Thursday, February 25, 2016

Disney Glass Slipper Challenge 2016, Part 2: Port Orleans Riverside, Princess Half Marathon, and Magic Kingdom

Running a race at Disney isn't hard just because of the distance - there are many other challenges that make the races more challenging. Most of use aren't able to train in nice weather, so for me, this was my first non-treadmill run since November. Sometimes the Florida weather is overwhelmingly humid, making it hard to breath and dehydrating you even faster. Not only that, you're usually traveling, away from the comforts of home, and spending hours walking around the parks in the days before and after a race. 

Despite all of that, these are some of my favorite races. I love the course, the support, the entertainment, and how the whole weekend is great for families. Sometimes, when I run local races, it turns into something else to check off of my weekend list; taking a mini-vacation at Disney with a race makes the whole experience a lot more special. 

Hotel

For our second night, I booked a Royal room at the Port Orleans-Riverside, one of the moderate resorts on the other side of Epcot and across from Disney Springs. It's not too far from any of the parks, and even has a water taxi to Disney Springs. Port Orleans-Riverside is split into Magnolia Bend, featuring white garden district mansions, and Alligator Bayou, with more of a lodge feel. 

All of the Royal rooms are in Magnolia Bend, within a five minute walk of the lobby, and feature views of the quiet pool, gardens, or river. Instead of southern-inspired decor, they are completely dec'd out for a princess. The carpet featured Aladdin's carpet, tiaras on the bedding and shower curtain, and pictures of all of the princesses on the wall. Two of my favorite details include the magic lamp faucets and sidekicks on the wallpaper border, including Pascal!

Lilly's favorite part of the room, though, was the light up headboard! There was a small button on the side of each headboard, and when you pressed it, fireworks lit up across the painting. This kept Lilly amused for quite a while, and helped us calm her down after a long day.
While Disney tries to accommodate most requests, the only ones they guarantee are for cribs. I've heard they have a few "real" cribs in each resort, but mostly have pack n plays, but with a nicer mattress. I was a little worried that Lilly might not sleep as well on the hard pack n play, but the extra padding made a big difference, and she slept a solid 8 hours before conning Kevin into letting her into the big bed.  

Princess Half Marathon

After a short night, I woke up at around 3:45 to get ready to go for the half marathon. The building we were staying in was right between two bus stops, so I wasn't too worried about waiting for a shuttle. I had all of my things laid out the night before, so I turned on the coffee maker while I got dressed, then rushed out the door. Once I was on the shuttle, I realized I had forgotten my coffee; it turns out I put the cup next to the coffee maker, not actually under it, and ended up just spilling water across the coffee tray. Oops. 

Our shuttle left Port Orleans, and just a few minutes later, we all saw the corrals lit up on our right, and the bus just kept going. Even though Port Orleans is a short walk to the start line, for security reasons, Disney will DQ anyone who tries to sneak into the start corrals. So, we had to continue driving another ten minutes to the race area, and then walk another 15 minutes back around to the corrals. I brought my heat wrap from the night before, and munched on a picky bar on the walk. I kind of like this part because you get a better look at everyone else's costumes! 

I didn't have that much time to wait in my corral before we were off. There were more corrals this year, and a total of 18090 runners, so rather than wait five or ten minutes between corrals, there was only about two or three minutes. I was in corral E, and started 10 minutes after the clock. Just like with the 10K, waaay too many people started off walking or running slowly, and it took over a mile to break out of the pack. 

Since I hadn't done more than 8 miles in training, I was fully expecting to hit a wall around 8 miles, and have to walk most of the rest of the way. I tried to keep around a 9:30 pace, but much of the star was way too crowded for that. I wasn't really planning on stopping for photos, which was good, because the few they had were packed. The usual "heroes" stop, with all the princes, was much smaller and only had two princes, from what I could see. The "Cars" area was also gone, and the villains. The one stop I did make was right by the Castle - Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters! (This year there were volunteers handing out wipes right before the castle, for better photos)
I started to think of the race as two easy five mile runs, followed by a 5K. I took a breather and a gel after 5 miles, and decided I felt great, so kept plugging along. I paused again shortly before mile 10, long after I thought I would hit a wall, and realized I was still keeping under a 10:00 pace. My quads were starting to feel it, though, so took a few more walk breaks during miles 11 and 12, then ran a 9:10 mile in mile 13. I don't usually stop at mile 13, but I did catch my breath, take a feel of my legs, and then ran through the finish in 2:20 by my watch (I paused during bathroom breaks), good enough for 3118/18090. It's definitely not my best time, but only about five minutes slower than 2014, and ten minutes off my average time for 2013. And all this after a 10K! With no bonks, no injuries, and no sleep, I definitely feel excited for this year!

