Bare Bones Half Marathon 2014

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Last year, on the Saturday before the Bare Bones Half Marathon, I was eating poutine at Wendy’s in Airdrie, Alberta. We were on our way back from High School Cross Country Provincials in the far away land of Drayton Valley, a lovely 7 hours north west of Lethbridge. And then, I got to bed at 1 am, managed to wake up on time, and run my personal best of 1:41.07, which earned me a first in the 20-29 category, and a second overall for women.

Fast forward a year and it was déjà vu. Saturday was Cross Country Provincials again, but this time in a city a more manageable distance away-Okotoks, which is 2 hours northwest. The kids on our team did great, and to continue the tradition of eating crap after a day of watching them run (hey, I did total 9.12 miles of walking that day cheering them on!) I decided to gorge on nachos at Boston Pizza. I was able to get to sleep by 9:30 pm, a whole 3.5 hours earlier than the year prior!

The start of my race morning did not seem promising, however. I woke up sore, with bloated feet. My legs were sore and I felt like I could sleep another 9 hours. The day prior gave my body a beating, and I hadn’t even ran yet. I somehow managed to get ready and make it to Softball Valley in time for the race….sorta.

I parked my car at 8:50 am. I jogged to the bathroom at 8:51. I did a set of skipping A’s, B’s, C’s and butt kicks before heading into the starting corral at 8:57. I sure hope I was warmed up, and if I wasn’t, well it was too late.

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Bare Bones is a small local race which has a 5km, 9km and half marathon every year. There were over 300 participants total, with 40 in the half marathon. At 9:00 AM, the 9km and half marathon would set out together. The race began and I quickly knew I was going to quick, but I wanted to get the first mile over with. The first mile is through gravel and past the always pleasant-smelling water treatment plant. As we made our way to the trail by the Oldman River, I knew there were three women ahead of me. I kept my eye on them, as I was not sure if they were 9km or half runners. At this point and time my legs had gotten warmed up and I was feeling positive, so I would do my best to catch up to each of them.

I was able to pass one of the ladies as we ran on a cross-country portion of the path, which was put in because of the wash-out by the river. I had two more to catch. We were approaching the 9km turnaround. Thats when I found out that the women I was pushing way-past my desired average pace to catch, were 9km competitors. They turned around, and all of a sudden I was the female leader, approximately 2.5 miles in. Crap-I better not screw this up!

The weaving through the river bottom helped to slow me back to the pace I should have been at. When I reached the dreaded hill climb up to Scenic near mile 5, I started to slow dramatically. I knew my pace would drop off here, as this hill is well over a half of mile of hell. My calves started to feel super heavy. This was the point where I knew the chance of a personal best was GONE. But I kept thinking about keeping my place as lead female and pushing the best I could…hopefully get a sub 1:40 still.

I made it on to Scenic Drive and it took a few minutes for my legs to loosen up. I slowly got back on track to the pace I thought would be reasonable to aim for (7:30-7:35). Distance between me and the closest male runners was spreading, and this race was starting to feel like a solo adventure. It was starting to get extremely tough mentally as I knew I needed to keep at race pace, yet I had no one around me. I was alone.

The turnaround near Tudor Estates is was saved me. The out and back layout of this course is perfect, because that hill beats you up and makes you feel all alone, but then on the way back you get to high-five other runners and in time, run down that crazy-ass hill.

The turnaround also gave me a vantage point of how close the women behind me were. There were three women within striking distance, all around 1-2 minutes behind me. If I hit the proverbial “wall”, slowed down even a little bit, or they picked it up at all, my position would be lost. I kept trying to think positively, and now my goal was to keep this position and hopefully get a Bare Bones personal best, as I wasn’t completely sure if sub 1:40 would be in the cards. Every word of encouragement I received from fellow racers as I headed back to the hill were bursts of energy that I so very much needed. And Amiee, a colleague of mine in the Lethbridge 51 School district, did an extra awesome job of giving the most energetic high-fives mid race as we would cross each other!

