Chicago Marathon – Taper Time

A week from tomorrow, we will be on our way up to Chicago for the marathon weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, after months of training, I am officially in taper mode with my running. And, of course, now that my training runs are much shorter, the weather in Atlanta has finally gotten much cooler in the mornings. Isn’t that always the way?!

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After my 20 mile training run two weekends ago and then 12 miles this past weekend, I “only” have 8 miles scheduled for Saturday morning (besides my normal weekday shorter runs).

I feel ready. Most runners, while they are tapering, can struggle to lower their running mileage by this much. But I feel good about it. Honestly, my knees have been slightly bothering me a little bit, so I’m happy to be backing off the miles right now.

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I’ve been thinking about what my goals are for the race and if I want to do a blog post on them. But at the moment, my main goal is to have fun, not get hurt and hopefully finish strong with a smile on my face. That’s really the best outcome for me!

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And really the thing I’m most looking forward to is a weekend away with the wife. I’m so grateful she is coming to cheer me on. Anyway…I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences after the race!

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20 Mile Training Run Recap

Last Saturday, I made my way out for my last long training run of 20 miles for the Chicago Marathon! Most marathon training plans have your longest run hitting at least 20 before tapering down for 3 weeks.

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Now, when putting my training plan together back in June, I knew that training for a marathon during the Atlanta summer was going to be long battle. However, I had hoped by the time we got to the middle of September and the longest run on my schedule, maybe the morning temperatures would be a little more tolerable. But as I’ve mentioned in quite a few previous blogs, the weather has not been cooperating. Fortunately, this past Saturday, at the start of my run, the weather wasn’t too bad.

Rather than go through my training run mile by mile…I’ll hit the highlights.

  • I started running at 6:45am, which at this point in the year, is still very dark. Fortunately, the park was already open and there were several runners already out there.
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It’s hard to see, but this is how dark it was after my first mile!

  • By 8:00am, there were a lot of runners/walkers out. I think the “slightly” cooler temperature brought out everyone.
  • I listened to a 50-minute Disney-related podcast for the first 5 miles. I was fully engaged and distracted. It definitely helped with the first 1/4 of my run. Who knew that listening to podcasts would work as a good distraction for long runs?!
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Love the scenery here!

  • My mile times are all over the place right now. Seriously…my fastest mile times were miles 4, 9 and 16. I will say for the most part, I stayed consistently within a 30-second window, but still…mile 16?!!

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  • After I finished my 15 miler back in July, I couldn’t fathom going any further in this humidity/heat. I’m happy to say after 20 miles, I definitely felt like I could have gone a few more miles.
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I’ve done several runs over 20 miles, but this is the longest with my Garmin Fenix3 watch!

  • I’m in full “taper mode” over the next few weeks. Basically, besides my normal weekly runs, I have 12 miles scheduled for this weekend and 8 miles the following weekend, before the Chicago Marathon weekend. I’m ready to go!

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I look forward to sharing my experiences in Chicago the weekend of October 7-10. The race is Sunday, October 9. Wish me luck!!

DIY Disney Running Costumes: Disney Duos Edition (Guest Post)

Today Rachel takes over the blog to talk about her experience creating running costumes for the Disneyland Half Marathon.

When runDisney announced there would be a theme to this year’s Disneyland Half Marathon – Disney Duos – I finally got the itch to wear a costume for the race. Then came the question mark: could I convince Allen to join me? (It’s duos, after all!)

Allen and I have never been costume people for the Disney races. We came close with the Disney World 10k this year, by wearing Tweedledee and Tweedledum Raw Threads shirts and matching PRO Compression socks.

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Don’t mind us, we’re just soaking wet.

Somehow I managed to convince him that we should go for it this time! Neither of us was aiming for a PR, so we wanted to have fun and take our time.

For me, there was never any decision to make regarding which duo we’d be dressing as. My favorite Pixar movie, featuring truly one of the greatest Disney love stories, is Wall-E. (I mean, there isn’t any dialogue for – what, 30 minutes? – and it’s still amazingly touching and sweet.) So of course we had to dress up as Wall-E and Eve!

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Confession: earlier this year, I came across an Instagram photo of a woman dressed as Wall-E for a runDisney race. I drew a lot of ideas and inspiration from that photo. However, I wanted the final product to be as comfortable as possible for Allen and me. My main goal, aside from simply being recognizable, was to create something that wouldn’t impede our running.

