Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Neverland 5k at Disneyland 2013

If you're a Disney fan, it's possible that there's nothing more magical than Main Street USA all lit up.  It's gorgeous.
If you're a RunDisney fan, running through that same park is magical.  The Neverland Family Fun Run 5k is that magic.  I think it's the best RunDisney 5k event there is.
It's part of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland and it gives runners a 3.1 mile journey through the parks at early morning light. Plus Tinker Bell flies.  AND the announcers arrrgggggghhhh really awesome!

Last year's Neverland 5k was the first event I announced inside DisneyLand.  I loved being dressed up as a gorgeous fairy.

The 2013 version of Neverland set Rudy and I up as pirates who were helping Peter Pan escape from Captain Hook.
How did we look? Tough?
I felt Rudy was more Steven Tyler a la Aerosmith and less Jack Sparrow.  Love ya Rudy!  This race was special because it was held on "Captain Rudy's" birthday!
For those of you who were there, I hope you enjoyed the theme and the beautiful setting.  I also hope you enjoyed my pirate accent and many scurvy jokes.  Scurvy?  Caused by a lack of Vitamin C and first discovered during 18th century trans-Atlantic ship rides.  I'm factual.

Once the runners took off in front of the castle, we met them at the finish line which was inside Disney's California Adventure at Paradise Pier.
Photo taken via golf cart on the way to the finish.
Our 5k winner was a great friend of mine, Jon Hughes.  He's the owner of Track Shack here in Orlando and is the race director for the WDW marathon.  He was actually embarrassed to win.  He totally thought there was another runner in front of him the whole time! It's not your fault you're fast Jon!

As Rudy and I were welcoming the over 4,500 runners across the finish line, I spotted a gentleman on his knee.  I screamed, "Oh look a proposal!" I guess I wasn't the only one excited by the romantic moment.  Check out this epic photobomb captured by our Disney photographer. It went viral and I think you can see why.
If you live near Southern California and have been thinking about doing a 5k, I highly suggest the Neverland 5k.  You can't beat the location! Also start planning your costume now, because this rest is a perfect one to have fun and dress up at.
Have you ever run a race in costume?

Love and eye patches,
Carissa & Kyle

For more RunDisney race recaps visit my "Races" page.

Friday, January 18, 2013

RunDisney VIP Reception

The only part of the WDW marathon weekend that I haven’t shared yet is the VIP reception.

Talk about a jaw-dropping experience.  Since this was the 20th anniversary, Disney decided to do it up big for the traditional VIP reception.
The VIP reception was held at the Yacht Club convention center.
Golden Mickey statues welcomed VIP’s into the party.
Guess who was asked to co-host the shin-dig?  ME!  I was honored to co-host and floored when they told me to wear “formal” attire.  Ask this pageant girl to bust out a dress? Okay! 
I was sharing hosting duties with 19-time WDW Marathon announcer Creigh Kelly.  Creigh is a legend in the race announcing world.  He has a kind heart and an amazing passion for this sport. He taught me honestly, everything I know about being a good race announcer.  Ask any quality distance runner and they will know who he is.

Creigh is also in the middle of a battle with cancer.  He stopped his chemo treatments to be able to announce at Disney and resumed them this week.  If you are a praying person, I ask that you send one Creigh’s way as he fights his battle with kidney cancer. 
The VIP party included food and I enjoyed turkey breast, gravy, and veggies before taking the stage.
Check out the live band and great turn out.
Creigh and I talked about the history of the race and recognized the President of Cigna (our presenting sponsor), Paul Lambert from Disney, and Jon Hughes our wonderful race director of 20 years.
We also brought up all the “running royalty” in town for the weekend for an on stage photo..  And then my jaw dropped.  We’re talking Joan Benoit Samuelson, Jeff Galloway, Desi Davila, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Tara Guidus, Bart Yasso, Janet Bawcom, and more.  And I got to stay on stage for the pic!  If anyone sees a copy of it please let me know…I want to see it!  I’m totally the girl in the back trying to peep out of the running glory.
With 2012 Olympians Desi and Janet on Thursday.
What famous runner do you look up to?

Love and Olympians,
Carissa & Kyle

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Walt Disney World Marathon 2013

In 1994 (when I was in 4th grade) the first Disney World Marathon took off.  There were less than 7500 runners and the folks at Disney weren’t sure if this “experiment” was going to work.

Fast-forward 20 years and there were 67,000 runners in Orlando for the marathon weekend.  25,000 embarked on Sunday’s marathon course and according to Bart Yasso from Runner’s World magazine it was the first major marathon in which the women outnumbered the men.  Go ladies!