To finish up, I did stop for a quick photo, then hopped on the bus and headed back.

Magic Kingdom

In January, when I started f'real planning, I did manage to get some pretty good Fast Passes, which I knew would be important with Lilly. Of course, as soon as we got to the park, she fell asleep in her pram. We took advantage of that to pick up her My 1st Visit button and grab some mac n cheese, and she woke up just in time to make the tail end of our hour window. She was in a pretty good mood, and was super excited to meet Rapunzel and Cinderella! For some reason, Tangled is definitely Lilly's favorite movie, and it can keep her amused for an hour at a time. She also has several different Rapunzel dolls in all different sizes, and she somehow manages to pick them out of a pile of toys without fail. When she finally did meet Rapunzel, she was definitely pretty smiley!
We also met Ariel at her grotto, ate at Gaston's, and went to find Rapunzel's tower. While Lilly took another nap, Kevin and I got some Dole Whip. In addition to all this, we wanted to get our silhouettes done again, since we got them done at DisneyLand during our honeymoon, and also snag seats for the Festival of Fantasy parade. Check, check, and check! Lilly was quite upset with the parade, though, and we spent most of it inside Starbucks waiting for everything to quiet down. 

We also used the Baby Care Center at the Magic Kingdom, which is tucked by the Crystal Palace. This one was much bigger than the one at Hollywood Studios, and had some pretty comfy recliners. There was also an attendant there to answer any questions and manage the little store they had with necessities. 

Shortly after the parade we headed back to the resort to catch the shuttle back to the airport, and back home. Our flight was at 8:55, and we got on the shuttle at 6:00; they made a few stops on the way to the airport, but we arrived with plenty of time to make it through security and get to our gate. 

Unfortunately, another awesome runDisney weekend has come to an end, but I couldn't have asked for it to be any better! 

For my recap of the Enchanted 10K, check out my post here

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Disney Glass Slipper Challenge 2016, Part 1: Travel, The WDW Swan, and Enchanted 10K

What a crazy, awesome weekend! I only got about 9 hours of sleep total, mixed with 19.3 miles of running and two full days in the parks, but I'm so glad I made the time to travel this weekend and make great memories with Lilly. Here's my recap of our travel and first full day at Disney.


Travel

We got a direct flight from BWI to Orlando, and then took a car service from the airport to our hotel. Air travel was smooth, Lilly was great, and we traveled with our own stroller for the first time. It's giant, comes apart in two pieces to fold up, but is great for naps, so there were some pros and cons. Because you can't just take a taxi with a baby unless you bring your own car seat, we booked a car service from the airport. It was actually about the same price as either a taxi or a shared shuttle service, and having the driver meet us at baggage claim was great. The driver actually didn't know how to install the car seat, and also insisted that facing forward was just fine, but once we got that all figured out, we were off! The drive was smooth, and by the time we made it to our hotel, we were itching to get out into the sunshine!

The view from our balcony

Hotel

The first night, we stayed at the WDW Swan, which is actually a Starwood property but right off the Boardwalk. I would have stayed here for two night, but Saturday night they were full. Our room was ready right when we arrived around 3, and we went up to check it out. The room was pretty spacious, had a huge king bed, a seating area and desk, a mini fridge, and stand up shower. Since the Swan is under the Westin brand, they also had the usual white tea-aloe toiletries, which I love.

I had requested a crib when we booked, but it wasn't in our room when we checked in; we called the front desk then, and again after dinner, and it finally arrived at almost 10pm. We also had an issue with ants; I have no idea where they came from, but after getting back to our room after dinner, there were ants on the bottles I had left out to dry by our sink! I called the front desk, but they did literally nothing, since apparently housekeeping isn't available on call. I drowned most of them, but still found a few in the towels the next morning.