I’m not a super crafty person by nature, so I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible. I’m also not creative in the way of materials to use, so for the details, I went with what I thought would be easiest to work with: felt. (Regrettably, I read an article about how to stiffen felt after I spent hours one afternoon struggling to cut floppy felt…)

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Getting into the Disneyland spirit.

Let’s face it: Eve was easy. She’s all white! All I needed was a white shirt, all-white shorts (easier said than done – I ended up with a white skirt), and white compression socks. I did end up taping my shoes with white duct tape – I was not going to let pink running shoes hold me back from committing to a theme! I cut Eve’s green plant emblem and her eyes out of felt, and I was good to go.

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Directive?

Wall-E was a little trickier. Allen found the perfect gold shirt (on about the third trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find said perfect gold shirt), and already had black shorts. He also wore black and white striped compression socks – though Wall-E’s stripes are on his arms, this was close enough (Allen’s a heavy sweater, so I didn’t want to load him up with extraneous fabric).

Remember when I said I spent hours cutting felt? That was 95% for Wall-E. I built his circuit board, sunlight charger, name, and of course, sad puppy dog eyes. Then I had to make sure everything would fit on Allen’s shirt, with room for the race bib.

Luckily, all the hard work turned out great. I’ve never traveled with a hot glue gun – but it definitely came in handy!

We got some great feedback during the race, and we had a fun time taking pictures and enjoying ourselves, especially the miles in the parks. We also didn’t see another Wall-E and Eve pair, so our costumes felt very special.

All told, if I can ensure it being comfortable and easy to run in (and create), I would probably run in a costume again. Now we’ll see if I can convince Allen…

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Recap

Continuing with our Disneyland Half Marathon weekend blog posts…

On Sunday, September 4, Rachel and I ran our 3rd consecutive Disneyland Half Marathon. RunDisney changed the theming this year to “Disney Duos,” so Rachel wanted us to consider dressing up for the race. Now, we typically don’t dress up for Disney races; however, a lot of people do! We’ve seen some amazing running costumes in almost 5 years of running Disney races. I think the biggest part of it for us is taking the time to come up with something that would work for running 13.1 miles and is worth the time/effort.

Now, Rachel loves the movie Wall-E. LOVES it. I tease her that she has a slight crush on Wall-E. So naturally, she suggested we dress up as Wall-E and Eve and, of course, I agreed. Rachel went into full planning mode. I was super impressed as she began making the plans to execute these costumes. The good thing was that Eve didn’t require as much work, since she is basically all white with a little green logo.

However, Wall-E took some extra planning. I tried to help a little with picking out the shirt and socks, but honestly, the credit all goes to Rachel. She put together a beautiful costume that I was proud to wear alongside her.

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On to the half marathon…

The night before, we laid out our running outfits and hit the bed early to get up by 3:30am the next morning. Fortunately, our hotel was only a short 15-20 minute walk to the starting line. We made our way to Rachel’s corral, which was G. (Long story…ultimately, Rachel should have been in a much higher corral, but initially ended up in the last corral. Fortunately, we talked to runDisney Guest Relations – who were awesome! – and they were able to get her corral moved up a few spots.)

The weather was just about perfect, especially compared to the hot/humid summer we are having in Atlanta. By the time we started the race, it was about 65 degrees with a nice breeze. Perfect running weather.

With me deep into Chicago Marathon training, I asked Rachel if we could use this as a nice, easy long training run for me. She was happy to oblige.

I love the Disneyland Half course. You start out the first 4 miles almost exclusively in the parks of Disneyland and California Adventure. There is just so much to see as you begin your journey to 13.1. We stopped multiple times in the parks to take pictures (since we were wearing costumes, we wanted to take as many photos as possible).

After you get through the parks, the next 3-4 miles are mostly through the streets of Anaheim. The crowd support is excellent. There are usually a lot of community groups out with bands, dance groups, etc.

As we made our way to mile 8 or 9, we came up on hundreds of old cars with their owners cheering us on beside them. I love this part of the course!

Next comes my favorite part…running through Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Stadium. You literally get to run through the track inside the stadium with the crowd of people cheering you on, as you see yourself up on the big screen. It’s thrilling!

