I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore

I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for!” Just kidding, I haven’t forgotten. The race is Sunday after all. So here I am, on the cusp of flying off to LA for my second marathon, and I have to admit that I am more nervous, anxious, and terrified for this race than I was my first. Maybe it’s because I have to travel for this race, rather than coming from the comfort of my own home. Maybe it’s because my first marathon went so well that I worry this one will never be able to live up to that experience. Maybe it’s because this week I haven’t been able to get the miles in that I wanted pre-race (um, Colorado, since when do you have freezing rain??). Maybe it’s just a whole barrel full of pre-race jitters, and I just need to get to California to finally settle in and get mentally prepared. If my life were a BuzzFeed quiz, I would select “all of the above.”

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I am more than ready to swap these mountain views for the Pacific Ocean…

I know it’s completely normal to get anxious before a big race. I know I have done all I can to prepare for this race, and now I just have to trust myself that I will be able to make it through.  I did run 141.5 miles in the month of January, so my anxiety is not due to lack of trying (and training).  I have definitely been reading up on the pre-race nerves, and the biggest key is to not overthink the race. If you know me, you know I overthink most things in my life, so this is a challenge.  My favorite Runner’s World article on the subject written by Susan Paul, an exercise physiologist and running coach, focuses on three main methods for calming those pesky nerves.

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How was I so calm before my first marathon???

 

First, rather than thinking about the entire 26.2 miles in its entirety, think about the race as three separate races, about 9 miles each.  The first 9 miles sets the stage, so go easy and figure out your rhythm.  It’s about relaxing and allowing your body a true warm up, getting your muscles find the right pace.  The second 9 miles can be used to potentially pick up the pace somewhat, but still remain comfortable. Finally, the last 9 miles are all about assessing and focus. It’s a good time to take inventory, see what feels good and find the determination to finish. For me personally those last 3 miles felt the longest, so it will be good if I can conserve enough energy and momentum to carry me through to the finish.

The second method is to make multiple goals for this race, not just one. Personally, a goal for me for every race is to simply finish, and sometimes that’s enough. This time, I am also hoping to finish in at least the same time as my first marathon, if not faster. However, if I am not feeling it, I also have no shame in not pushing it too much.  My number one goal for every race I run is for the run to feel good – to find the connection between strength, breathing, rhythm, pacing, and mentality.  It’s a hard balance, and my best races have achieved just that.

Her final method is to look beyond the race. I know one of the things I like to keep in mind is what I am going to eat after the race (tacos, anyone?). I love food, so it’s always fun to imagine my post-race meal.  I also love chocolate milk, especially after a long run, and knowing there will be a TruMoo station at the finish line might be the incentive I need to keep moving forward.  I also have an amazing mini-vacay to look forward to, including Disneyland.  Finishing this marathon will make the following few days that much more enjoyable.

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I really cannot wait to cross that finish line on Sunday!

I had one last shake out run yesterday, and now rest and stretching are in order between now and Sunday morning! “Here I go again on my own (how weird is this music video?)!”

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/23/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.33 miles
1/24/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.11 miles
1/25/17 (Wednesday) N/A 3.33 miles
1/26/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.35 miles
1/27/17 (Friday) N/A 3.38 miles
1/28/17 (Saturday) N/A 3.4 miles
1/29/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt, C2 Yoga N/A
1/30/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 4.04 miles
1/31/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.31 miles
2/1/17 (Wednesday) Rest Day Rest Day
2/2/17 (Thursday) N/A 3.1 miles
TOTAL   30.35 miles

What do you do ward off pre-race jitters? Any recommendations when traveling for a marathon? What do you focus on to get you through those final miles of the race?

Motivation Mantra: Do it for Disney!

Motivation is the name of the game. When you find what gets you through, it can absolutely change your perspective, desire, and, in some cases, the outcome of whatever you’re striving to achieve. With my second marathon a mere 9 days away (but who’s counting?), I am trying to muster all the motivation I can find. Going into my first marathon I was motivated by the incredible feat, determination, time and training that went into it, and especially the sense of absolute accomplishment upon crossing that finish line.  Now that I have done it once, I know I can accomplish it, but I definitely need a little more drive to get me through.

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At least I do have some pretty spectacular views on the trail near my house. It could be worse.