In my 9 years announcing the marathon I’ve seen the race grow from having the half and full start on the same day ,but on opposite sides of the street, to the Goofy Challenge, and finally to the celebration we have today.  I’m in love with my job….and no you can’t have it!
For both the half and full marathons the announcer’s call time is 2am.  Look how excited I am.
Luckily there is breakfast and COFFEE at the start.  This is actually the first of 2 breakfast buffets I enjoy on marathon day.  Instead of the buffet I usually have a bagel with peanut butter for energy.  
Then we go through our scripts, interviews, and rehearse any audio/video cues on stage.
Before the half and the full I had the chance to interview Joey Fatone from N’SYNC who was running the Goofy Challenge in place of his injured wife.  I asked him the best N’SYNC song to run to and he said, “Pop”.  Do you agree?  I’m more of a “digitial, digital get down girl” personally, but who am I to disagree with his expertise.  I did catch up with Joey after the full and he had a beer…before he finished.
If you have not had the chance to see the start of the Disney marathon it’s something to behold.  Check out my video and kudos to Rudy, John, and Mickey for their amazing timing and announcing talent.

There were 7 waves of runners this year and we allow 5-7 minutes between waves.  That means that the excitement of the start went on for close to 50 minutes.  Due to that, I’m sent to the start line early to welcome in our fast chair athletes and insure someone is there for the winners.  So if you didn’t see me at the start…that’s why!
I had some time to kill before the marathon finish, so I snapped some pics.  An empty finish line was a rare site.
I excitedly welcomed in 8-time WDW Marathon winner Adriano Bastos who edged out 2 time winner (and 2010 & 2011) winner Fredison Costa at the 25.5 mile mark.  Talk about a close finish! Both runners are Brazilian, friends, and train together.  They also both really wanted to win the race.  
This was Bastos first time in 4 years that he won and his excitement was amazing.  According to his interpreter, who I spoke to after the race, his goal is to win 10 Disney marathons, however it gets harder each year.  He gets a new Disney tattoo to commemorate each win and he has a tiny Mickey Mouse on his forearm for each won. Brazil took 2 of the top spots in the men’s and women’s races.
Bastos is in the glasses closest to Micky.
Waiting for the winner.
After the excitement of the first finishers all of my attention turned to my sister-in-law Kelsey who was running her first marathon.  She’s a beast and a 1:31 half marathoner.  Her pre-race goal was to run under 4 hours, but I knew she had faster in her.  My in-laws and her fiancĂ© were in the VIP area to cheer her in.
She ended up running a negative split and finished in 3:29.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?
That’s insane fast and I know she has faster in her.  She hardly does speed work, so I know with the right plan she can run, dare I say, 3:10.  Way to go Kelsey.  After watching her finish I surely have the “full marathon bug” again and have already been eyeing races I could do. Hmmm….
After Kelsey finished I headed into the VIP tent to get breakfast.  Marathon day is long and I’ve found that if I eat a good meal then my grumpies are less noticeable.  Hey, I’m human and 2am wake-ups are NOT normal!  The make your own omelet station is great and I loaded my eggs with spinach, peppers, and ham.
Once the awards are complete the 4 announcers bring in all the runners across the finish line. 
Your WDW announcer.
Our awesome PA Frank.
Best marathon finish ever?  Goes to Corral G for their Conga Line!

The finish line duties take until about 1030am on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday.  We try to be interesting and energetic and we sincerely thank those spectators who had to listen to us for hours!
Messy announcer table.
Announcer's table.
We always celebrate in every finisher and by 245pm I was snuggled into my bed for a much needed nap.
I cannot say what an amazing weekend it was enough!  The energy and the joy felt was unparalled.  I have so many runners that I need to congratulate, so here goes…
Way to go:
-       Kelsey
-       Cindy (Goofy Challenge – Evolution Fitness Orlando client)
-       Brad (Goofy Challenge – Evolution Fitness Orlando client)
-       Jordan (1st marathon)
H  Heather  - Running with Sass
-       Alec (from PopFitLife – 1st marathon)
-       Kat (from Sneakers and Finger Paint)
-       Kelly (Goofy Challenge – Team Sparkle, from According 2 Kelly)
-       Marcia (from Travel, Run, Eat – of corral G fame)
-       Darcy
-       Hallie
-       Aaron
-       Ryan (Reach higher!)
-       Dani
-       Megan
-       Kathy
-       Ken

I had so much fun that I think I’ll do this RunDisney thing again! Say…this weekend?  See you at Tinker Bell!

What do you like most about “race day”?