The last few miles took us back to the Disneyland property and the finish line just outside of Downtown Disney. As always, we were very happy to finish and pick up not only our 3rd Disneyland Half medal, but also our 3rd Coast to Coast medal.

With several big plans in the works for vacations in 2017, it’s highly unlikely we will be coming out for a 4th consecutive year. But, no doubt, this race will be back on our agenda again in the future!

Several extra thoughts for this recap…

  • Running in costumes ended up being quite fun. We heard so many people shout out for “Wall-E and Eve!” during the race. In fact, we were asked to get our picture taken by a random runner. I’ll take that as a win for sure.
  • This race was easily the best I felt during and after a Disneyland race. The weather had a huge part to play in this. So ready for cooler weather in Atlanta!
  • While our time wasn’t the fastest…I was pleasantly surprised at our overall time when you take out the stops for pictures and the bathroom stops during the race. I think Rachel and I have found a nice groove when we run together. That’s huge!
  • My only real big complaint for the race was the congestion at the beginning. I personally think they could split the corrals up a little more to help with this. There are WAY too many runners in each corral. I felt like we almost had no room to run for the first mile. It seems to be that way every year, but for some reason it seemed even worse this time.

Friday Favorites

Welcome to yet another addition of Friday Favorites, where I take a look at some awesome things going on in the life of Allen.

  • Job Update: For the past 2 years, I’ve been working as the Director of Activities/Recreation Ministries at St. James UMC in Atlanta. This role comes after being a Director of Student Ministries for 16 years at various churches, mostly in the Atlanta area. About a month ago, our Student Director resigned to go to another church in South Carolina, thus leaving the church with an opening. The pastors came to me with a proposal…Director of Student and Activities Ministries. And with this new title, I would be able to hire a part-time Assistant Director for the Student Ministry as well as more staff for the Activities Ministry. After taking a few days to process and pray, I decided to accept this new role. I officially began this past Sunday in my new position, and I’m happy to say it was a solid first Sunday with the students and adult volunteers.

    And bonus…we’ve already hired a new Assistant Director and she was able to start on Sunday as well! All in all, Rachel and I are thrilled to be back around students on a more permanent basis. Plus, the salary bump is always nice! We love this church, the people and this area of Atlanta, plus they are very understanding of my crazy running schedule and frequent trips to Disney. Big-time win!

  • 20 Mile Training Run: Tomorrow morning, I am out for my last very long training run of 20 miles for the Chicago Marathon. Unfortunately, the weather has not given up the heat/humidity very much at all…especially for mid-September. I was hoping by this last long run it might be a little cooler, but looks like another day in the 90s. Hopefully by the time I finish, the weather will still be relatively mild. Wish me luck!!

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  • College Football: I know I’m a few weeks late to the party, but I’m so pumped College Football has started back. The next 6 months really are the best time of the year with two of my favorites sports of College Football and College Basketball, along with the holidays, my birthday and our anniversary. Throw in cooler weather and I’m one happy Allen.

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Atlanta Craft Classic Half Marathon Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Atlanta Craft Classic Half Marathon on September 10 as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to run the inaugural Atlanta Craft Classic Half Marathon as a BibRave Pro. I was super pumped to meet some fellow BibRave Pros and run this new race in Atlanta.

So last Thursday, I headed over to Road Runner Sports in Buckhead to pick up my race number, shirt and other goodies. I was pleasantly surprised at the extra stuff you get for the race. All runners received a commemorative tee (or tank), finisher’s medal, race pint glass, sunglasses, free race photos and post-run beer! Now I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I’ll take free sunglasses and race photos anytime!

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All in all, the race number/shirt pickup was very easy with plenty of free parking, which is always nice in Atlanta.

The race start/finish was down in Grant Park, which is about 20 minutes south of where I live in Atlanta. The race start was at 7:30am, but the race instructions mentioned parking might be a little tight in the park. I had asked one of the guys at Road Runner Sports and he said to expect about 1500 total people between the half marathon and 5K. So I decided to get down there between 6:15-6:30 to be sure I had plenty of time to park.

I ended up sitting in my car for about 30 minutes before making my way over to the race start to meet up with several of the BibRave Pros that were running the race. After meeting up with Chad and Jessica and grabbing a group pic, we made our way to the starting line. We ended up splitting away from each other as we all had different race paces and goals for the race.

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BibRave Pros Jessica and Chadd!

