there was something like 17 water stations spread out across the courses, and they were dictated more by ease of access over strategic placing for a runner. Some were about a mile apart, while later, in the last six miles, there was one stretch on 163 from miles 21-24, with no water. Two stations had Glukos “gels” and chews, but the volunteers handing them out were slacking a bit, and I ran back and grabbed some off a table when I realized I was at the appropriate water station. There was also Gatorade at every other water stop.

In addition, because of the predicted heat, I think they did try to add more heat mitigation stations. At two points, miles 17 and 22 I think, there were large buses with the AC blasting, so you could stop and cool down if you needed. Also at 17 was a misting station. Somewhere later, maybe 19, there were wet sponges, but it looked like they had been sitting out all morning and the water was lukewarm by the time I got there. 

Finish line celebration

As I cruised into the last mile, which felt like it was a breezy downhill despite a few last turns, I was exhausted, hot, and felt like I could conquer anything. Then I got to the finish line. As I passed over the last timing mat and got my medal, I knew I still had a ways to go. There was no more ice left at the water station, and the gataorades had gone quickly, so the fluids weren’t that refreshing, plus I could barely keep a grip on the two bottles I grabbed because I was so weaty and exhausted. I did grab a powerade bar and shoved it in my bra, threw a pack of airplane peanuts in my shorts, and grabbed the coldest, most delicious chocolate milk ever. More, please...except they were being stingy. I stopped at the medical tent to wrap ice around my legs and dunk my arms in their ice bucket, and then hobbled another three blocks towards the finish line celebration and checked bags, where my delightful flip flops were waiting. I finally made it about anther ten minutes later, threw everything I could into my cinch bag, and then realized the line for the finisher’s jackets was wrapping around the entire celebration. On top of that, by the time I made it down there, Suja was closing up their tent, so no finish line yoga or juice for me, and even the beer tent said they weren’t serving any more (btw, I finished a good 90 minutes before the course cutoff). I just stood in the sun some more, for a jacket, and then sat down in a little patch of shade to wait for K, who finished about 40 minutes behind me.

Some notes to RnR: keep the party going until everyone makes it! I know it’s a long day, but if it took me 7+ hours to finish a marathon in 85 heat, I would probably want a cold beer, or juice. If you have a headline sponsor packing up an hour before the final finisher, it’s just a bad look.

The After

On the way, we stopped for some carne asada fries and aloe after sun lotion. My shoulders were already turning a deep pink, and the tan lines were impressive. I did a little stretching, drank a lot of water, pulled on my recovery socks, and then packed up and drove to Disneyland!! 

Overall, I'm so very glad that I did the full. Even though it was slow, it wasn't the worst race ever, and I really enjoyed the course. I run races to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and this race did exactly that. 



Monday, May 30, 2016

May Wrap-Up

I've always thought of May as being a kind of "transitional" month, no major events to look forward to except for maybe some changing weather. This year, though, May has been a crazy whirlwind and I can't believe how much was packed in! Here's just the highlights:

I finished law school! I had two finals this year, plus doing all of the last minute work to publish a law journal, and worked up to the last minute. Finishing that last final, though, felt amazing!

Our 5 year anniversary - has it really been that long? It seems to have flown by. We celebrated with an early dinner at a local french restaurant and dessert at home after the baby went to sleep.

Marathon training - I've been fitting in longish runs when I can, but I think the longest I've run in the past six weeks was 10 to 15 miles. Definitely not prepared, but I feel much stronger than I have in a long while. Maybe after this cycle I can focus on shorter runs and even more speed.

Graduation Weekend - after all of the hard work of the past month, and the past three years, graduation weekend was awesome and exhausting! My mom, sister, and best friend all came in, for awards ceremonies and graduation, plus dinner, and a wedding for a friend.

Starting Bar Prep - and ever since, I've been hitting the books harder than ever to get ready for the bar exam in July. It's like every final I've ever taken, in two days. At least I know I've got the endurance down, so that's one step up on every other test taker who can't run a marathon!

Overall, this month has been exciting, with lots of looking back on what I've been able to do, and looking forward to what's to come.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Marathon Training: So How's That Going?

In between a crawling baby and finishing law school, you're probably wondering how that goal marathon in San Diego is looking. Well, it's happening in less than four weeks whether I'm ready or not, which puts me exactly where I've been with the other two marathons I've done. While some amazing moms have the discipline to get up and do ten mile runs in the cold before spending all day with their children *coughEricacough* I am more of a, "but I'm really tired and recovery is more important" kind of person who fits in amazing runs on Monday and Tuesday, overbooks Wednesdays, and then forgets to eat before a Saturday long run.

Two things that I do consider important are the two workouts I have planned every week: one day of speedwork and one day of tempo. I then try to add in mileage and easy runs when I can.