Other than those issues, I would definitely recommend staying here for a race weekend. They do have race transportation to the expo and race start, which ran about every 20 minutes, so there was never a long wait. On checkin, all the ladies working at the registration desk were wearing tiaras, and there were posters all over the lobby with race info. I would say they have some of the best hotel pools of any Disney hotel, and we took advantage of the hot tub after a long flight, and the grotto pool for a quick dip after the 10K.


Expo

While Kevin and Lilly napped, I took the shuttle straight to the expo for packet pickup. There were very few lines, and the expo floor wasn't nearly as crowded as I expected, but then, it was 4pm on a Friday. When I printed out my waiver beforehand, I was actually a little surprised to see that I was in the next to last corral. Based on all my previous run times I have always been in A or B for Disney races, since the last corrals are always for walkers. I printed out the results from my last GSC and brought them with me, and runner services graciously changed me to corral B for the 10K and E for the half.

I then hit the exp floor, and picked up a new sweaty band and t shirt from the runDisney booth and resisted the urge to buy everything else. I also sat in on one of the trivia presentations that were part of the speaker series, and should have raised my hand! I totally knew Cinderella has burnt orange hair!

There are several dining options right in the hotel, or nearby at the Dolphin, Yacht Club, Boardwalk resort, Beach Club, or other Boardwalk restaurants. The Garden Grove in the Swan has a seafood buffet on the weekends, so we decided to try that out. This dinner also has characters on the weekends, so we also got to meet Goofy, Pluto, and Chip n Dale! Lilly was fairly impressed by the chipmunks. By this time, though, I was so tired I didn't particularly enjoy eating, and held on o Lilly while Kevin devoured his weight in crab legs. The dinner also came with half a lobster tail for each adult, so that was nice! After dinner, we walked around outside for a little bit, and were able to see some of the fireworks from the Epcot show, which is within walking distance.

Race

As always, race day came dark and early. I was planning on getting up at 3:45, pumping for ten minutes, hopping in my clothes and getting down to the shuttle. Lilly, however, decided she wanted to wake up at 3, and Kevin pulled her in bed with us until she settled down (she stayed in bed with him while I ran, because she's spoiled). Subsequently, I was up earlier than expected, and made myself some coffee before heading down to the shuttle. There was one already waiting, no lines, and we made one stop at the Yacht Club before arriving at the start line on the other side of Epcot in about ten minutes. I could've slept in another half hour! Even though they recommend you be on a bus by 4am and in corrals by 5, I don't see the need for this much time cushion.

Since I did get there so early, I had plenty of time to wander around, drink my coffee, and eat my picky bar. There were some vendors out with coffee and hot chocolate, so bring some cash if you forget to bring your own coffee.

I also stopped and asked a few questions at the Baby Care Center, which I had never noticed before! I knew they were in the parks, but having one right at the race area is awesome! They have water, a microwave, high chairs, a rocking chair, outlets if you need to bring your pump, and the lady said that during the race, the med tent was letting women store breast milk in their fridge. It was open to runners, of course, and spectators. Make note!

Since there was s much time to kill, I wandered over to the stage, and found where the photo ops were! There were two lines, and I hopped in one for Sleeping Beauty. This was around 430, and the lady managing the line said it would be maybe an hour wait. Half an hour later, though, I was about ten people back in line, and they switched out Aurora for RAPUNZEL!! She's my favorite princess!! BEST DAY EVER! Not only did I get this picture before the race, but I still had time to down some water and use the portajohns before getting into my corral.

Just as I recalled, the 10K is a great, flat, fast course, which starts out dark, then hits EPCOT and gets awesome. There isn't much going on in the first two or three miles, which was fine, since I spent most of the first two miles trying to break out of a pack of "runners" going at a 10:30 pace. I was in corral B, and there were people starting out walking! I mean, c'mon, if you know you're going to start walking, go back a few corrals! After mile 2, though, I hit an easy 9:00-9:30 pace, the crowd spread out a little, and I felt great. I knew the 10K was going to be easy, but I felt like I could've pushed to an 8:30 pace no problem! I didn't, though, because, you know, half marathon in 24 hours.
Even though it's just a 10K, there are a ton of water stops along this course, which was great. The weather was so perfect, about 58 when the race started, and minimal humidity; perfect racing conditions! I only stopped here to wake a picture at the lake in Epcot, and then later, right before mile 5, along the Boardwalk. Pro tip: If you're staying at any of the Boardwalk hotels, you can walk right down to the race route! Kevin packed up Lilly in her pram and walked across the bridge connecting the Swan to the boardwalk, and was waiting for me right there! He said he got the phone alerts for my pace at the 5K and knew when to walk down; he was up for all of about 20 minutes before jumping back in bed to wait for me to come back. Definitely a perk for the spectators!