My goal was to use this as a long training run for the Chicago Marathon and not overdo it. Especially since I had run the Disneyland Half Marathon just 6 days before (recap coming soon!). Plus, I had looked at the course map and I could tell it was going to be quite hilly. And, of course, the weather in Atlanta is still crazy hot and humid.

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Craft Classic got a picture of me getting a picture in front of the starting line.

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The starting line picture!

The race got started about 10 minutes late, which was a little annoying, but what can you do. Once we got going, I found myself in a nice solid groove, or so I thought. As I’m crossing the 5K mark, I look down at my watch and my pace is way too fast. Like a good 5 minutes faster than I should be running for a easy long training run.

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I started pumping the brakes so I could conserve energy for the last 10 miles, but I knew I was going to be in for a tough one. Between the temperature rising and the hills that continued to come throughout the race, I started struggling by mile 8. Like majorly struggling. I started to have to take multiple walk breaks each mile. My pace slowed down a good 2 minutes per mile. I was exhausted.

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Don’t let the smile fool you…I was struggling.

Fortunately, the course took you through some pretty cool parts of Atlanta, from Turner Field and Inman Park to Virginia Highlands and Ponce City Market. This helped a little bit, as there was a lot to see as we were trekking along. We ended up on the Atlanta Beltline for about 2 miles towards the end, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. The Beltline was open to the community (as it should be), so there were quite a few other runners, bikers and walkers out. This made it quite a bit more congested than it should have been towards the end of the race.

As I made my way out of the Beltline and back toward Grant Park, my energy level was very low. I was taking fuel and hydrating correctly, but the humidity and hills had taken their toll. I crossed the finish line in under 2:30, which is quite slow for me during a half marathon, but after 5 grueling last miles I will take it.

I grabbed my medal, water and banana and decided to head back to my car and head home. I needed a shower and to get off my feet for a while. I was pretty bummed with my race, but more importantly with how much I struggled to run 13.1 miles when I’ve been training with 13-18 mile training runs all summer.

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Finisher Picture

All in all (taking out the second half of my actual race), I was pleased with the overall race itself. The course, while very hilly, had a lot to see. There were plenty of police to help guide the runners and stop traffic. The crowd support wasn’t very strong until we got back to Grant Park and the finish line, but honestly the race itself wasn’t very large and it’s the first year, so I wasn’t surprised.

I would definitely recommend this race to someone who wants to run a half marathon in Atlanta, with the understanding that it’s a pretty hilly race and in early September so it’s going to be hot.

Thanks to BibRave.com for giving me the opportunity to run this race and give my honest feedback!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend Part 2

Before we left for California, something pretty awesome happened: I was invited to the Cigna Blogger and Social Media meet-up during the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. On the Friday of our trip, I was privileged enough to participate in lunch/discussion with some amazing runners and bloggers.Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1.jpg

Per the email…During this fun-filled event, you will…  

 

  • Play the Know Your Health Game Show for a chance to win great prizes
  • Get to know fellow bloggers
  • Enjoy a delicious lunch
  • Follow the conversation during the live event using #CignaRunTogether

I was super honored to be invited to this exclusive event with so many great runners, and several that have become good friends. From Justin, Carlee, Brandi to Linzie and AJ and so many more, this was a solid crew.

Upon arriving at the event, I was given a sticker with Daisy Duck on it. Each table had a corresponding character, which is how everyone was broken up into teams. I made my way over to eat lunch and hang with my team. Plus, sitting next to Linzie, I knew it was going to be a solid group!

The lunch spread was solid, and although I wasn’t super hungry, I still found several things to eat. Plus, I can never say no to dessert!

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After lunch, some Cigna representatives got up on stage to let us know the game plan for the afternoon. This event was not going to be anything like what I was expecting…we were going to get up and be active!
We ended up playing quite a few games against the other teams. From Bananagrams using health-related words, acting out activities that we thought burned the most calories to doing specific dance moves while having the rest of the group guess what we were doing or singing songs with health-related words in them only using “La’s” (which I totally dominated!), we had a great time!

And then just when this event couldn’t get any better…Mickey and Minnie totally walked through the side door to take pictures with everyone!

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All in all, I had a great experience getting to spend a few hours with some amazing people. I was so grateful for the invitation and for Rachel, who graciously gave up a couple of hours with me so I could attend.

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PS…Check out the video that Cigna made after our event!