Monthly Archives: October 2015

Disneyland Half Marathon Race Recap

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So, almost two months late, but this recap is right in time for Halloween!  Why does that matter?  Because I put more effort into my Disneyland Half Marathon costume than I ever have into any Halloween costume!  This would be my second year running in the event, and my second year doing the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge.  I did my recap on the Disneyland 10 km here.  The Disneyland Half is held on the Sunday after the 10km, part of Labour Day weekend.  The fact it is Labour Day weekend makes this event especially desirable to myself, because as a teacher, I have the Monday off.  It makes the travel to California possible without having to book many days off!

I would be running this race with my best friend Ali.  I have mentioned her lots in this blog, and she even has her own blog here.  She is a relatively ‘new’ runner, as she started running in April 2014.  She started running because I signed her up for the Disneyland 10km 2014.  She has now done many other events, and this would be her 3rd half marathon.  We were going to be aiming to get her a personal best time, specifically below a 2:30.00.  Her previous personal best was a 2:44 and that was at the San Francisco

We arrived bright and early like with all Disney races.  This time, we spent a lot of the extra time taking photos together.  As my one friend said, I ‘upped’ my Mary Poppins game!  I went as Mary Poppins for my 1st RunDisney event (Wine and Dine Half) but was dressed in her nanny outfit.  For this race, I went for the Jolly Holiday costume.  My mom made the arm bands, skirt and red waist corset.  I made the hat, neck piece, and the carousel horse.  That horse was interesting to pack!  Since Ali would be next to me the entire race, I wanted her to be part of the costume too, however, I knew she didn’t want anything restrictive on.  So she was one of the penguins from the Jolly Holiday scene!  I think we looked pretty cute!

before

Ali had ran a fast enough 10km time at the Tinkerbell 10km to get into Corral C.  So, we were the third group off and running.  I kept Ali going at a pretty good pace through the parks.  The first part of the Disneyland Half course is solely through the parks, and its a lot of fun!  With it still being dark out, it is really cool to see CarsLand lit up and run through the castle!  After exiting the park, we were well under pace.  But I think Ali was starting to hate me!  We were cruising!

cali advent

carsland

We would power walk up any big hills (aka overpasses) and I kept encouraging Ali the best I could.  I knew I would be pushing her limits.  After leaving the parks, you are on the streets of Anaheim until the last mile.  While the streets don’t offer a lot of picturesque views, there are a lot of spectators and groups out there keeping everyone motivated.  I think Disney does an awesome job with this portion of the race, given the fact this could be a very, very boring stretch!  Tons of high school bands, cheerleaders, dancers, ethnic dance performances, antique cars, people in costume and more!  During this stretch, the sun was starting to come up and was shining right in our face.  The heat was starting to bother me, but I wasn’t going to complain, because I knew the pace was starting to bother Ali and she really wanted to slow down.  But I wanted to keep her going, as I knew she could do it!

We were still right ahead of the 2:30 pace group when we got to the Santa Ana trail before Angels stadium.  This was the only unfortunate portion of the course, as it narrowed quite a bit and part of the trial seemed to be under construction.  Being in the mid-pack of runners was a different thing for me, as I was used to starting in Corral A at Disney races, so now I see how it can get very bottle necked.  We took a lot of walk breaks in here, and I knew we’d be able to make up the time once we reached the stadium.  The energy in Angel Stadium is amazing!  Rows and rows of Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts fill the seats, cheering us on.  The announcer is there saying as many names as he can, and video footage of the runners coming in appears on the big screen.  Ali and I were smiling through this portion and it felt awesome!

stadium

After the stadium, I knew we had to slow down.  Ali was having a little trouble keeping the pace because she was starting to feel a bit dizzy, but I knew we had built a good cushion so she could still easily get a personal best.  We kept moving and I kept encouraging her that the park was coming quick and we would be done before she knew it.  As we approached the back entrance of California Adventure, we wound around back stage for the final stretch.  This is unlike in the 10km, where you go through Downtown Disney.  I like that the final stretches are varied for each race, but the 10km finish is a bit ‘more magical.’   As we went down the final stretch, this was one spot that I didn’t mind it was narrow.  The crowds of people on each side really encouraged all the runners and pushed everyone until the very last moment.

leaping to the finish

While we weren’t able to break 2:30, we did manage to crush Ali’s personal best by over 10 minutes!  The final time was 2:33.41!  I was so proud of Ali!  She has done so much in the past year to improve her running performances and is so motivated to keep on crushing her goals!  I would not have wanted to run this race with anyone else, and I will always remember this Disneyland Half weekend!

finish

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Disneyland 10km Recap (Better late than never…)

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I’m sitting in the basement at 8:30 pm aimlessly switching between HGTV and the Sunday Night Football game. This is a first since August. School has been so busy that I have fallen behind on my posts. I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon and 10km back over Labour Day weekend…yes, first week in September…and haven’t written the recap yet. Well, it won’t be as long and glamorous of a recap as usual, but I’m getting it done tonight!