I saved plenty of energy for a final kick in that last .2 of a mile, and finished feeling great! I got my medal, about five bottles of gatorade, and, thankfully, a heat wrap (once the AC on the bus hit my sweaty back, I was freezing!). Since I had already gotten by picture with Rapunzel, I made a beeline for the buses, and was showered and back in bed by about 9:30.

'Ohana and Hollywood Studios:

After a quick nap, we packed up our bags, left them with the bell hop to transfer to our next hotel, and headed out for the Polynesian Resort for breakfast. We had 11:10 reservations at 'Ohana.

Now, for some reason, Disney does not do resort-to-resort transportation. That means we had to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom, then pick our next hop to the Polynesian. We could have taken the monorail, another bus, the ferry, or a water shuttle. Due to the fact that you have to fold up strollers on most transportation, and our stroller is not easy to fold, we opted for the ferry.

We arrived at the Polynesian right at 11:10, but it took us a few minutes to find 'Ohana (it's upstairs, just FYI). We then had to stand in a line just to check in, which took a while because most people in the line didn't have reservations and were there just to get on the wait list. We didn't get to check in until almost 11:30, and the hostess said we were late but on the list. We wandered around waiting for our buzzer, and after checking back at the hostess stand a few times, didn't get seated until 12:20. By this time the restaurant was half empty, which was nice, and the manager came to apologize, and gave us three Fastpasses to use in the parks. Score.

The food at 'Ohana was pretty decent, all you care to eat, and included waffles, breakfast meats, biscuits, pineapple bread, fresh fruit, and eggs, as well as coffee and POG juice. We had brought a cooler for Lilly's milk, so we also sneakily threw some waffles and pineapple bread in there for later.
It's also a character breakfast, so we got to meet Lilo and Stitch, as well as Hawaiian Mickey!

After breakfast, we headed to Hollywood Studios, where we took turns riding Star Tours, met Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc, Chewie in the new Launching Bay area, and Kevin used his extra fast passes for the Tower of Terror. We never had to wait in line long, stroller parking was pretty easy, and I had my Solly wrap for whenever I did have to carry Lilly around.

Since I had just raced that morning and still had another 13.1 miles to go, I was definitely pounding water all day long. Every time we stopped for food (or Starbucks), I got an extra ice water, and we refilled our water bottle before getting into any line. I also really appreciated the Baby Care Center, which is in guest relations just to the left as you enter the park. They had private rooms for pumping or nursing, a microwave and sink to heat bottles, high chairs, baby spoons, and giant changing tables. When it wasn't too crowded, I even put a blanket down and let Lilly get in some tummy time, since I figured she was tired of sitting in her stroller all day.

At the end of the day, I was too tired to stay for the galactic fireworks, and we headed back to our new resort, the Port Orleans Riverside. As usual, Lilly was too hyped up to sleep until almost 10, so I only got another 4.5 hours of sleep before I had to be up for the Princess Half!

Lessons Learned

- Get a better stroller! Our stroller needs to be taken apart to fold down, and we were carrying my bag plus a diaper bag plus whatever odds and ends Lilly had with her, so getting on and off the buses was a pain. It also didn't have a cup holder. Next trip I think we might consider renting a stroller from a local company.
- Pack a collapsible water bottle. Kevin and I both brought water bottles, plus bought drinks while were were in the park. Combined with no cupholders, we were toting around a lot of bulky fluids Next trip I will probably pack collapsible water bottles that don't roll around in my bag.
- Arrive everywhere early. Easier said than done with a baby or 530am start time.
- Plan for downtime. I would have liked to enjoy more time at the pools, or been able to stay awake for fireworks, but we packed our afternoon so tightly we just didn't have time. If you're staying on property, I'd recommend planning for a few hours in the hottest part of the day when you can either take a nap or chill out by the pool or just relax at the hotel bar for a little while, so you can keep going at night.
- Do some research on food. While we had reservations for breakfast, once we got to Hollywood Studios, the only food options were fast food burgers or turkey legs. Not quite what I usually eat all day before a race. I'd prefer if Disney had more fast, healthy options, like a to go salad bar or something.
- So glad we used the baby care center! I stopped there to pump and just get some quiet time with Lilly.