Training this time around definitely felt different.  Early in my training I was wearing shoes that were causing pain in my shins (thankfully not shin splints). My legs were achy and tired after my runs, so I immediately switched back to my beloved New Balance 3190s, which are actually discontinued.  Thank you Amazon for having one of the last size 8 pairs of 3190s – your company saved the day!  After fixing that issue, I also had a few colds that bogged me down this year, and made fitting in the miles significantly harder. My body was definitely telling me to slow down while my training plan was telling me to speed up.

Once I got over the hump of October, training began to gradually fall into place. Maybe it’s because the marathon sparkle had worn off having already done one, or maybe my body was annoyed at the idea of doing it again, but it really took until my 20 mile run for everything to feel right.  Internally I was beginning to worry when my legs and my breathing weren’t in sync, and hoped that it would come together on race day somehow.  What made matters somewhat more challenging was all of the snow we had been getting throughout December, covering my trail with snow, slush, ice, and mud. Training on those surfaces is no picnic, and at this stage in the game I really don’t want to risk injury.  Which is why I completed my 18 mile run on a treadmill (I absolutely do not recommend this for anyone, talked about boring…) and thought about quitting at mile 11 of my 14 mile taper run last weekend… I didn’t quit, but it was a major mental struggle.

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It actually took until my longest training run for everything to feel just right.
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It looks a lot prettier than it actually was – mud, ice, and slush everywhere. I thought tapering was supposed to be the easy part!

Although I have been excited about the prospect of sea level running with 19 miles of Pacific Ocean views and a maximum elevation gain of 100 feet, it was hard to find the motivation I needed to get through this training cycle.  Now with one weekend left of tapering and the race in sight, it’s getting a lot easier to feel the pre-marathon excitement. Not to mention, DISNEYLAND!

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We are going back to Disney, but this time West Coast style!

So what does one do after a marathon in southern California?  Obviously you go to Disneyland. This Disney fan has always been a tried and true Disney World supporter, believing its enormity and plethora of parks made it better than it’s California rival. In the back of my mind, however, I have always wanted to go to Disneyland – to see the original, visit Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and get a sense for where it all began.  It will be my hubby’s birthday, so I wasn’t sure if he’d actually want to go. Thankfully I got home from work one day last week and he turned to me and said, “You know, it might be fun to go to Disneyland.” Done and done. Tickets are booked and reservations made – to Disneyland we go!

Here’s a little recap of the last two weeks of training:

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/9/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/10/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.18 miles
1/11/17 (Wednesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.3 miles
1/12/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.32 miles
1/13/17 (Friday) N/A 3.36 miles
1/14/17 (Saturday) N/A 20.05 miles
1/15/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/16/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.27 miles
1/17/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 2.5 miles
1/18/17 (Wednesday) TIU Bombshell Booty, TIU Core on the Floor, TIU Sleek Arms 3.1 miles
1/19/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.13 miles
1/20/17 (Friday) N/A 3.1 miles
1/21/17 (Saturday) N/A 14.05 miles
1/22/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
TOTAL 62.46 miles

Any recommendations for this Disneyland novice (we will just be doing Disneyland Park)? If you had one day in Disneyland, what would you do?  What motivates you to get through marathon training? Has anyone else ever run 18 miles on a treadmill – isn’t it terrible?

Once more with feeling!

Suffice it to say, a lot has happened in the six months since my last post. The summer came and went (sadly, it’s my favorite season) complete with five weddings, a visit from our dear friends Samantha and Michael, my 15 year friendiversary trip with one of my besties, Tessa, to Steamboat Springs, and an amazing mini vacay to Lewes, Delaware with my sister and parents.  The fall allowed me the opportunity to present at a national conference, and also brought with it an amazing new job – my dream job!  And finally, this winter began with an intensifying training schedule for, yup, you guessed it, another marathon!  I have heard you get addicted, and I think I just might be.

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Colorado continues to be one of my favorite places to explore – there is so much to see!
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Lewes, Delaware is such a hidden gem along the east coast, and a Labor Day Weekend family tradition!