Love and sleepless nights,
Carissa & Kyle

Monday, January 7, 2013

How To PR a Half Marathon

This post is going to tell you how to PR a half marathon.

Okay, so maybe that is an exaggeration, but I read somewhere that blogs should have an "eye catching" opening phrase.  How'd I do?
I'm still on a major "runners high" after my sub-2 finish at the Palm Coast Half Marathon. Thank you so much for all the congrats and "virtual high 5's".  If you're a runner then you know how it feels to finally reach that "dream big" goal.
Many of you have followed my struggles to run a half marathon under two hours and you felt my disappointment after the Women's Half. Yesterday's race was my "perfect storm".  Great weather, fast, flat course, and body that was ready to run.  I know that won't happen every race and I'm soaking in the achievement.

So what was different this time?  Here are the lessons from my running experience as a runner and race announcer on what it takes to PR.

How to PR a Half Marathon:
1. Follow a Training Plan
     - Before every major race I get out my calendar and I write down my training plan.  I mark the days of my long runs and what my speed work will be for each week.
     - Actually do the training.  Doing the training runs not only helps put the miles on your body, but it helps mentally.  Your brain remembers the struggles of past long runs and your mind believes you can complete the distance.
     - For the St. Pete Women's Half I used my sub-2 training plan.  Since it was 6 weeks between the two races I brought my mileage back up from 7-10 adding a mile each week and did 1 repeat 400/800 training session per week.

2. Use a Pacer
     - Could I have PR'd without Kelsey pacing me?  Sure, but having her there was an invaluable insurance policy.  I knew she'd keep me on track if I needed to speed up AND I knew that she wouldn't let me quit.  Our minds play games.  My brain likes to tell me to "quit" and sometimes I listen.  I knew Kelsey knew I could do this.  I knew she knew how much it meant to me and I knew she'd yell if I tried to give up.
     - Many larger races have pacers for certain time goals.  I have never run with one, however I know people who have found success that that strategy.  You let them set the pace and you just run.  You can also distract yourself by looking at the balloons they carry.

3. Start slow
     - Before the race I looked over the splits of my past half marathons.  I saw how close I was when I started slow and I saw how much I crashed and burned when I started too fast.  Don't "panic" about banking time.  Consistency will get you there.  My plan was to hold for 6 miles and then evaluate.  We were good so I said I would re-evaluate at 8.  I was still good, so I sped up a little.  At 10 I knew I had the PR and I pushed what I could.

4. Fail
    - Nothing educates you like failure.  Every step of those 13.1 miles I remembered what it felt like to miss a sub-2 half marathon by 30 seconds.  I knew what it felt like to tell my mom, my husband, and my readers that I didn't make it.  I was ready to shine.  I was ready to "fist pump".  Failure reminds us of the sweetness of victory.

5. Remember Your Running Fundamentals
     - You will never PR if your pre-race fundamentals aren't in place.  Eat, hydrate, and for goodness sake don't take cold/allergy medicine before you run.
So what's next?

I get to run for fun again.  Every half marathon for the past year has been all about the "sub 2". That was the marker by which everything was judged.  Now I can toe the line and enjoy what the race gives me.  I may have another goal in the future, but for now I want to run and enjoy that I can run.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to keep my "speed" up.  I'd like to run a timed 5k and improve my time.

I also "think" I'm doing a sprint triathlon this year. Advice on training is welcome.  I won a sprint triathlon entry on a blog last year and the race director didn't get in contact with me in time to run on 2012, so maybe it will happen this year.

Here are some other races I've got my eye on:
- Sarasota Half Marathon
- Savannah Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon
- Danskin Women's Triathlon
- Gate River Run
- 5k in Orlando (that I don't announce)
- Any suggestions?

Thank you again for all the support.  If you have any running related questions please email me any time.
What's your advice to "race your best"?

Love and breakthroughs,
Carissa & Kyle

Related Post - How to do a Tempo Run

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Palm Coast Half Marathon

I conquered the sub-2 half marathon.

There are so many emotions going on right now that's it's hard to process.  I have had a sub-2 dream since my first half marathon in 2006.  I've had a sub-2 "monkey on my back" since my 2:00:34 finish at Gasparilla in 2012 and 2:00:30 in St. Pete.

I wanted it SO bad and I finally, FINALLY did it!

Thank you so much to everyone for the continual encouragement and Kelsey for being my awesome pacer.

It was a random decision to run the Palm Coast Half Marathon.  Kelsey saw the race on sale for $35 on Groupon.  She's running the Disney marathon on Sunday and couldn't "race", so she offered to pace me.  I agreed knowing that might be the push I needed to beat my mental sub-2 game.
The Palm Coast Half Marathon took place at the Hammock Beach Resort.  It was a small race (450+ runners) and we picked up our packet on race morning with a whopping 30 second wait.