Check out my post on the Princess Half here. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Preparing for the Glass Slipper Challenge 2016

IT'S ALMOST THAT TIME!! TIME for the Glass Slipper Challenge at Walt Disney World! The training is done and all that's left is getting there, and enjoying every moment!

I hope most of you have all your travel and race day plans already in place, but here's some of my tips:

Travel

- Hotels: The past two years that I've done this race, I stayed at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista. The pros of this hotel are many: it's fairly cheap (you can use SPG points if you have them), it's very close to the starting area, and the concierge used to pick up your bib before runDisney changed their pickup policy. They also have some pretty awesome pools, a restaurant and coffee shop, and shuttles to the park during the day. The only downside of this hotel is no race transportation, so you need to have your own wheels, which wasn't an issue in the past. 

  This year, though, I'm flying down, with a baby, so we decided we would try staying on property this year. We didn't book rooms until mid-January, but still got some pretty good deals. For the first night, Friday, we're staying at the Swan, another SPG property on the Boardwalk. I was able to use points here, but they were only available for Friday night. They do have expo and race day transport, but not airport service, so we'll have to get a taxi for that. Also, the Enchanted 10K does run right through the Boardwalk, and the concierge here has assured me my husband can just walk across the bridge to cheer me on, then go straight back to bed. Bonus points. 

  For the next night, we will be staying at the Port Orleans Resort - Riverside, in a royal room. It was a little cheaper than I remember seeing these rooms before, but apparently the main area is under major construction, so that might be why. They will also have race day transport, to the Princess Half start line and back, and I've also heard that it is possible to walk to the start line, though they may have some roads blocked this year. I'll let you guys know how these work out!

- Transportation: Once you're at WDW, transportation is pretty easy. There's free parking at Disney Springs, all of the hotels, and HUGE lots at each of the parks (for $20 a day). From there you can take shuttles to the hotels, if you have dinner reservations there, or to the other parks. Parking during the race is free (I wish DisneyLand did the same). Race shuttles move from pretty much every hotel to the start lines, and to the expo during expo hours. 

  My biggest concern this trip was getting to our hotels, though. Disney's Magic Express is a shuttle for resort guests to and from the Orlando airport, but you can only use it on the days of your actual stay. Since we're staying at the Swan on day 1, we will be booking a car from the airport, one with an infant car seat. 

- Food. This is one of the most important parts to plan. Not only am I starving after a race, but I usually want to take a shower, drink a gallon of gatorade, and fall asleep, all at the same time. My husband mostly just wants to eat everything in sight. We usually compromise on the last reservation of the morning for some buffet breakfast. In the past, we've done the Crystal Palace inside of the Magic Kingdom, and 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. Both were fairly similar in menu, had fun characters, and I would definitely recommend either one. This time, we're going to try 'Ohana at the Polynesian for breakfast on Saturday after the 10K. 

  During the rest of trip, a few important things: 
1) Hydrate! Florida is muggy, and you will sweat 5000 times more than you think you will. I get really cranky when I'm dehydrated, so for the sake of everyone in a 50yard radius, I will be bringing a huge nalgene bottle to refill, and plenty of Nuun to replenish those electrolytes. This is doubly important since I'm still breastfeeding.
2) Don't eat too much sugar! I know, it's everywhere, but you'll just be hungry again soon. Try to think ahead, plan our where and when you're going to eat, and focus on trying to find some veggies and plenty of protein. 
3) Caffeine. Yes, I can only have a little, but there are STARBUCKS inside of the parks now. Glory glory hallelujah. 
4) Pack snacks. I'll be bringing pretzels, picky bars, and probably some other munchies to tide me over between meals. 

- Visiting the parks. I've never really combined a park visit and a race weekend, so this weekend will be the first time I plan on combining it. Granted, it is with a 6 month old baby, so we will definitely be pretty chill. Building on the above advice, I plan on hydrating, pacing some snacks, wearing some comfy shoes, and just focusing on enjoying the day with my family. I may end up walking more than I plan to, but if I have fun, that's OK! 