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I went out to California Labour Day weekend of 2015, much as I had the year prior. I was going to do the RunDisney DumboDouble Dare Challenge. My BFF lives in Redondo Beach, so accommodations are easy! I booked the direct flight from Calgary on Thursday evening of the weekend knowing I’d be back before work started again on Thursday….but, oops. Misread the school calendar. While I knew I’d be taking a day off of teaching on the Friday, I thought it was just a work day (year prior classes hadn’t started yet). But I would miss a teaching day. And I hate missing teaching days. Especially since we only would have had one regular class day before I bailed. But I had the days planned to use, so it was what it was, and I went on my way.

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Now, as a RunDisney veteran (so to speak) I knew what to expect with this weekend. I knew the lay of the land. But this weekend was different as my goal was to place in my age group in the 10km, beat my personal best of 41:30 in the race, and help my BFF crush her half marathon personal best.

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Summer training went alright…but I was burnt out. I spoke in previous posts that I was feeling the burn and needed to rest. But with this 10km goal I didn’t want to stop. 10km race day came and I was anxious. And warm. It was by no means hot in Anaheim this particular weekend but the air is just different than Alberta and I was feeling clammy. I also had just had a sub par performance at a local Lethbridge half the weekend prior, that while placing and winning prize money, I had felt like garbage with stomach issues. I was nervous this would happen again.

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Racing Disney races with a goal time in mind is so different than just doing them for fun. If you do them for a goal with the first corral you are in the DARK the whole race. I mean, it starts at 5:30 AM after all. I began with a dead on split at mile one of 6:31. If I held this I could well beat my goal. But my legs were already feeling a bit woozy and my body warm, so as I entered California Adventure I slowed to a 6:48 for mile 2.

imageNow, note…I am writing this recap a month and a half after the fact. I cannot remember the details but I knew I was counting women in front of me from the very start and trying to peg if they were my 30-34 age group. I just wanted to be top 3 in that.  

Between mile 3 and 4 I was still trucking along but slowing. A lot. And I was getting frustrated. I had been at an extreme level for myself in April when I ran my 41:30 and felt like I should be able to match that here…low elevation, happiest place on earth….but as I ran down Main Street, through Tomorrowland, around Small World and through the back stage, I slowed to a 6:51 and 7:00. Damnit. What is going on? I had had mile repeat workouts at 6 am this summer that were fastest than this. I was running at “my happy place” but not happy.


I knew I was still in an OK position to hopefully place in my age group. I pushed on what I could for the last two miles. I got really scared as one woman passed me with about 800 left because she looked my age and I wasn’t sure how that would make the results look. Miles 5 and 6 were 7:23 and 7:18. I finished with an official time of 43:28. I was mad. Frustrated. I felt like I was better than this.  

image image imageIn the end, this was good enough for 3rd out of 1046 in my age group. Yeah, I realize how that sounds, and now it looks like I’m looking for a pity party….but while I reached my goal of placing in a RunDisney event, I didn’t do it to the caliber I know I am capable of. Maybe I have now set myself into a bad spot, as I spent the first six months of 2015 breaking my own personal bests and thus, maybe I think I can keep up with that?

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Second week of October I received the email from RunDisney verifying my address and where to send my age group award. And this weekend I just finished coaching five amazing grade 12 runners at Alberta Cross Country Provincials. These things put it in perspective. 1.) I did reach a goal. I set a goal to place in my age group at a RunDisney event. And I did. 2.) All weekend I told my girls to go out and run the best race they could. That every day is different. That every course is different. And that just because they ran a certain time on a 4km course in Medicine Hat, Alberta, didn’t mean they could get that or beat that, or beat the same girls for that matter, while running on a new course in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

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Every race is different. Some don’t turn out exactly how you hope, but that’s why I just keep running. After being around all these amazing young athletes this weekend, I realize how stupid I was to get mad that I didn’t get my time goal. Getting a personal best isn’t going to happen every race you run; I realize that. But I had a convoluted idea in my mind that while in Disneyland, anything can happen. I’ll just have to set that time goal off to the side burner for now, with the heat on simmer, and I’ll stir it occasionally until it’s time to taste it.  