So, no, really, how has marathon training been going? Have I actually hit any of my long runs? Have I slowed down on my easy runs? Have I gotten in any of those 50-60 mile weeks I had planned?
The easy answer is no.

Since it's been raining so much and my schedule has been so tight, a huge majority of my runs have happened on the treadmill. This means that I know exactly what my pace is, I have a TV, and I get bored very easily, so runs over 6-7 miles are pretty much out of the question.
To keep it interesting, my workouts definitely vary. The sprints are my favorite: I usually plan on about a 4-6 mile workout, with intervals ranging from 800m-1600m, or time, with 3:00-5:00 on with up to 2:00 recovery. My sprint pace ranges from 8:10-8:45, which is about a minute under my goal pace.
Tempo paces on a treadmill are the worst. I simply cannot make myself keep a steady pace for 6+ miles, so sometimes I do have to mix up the pace on my tempo runs. With these, though, I still average out to about a 9:30 pace, right around my goal.

My long runs have consisted of a few outdoor runs of  up to 10 miles, plus the Star Wars Half Marathon plus two days of Disney. With only about 25 days left, I definitely plan on getting in at least one 18 mile day, at a very slow pace, and hopefully a few more 10+ runs.

In addition, though, I have tried to increase my crosstraining days and strength. Once a week I try to swim about 1200-1500m, to help with recovery. I also have about three days of strength training, which includes squats/deadlifts, kettlebell training, or an upper body machine circuit. Usually I do this strength work HIIT style, with intense sets with little rest. I also try to add core work a few days a week, including a pilates class.

My average day for the past month or so has been like this:

  • Wake up, have coffee, play with Lilly, catch up on email and news
  • Class OR gym time: 15-20 min of HIIT strength work followed by an hour on the treadmill
  • Afternoons are very taken up with more classes or work for journal
  • If I had class in the morning, I go to the gym for an hour in the evening to fit in what workout I can on the treadmill
  • By 8, Lilly is in bed, so K and I eat dinner, sometimes he goes to the gym, and I stay home to finish homework, watch TV, and stretch out and foam roll 

To summarize, I know I'm probably not going to get close to a 4:00 marathon, which has always been a goal for me, but hopefully, with all of the speedwork, I will probably get a new PR time. Even though I always race hoping to push myself, this marathon cycle was more about setting a good base to get ready for a strong triathlon season this summer. Once I finish this race, I'm diving straight into strong cycling (indoor trainer+bar prep=awesomeness) and working on swim speed, and hopefully I'll feel that I have a good running form, which will help keep me running strong.

I know that running a marathon 9 months after having a baby, plus graduating from law school, was a crazy goal, so I'm not upset about how terrible my training has been so far. I'm glad I set a goal and have been able to keep myself motivated to get faster and stronger, and I'm definitely going to finish this out!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother's Day: Giving Back

It's almost Mother's Day! This time last year I was getting ready to drive halfway across the country to spend two months at Fort Campbell, KY, and bought myself some flowers on the way there. This year, I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time with my baby in her running stroller :D


While flowers and a nice brunch are great ways to say thanks to the moms in our lives, I think it's also pretty important to remember moms with the real problems, like the ones who worry about buying clean diapers or the moms who legitimately fear giving birth because there is no healthcare available. Here's a few ideas for charities and gifts that not only give your mom something, but also give back:

Every Mother Counts

Every Mother Counts is committed to providing access to skilled healthcare and a safe place for mothers to give birth in less-privileged countries. I regularly complained about having to drive an hour to get to an appointment; imagine having to walk miles, in labor, to get to the nearest healthcare facility, and then hoping a midwife is there to help with a complicated delivery.

Oiselle has some pretty cool shirts and hoodies and more, with proceeds going to Every Mother Counts.

Solly Baby also has a special edition baby wrap designed by Rachel Pally, with proceeds going to Every Mother Counts. I have a Solly Wrap, and absolutely love it. I tried a few carriers and other wraps, but they didn't fit well or made me and baby very sweaty. The Solly Wrap is amazing, though, and I would never go on a trip without one. It's great for holding Lilly when we're standing in line at Disney, or getting her to sleep on a plane.



The Honest Company

I buy Honest Co. products partly because they are very "clean" and I know won't irritate me or Lilly, but also because they are very big on social responsibility. When we were looking for a crib, we were obviously looking for one that would be safe for babies (chewable and no harmful chemicals) and I was actually surprised how many cribs used paint that chips or pressed wood that splintered. We ended up settling on the Honest Co. crib, designed by Babyletto, not only because it was so safe, but it was also very stylish, AND for every crib purchased, another one was donated to homeless shelters in LA. We got one in white with natural spindles, but they also came in grey, navy, and coral.