- Odds and ends. A few more tidbits:    
1) Don't try anything new. This is an obvious race day adage (never run in a tutu for the first time in a half marathon - I hear major chafing is involved), but applies to the rest of the weekend as well! One year I wore a new pair of Sperry's on the plane ride to Orlando, and my heels got so eaten up they were bleeding for a week. Running 19.3 miles on top of that wasn't pretty. No new shoes! 
2) Plan for a VERY EARLY MORNING. Sleep when you can, even if you're too excited!
3) Write down everything you need to do, before, during, and after. I have written packing lists, schedules, and a checklist of stuff to do the night before a race (plug in Garmin, lay out breakfast), and stuff to do the morning of (put Garmin on wrist, eat breakfast, put on clothes). If you write it out, you'll have time to think of anything you're missing. 
4) I don't know anyone who has actually PR'd at a Disney race. Not because they aren't awesome and flat and motivating. Because they were having too much fun to not take time to smell the roses. Even if your idea of fun is getting an OQT, here's a new challenge: run fast but take as many pictures as you can! My last Princess Half Marathon time was 2:19, and I am pretty darn proud of that time, considering I stopped for about 10 pictures along the way! 

Race Day

- Getting there. As I mentioned above, all the resorts have buses to the start line area. They say you have to be on a bus by 4AM to make it to your corral on time (with a 5:30 gun time), but that seems a bit extreme. I probably won't push it though. In the past, I've driven to the parking lot, parked my car at about 5, and still made it to the corrals on time. From the Sheraton, it's actually about a 7 minute drive, and I've never hit traffic. 

- Bag check, portajohn lines, and getting to the corrals. You must use the clear plastic bag given to you, with you bib number sticker on it, at bag check, even if you're just checking your car keys. It's a fairly simple process though, and easy to pick up a bag after the race, so don't worry about checking your entire gym bag if you want. There are about a thousand portajohns by the bag check, for racers only, and about 10000 runners there. I'd recommend walking to the corrals first, and using any of the johns there. 

Speaking of, walking to the corrals. Yes, it is about a 10-15 minute walk. And it is dark. And there are lots of people. You'll be fine. For the 10K, the starting corrals are right there, so less of a worry. If you like to do a little run to warm up before a race, this is where you can do that. If you're in the later corrals, you can probably get here closer to 5:30 and still be fine making it to your corral. 
 
- The running part. The best part. You can study the maps beforehand, but I still have a hard time remembering where I am at each mile marker. Bring your own gels and music, though there will be some sort of fun entertainment every mile or so. I also bring my phone to take pictures, so maybe a case to protect that from all the gel and/or vaseline you'll have on your hands by the end. 

From my hazy memory, here's how the 10K course goes: dark straight out, turn around, back, hit EPCOT, run around the world, hit the Boardwalk, grab some water, darkness, and you're done! No hills or inclines, not many character sightings, but still pretty fun. 

And for the Half: Dark straight ahead, curve down an exit ramp, see the villians and all the princess (a must do photo op), on the road to the Magic Kingdom, turn a corner, run through some cast member areas, and BAM, there's Main Street and the Castle and real bathrooms, and all of the fun characters! This is just about the half way point! You're going to be awesome! Leave the MK, it's starting to get lighter out, there aren't as many characters, when did Disney have so many roads in the middle of nowhere? Why is there even a hill HERE?! Almost to EPCOT...oh, a turn around point, don't fall over! Is that the choir?! I'm almost done! Almost! No, really, it must be almost here! And, done! Give me some glitter!

- Finishing. You'll plaster the best, least-sweat smile on your face for those epic finish line pictures, and bound across the finish line while someone tells you not to stop and hug Mickey, or whatever character is at the finish line. The last year I ran (2014) they handed out drawstring bags after you got your medal(s), which is a great idea, because then you can use it to hoard all the gatorades and water and your little snack box and all the bandaids and ice you need from the first aid tent. At some point you'll have to put all this crap down to take a finisher's photo, so if you're doing the GSC, think about stashing your 10K medal in your bra somewhere. This area is way closer to the bag check exit area than the corrals are, so exiting and meeting up with family is a breeze. I've heard that sometimes there are characters in the finishing area as well, but I'm usually hightailing it back to my room for a shower. Cheers!

This year's theme is Under the Sea, so the medals are Ariel themed!