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Spartan Ultra Beast 2015-A Race Like No Other…

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Since January 1st, 2014, I have participated in one 5 km race, four 10 km races, three half marathons, one full marathon, one 50 km ultra-marathon.  In addition to these traditional races, I also did two Spartan Sprints (5 km each), 2 Spartan Supers (14 km each) and 1 Spartan Beast (21 km).  I was in the shape of my life when I ran the Vancouver Marathon in May and qualified for Boston.  I placed in my 50 km race in Calgary in my age group and won a trophy!  I won other races, made personal bests in all the standard race distances:  a 20:42 for a 5km, 41:30 for a 10km, 1:35.41 for a half marathon, 3:24.56 for a full marathon.  So I naturally thought signing up for the Spartan Ultra Beast in Sun Peaks, to be held on September 26th, 2015, would be a logical next challenge.

I just did not know that this challenge would be my first ever DNF.

DNF is a running term for “Did Not Finish.”  No one plans to run a DNF.  No one wants to run a DNF.  Many people have, and for those people that race will always hold a sour note in their mind.  Sure, it will be a learning experience, and everyone’s reasons for DNF’ing will vary, but it’ll still hurt.  Even if it was the right thing to do.

My husband Dan and I drove out to this race on Friday, September 25th.  It is a 10 hour drive from Lethbridge.  We left early, made good time, and I felt excited at packet pickup.  I had been feeling a bit sick earlier in the week, so I have been going to bed quite early.  Like 8:00 pm early.  But I felt ready.  It was very exciting to be back at Sun Peaks-I not only ran the Sun Peaks Beast in 2013, but Dan and I celebrated our honeymoon here in January 2011 while attending the Winter Wine Festival.  I got my bags set for the morning and headed to bed.

Sun Peaks Village

The morning weather was a lot better than the “Snow Fest” that was 2013.  It was cool and overcast at 7:15 am when I headed to festival grounds.  My heat of the Ultra Beast began at 7:45 am.  All 175 of us crazy enough to register for this event that would be double the length of the Beast (two loops) began at once.  I was geared up with supplies and ready to go.  The first hour of the race was a lot of switch back climbing through single track trails, which eventually brought us up to where the chairlift let spectators off at.  There were a few obstacles during this time: a wall, Hercules hoist, log carry.  Once hitting the chairlift (an important spot for me) you did the monkey bars.  Nailed it!  A few more obstacles later and we kept climbing.  And climbing.  To a section I never was at before.  “The Top of the World” was closed to us in 2013 due to the blizzard.  But I made it here this year!

Top of the World

Top of the World

It was after this section that I really started to have fun.  There was a lot of downhill running in open areas and on single track trails.  The main thing was I actually could run.  I was staying hydrated with my water that had Nuun, fueling myself with carbs in the form of HoneyStingers…Feeling great.  I got to obstacle 16, the Wall of Sparta, and still felt like a million bucks.  I was the 2nd place Ultra Beast female at this point in the race, and I even asked a volunteer what kilometer we were approximately at.  She said 17km….alright, if this is a double Beast (21 km) I am getting really close to my first loop!  Podium dreams danced through my brain.

But then a close to 1.5 km hill climb came.  Wow, that burned.  Straight on up.  Forever and ever it seemed.  Eventually we got to a tire flip at the way top and then there was a split off point-The Ultra Beast Runners had to go to the left and the regular Beast runners went right.  Apparently the regular Beast runners had the rest downhill.  We had a teaser of downhill for about 4 minutes and then hit our extra obstacle:  a burlap sack carry.  This in itself was not too hard, but we had to go up a stretch of ski hill and back down.  And then had to run (or barely walk) back up another stretch of hill (MOUNTAIN) to get on back with the main course.

sandbag

While I was still feeling positive, as I still held 2nd position, I was getting weak.  I failed the parallel bar obstacle, I fell off the stupid balance beam (which I NEVER fall off of), missed my one-chance spear throw and then just didn’t even attempt the rope climb.  120 burpees total.

I came in after loop 1 under the cut off time, with the 3rd place woman coming right in with me. No 4th place female in sight at all.  We got in to the transition area somewhere between 4 hour 30 minutes and 4 hour 40 minutes.  Dan was waiting with some now luke-warm soup for me.  He was almost laughing in disbelief at how long it was taking me, considering I guessed a first loop of 3-3:30, based on how it was 2 years prior and the better shape I was in.  Holy shit this was a hard course.  I ate my soup, had a fruit bar, refilled my water, and checked out of transition.