As I rolled down the hill, I knew I still had a decent position away from my closest female competitior, but I didn’t want to get too comfortable with that. It was down at this very trail that I lost my steam during the Police Half Marathon in September. In that race I was on time for an EPIC personal best, but gained a bunch of time during the last 5km of weaving by the river. I still nudged out a personal best (3 seconds faster, but still counted!) however, I knew I could have done better. I didn’t want to falter down here again.

I kept my composure and kept on pushing. When I got to the metal gate that exited us from the Nature Reserve, a volunteer was yelling to me I was the first female. I mustered out the words “how far back is she?” The volunteer guessed 45 seconds. Crap. I made it 12 miles in first place. I wasn’t going to screw it up the last mile.

The last mile is tough as you are running through the same gravel area as the beginning and it just feels like a quarry. You couldn’t see the finish line or hear any spectators. It is a mentally draining stretch. As you finally round the corner where the new road from Scenic was put in, the finish line awaited. I lengthened my stride the best I could and rolled on in. 1:40.43—first place female and a new Bare Bones Half personal best for myself!

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Just like in September at he Police Half, when I stopped after the timing mat for the workers from RacePro to removed my chip, my calves were shaking. Not just a little, but pulsating like they were going to explode. My left knee was twitching. My body felt like a wreck. I walked a bit for about two minutes, grabbed some water and a coffee, and did the one thing a runner should never do after running a half marathon—-I sat down on the ground. Glenn and Grace (local runners whose children go to WCHS) both yelled at me to not sit down and I quickly responded “I don’t care!” The ground was what I needed!

I didn’t stay down for long, as I knew I needed to keep moving. I wandered back and forth to my car, to layer my sweats and long sleeve back on. I got more coffee and snacks and stretched. I cheered in the rest of the half finishers—former student of mine Kristin finished her second half marathon in under 2 hours, a new personal best for herself! And Aimee and her dad came running into the finish line together, hand in hand, and it made me smile. It made me laugh later when she told me he was giving her a hard time the whole way that she needed to pick it up.

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The age group awards were presented, and I received a white with gold glitter dog bone medal. When I came home, I promptly wrote my time on the back with a black permanent marker, and my overall place. I also made sure to write “1st place female 30-39″ because while I did place 1st female overall, this race will always be the first half marathon of my 30s, and I am going to remember it fondly. Who ever said getting old meant you had to slow down? I know I am definitely not ready to slow down!

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Run for the Pumpkin 4km-Recap

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Saturday, October 4, 2014, marked my shortest race since I was 18 years old—a 4km. The local 4km was in its 27th year, and was put on by Lethbridge Track & Field Club. The thing that made this race extra special was that 7 of our WCHS Cross Country athletes would be running in it too. This would be a great pre-zone race for our kids, as two of them had NEVER done a race yet in their life!

The day was gorgeous and perfect for running, We met as a team at 11:00am, which was the start of the 2km race for the younger kids. Our race packages were all nicely grouped together in a WCHS bag, which made it easy to sort and hand out bibs/shirts to my athletes. We had a few age corrections to make and that was quickly changed by Matt K. in the registration tent. The kids were either in the 15& Under or 16-18 age groups. I was in 19 & older.

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Glenn, a local runner whose daughter I have taught (he was volunteering that day) kind of laughed at me running this 4km because he knew it wasn’t “my distance”. He told me to go out comfortably the first lap, and take the second lap like the last stretch of the biggest race of my life. Those words were very wise, but I did the reverse. I ran out of the starting area in a sub 6 minute pace. The up and downs over the rolling inclines were a challenge for myself, as I am used to running on asphalt, and the grass just drains your legs! Cross country is tough! By the time I reached mile 1 on my watch, I had hit 7:04. Holy shit, I wonder if I could keep that for the next 1.36 miles?

The nice thing about this course and how it looped was that I could see my athletes running as I ran. I yelled at a few of them a couple times and it kept me pushing. My chest was hurting and my throat was feeling dry. Holy crap, I am not cut out for a 4km! I kept my eye on a younger girl ahead of me, who I couldn’t tell if she was over 18 or younger, and it made it my goal to pass her before the finish. This kept me pushing and I finished in a time of 17:23. My second mile had been a 7:47, and my average pace was back to my old faithful of 7:30. Go figure!