Over the summer, Samantha introduced me to some amazing workout classes I had been

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Cannot wait to see this lady in two weeks’ time!

too chicken to try before, barre and spin. During her visit and in the midst of our frenzy of fitness, she and I, along with our hubbies, decided to sign up for the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon. Samantha and my hubby will be running the half, and her hubby and I will be running the full (because we be cray).  We spent a day scouring the interwebs for the right race-cation. After all, we had to find something to rival the Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon experience in November 2014. We narrowed it down to two races, the Napa Valley Marathon and the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I guess palm trees, sea level and Pacific Ocean views won out over wine (also, the Napa Valley Marathon doesn’t allow for earbuds, which would be incredibly tough over 26.2 miles).  So here we are, a mere 16 days until the Marathon, and I am seriously excited.

My training plan had a few hiccoughs early on, including a few colds, and recently has been plagued with snow storms, but thankfully last weekend’s 20 miles felt amazing. I sprinkled the fall and early winter with local races to keep me motivated, including the Hot Chocolate 15k, the Denver Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon, the Esprit de She 10k, the Pumpkin Pie 10k, the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, the Colder Bolder 5k, the Resolve 5k.  In some ways, it’s all downhill from here, especially considering the race is at sea level.

Again I made sure to incorporate strength training with running, and also incorporated some spin classes in my schedule.  This time, I gave myself over five months to prepare, both mentally and physically.  I hadn’t reduced my running all that much during the summer, so it wasn’t too much of a transition into the next training schedule. Below are the miles for my first 20 weeks of training.  Just a few weeks left before the big day – I cannot wait!

Date (Monday) WEEK Total Miles
8/29/2016 1 23.24
9/5/2016 2 12.74
9/12/2016 3 6.24
9/19/2016 4 12.05
9/26/2016 5 24.88
10/3/2016 6 18.82
10/10/2016 7 21.62
10/17/2016 8 15.61
10/24/2016 9 22.83
10/31/2016 10 18.51
11/7/2016 11 27.6
11/14/2016 12 27.67
11/21/2016 13 15.96
11/28/2016 14 18.83
12/5/2016 15 28.9
12/12/2016 16 6.28
12/19/2016 17 31.98
12/26/2016 18 28.46
1/2/2017 19 32.75
1/9/2017 20 33.31

Dining (and Wining) Around the World: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I finally got to tell you about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but I almost forgot the entire reason that race exists: the Epcot Showcase of Nations Food and Wine Festival!  Each fall, Disney hosts an expansive Food and Wine festival, in which the Showcase of Nations is transformed with additional food stands for numerous other countries.  In total, there are 36 countries/regions represented.  Given it is Friday and a time for favorites, I am going to list off my favorite items from the festival, and some items that were worth a bite, but not quite as memorable.  Thank goodness I took pictures of the menus, because we had so many good nibbles and sips it’d be hard to remember them all! 2014-FW-Festival-Guide-MAP-AND-MARKETPLACES-2014-page-0011.  The Spicy Hand Roll from Japan: Japan did not hold back in creating a delicious and rather large hand roll that took numerous bites to finish.  This roll included both tuna and salmon and a delicious, lick-your-fingers-when-it’s-done-it’s-so-tasty Kazan Volcano sauce.  Both Mrs. BakeNBurn and I ordered this and I could have had another and called it a meal.

2.  Given I am Greek and spent this past weekend making my Nicolau family baklava, I have to go with Greece’s spanakopita! My mother, I think, makes the best

Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach... I love my roots.
Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach… I love my roots.

version (she makes a spanakopita crustard, aka pie, which will knock your socks off), but these delicate triangles had just the right balance of cheesey gooeyness and spinach.

3.  Speaking of cheese, I have to follow-up number two with the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I really wanted to lick the paper tray when I was finished.

4.  Moving on to good ol’ America, and in keeping with my love of cheese, I have to say that the American lobster macaroni and cheese (or pasta alfredo as they attempted to market it) was delectable. The hubs and I savored every last bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese – because what’s better than pasta, cheese, butter and lobster?  I also had their carrot cake, which was tasty, but not overly exceptional.

Canada was pretty darn tasty!
Canada was pretty darn tasty!

5.  Canada did a great job with their “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Although the filet was a little overcooked and tough, the sauce was delicious and not overpowering.

6.  Je aime la France! As one should expect, I focused on some bubbly and dessert in France. It’s really what I most enjoy about French dining – Champagne, pastries, and all things dessert.  The sea salt caramel crème brulee was quite a tasty treat, although could have used more sea salt to balance the caramel.  The sparkling pomegranate Kir Royale, however, whet my palate with perfection!

Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.
Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.

7.  Having recently visited Scotland, which someday I will share with you, I had been craving a local dessert called Cranachan. This dessert is traditionally served

Where's my Scotch?
Where’s my Scotch?

as whisky (or Scotch to us Americans) soaked raspberries, layered with whipped cream and toasted oats.  It is DELICIOUS.  This version, sad to say, did not live up to my memories from Whiski, a fabulous whisky bar and eatery along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  The raspberries weren’t soaked in whisky at all, so the hubs and I also ordered a sample of Scotch to pour into it.  Good, but still not quite right.

This about sums up Edinburgh...
This about sums up Edinburgh…
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!

8.  Danke Deutschland! The Riesling samplers were awesome.  Both Samantha and I spent some time in Germany, being the military brats we are, so of course we had to pop over to Germany.  We were torn between the beer or the Riesling flight, but we went with the wine.  It was delicious.  We both liked number 2 the best, but I had a preference for the third, and Samantha for the first, so we split them perfectly and enjoyed each tasty sip!

It's appropriate to just drink in Germany...
It’s appropriate to just drink in Germany…

9.  The hubs loves himself some duck, so we stopped in China for the Beijing Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce, which was almost sticky bun style. I took a nibble and it was awesome, so this one I wish I had saved more room to eat in entirety.

10.  We stopped in Mexico, even though we would later dine at La Hacienda, so the hubs could get his tequila flight and I could try the mango-strawberry 2014-11-09 16.41.40margarita. The tequila flight was decent and the margarita too sweet.  If you go to the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot, you pick varying quality levels for your tequila flight, which is a much better option.

11.  Of course an offering of Prosecco in Italy was a delight, and really a tradition whenever in the World Showcase!

12.  And finally, who would I be, the Anglophile I am, if I didn’t get a hard cider from England?  Alas, it was not Bulmer’s, but I do enjoy the occasional Strongbow as well!

Ciders and beers in hand!
Ciders and beers in hand!

Sadly I wasn’t able to get to everything.  Our stomachs just wouldn’t allow it.  The next time I go, I would recommend either a true whole day in Epcot (starting at 11am when the booths open) and break it up with some of the other activities’ Epcot has to offer (maybe not Mission Space, unless you really do want to lose your lunch to fit in more food…).  We were able to see Captain EO (any Michael Jackson fan NEEDS to see this MJ meets Star Wars movie music spectacular – directed by George Lucas and everything!).  It’s one of the hubby’s favs, so of course we had to educate Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  We also rode Soarin’, Spaceship Earth (LOVE it, always a favorite thanks to the narration of Dame Judy Dench), and Living with the Land.  We, of course, closed the day with one of my favorite firework shows, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I mean, I may have the CD soundtrack and know all the words to the song… You know… Overall, it was the perfect way to end our Disney trip with such incredible friends.

Can't wait to go back!
Can’t wait to go back!

Isn’t the Epcot Food and Wine Festival the best excuse an adult could have to drink around the world?  Which nation looks the best to you?  Aren’t you impressed we stayed awake to eat and drink that long?

Run Now, Wine Later: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap

Thanks for bearing with me, fellow blogging world! Over the past three months I have made the transition into a new position at work, and it’s been quite a bit all-consuming.  I am still trying to figure out how to balance my work, personal, and social media lives, so I appreciate your patience as I have been so absent!  I know it isn’t yet the New Year but it’s never too early to make goals (see my thoughts on resolutions).  One of my goals is to make time to write – it makes me happy, I love to share fun experiences, and I appreciate the feedback I get from fellow bloggers and readers.  So on that note, I would like to (finally) present to you the race recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

When Samantha and I initially began plotting what we wanted to do for the Wine and Dine, of course we naturally started with the costumes.  We went to many iterations, first trying to plan a group costume, and then deciding it might be easier to do couples’ costumes.  Finally we ended up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (aka Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn) and the hubs and I ran as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl!  The hubs and I are huge fans of the Incredibles, so it was a perfect fit.  And knowing my hubby isn’t thrilled by running costumes, it made the outfit very easy (although we did see some Incredibles couples with the men wearing red tights… that’s dedication!).