That’s when it started to crumble.

In retrospect, I should have spent more time fueling and getting mentally prepared while in the transition area.  Maybe finding someone else leaving transition who seemed to be in a good place mentally and physically and sticking with them.  I ran off and before I knew it I was on these ski and mountain bike trails alone.  No other runners around me.  Just the forest.  And bear poop.

Other runners would catch up and fall back, but we all looked worse for wear.  Looked like we were part of a zombie apocalypse.  My foot was burning with pain where my bone spur is.  Any time I went downhill and landed on even the smallest of rock, if it was on the ball of my right foot it felt like it would shoot through the top of my foot.  I was soaking wet and cold with mud encrusted on me.  I neglected to change my clothes in the transition area because I knew getting my compression socks off would be hard enough.  I was starting to cough and sneeze.  While the weather at the start of the race was pleasant, we had ran into rain, sleet, snow flurries, sun, and repeat during that first lap.

I started thinking more about if completing this race was worth the potential risks.  At this rate, I would be alone in the dark with no headlamp at some point.  My body was hurting, my mind wasn’t in the right place, and for the most part I wasn’t enjoying myself any longer.  Yes, I had ran a ton of different races this year with grueling distances and circumstances, but I was always having fun…even if I was in pain.  This race, the pain wasn’t quite maxed out, but if I had kept going on I was worried what could happen to my body and effect my upcoming events.  Boston kept going through my head.  One wrong land on my foot could have immense damage and possibly nix my ability to compete in the marathon I have always dreamed of.  When I registered for this Spartan Ultra in December 2014, I registered for it because I knew I would have been training for other events that could help me out with it.  I was not training specifically for it, so my weight training/cross training was lacking to non-existent.  But my training I had done did pay off and help me make my goal of qualifying for Boston.  I didn’t want to ruin Boston.

At that chairlift, round 2, I borrowed a volunteer’s cell phone and phoned my husband at the bottom.  This was an hour after I had left the transition area.  I asked for him to come up on the chairlift and get me.  I sat in the chairlift lodge and Spartan Race workers came over to check on me.  I wasn’t wincing in pain, I wasn’t hurt, and I wasn’t breathing ridiculously hard.  I was just done.  A lady gave me her tea, and when I talked to these workers the tears started flowing.  I just felt defeated at that moment, and while the course was literally steps away and I could have gotten back up, I just knew the right decision was to pull.

Dan got up there about 15 minutes later.  We got on the chairlift down (which he said I would hate since I hate heights) and I just put my head on his shoulder.

“I feel like such a fucking loser.” 

“Losers don’t qualify for Boston”

After making it to the bottom, retrieving my bag, taking a shower and a nap, I knew we had to make the most of the night.  It wasn’t worth staying in the room sobbing about it.  We went out that evening and had a hell of a time (probably spent a bit too much money).  During that time I ran into a few people who had similar, yet different, fates on the course.  Two girls didn’t even make it to the transition area in the cut off time (over an hour late) so they weren’t allowed to continue on.  They own a gym in Red Deer, so they were definitely in excellent physical shape.  Another guy we sat by at the bar had his hand all taped up.  During the Beast, he fell during an obstacle about 2 km out of the finish.  His hand gashed open, blood everywhere.  He had to pull from the race and go to the hospital to get it stitched.

I found out yesterday of the 175 that started, only 55 finished.  Only 3 of those 55 were women.  The fastest time for a male was 7:02:04 while the fastest female was 9:59:59.  It also said in the email the course for the Ultra Beast, including the extra loop with obstacle, was 52.87 kilometers….that is over 10.5 km more than I thought we would have!  I know Spartan Race wanted to make something challenging, and I by no means am trying to say that I would have completed it if it was without that extra loop, but that extra loop really wasn’t necessary to make it that “Ultra.”  Hell, I may have even bailed if that loop hadn’t been there but the extra loop just must have taken more out of me.  And I am sure a lot of others.

Will I be going back again in the future?  Not really sure.  I always did Spartan Races as my ‘fun-filler’ around my other races that I put my training focus on.  I think my husband and I will continue to head down to Montana each May for the race weekend, as it is a close enough getaway for us and an awesome time.  But other than that, I may be putting Spartan Races on the shelf and focus on my recovery from all the other races I did this year and then my training for the 120th Boston Marathon.