I'm also excited that Honest Co. recently donated 1.2 million diapers to charities in major cities around the country, in partnership with the White House's #DiaperGap campaign. (Don't get me started on how much I support this campaign, apparently some people who claim to be conservative just can't give credit where credit is due) You can always donate to local charities like Baby2Baby or through the diaper bank network. A great gift for any mom, though, would be a gift card for delivered diapers.

Carry the Future


CTF donates infant carriers to refugee families escaping from the Middle East. (Again, I think the refugee issue is way too political and sometimes we just need to remember that families are just trying to make a better life for themselves) Donating a used carrier or just money can make a huge difference. If you know a mom who loves her  carrier, making a donation to share that with another mom is a great idea


Altruette


You know I love charms. Altruette makes lovely little 3D charms, with proceeds benefiting charities. They do have a charm for Every Mother Counts, but I also love the Love Letter charm, benefiting Operation Gratitude, and a baby bootie, benefiting Operation Shower for military moms.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Disney Dining Plan Recap

After crunching some numbers and deciding what restaurants we wanted to eat at, my husband decided that it would be worth the extra ten minutes required to call and add the Disney Dining Plan to our vacation (it ended up being more than ten minutes but it was still worth it). For the standard DDP, it costs $63.70 per night, and includes one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack, per night, as well as a refillable resort mug for your entire stay.

I can think of two reasons to get the DDP over just paying for meals as you go: 1) It's just convenient. If you like to plan things out and know exactly how much you want to spend on something like food, it's great to have your meals pre-planned and pre-paid (you still have to do the planning, DDP does not come with any special perks in the advanced dining reservation system). 2) If you plan your meals out, you might actually save some money. As you can imagine, I was all for the first reason, and K did all the legwork to make sure we took advantage of the second reason.

If you are a numbers person, here is how our two night stay broke down for me:
Amount Paid: $127.40
Table Service 1: $40
Table Service 2: $45
Quick Service 1: $24
Quick Service 2: $21
Snack 1: $5.75
Snack 2: $7
Refillable Mug: many, many refills

Now, to break it down even more:
Table Service 1: Cape May Cafe Buffet dinner at the Beach Club Resort
The first night we arrived, we had reservations for dinner at the Cape May Cafe, which is inside the Beach Club Resort. We took the bus from our resort to Hollywood Studios, then the ferry from there to the Beach Club. After gawking at the lovely exterior for a few minutes, we checked in with the hostess stand and were told it would be a few minutes for a table. Since we were quite a few minutes late, I was pretty happy they didn't have us wait for the rest of the night! We gawked some more around the lobby, and K scouted out the pin book situation. Seriously, I love the Beach Club, it's exactly what I want my vacation home to look like.

The Cape May Cafe is a lovely themed buffet, decorated with pastel seaside decorations like giant beach umbrellas. They also host a character breakfast buffet with Mickey and friends in old-timey beach clothes, which I think would be lots of fun! There are no characters at dinner, BUT there is a ton of fresh seafood. There's the usual bread, salad, and sides such as mashed potato and soups, but the main draw is the steamed crab legs, shrimp, and potatoes and corn on the cob. There's also a strip loin carving station, and mac n cheese and chicken nuggets for kids. 

As you may have seen from some of my other posts, K loves crab legs, and he can eat a lot of them. I tried to get him to smile for a picture, but he was too busy eating. He also enjoyed the fact that you can get POG juice here!

I really love that Disney buffets have "kid" desserts, like cookies and brownies, as well as fancy grown up desserts, like Boston Creme Pie tarts and flourless chocolate cake. This dinner is definitely worth the $40 one would normally pay for this dinner, so very much worth using a DDP credit for it. 

Table Service 2: Cinderella's Happily Ever Dinner buffet at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian
Our second night there we got reservations at 1900 Park Fare. Of course everyone wants to eat at Cinderella's Table, and though I haven't done that yet, I would say this is a very close second choice! Not only do you get the standard buffet offerings - fish, strip loin, chicken, and all of the usual sides - but Cinderella and Prince Charming and friends join you for dinner! The night we were there they also had the Fairy Godmother and Lady Tremaine. Every 45 minutes or so, each character was announced and made their way around to each table, then finished with a little dance and inviting kids to join them for a waltz. 
I love Lady Tremaine, she is such a hoot! She sat down with us for a few minutes, signed our autograph book, apologized for Cinderella being such an attention whore (no, she didn't use those words), and reminded my sister to always marry for money! K and I were wearing our medals from the race, but she wasn't that impressed, since she got all of her jewels without messing up her hair. 
One of the signature things at 1900 Park Fare is their strawberry soup, which we let Lilly try:

As a side note, my sister is gluten and lactose intolerant, and at both buffets, the chef came to the table and walked her through to let her know her options. They also created some special dishes, and special desserts, which were brought to the table. 