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After I finished I caught my breath and turned around to watch the kids come in. One of our boys had finished well before me, placing 2nd in his 16-18 age group with a 15:12! The other six did awesome too! Two of the girls earned ribbons in their 15& under group with a 1st and a 3rd. And another boy earned a 3rd in his 16-18 group! Our one girl who had done junior high cities on September 25, which was a 3km, ran her 4km at a faster pace per kilometer than she did at the city race! And our other two girls completed their FIRST EVER race! It was an excellent day all around.

I have fallen more and more in love with this sport. Yes, I myself am now a “long-distance runner.” But, I never got to be a high school cross country runner. Back when I was in high school, I was on the Pom Pon Team (which I would not change for a second) but this took up three sports’ seasons-Summer, Fall and Winter. One could not do two sports in a season, so cross country (fall) was out. And Cross Country was (and still is) huge back home in southern Wisconsin. I love being part of this sport and this community, and I love even more being able to get kids being excited to run. Our Cross Country South Zone Meet was yesterday, and we brought 15 athletes. 8 qualified for Provincials, which is hosted by Strathcona-Tweeds unit on October 18th. I am so excited to take these kids up there and run in the big show! And even though our regular season is done, I spoke with a bunch of the kids today after school and we are going to do a “Run Club” every Tuesday and Thursday to keep the momentum going. The kids are even asking about what local 5km races there are and which ones I do. I love where this is going and I can’t wait to see what happens.

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…It is Time for a New Age Group…

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I am a 29 year old female runner. But, on Wednesday, I jump an age group. I turn 30 years old on October 1st. In the running world, this is a big deal. Age groups at races are usually 10 year groupings. I have been in two major age groups during my time running road races. The first was when I was in my teens, and my first official event I ever participated in (that can be found still online for all to see) was the 2002 Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. I was 18. I jumped up into the 20-29 age group when I ran in the Madison Full Marathon 2005. Other than larger events that have age groups every 5 years (20-24, 25) I have been sitting comfortably for the last 10 years.

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I am not someone who is “dreading” turning 30. Actually, I think the fact that running has taken over a large part of my life the last two years helps the aging shock. Yes, it is an age group jump, and as someone who runs events regularly I will constantly be reminded that I am now 30. When I register for any event now, my “age on race day” will be 30. But it is exciting as for some events, it will present new challenges. I will be against different competitors in the local races I run regularly. I may place higher than I would have in the 20-29…and sometimes I may place lower. I am looking forward to the new age bracket, and will be running two races this month where my age on race day is in fact 30. We will have to wait and see if I am this positive about the aging process come the next age bracket….

Lethbridge Regional Police Services Half Marathon 2014

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September 13th, 2014, marked the 2nd annual Lethbridge Regional Police Services half marathon. I had ran in the inaugural race the year prior, loved the downhill course, and set a new personal best of 1:46:42. Signing up again was a no brainer!

The night before, I decided to partake in my standard pre-race beers. Now, I don’t write about this often, because I know it is not scientifically proven to be helpful, but for me, having beer the night before a race that is a half marathon or less works wonders. I went for some happy hour beers with my friend Jaclyn after work (2 brews) and then later that night after showering, eating plain pasta, and taking a nap, I went for some drinks with co-workers after the football game (4 brews). I went to bed by 1am, woke up at 6:45 am, and was ready to go.

It was just above freezing at the start of the race, so I ditched my layers the last possible second. The half, 10km, and 5km were all starting together at 8 am, and would be on the same route for about the first mile. Then the 5km and 10km would turn down Lynx Trail into the river bottom as the rest of us continued south in Scenic Drive. When the 5&10km runners split off, I had positioned myself pretty well, and I thought to be around the 6th female runner. I was going for broke, and had nothing to lose, so my first three miles were 7:25, 7:33 and 7:19.

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After mile three, we ascended out of the Sugar Bowl and onto the 20th Ave greenstrip. I had moved my way up to 4th female, and closed in on securing the 3rd position shortly after. I was still feeling really strong, and new I could keep pushing. I wanted to keep third and possibly moved up, since this meant prize money. Miles 4-6, which took me to about hallways around Henderson Lake, clocked in at 7:28, 7:19, and 7:27.