The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!
The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!

The day of the race was pretty relaxed.  We’d stayed out in the Magic Kingdom until the end of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, so we woke leisurely, grabbed some grub at the cafeteria and lounged by the pool.  The day was overcast, which was rather foreboding for the weather forecast that night.  It was predicted to rain starting around 10pm, just when the first wave of the race was set to start.  We figured at this point there was little we could do, but Samantha had the brilliant idea to look for ponchos at the resort gift shop.  Remember those $10 giftcards from the packet pickup?  Oh yeah, they came in handy, along with the visors we purchased the day before!  We each bought a poncho, ate a quick dinner, and went back to the room to change.

Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Pre-race photo ops, of course!
Pre-race photo ops, of course!

Having already done one Disney race, I knew it would not be beneficial to risk catching the last bus from the resort to the staging area.  We decided the second bus, which would pick us up just after 6pm.  Given our resort’s proximity to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is where the race began, it was a quick ride.  We arrived just after 6:30pm and decided, what the hey, let’s get some pictures.  We found pre-race photographers, used the porta-potties, and stood in line for a Minnie Mouse photo-op (it was perfect for Mrs. BakeNBurn, although I think Minnie really preferred Mr. BakeNBurn!).  We sat down for a little while, but I decided one additional restroom break was in order, and by the time I returned, it was time to get ready for the race!

Two Minnies and Elastigirl!
Two Minnies and Elastigirl!

We donned our ponchos, because at this point it began to sprinkle.  We all decided to start together in corral H, but Samantha

We make ponchos look good.
We make ponchos look good.

and I would let the boys do their own thing once we started.  We didn’t realize at the time that Samantha was actually fighting a knee injury, but boy was she a CHAMP.  We waited about 20-25 minutes before our corral actually set off, and by this time it was just plain raining.  Given we didn’t really have a choice, we decided to make the most of it and just have fun.  And that is precisely what we did!

YAY Wine and Dine!
YAY Wine and Dine!

Once our wave was ready to set off, the boys went ahead to run to their hearts’ content.  Samantha and I frolicked along looking for fun photo ops.  There were many to be had, although a number of the characters weren’t available due to the rain.  The first photo op was with some random fairies, but knowing many other photo stations wouldn’t be operating, we jumped in!  At this point Samantha had ditched her poncho, somewhere around the 1st mile marker, but I decided to keep mine on for a while.  I hate being wet, and thankfully it was vented along the side so I could still feel cool.  Also, I get cold really easily, so I knew I didn’t want to be shivering through the next 12 miles.  Instead, I would turn my poncho into a cape (which I know is terribly wrong, considering Edna Mole’s comment on capes: “NO CAPES!”).  I mean, hey, when life gives you ponchos, you make capes!

Edna, I failed you...
Edna, I failed you…

Past the third mile marker we made our way into the Animal Kingdom.  I completely forgot how awesome the Animal Kingdom is,

The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!
The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!

and loved running through it.  With the rain it really felt like a jungle! Before entering the park we passed by a mini light parade and Rafiki! There were photographers scattered throughout, and running in DinoLand was pretty spectacular.  This portion of the race took up about 2 miles, so once we exited we were on our way to the 10K mark.  Miles 6 through 8 were all on roads in between the parks, and because of the rain, course entertainment was not to be found.  Thankfully we were finally making our way into Hollywood Studios!  This was by far my favorite park of the race.  We entered through a back lot into the middle of Hollywood Studios and quickly made our way past Mickey’s wizard hat.  It was pretty spectacular all lit up at night.  We meandered through Hollywood streets and then towards the back of the park where we ran through a psychedelic tunnel with windows into costume design studios.  We got to see the costumes and mock-ups for the princesses, which in my mind, was spectacular.

Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
Goodbye wizard hat!
Goodbye wizard hat!
The costume design rooms were spectacular!
The costume design rooms were spectacular! Look, Prince Charming!!

I was wondering two things around this time: 1) when were we going to see the Incredibles, and 2) when were we going to run through the Osborn Family lights?  Thankfully my questions were soon answered.  Alas, the Incredibles characters were not available when I ran past, but I took the opportunity to pose enthusiastically in front of the Incredibles backdrop.  I was in character, after all.  I was positively joyous when the photographer shouted, “Elastigirl, you made it!”  It was nice to see the photographers cheery, because they, also, had to be stuck in the rain.  Shortly after passing my photo op, we looped back around in the backstage area of Hollywood Studios and quite literally emerged in the splendor of the Osborn Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!