We used both of our quick service credits on Monday, our last day on vacation.
Quick Service 1: Be Our Guest breakfast at Magic Kingdom. This is one hard reservation to get, but K kept checking for last minute cancellations, and lo and behold, we got one for 8:05 on Monday morning! This meant we would get into the Magic Kingdom before rope drop! Be Our Guest is gorgeous, and has three rooms: the main ballroom, the West Wing, and another room that has the gorgeous "music box" Belle and Beast in the center. The attention to detail is stunning, and Be Our Guest is one of my favorite Disney songs, so I definitely enjoyed hearing it played over and over. 
Breakfast is $24, and has a lot of options, but unfortunately, my go to breakfasts of waffles or french toast are not offered - maybe they're just not fancy enough. Instead, I got basically a cronut, filled with creme and topped with amazing fresh fruit. Each meal also comes with a drink and a pastry basket; we managed to stretch our meal out by bringing a baggie to bring the pastries for later, and refilled our resort mugs before we left (not actually permitted, but if you pour a drink from your self-serve cup into your mug, it's a little more discrete). 
Of course we also ordered the Grey Stuff, a delicious chocolate cupcake with grey frosting.

Quick Service 2:  Backlot Express lunch at Hollywood Studios. For lunch that day, I used my last QS credit at Backlot Express, near the Star Tours ride. There are lots of benefits to choosing this place for lunch: you can score an outdoor table and watch the Jedi Academy show every half hour, most of the food is now Star Wars themed, and the drinks are also self serve, so plenty of opportunity for refills! I got the Dark Side chicken and waffles, a soft drink, and BB-8 cupcake, which was lemon cake with a really fluffy frosting. Usually the cupcake is about $6 on it's own, so I was actually surprised it was a meal dessert! We definitely took advantage of the self-serve soda fountain to rehydrate, and also refilled our resort mugs with lemonade. 


Snack 1: Epcot Festival snack. I'll do a whole other post on how lovely the Epcot Garden and Flower Festival was, but for now, let's just say I used one of my snack credits for one of the lovely seasonal snacks available. You also have the option of converting one QS meal into three additional snacks, which I hear is a pretty good idea during any Epcot festival! Other good ideas are for classics like a Dole Whip (available either during an Epcot festival, at Magic Kingdom, or at the Polynesian). 

Snack 2: Starbucks (OK, Trolley Cafe) at Hollywood Studios. Anytime I can get "free" Starbucks, I know how to maximize that. Whenever I have a free drink on my card, I usually get a 5 shot venti caramel macchiatto. Since ANY drink at any Starbucks is a snack credit on the DDP, I knew what I would be getting. Yes, I did get a venti iced CM with an extra shot and extra caramel, worth $6.91. And then I sat in the shade and watched Captain Phasma and stormtroopers march around. 

Refillable Mug: I normally don't drink too much pop during a Disney trip, because it's expensive and I prefer to get my caffeine through espresso. However, having the refillable mug for the entire stay definitely upped my pop intake, water intake, and kept me generally happier and more hydrated, which is key during a race weekend or any time in hot weather! You can fill up your mug at any resort food hall, which have open soda fountains, so we carried ours with us and filled up at the Boardwalk Inn (there's a refill station right on the Boardwalk) and Hurricane Hanna's at the Yacht Club, which are both a short walk from the back entrance to Epcot. Since we had dinner at the Grand Floridian, we also popped over to refill on hot chocolate for the ride back to Pop Century. 
Now, you're really not encouraged to do this, but there are a few counter service restaurants in the park that have self-serve soda fountains. Whenever we ate at one (like Backlot Express), we also took advantage of the free refills to top off our mugs while in the parks. Some people find it a hassle to carry them around when you're in the park, but I would have a water bottle anyway, so this works just as well.

Overall, I think the DDP is a pretty good opportunity to help me plan out a day at Disney and prevent sticker shock once I'm in the parks. Sometimes Disney also offers "free dining" with a resort stay, so that's something I would definitely recommend taking advantage of!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2016: Snacking Around the World

I love going to Epcot. Even though it is the most "whitewashed" way to experience different countries, I still love being able to experience so many different things in such a small area. I've never been to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot every fall, but I was super excited when I found out the Star Wars Half was during the Flower & Festival Festival! What a great way to celebrate finishing another half marathon and hang out with my sister.
I love that part of the maps for Epcot included this cute little Garden Passport with the menu for each of the fresh garden pavilions, a place to get stamps from each country, and info about all of the adorable topiaries. We didn't have nearly enough time to collect all of the stamps, but it does make for a cute souvenir!