Because of the openness of huge route, the visibility of the runners ahead of you was very open. I had my eye on the woman in 2nd for quite some time, and could also clearly see the first place female with her friend biking next to her. There was a long straightway coming up down 7th Ave South and I knew I needed to make a move if I wanted a chance at 2nd position. This road also had a slight downhill to it, so I kept rolling as fast as I could. Miles 7-9, which went from Henderson down 7th Ave, all the way to the top of Scenic Drive, were 7:31, 7:33, and 7:28. I had locked down 2nd position in the process too!

The steep downhill of Lynx Trail was next. I have done this downhill before in other races (10 Mile Road Race, Bare Bones Run), but usually you have to run back up it. Not today, as you just had to barrel on down to the river bottom. This is about 3/4 mile of steep paved trail, so I lengthened my stride and started actually closing in on the first place runner. She was starting to look tired, and her legs weren’t going as fast as mine down the hill. Mile 10, which took me down the trail to the Water Treatment Plant, was my fastest at 7:13.

You know that openness I spoke of from earlier in the race? Well, since everyone was pretty spaced out by now, except for female #1 and another male runner between us, you couldn’t see much in the winding trails. And there were no spectators along this part of the route. So while the trails are familiar to me, the strain I had been putting on my body for the first 10 miles was catching up, and my mental game was cracking. I kept focusing on female number 1, but anytime I sped up, she did too. When she slowed, I couldn’t overcome the numbness in my quads to get up next to her. Miles 11-12 were really slow at 7:44 and 8:10. My time was 1:30.10, and I could still make a personal best, even with my legs starting to give out. I pretty much had added an extra minute to my previous pace from when we were on flat straight-aways. And while I was still in 2nd position, I was nervous my body would crash and burn.

At mile 12, though, something happened. To east of the trail, I heard a voice yell “ANDREA!!!” On the metal stairs going down from the coulee was Haley, one of my cross country runners from WCHS. She had been doing hill training with her dad that morning. I yelled back to her “COME RUN WITH ME!” and about 30 seconds later I had an eager 16 year old by my side. I told her I was in 2nd place with less than a mile to go, but was wearing down. I needed her to push me to the finish, and make sure no one passed me.

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Haley saved me at the end of that race, as I not only held my 2nd place female position, but I finished in 1:37:51—-a new personal best by 3 seconds! First place clocked in at 1:37:00-If I hadn’t slowed down so much after the downhill, it could have been mine! But, honestly, I was giving it as hard as I could leading up to those last 5km, and the mix of sharp turns, no straightaways, and no crowd to cheer you on, made it tough. Finding my own personal pacer the last mile was key for me finishing as strong as I did!

The woman who beat me actually turned out to be a friend of a friend! She knew who I was from talking with my friend and co-worker Amie, and Amie had told her I was pretty intense and to look out for me! Marissa, the woman who took first place, is not only a few inches taller than me, but a few years younger than me. So, since this was my last race in the 20-29 category I felt pretty proud as I enter my 30s! This race also gave me the confidence that it is possible for me to keep ticking time off my personal best. I have the goal set in my mind to be in the 1:36’s by next year. Considering last year I was running 1:46, and the year before that I was doing 1:56, I am very proud of my progress.

Awards came at 10:00 am, and I was the recipient of a $100 cheque from the police. It is funny to me because the day prior I had went to the courthouse to pay an $89 speeding ticket. Irony. Marissa and I chatted some more, then I went and had a free 20 minute massage from students at the Lethbridge College. The race day started and ended perfectly! I was so excited to share with everyone how I did, so I spread the word on social media. In doing so, I also found out from Amie later that day that Marissa and I share more in common than just running—she also loves herself some craft beer. Maybe she will partake in my pre-race tradition next time? Or at least go have some celebratory beers after? Your move Marissa!

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Dumbo Double Dare Photo Recap-Official MarathonFoto Pictures!