This was my moment to shine!
This was my moment to shine!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
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Beautiful!
So sparkly!
So sparkly!
Quite literally everything has a light on it.
Quite literally everything has a light on it.

If you’ve never seen this spectacle, it’s completely worth the visit.  I have never seen as many glorious lights in my life.  Disney took the idea from the Osborn family in Arkansas who initially started doing light shows coordinated to Christmas music.  It’s really phenomenal and had last seen the show in December of 2010.  It in every way encompasses the magic of the Christmas season!  During the section we didn’t even bother running because we wanted to take it all in and have chances for photos.  It’s just too beautiful to run right through!

This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.
This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.

Once we finally peeled ourselves away from the shimmering scene, we wound our way back through the park and passed once more by Mickey’s wizard hat.  It turns out this hat will be bidding a fond farewell to Disney World so I am happy I could see it one last time!  Once we exited the park, we were on our way to mile 11, with just the Boardwalk to go!  As we made our way from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk, we ran under a bridge.  The space underneath was PACKED with ChEAR squad participants, excited and encouraging in the wee hours of the morning!  These folks are truly phenomenal – they show up to the Disney races, which are either at 5:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night, and never fail to put a smile on a runner’s face.  It was the little boost we both needed to get through the last few miles.

Passing by all the Boardwalk resorts was also a lot of fun, although the boardwalk itself was rather treacherous while wet.  We trod carefully and worked our way up and into Epcot!  We entered in the back of the park through the entrance to the Showcase of Nations.  The after party was taking place, but I think we had already decided that hanging around later into the early morning hours in the rain didn’t sound overly enjoyable.  We weaved through the park and ran out of the entrance toward the finish line in the parking lot.  We made it, and boy did we work for it.  Samantha and I both held up pretty well given the conditions and the miles.  Our costumes remained intact and we were so thankful to be done.  We grabbed our mylar blankets, post-race snack packs, and of course, our gorgeous medals.  These babies were well worth the effort.  We found an open finisher’s photographer station then made our way out of the throng of runners to find our hubbies.  Rather than go to the party they were waiting for us after the finisher photos.  We were all pretty ready for hot showers and bed, so we worked our way to the bus stations, and thankfully made it on the available bus for Caribbean Beach.

WE DID IT!
WE DID IT!

All in all, it was a great race, and one I would definitely do again.  Sadly you cannot control the weather, and I would love to be able to experience it in better conditions, with all the characters out in action.  I was so thrilled to be able to run a second Disney race in 2014, and with another of my dearest friends.  The whole weekend was topped off by the Disney Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, so although we didn’t indulge in the after party, we still managed to get our fill!  Here’s to an amazing running year, and having completed now my 5th ever half marathon – all in 2014!

Have you ever run a half, or longer, in the rain – any other recommendations?  Would you run for wine (and food)?  Which Run Disney race is your favorite?  Who doesn’t love frolicking through sparkly Christmas lights?

How To Succeed at the Expo Without Really Trying

It’s sad thinking this time last week I was leaving Disney World.  Thankfully Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon was a

Behold: The Wide World of Sports!
Behold: The Wide World of Sports!

blast! Soggy, but definitely enjoyable!  Last Friday the hubs and I met up with Ms. BakeNBurn and her hubby to begin a whirlwind weekend in Disney World.  Our first stop on this wondrous weekend was the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility within Disney World.  We were staying at the Caribbean Beach resort, so after a most delicious breakfast of a Mickey Mouse waffle, sausage and fruit, we boarded the bus to the Expo.  We were very close to the ESPN complex, so after a short ride we hopped off the bus into the craziness that was about to ensue.  Step 1: take a photo with the giant cardboard champagne bottles.  I am a Champagne fiend, thus my hubby’s Easter egg hunt for me over the past two years was actually a hunt for mini bottles of champagne.  Brilliant!

I wish this were real... don't you love my tropical pants?
I wish this were real… don’t you love my tropical pants?