After coming in to Epcot, Lilly was sleeping, but I decided to start with a photo with Daisy Duck!
We got there around 11, just after the World Showcase opened, and I was STARVING! The first country we hit was Mexico, and I got the tacos de camaron and elderflower watermelon sangria, while my sister got the rose margarita.

Next up was China! We got a picture with Mulan, and took a seat to try to gaoli beef bun and some "school bread" from Norway next door, which was  delicious bready roll topped with pastry cream.

We breezed through Germany, and made our way to Italy for a bellini, one of my favorite cocktails! Up next was the good ol' U.S. of A. with a great smokehouse. I took a pit stop to change Lilly, reapply sunscreen, and get some water while K got the beef brisket burnt ends and a grapefruit pale ale.

I usually love spending time in the Japan pavilion because it always feels so peaceful, no matter how crowded it is. I got some frushi, a sweet fruit sushi roll, and yuzu plum wine slushy.
Next door was Morocco. While my sister got pictures with Jasmine and Aladdin, K and I split a HUGE quick service meal that came with naan, hummus, a cilantro salad, chicken, and more. I really wanted to try the Desert Rose, a champagne cocktail with pomegranate, but by this point the heat and early morning were really getting me. I enjoyed sitting in the shade for a good 45 minutes, drinking ice water, but I was just exhausted.

Next up was France! I would have loved to explore more, but I was feeling really bad by this point and just wanted to take a nap. I ordered the La Vie En Rose, a Grey Goose slush with St. Germain and cranberry juice. The flavor was amazing, but the cold gave me a headache, which I know is a sign that I'm more dehydrated than I was willing to admit.

Instead of looping around to finish Canada and the UK, we snuck out the back of Epcot and headed back to our resort for an afternoon nap before dinner.

After spending some of the next day at Hollywood Studios, K and I decided to finish our our Epcot run and headed back to the UK pavilion. They had a DELICIOUS scone with raspberry preserves and clotted cream.

At the pineapple promenade we also indulged in some pineapple soft serve of Dole Whip fame, this time with a splash of rum! We also split a spicy hot dog.

Perhaps "drinking around the world" isn't the best idea after a half marathon, but it's still a great event and I would definitely go back to spend a long day exploring everything! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bundles: Saving time and money when you have a baby

Bundle it all! I'm a big fan of automating anything that I can, to reduce the stress that comes with wondering if I remembered to do X or Y. Seriously: after I found drugstore.com, I put shampoo and body wash on auto-order for about three years and never thought about it twice.

Between a new baby and law school, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to worry about little things like running out of diapers or dish soap, so I did a little research over the summer and decided to invest in some bundles. That way I could budget exactly what I would spend every month on essentials, get them delivered without having to buy ten packs of diapers to efficiently use a coupon, and, hopefully, stay ahead of the curve. Here's my top three options for baby bundle options:
  • Honest Co.: Since I am allergic to pretty much everything that can touch my skin, I have used Honest Co. dish soap, detergent, and body wash for a while, and used their essentials bundle after buying a discounted voucher on Zulily. I knew they would be my safest option for diapers and wipes, so I decided to just go with their diaper bundle. It's 6 packs of diapers, which lasts us about 6 weeks, plus 4 packs of wipes, which I use for literally everything and somehow still have a pile of back up packs under the dresser. Bundles are $79.95, and since I had a 25% off code for the first one as well as a number of gift cards, I probably didn't pay for diapers until December. I love the cute prints they have year round, and the seasonal prints are absolutely adorable. (referral link if you want to try them out) I especially love that I can still add on cleaning or extra items for 25% off, so I can easily order dish soap or diaper cream and have it all come at once. 
  • Target.com: I got a ton of Target gift cards for my baby shower, and used them to fill out everything I needed from my baby registry. While I was browsing online, I also noticed that Target.com lets you subscribe and save about 5% off whatever you order, plus free shipping. You can use this for anything from diapers and wipes (but not Honest Co. diapers) to formula to the Kiinde Twist milk storage bags I used.
    Right now I use it for formula, since we're switching from breast milk to formula and "grown up" food. Instead of getting a 40 oz box of up&up brand formula for $23.49 every time I go to Target, I just ordered six boxes for $133.89, and can adjust the shipping date as needed. You might save more than 5% if coupons come up on the Cartwheel app, though, so this is entirely more for peace of mind than actual money saving. I do try to make my own purees when I have time, but I do love the up&up brand food pouches, which are usually about $0.89, while Plum Organics pouches are about $1.39; ordering these in bulk definitely saves time, as does ordering a shipment of formula and pouches to ship to my in laws when we are there for a week.
  • Amazon.com: Amazon also has Amazon Family, which is basically a version of Amazon Prime which gives you a 15% completion discount for any registry items, plus 20% off diaper and wipe subscriptions. I currently have a Student prime account, so I wasn't eligible for this, but it will work basically the same as either the Honest Co. or Target subscriptions (except you can't get Honest Co. diapers through the subscription program). 
    I do use Amazon for literally everything but diapers and food though. Prior to going into labor, I made an Amazon list called "Coming Home" and included stuff like dermaplast, ibuprofen, bamboobies pads, and extra pads; while we were still in the hospital, I just adjusted what I needed and hit "order," and everything was waiting when I got home. Whenever I think of things I need, like extra pacifiers, outlet covers, or even just a nice pair of fleece baby pants, Amazon is my go-to for ordering. 
Almost eight months into this baby thing, I am so glad that online ordering is an option. While I love browsing through Target every once in a while, ordering stuff online definitely helps me stick to a budget, makes sure I get what I need when I need it, and saves a little bit of money too. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