My Training Recap

Yeah, so, not going to pretend I actually followed my awesome plan, even after I adjusted it. The longest run I've done is 8 miles, on a treadmill, and that felt awesome. I've been doing a lot more strength training lately, so about four days a week I get to the gym for the following: either spin/core (on Tuesdays) or a dynamic warm up/crossfit endurance workout or my sets of squats/chest presses/deadlifts and a 15 minute HIIT workout, followed by a specific treadmill workout (8x1:00 sprints with recovery, 5x1200m with recovery, or a set distance). Since this is all at least an hour, usually more, I think my conditioning for the half will be ok, though I anticipate wilting the last 4 miles. 

My biggest weaknesses going into this race weekend: lack of sleep (I don't think I've gotten more than 6 hours straight since Lilly was born, usually closer to 4 plus another 2 or 3 hours after feeding her), a sore throat (thanks, husband, for getting me sick), and, of course, not actually hitting a 10+ mile training run in the past 8 months. My strengths: lots of speedy miles on the treadmills (I've been able to keep most of those intervals under 8:30), and just wanting to prove to myself I can do it this time. 

I'll see you all out there!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Five: COFFEE

School is back in full swing, baby Lilly is almost six months old already, I'm heading down to Disney next weekend for the Disney Princess Half, and I've been a little bit busy. Not too busy to join the Friday Five link up to write about....COFFEE.

I may have had an easy pregnancy, proven by the fact that THE WORST PART was not being able to drink coffee all the time. Decaf just doesn't cut it at 7a before a three hour class. Now, I'm still breastfeeding, but being able to have a cup of coffee, or cappuccino, or latte, every morning, makes me so happy. I do prefer espresso, but here's five ways I do coffee:

1. Mom Coffee


This is the most common coffee I get these days. It's usually made at 7 while I'm also heating a bottle or pumping, and actually consumed an hour later when it's cold. Often paired with a smoothie and bottle. It's almost like Lilly can smell the coffee too....as soon as I make it, even if she's been dead asleep, she will instantly wake up and want to play.

2. School Coffee

This is more like Keurig coffee I make it my journal office before dashing to class. It is also my Starbucks splurge - when I'm feeling like something sugary. I like caramel macchiattos, "snow" lattes (grande latte with one pump of vanilla and two pumps of peppermint), and I also loved the Christmas Spice Flat White.

3. Fancy Homemade Coffee


My husband never does anything small. Even though he is rather caffeine sensitive and doesn't really drink coffee, he has gone all-in to make sure I have great coffee at home. We have a subscription to Blue Bottle whole beans, a hand grinder that he is constantly tweaking for the perfect grind, and, for most mornings, an aero press. For Saturdays of research, a full French press.

4. Travel Coffee

This can be the best. Traveling and finding a great coffee spot to just chill, enjoy a latte, and refresh yourself. It's also great to get back to a favorite spot in another city. Some of my favorite places:
- the Starbucks at Downtown Disney at Disneyland. It's gorgeous!
- Bongo Java in Nashville. I spent many hours there this summer doing journal reading.
- Portola in Orange County. My BFF described this place as "they have fancy coffee drinks and like, bartenders." More like, they have fancy coffee equipment and make the best iced coffee in the world.
- La Mill in LA, or, formerly, Baltimore. I spent many, many, many hours at the Four Seasons here trying to figure out what a tort is. Also, they had amazing donuts.
- ANYWHERE in Italy. I am all for small government, but you know Europe takes things seriously when they regulate the price, such as espresso n Italy or baguettes in France. Also, did you know "nespresso" is the best selling coffee in Europe?

5. After Race Coffee

After a race, of any distance, and stuffing yourself with bagels and protein bars and gatorade, coffee always hits the spots. Usually iced coffee, but a steaming cup from Dunkin' Donuts also works after a winter race. There's a small coffee shop a block down from me, and I love stopping there after local races. I'm not sure what the name is now, since it's on it's third name since I've lived here (the months in between name changes are the worst! I have to walk all the way to Starbucks instead of around the corner) but I do love supporting local shops (that are so near me).

If you're looking for something in Baltimore, I'd recommend Dooby's (they also have killer food for dinner), Ceremony Coffee Roasters, or Artifact Coffee.

What's your favorite way to do coffee?