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Finally got around to ordering my Disney Dumbo Double Dare race photos from MarathonFoto. I knew I had to purchase the download package as the pictures of me and my best friend in the 10km were incredible, and the half marathon shots weren’t too shabby either.

Below are some of my favorite shots from the Disneyland 10km, held on August 30th, 2014!

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And now, here are my personal favorites from the Disneyland Half Marathon, held on Sunday, August 31st, 2014.

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What a great weekend! Loved that this event capped off my Coast to Coast adventure!

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Disneyland Half Marathon Recap

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So this is a few weeks late. Not too bad considering I came home after Dumbo Double Dare and started work five hours later, and then went to Vancouver for a wedding three days later. I need to get this recap posted because I just did another half marathon back in Lethbridge yesterday, and I don’t want to be behind on my recaps! This one won’t be long anyway….I think….

I went to bed early on Saturday night (around 9:00) because I had had trouble sleeping the night before since it was warm outside. My 2:30 alarm went off and I got ready in a zombie-like state. The best part was going to 7/11 dressed as Snow White to get coffee and some drunks heading home after a night out saying “What the fuck?!?

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Ali and Kevin parked and got me to the staging area by 4:00 am. There were a lot more people milling around this morning compared to the 10km. The DJ was there getting people pumped up. I was set to go! I headed to the corrals around 4:45 and placed myself in the outside of Corral A, near the front. I wasn’t necessarily trying to go for some epic time that morning (I was actually nervous how my knees were going to hold up since I had just done Edmonton Full Marathon the week prior) but I wanted to be out front to start, since the course is rather narrow.

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I knew when I started I wanted to push hard early on, so to avoid the warm Anaheim sun. I was not going to stop for any pictures during the race, as I would rely on Marathon Foto to capture any of me as I went by. (I have purchased the photo downloads of both races from them and will post a pictorial of my favorites in a separate post!)

The first mile was my fastest. I blew out of that gate. I ran a 7:17. And before I knew it, I was already in Disney’s California Adventure! The course for the half brought you into the parks much quicker than the 10km, and it also brought you through it somewhat in reverse. I got to run past World of Colour without having to run on the wooden boardwalk, run down Cars Land towards the Radiator Springs facade. As I cut between DCA and Disneyland I was able to see Ali and Kevin for a brief second. Running down Main Street was fantastic, as people who had purchased ChEAR Squad packages were allowed on there, unlike the 10km where no one was able to spectate. The thing I realized early on, that would keep me pumped throughout, that since I was near the front of the group, I was one of the first “costumed” runners people would see. A lot of the hard cores don’t normally dress up, especially the guys, and many women may just have a sparkly skirt on. It was fun to have kids and adults yell “Go Snow White!”

By the time I was out of Disneyland property, I had run miles 2-4, in 7:29, 7:31, and 7:51. I was concerned how running on the streets of Anaheim would go, as I was unsure how “entertaining” it would be. I had read tons of reviews of this race, and people almost always said how great the support and entertainment was on the city streets. Now, I was actually able to see what everyone meant!

This was not a bunch of empty roads full of commercial businesses. The roads had many clusters of spectators cheering loudly. Spectators had awesome signs and music blaring. There were various ethnic dance groups performing as we ran by. I remember a Mexican & Hawaiian troupe specifically. There was also a mile long stretch going through highway underpasses that could have been dreadful. This was remedied by our own personal classic car show. Car afficiandos would have LOVED this, and while I don’t normally care for looking at cars, the tailgate-style atmosphere and pride of the car owners was incredible. Miles 5-8 were 7:44, 7:32, 7:41 and 7:55.

There were close to 20-25 cheerleading/Pom Pon teams and high school bands entertaining throughout. Families of these kids were there watching the event also. Jumping ahead of myself, near the end when my knees really had taken a beating and I was sweaty from the humidity and heat beyond belief, the thing that kept me going was running by the band kids and cheerleaders, giving them high fives. I felt a connection to them, as I was in high school band and a Pom Pon girl for all my years of high school. And also, when you get to Angels Stadium, the entrance into it, the exit out of it, and while running the bases, was lined with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I was a Girl Scout until 9th grade and after I graduated high school, worked for one summer at Camp Alice Chester, the Girl Scout Camp I grew up going to. Without being too sappy, seeing the scouts, the marching bands and the cheerleaders gave me flashbacks of my life 10-15 years ago. I got emotional about it, because I’m a piece of crap like that. But it pushed me through.