runDisney Racecation: Staying at Pop Century Resort

During the Star Wars Half -The Dark Side race weekend, we decided to stay at the Pop Century Resort, in the ESPN Wide World of Sports area of Walt Disney World. There are three major reasons we decided to stay here:
1) Price: This is one of the budget Disney resorts, and it was probably cheaper than many of the nicer off-site hotels. We knew it wouldn't be super luxe or spacious, but if you're on a budget, this is a great option.
2) Location: Being in the ESPN WWS area, the bus from the race finish line to the resort was all of about five minutes. It's also very close to Hollywood Studios (one time our bus driver made the trip in 7 minutes) and Epcot, the two parks we spent the most time in. It is a bit of a hike to Magic Kingdom, though.
3) Transportation: I think one of the biggest perks of staying on site at Disney is definitely the Disney Magical Express from and to the airport. It easily saves $100+ on taxi fares, if you had to taxi, or more, if you need a rental car.

Things to know about Pop Century (and Disney resorts in general):

  • Luggage and the Disney Magical Express
Once we got to the airport in Orlando, it was a breeze getting on the Disney Magical Express and heading to the resort. You just have to follow all of the many signs straight to DME checkin, tap your MagicBand, and get your bus assignment. My sister arrived around 11am and stood in line for about thirty minutes before scanning in, but when we arrived at 1, it was pretty much empty and we actually had to wait about 15 minutes for our bus to fill up before we were off.

When you schedule the DME and provide your flight information, you also get the option of adding yellow tags to your checked luggage. For any tagged bags, the ground crew diverts them straight to DME and they are delivered to your room later in the day, which can save a lot of hassle! We decided to tag our bigger bag and not tag my smaller checked bag; this means I had to run over to pick it up before getting on the DME bus. Our second bag was delivered to our room sometimes after 5pm. If you can pack everything you need in a carryon, you won't need to worry about this, but if you have a lot of stuff to carry (like, if you're traveling with a baby) I would recommend checking a bag with all the essentials for the first day, like extra clothes, food, diapers, etc, and tagging/checking any bulky bags you won't need until later in the day.

  • Preferred Room/Pool View
Because the resort is SO HUGE, we didn't think twice about paying a few extra dollars for a preferred room, which guarantees a room in one of the buildings closest to Classic Hall and the park shuttles. We also requested a first floor room, since we would have a stroller, but there wasn't one available when we checked in, so we had the extra hassle of using the elevator a lot.

We also got a pool view room, just because it was the most available. I think for some families this might be fun, especailly on the first floor, to be able to walk right out of your room and be at the pool, or see the float up movies at night. However, if you have a baby or want to nap in the afternoon, pool view is not for you. It's definitely the louder side of the buildings, even if they are closer to the main entrance.

The room itself was definitely on the smaller size. It included a small table, two double beds, a TV stand/dresser with a few drawers and a mini fridge, and a curtained-off bathroom area with a sink, hanging rack, and the tiny bathroom. It was definitely a little tight, since the only space for the pack n play for the baby was right next to the bathroom area; we couldn't keep any of the main lights on, and there was only a thin curain between the baby and where we were trying to get ready for bed or get dressed in the morning. I think the rooms in the moderate resorts are a few feet wider, and have a double sink, which makes a huge difference.
  • Classic Hall and Pools
The Classic Hall has everything you need outside of your room: check in, concierge, a huge arcade, a children's play room, gift shop, and food hall. There's also the main pool and splash deck right outside, plus Petals pool bar. 