Step 2: enter the disorganization that is packet pick-up.  All four of us were in different number groupings, so we each headed to different lines to pick up our bibs and packets.  Samantha’s hubby was in Corral B, so he was in one of the first few lines.  My hubs and I were both in G, but separated between the 4,000’s and 5,000’s.  My line, which I could have sworn was a mistake, was three people long.  The hubs and Samantha, however, were in lines that extended into eternity.  Something seemed quite awry.  I waited for about 5 minutes and acquired my bib, race brochure, $10 Disney gift card (which would be a life saver later…), and adorable cork coaster.  Step 3: be prepared to wait, but don’t like it.  I departed the pick-up stands and went to find the hubs, still quite a ways back in line.  I waited with his for about 15 minutes until I looked back and saw that Samantha had not moved an inch since joining her endless line.  I wandered over and we devised a brilliant plan.  Step 4: find ways to avoid standing in lines.  The lines for our hubbies moved much faster than hers, so once they had their packets in hand, they held the line so we could multi-task and look at the merchandise section.

Step 5: wait in more lines for merchandise.  Ms. BakeNBurn and I are very decisive when it comes to the items we know

Lines, lines and more lines!
Lines, lines and more lines!

we want.  We do our research up front and waste no time in deciding on the products we want for purchase.  I found the adorable lavender colored hoodie and a Wine and Dine 13.1 car magnet (of course in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head), and Samantha picked up 2 different Wine and Dine running headbands, the same magnet, and a black half zip with “Eat, Drink, Run” in yellow text on the back – tres adorable.

Step 6: don’t forget to pick up your shirts, and when pressed for time,  grab the essentials.  Once we finally made it to the next building to pick up our shirts, we had very little time given our fast passes and lunch reservations in the Magic Kingdom.  We hurriedly picked up our shirts, grabbed some last minute IT band

Run Disney puts on an Expo unlike anything I have ever seen!
Run Disney puts on an Expo unlike anything I have ever seen!

and knee brace items for the hubs, and Samantha and I purchased some very cute SparkleAthletic visors.  The forecast was rather foreboding for race time… and rain was definitely in our futures.  This way our race “makeup” (I had big plans in mind) wouldn’t smear off our faces while we ran.  And no one wants rain in the eyes when you have 13.1 miles to go!  The Expo was one of my favorite parts of the Disney Princess Half Marathon, so Samantha and I were bummed we couldn’t spend as much time (or money) as we had intended, but I am sure our wallets were happier for it… as were our hubbies.

We made it out alive and managed to get the items we wanted and needed.  All in all, it was a successful, and mildly hectic morning.  We got back to the hotel, dropped off our loot, and rushed back to the bus stop to make our way to the Magic Kingdom!

What a great looking group! Mr. & Mrs. BakeNBurn are on the left and the hubs and I are on the right.
What a great looking group! Mr. & Mrs. BakeNBurn are on the left and the hubs and I are on the right.

Have you participated in any Run Disney races – what do you think about the enormity of the Expo?  Does anyone else pick out the merchandise they want before the Expo?  Don’t you just love our fabulous mouse ears?

Waiting for Wine and Dine and Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Wednesday world!  It’s post-election day, which means I am a happy camper because now the campaign ads are finally over.  Unless you’re Louisiana… which stinks.  But not here in Colorado, at least.  Hooray!  Otherwise, I am also excited that it’s Wednesday because that means I leave TOMORROW for Disney World with the hubs to meet up with our friends Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and the renowned Food and Wine Festival in Epcot!

We all will arrive in Orlando late Thursday evening, but with enough time to rest up for a full day on Friday!  Friday morning we will be heading out to the Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where we will pick up our bibs, tech shirts and other goodies.  After that we’ll head out to the Magic Kingdom for a full day of fun and festivities.  On the docket are riding Buzz Lighyear’s Space Ranger Spin, tackling Space Mountain, and making our way through Pirates of the Caribbean.  One of the elements I am most excited for that day is finally dining at Be Our Guest inside the Beast’s castle!!  Ever since my last visit in February I have been longing to dine there, and we finally got the chance!  That night is the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which should be a blast given all the rides, treats and shows that will occur throughout the night.  It should be a phenomenally incredible first day in Disney.

There will be too much fun to be had!
There will be too much fun to be had!