We also got to use a "real" bathroom inside the golf course's clubhouse.  It's the little things people.
I was suited up in my new Livestrong gear that Kyle got me for Christmas, however after our warm-up jog it was clear that it was too warm for a jacket.  A costume change and we were off.
It was hard to go slow the first mile.  From going over my past half marathon splits I knew this was crucial.  There were no crowd issues and I forced myself to go easy.
Mile 1 - 9:11

My game plan at this point was to stay about 9:10 - 9:20 for the next two miles.  I also made a point to hug the curves of the course and to "run the tangents".
Mile 2- 9:24
Mile 3- 9:09

The weather for the race was perfect.  Mid 60's, cloud cover, and very limited wind.  I was actually chatting a little with Kelsey and enjoying the run.
Mile 4 - 9:09

In the middle of mile 4 we entered the conservatory part of the run....also known are now running on dirt!  This was unexpected, however not terrible.  The dirt was pretty compact and if you found a tire track it was even firmer.
Mile 5 - 9:02

The park was peaceful and beautiful.  At one point we ran over a covered bridge with marsh on both sides and we could sneak a peek at the ocean too.  I was feeling good holding my pace and we were close to my 9:09 average pace that I needed to go sub-2 so I was very, very confident.
Mile 6 - 9:05

Around mile 7 I had my mocha + caffeine Gu.  I usually fuel myself with sport beans, however I didn't want to slow down to chew, so I went with Gu.  Gu is best taken with water, so try to take it near a water stop.
Mile 7 - 8:50

Mile 8 started to get boring.  Yes, the park was pretty, but it got old.  Plus with only 5 or so people on the course around us there wasn't much to look at.  From time to time our pace would increase here.  Kelsey is used to "racing", so when she would spot a person she would subconsciously speed up to "pick them off".  I'm not a competitive person by nature so my instincts are different.  However looking back I'm proud of how many people we "picked off".  From mile 3 on, I'm confident in saying that nobody passed us.
Mile 8 - 9:00

Mile 9 started to hurt.  Not bad, but I felt myself tiring.  I listened to my music and tried to stay calm.  At this point I knew I had sub-2.  I just had to work for it a little more.
Mile 9- 9:00

The middle of mile 10 finally brought us out of the dirt road and my legs were happy to get traction on the pavement.  This was the point where I told Kelsey she could start yelling at me and pushing me.  However we were within our goal pace, so every now and then I would give her a thumbs up and we would trudge along.
Mile 10- 8:43

Around mile 11 I met my "sub-2" demons.  My body started to get tired and my mind was filled with negative thoughts. "Just walk. You'll be fine." "You need to walk. If you don't take a walk break you'll slow down." "This is hard. You won't make sub-2".  Those were my demons that kept me from going sub-2 before.  I recognized their crushing sound.  However this time was different.  I knew if I even opened my mouth to tell Kelsey I needed to stop that she'd say "no".  She wouldn't let me.  I would waste more energy talking than if I kept running.  I listened to my music and repeated my mantra "today is my day.  no regrets".  Within a half mile, the demons were gone.
Mile 11 - 8:30

Miles 12-13.1 were amazing.  Amazing and uphill.  They hurt and I wish I would've pushed even more but I knew I did it.  I went sub-2.  Unbelievable feeling.
Mile 12- 8:16

Final Results - 1:52:43
I also won my age group.  Excuse me?
Yes, I will accept this award. Thank you.
I've worked as a race announcer for 10 years and I've seen races where "slower" times place.  I knew I would reap the benefits of a small race and today was my day.
Also in full disclosure, my Garmin measured the course short.  About 12.75 total.  I'm not sure which was off, but I thought I'd share that. I would have still easily made sub-2 with another .35 to run.  My Garmin also might have struggled in the woods or my mad tangent running skills were a little too good.

Thank you so much to Kelsey for pacing me!  I always knew I had sub-2 in me, but I needed support to get there.  After Kelsey BQ's (Boston qualifies) at Disney, she will be available to hire for her pacing skills to anyone in the Florida area.  Kidding, kidding!

Tomorrow I will talk more about the emotional side of the PR and what I think helped me finally get there. I'm so happy to not be writing this post again.
Total nerd mode.
Thank you SO much to all my readers and friends for the support and congrats.

What's the last DREAM BIG goal you achieved?

Love and winners,
Carissa & Kyle

Related Posts - Visit my Races page for all my race recaps.