Since this is a budget resort without villas or DVC suites, the gift shop doesn't quite have as many long-stay essentials, as some of the other shops might have. This means they didn't have gallons of bottled water (which I was looking for, for formula) or "normal" food like peanut butter or bread. If you're out and about, though, it's a short ride to Hollywood Studios and a quick boat ride to the Boardwalk, where there is a gift shop with more things if you want to make snacks in your room (OK, not that quick and easy, but I don't know the alternative). 

The food hall had lots of options, though, and smelled like waffles in the morning (Pop Century waffles, not mickey waffles)! They also had some grab and go options starting at 3am on race day, in case you need an early breakfast. We got the Disney Dining Plan, so we also got refillable resort mugs which we could refill with pop, coffee, or hot chocolate in any resort food hall. 

I think there are several pools throughout the property, and all have very watchful life guards. I did take Lilly out to the splash deck for a few minutes one afternoon, and she loved playing in the shallow water, as well as watching some of the older toddlers play. There are lots of deck chairs around the pool, but I can see it getting pretty crowded.
  • Race transportation
Pop Century did share a race bus with Art of Animation, which is right next door, and was super easy! For the expo, shuttles came about every 15 minutes, and it was about a five minute drive straight to ESPN. On race morning, there was a little bit of a line at 3:30, and about a 15 minute drive to Epcot. My sister took the shuttle later straight to the finish area, and she barely waited for a shuttle; the driver also helped her out with the stroller. I can imagine any race that ends at Epcot might have a longer drive back to the resort, but the short ride back was great!
  • Park transportation
As with all resorts, there are bus shuttles to each of the parks, as well as Downtown Disney Disney Springs. As I've said, Epcot and Hollywood Studios were a short 10 minute drive away, and 15 minutes or more to Magic Kingdom. The buses aren't particularly regular, so plan on waiting up to 20 minutes for a shuttle, and probably seeing at least one bus for every other park you don't want to go to while you wait. 
Also, if you have a reservation at another resort, you're going to have to take a shuttle to another park, then get from there to your final destination. We had reservations at the Beach Club, which is outside of Epcot, but it was faster for us to take the bus to HS, then the water taxi from there straight to the Beach Club. If you're going to the Magic Kingdom hotels, you can take the monorail. 

Overall, I think Pop Century is a great option for families on a budget - picking a cheaper hotel is definitely one way to keep expenses down. If you don't mind being a little bit on top of each other, Pop Century is really close to the "adult" parks and a great option for race weekends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Race Recap: runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon: The Dark Side - April 17, 2016

Since K and I did the inaugural Rebel Challenge at Disneyland, when runDisney announced the Dark Side half at Disney World, of course we had to sign up for it. When they also announced the Kessel Run Challenge, after registration for the Light Side at DL was already full, K was pretty distraught - he loves medals, has been chasing the Coast to Coast but our schedules never quite work, AND he LOVES the Millenium Falcon. So, we resisted the urge to do the Dark Side challenge, and planned on doing the half with a focus on park fun. My younger sister joined us to watch Lilly so we both could run.

Expo

I kind of forgot about the expo during the planning process. Well, not exactly - I knew we would have to go pick up our bibs and such, even though they are charging now for "VIP bib pick up" on race day. I just forgot that the expo closes at 4 on Saturday. Our flight landed around 1, we took the Magical Express to our hotel, Pop Century, and put our things in our room before heading to the expo. We got there at 3:45, realized it was about to close, and then ran to bib pickup. Once we had our bibs, we then ran next door to expo floor to pick up our t shirts. Most of the booths were already shut down, and even the runDisney shop had taken most of their stuff off the shelves by the time we got there. I did manage to pick up a new charm from Endure jewelry - I see her things at various expos, and always love them! 

Race day

After flipping through the race guide, I also realized that race start was 5AM, not 5:30 like the Princess half. WHY?! It's so early! The maps for the start area weren't very detailed, so I assumed there would be a long walk to the start corrals, since the start was near Epcot, even though the finish was at ESPN. We got up super early, and waited in line for a bus for maybe ten minutes. Because there aren't coffee makers in the rooms at budget resorts, I ended up buying coffee at the Classic Hall; they also had grab n go stuff out, and some race power packs. I ate a banana and clif bar while we were on the bus, as well as my coffee. 

Traffic seemed worse than I remember from other races as we drove to the starting area, so what would normally be about 12 minutes was almost a 20 minute drive. We got there shortly after 4, though, with plenty of time to use the portojohns, and walk down the VERY CROWDED street towards the corrals. The walk was much shorter than for other races, but for some reason, much slower and much more crowded. The labelled path actually went past all of the corrals, we could see them through trees, and ten had two exits which looped you around to the corral entrances, so you ended up basically u-turning and walking back towards your corral. I got to Corral C around 4:35am, and it wasn't very full at all. There were about 20,000 registered runners, I think, in 12 corrals, but the first few didn't seem overcrowded. 