Saturday is race day, so we plan to rest as much as possible during the day, and fuel up as needed.  I envision lounging by

So excited to run another race with this crew!
So excited to run another race with this crew!

the pool and an afternoon doze session.  That evening we’ll head out to the race area at around 6:15pm.  The race actually begins at 10:00pm, and we’re all starting in corral H, so we will have a bit of time to wait, but this way we’re there and won’t be in a rush.  This race will differ from the Princess Half Marathon as it goes through three parks, including Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and ends in Epcot.  Because it’s all at night, the parks will be lit up (especially the Osborne Family Lights in Hollywood Studios!), and Christmas decorations will adorn the entire facility.  Disney does an incredible job keeping the runners entertained en route, even between the parks, with characters, music, and the ChEAR squad, so I doubt there will be a dull moment along the way.  After the race, there’s a huge finish line party, with food, drinks and lots of fun to be had.  Although it’ll be around 1:00am in the morning, I think we’ll make the most of it before heading back to the resort.

On Sunday we will make our way to Epcot to indulge in the Epcot International Food and Wine festival around the showcase of nations.  This part I am particularly excited for given my foodie nature.  Dozens of countries (beyond those typically represented) will have booths set up with local flavors and national delicacies.  I am SO excited to taste my way around the world, and I am sure the boys are excited to drink around the world too!

Sadly on Monday we depart, but not until later in the day to allow for a lazy morning.  We’ll probably get a bit breakfast, lounge by the pool a bit more, pack up, and head to the airport.  All in all, I am so excited for this little getaway and racecation with the hubs and our dearest friends!

But before I head out on my magical adventure, I still have work and a fun fall-themed potluck with another advising office on campus to look forward to.  In the spirit of the season, our two offices decided to have a chili cook-off!  A few of my coworker made variations of chili, others brought in sides and fixings, and I, of course, brought dessert!  I didn’t want to make my go-to pumpkin bread as I brought that to our last potluck, but knew I still wanted to bake with pumpkin.  So I hopped on the internet and searched for chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Thankfully it brought me to one of my favorite baking bloggers, Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I previously made her birthday cake blondies, which were a HUGE hit with the hubs and my office, so I thought I would give her cookies a try.  I am a big fan of chewy cookies as well, as chocolate chip cookies should be, so I wanted something similar that wouldn’t end up cakey or crunchy.

As Sally explained, pumpkins are primarily water, and typically watery cookie batters produce cakey cookies.  To avoid this, the recipe calls for melted butter, which helps to glue the ingredients together (rather than make the batter fluffy), and remove the eggs as the pumpkin will act as an adhesive and moistening agent.  So without further ado, Sally’s Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients2014-11-04 19.11.10

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup light or dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons pumpkin puree (I used the rest in another of Sally’s amazing recipes!)

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used Hungarian High Altitude Flour)

¼ teaspoon salt

My other Sally's creation of the night!  Lightened-up Pumpkin Bars!
My other Sally’s creation of the night! Lightened-up Pumpkin Bars!

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus some extra to add to the cookies after removing them from the oven)

Directions

Melt the butter over the stove or in a microwave safe bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Add the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set the wet ingredients aside.

2014-11-04 19.30.11In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and, if you’d like, a ¼ teaspoon of cloves (I typically do not use cloves, due to family preference). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula. The dough will form into a ball and be fairly soft.  Fold in ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. It may be difficult to incorporate them evenly, but work them through as best you can. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough into balls, about 1 ½ Tablespoons of dough each. Press down on the dough balls and flatten them because the cookies will only slightly spread in the oven. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and underbaked, but trust me, this is how you want them so they’ll remain nice and chewy. Any extra time in the oven will cause them to dry out and become hard.  Remove from the oven and press a few more chocolate chips onto the tops, if desired.  If you find that your cookies didn’t spread much at all, flatten them out when you take them out of the oven.

Make sure to press down the dough as they will not spread much in the oven.
Make sure to press down the dough as they will not spread much in the oven.
Look at those beautiful golden chewy cookies!
Look at those beautiful golden chewy cookies!

Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.  The more cooling time they have, they chewier they are!   Store the cookies in an airtight container and they should last up to a week.  Enjoy!

2014-11-04 20.50.25
Too good for words.

Have you ever been to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival?  What did you think?  What was your favorite dish or nation?  Are you as obsessed as I am with all things pumpkin?