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Those last miles were tough. My body hurt, my legs felt like trash. But I wanted to finish strong. The crowds that lined the finish area of Downtown Disney were electric. I even found some energy in my reserves to help push me in just under 1:40.00. My final miles were 8:02, 8:00, 8:00 and 7:44, bringing me in with an official time of 1:39:57. I had completed the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, and also earned my coveted Coast-to-Coast medal. The combination of doing the Dopey Challenge in January and now Dumbo in August is unreal and unmatched, in my opinion.

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Will I do this race again? YES. I love Disney. I love visiting my best friend. I love running. This course is fantastic. The race swag is second-to-none. The time of the race is right before the school year starts, so traveling here is doable. While it costs a pretty penny to fly down to California from Alberta, it is still more affordable than going to Orlando. And Ali and I are in the talks of doing Dumbo together next year. This race will always be special to me, and I can’t wait to do it again and again.

Disneyland 10km Race Recap

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This post is about the Disneyland 10km event on August 30th, 2014. I will discuss the Disneyland Half in a later post.

The Disneyland 10 km would not just be any 10km for me-it was extra special as I would be running with my best friend Ali. We have been friends since 1991, and this would be her first EVER 10km event.

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If Ali was nervous, she sure didn’t show it on race morning. My alarm went off at 2:15 am, and we both slowly got ready. By 3:15 we were on the road to pick her mom up from the Redondo Beach Holiday Inn Express. By 3:50, we were pulling into the Mickey & Friends Parking structure. Yes Ali, this in fact was happening!

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We hung out in the pre-race area until 4:45. It was here that we danced a little to the DJ music, did some stretching, and used the porta potties one last time. We headed over to the corrals before things got too crazy in there, and by doing this early, we were able to place ourselves right near the front of Corral B. We stood to the left of the corral, and by doing so Ali’s boyfriend and mom could talk to us before the race began.

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The race was themed “Hawaiian” with all the commercialized island decor that you would expect. Stitch, from the movie Lilo & Stitch, was the unofficial mascot of this event, so they rolled with this theming throughout the 10km event. Overall, I thought the theming was cute, but got a little sick of all the Elvis references everywhere you ran (apparently Lilo is obsessed with Elvis in the movie?). Anyway….

Race began and I was nervous for Ali, mainly because I wanted her to have a great experience. I knew her experience would be great if we paced ourselves accordingly and took our time while near some great photo opportunities. This race was not about a race time for me, but about spending time with my best friend.

When we entered California Adventure near mile 2, the scenery was outstanding. We took many fantastic photos with little to no wait. After winding around California Adventure, we saw Ali’s mom and boyfriend near the main gate. We entered into Disneyland and down Main Street we went. Nothing will beat the experience I had running down Main Street USA in Disney World this past January, but this was still pretty damn awesome!

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When we got to the mile 4 marker near Space Mountain, Ali said something around the likes of “Well, we have now entered uncharted territory.” The farthest she had run during her training was 4 miles. We had 2.2 miles left to go. I knew she could do this, it was so close to being done!

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We decided to take an unscheduled photo stop in front of It’s a Small World to see Chip & Dale. This line took a solid 10-12 minutes, but I think the break was necessary in order to make that last final 2 mile push. We rounded through the backstage area, and into Downtown Disney. The crows lining the walkways in Downtown Disney were awesome! So many people there to support, and it really gave out some positive energy!

Ali and I finished in 1:27:51. It was her first ever 10km, so it is automatically a personal best! And when we finished, Ali agreed that it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be. She had a blast doing it and can’t wait to do more! (she is already signed up for the Pixie Dust Challenge in May during Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend, and is also doing a local 10km in January in order to get a faster proof of time for corral submission for Disney!)
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I am so proud of Ali’s dedication to running. Even more proud of the fact that she’s not only been training since March with it, but busting ass in the process. I’m looking forward to the other races we will run together in the future.<

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