The first wave of wheelchairs went off right on time, and then corrals were pushed through about three or four minutes apart, with red fireworks and lasers for each wave. I was half asleep, had my music turned up, and was focused on my garmin, so I honestly don't remember too much about the first few miles. I appreciated the pace, though, since I was constantly running into walkers during my last Disney race. Corral C kept a pretty good 9:30-ish pace, right where I wanted to be.

 At some point after the first mile, the course dumped right into the middle of Epcot, and ran around the world showcase, one of my favorite parts of Disney races! It then looped around in front of the Beach and Yacht Club resorts, and down the little canal towards Hollywood Studios. It then looped around HS, and past the main stage, where Kylo Ren and a bunch of stormtroopers were posing for photos. It went past the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and back out of the park. 

Miles 5 to 7 were great for running, but went right past runners on the other side of the road, and I didn't know what mile they were on, but the fast people, aka the winners, and a few wheelchairs were over there while I was running towards Animal Kingdom. Turns out they were just past mile 10. We were nowhere near the turnaround point to get to that side of the road. Mile 8 was mostly inside of Animal Kingdom; I have never been to this park before, because it just doesn't seem like much of a priority for me, but I'm glad to finally get to run through it! There were a few photos stops inside, a couple of "hills," but overall, I wasn't that impressed. The biggest thing I remember here was stopping to switch my music to a new playlist. 
Also, around mile 9, I felt a blister coming up on my foot, and made the mental decision to really push through it; up to that point, I was running around 9:30-9:45 miles, which isn't fast and didn't feel hard, but I was exhausted. It would have been easy to just walk a good portion of the last 4 miles, especially with a blister already, but I knew the "fun" parts were behind me, and I didn't want to prolong the inevitable. I stopped twice to get vaseline at the medical points to lessen the impact, which definitely cut into my finish time. 
On my way back, coming up on mile 11, I was back to the side by side portion of the race, and could see the masses of runners who were only on mile 6. I also caught sight of K, who started in corral E and was taking it easy on his ankle, which he sprained a few weeks ago. He apparently stopped for almost every photo stop, and finished almost an hour behind me. Just after the last med stop, right before mile 12, the race went onto a gravel road through an access road towards the ESPN area, which really lent itself well to the endor-y photo stops they put up. We rolled into the well-manicured field areas just as the sun was fully up, and I was so glad I had carried my sunglasses the entire race, because it was blinding. Even though my knees were starting to hurt a little too, and my foot had a huge blister, I pulled myself up and ran along, all the way to the finish! 

Finish

I finished in 2:16:20, less than a minute off my runDisney PR (Princess Half 2014, 2:15:40), which made me pretty happy! It's not breaking 2:00 yet, but that will come (with perfect weather, etc). I'm definitely gad I wasn't doing the full challenge! 

The finish chute looped around and fed out into the family reunion area, which was huge and had little shade. My sister brought Lilly out after getting my 10K finish alert on her phone, and she had plenty of time to get photos with all the awesome characters waiting there: Darth Maul, Captain Phasma, Darth Vader, BB-8, and more. Lilly slept in her stroller the entire time! I was a little disappointed that more of these  characters weren't out on the course, and once the main body of finisher's came in, the lines were HUGE. I also wish I had seen Jedi Mickey and Princess Leia Minnie :( I did get some photos with some stormtroopers on the course, and after meeting Captain Phasma, I can pretty solidly say I am definitely too short for a stormtrooper:

The medals, as usual, were pretty awesome. The half medal had a spinner in the middle, and the Dark Side theme, with lots of Empire symbols on everything, was apparent throughout the entire event.

Since Disney loves adding on expensive little perks, I was expecting more to be available with this race. A race breakfast would have been GREAT, especially with some of the characters (or Jedi Mickey), especially since they don't have Star Wars Weekends in the parks anymore. A VIP Chear Squad tent at the finish line, like they do with other races at Epcot and even at DisneyLand, would have been nice to get for my sister. The event did seem a little bit thrown together, like many of the new Star Wars things in the parks now, which is disappointing. 

One HUGE perk, though, that started with this race, was adding race photos to PhotoPass! Instead of buying photos through MarathonFoto or some other third party, all race photos were taken by Disney photogs, and could be included in any other PhotoPass packages you buy; photos were still tagged by bib, so you do have to go in and input your bib number to add them to your PhotoPass account, but that way a runner doesn't need to have their magicband or photo card on the course with them. This was definitely a big plus, since we pre-purchased the memory maker package for the weekend. 

I'll finish with a runDisney problem: getting back to your resort after a race, trying to get breakfast,,and trying to scan your garmin to pay for it.....(my magicband was on my other arm)