Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How the Disney Princess Half Marathon saved my life

Because I haven't blogged here in, oh, half a year, I should post something fresh.

But instead here is my sweat-soaked, bedraggled and stinky self after running a half-marathon at Disney a few weeks ago.

If you're a longtime reader, you might remember I posted that playing the blogging game since 2006 while raising two wild boys had worn me out and left me feeling many days like I didn't have a pulse. I just didn't enjoy things the way I used to. My doctor found out my thyroid was low. I probably had adrenal fatigue, too -- aka exhaustion. So in the past year, I've changed my way of eating, worked on slowing down to get more sleep, and started running.

OK, OK, well at that time I sort of started running. But there I was, still on the couch with no pulse, not having the energy to move.

So I foolishly signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon because I knew if my family was going to sink $600+ into race fees and travel expenses, I had better get my butt going. Also, the idea of running something called "princess" seemed fluffy and sort of doable.

It worked.

So I ran, three days a week, often feeling like I was going to DIE. And I'm not gonna lie, the first time I ran 13 miles to prep for the half marathon, I rolled around on the floor in agony with sciatic pain after I got home.

Fortunately, my running form has improved since then, and I was able to finish the Princess Half Marathon in the upright position and with a smile on my face. (My time was 3:07:35 if you really want to know. My best practice time was 2:53:something, but I didn't have the fun Disney distractions then.)

If you're interested in how my race experience went, please keep reading. Otherwise, feel free to just scroll and look at the pictures.

The Princess Half Marathon started at 5:35 am in the Epcot parking lot, but travel time meant I had to wake up at 2:45 am to get ready and just wake up.

Because this was my first race, Disney put me in the very last corral. Because there were 26,000 people in the race, they use corrals to let runners go a few thousand at a time. ("Aren't you afraid you'll be trampled?" my mother sincerely asked me.) My corral had all the people who never raced before or who intended to walk instead of run.

I know this because we had two hours before the time we arrived and the time we actually got to move our legs, so I chatted with the others. A college student who'd never run a race, like me. Emma visiting from the UK, a mom of two little kids and not terribly athletic. Two old high school friends who showed up in matching running outfits so they could have a fun girlfriend getaway. One annoying walker who was trying to convince everyone else to walk too.

Side note: Waiting two hours in the middle of the night with a bunch of strangers who've also never run a race before isn't a great way to boost your confidence and calm your stage-fright-like nerves.

Finally, the Fairy Godmother sent us off with a bibbity-bobbity-boo.

I started out slowly and told myself I was in this for the endurance.

And I got passed by just about everyone.

To make me feel even worse, 20 minutes into the start, everyone started cheering, and I looked to see the eventual winner of the race, Rachel Booth, booking it on the opposite side of the road, on her way back to where we'd come.

That's right. I'd just started, and she was soon to cross the finish line.

I kept my pace, though, and was soon starting to pass others. Husband-and-wife teams. Friends in T-shirts with funny sayings written on the back with a Sharpie. And lots and lots of people in tutus.

Around mile 3 or 4 near the Speedway, I stopped to take a picture of this Ferrari for my husband, and a man standing with the car offered to take my picture.

You can see I resisted the urge to sprawl across the car, calendar-style.

After all, I was dressed as Queen Elinor, the mother of Princess Merida from the animated Disney movie Brave, and, well, Queen Elinor would never do anything like that.

Also, the Ferrari guy would have called security.

Then I ran into Lightning McQueen and thought my little guys would like a picture.

Not far away were all the Disney villains posing with sweaty runners while "Bad to the Bone" played. The line was really long, and I run slow, so I didn't stop.

We ran through the tunnel usually reserved for Magic Kingdom parking lot trams, and then Space Mountain came into view. The race route took us in a back entrance and I was SO EXCITED to get the chance to see what the secret back ways of the Magic Kingdom were like!

But it turns out it didn't look very special in the back at all.

I barely remember running down Main Street, and then Cinderella's castle came into view.

I stopped briefly to snap a pic, then again in Tomorrowland where Buzz Lightyear was attracting a long line of runners.

We passed the new Fantasyland, where Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, and possibly Belle or Gaston were posing for pictures.

Then we got to go through the castle itself. Trumpeters above us were playing the theme song from Rocky, and I'm not even making that up.

We ran on through Liberty Square and Frontierland -- where I half expected to see someone chewing on a turkey leg, but I didn't -- and when I saw these guys from the Walt Disney World Railroad, I couldn't not stop for a picture out of respect for my train-crazy boys.

My previously meticulously flat-ironed hair was good and frizzy by then.

We passed Cinderella and her prince on a gorgeous float -- I didn't stop for the long line -- in another behind-the-scenes area before coming out near the Grand Floridian resort and the beautiful golf course across from it. The morning was still foggy, which made the whole scene even more beautiful.

I caught up with the college student from my corral and told her she was doing great. She was feeling better, but still a little nervous because she said she had already seen a few people pass out.

Glad I hadn't seen that.

Then it seemed that suddenly we passed the halfway mark.

"Remember, you LOVE RUNNING!" a race volunteer yelled.

There was a short line for Lilo & Stitch, characters featured in my friend's daughter's birthday theme, so I stopped to pose just for my friend and text her.

Then we all came to the back side of the Speedway, and the Central Florida Accordion Club was there with an upright base playing It's a Small World.

I wondered how many times they had to play that song that day.

Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa were taking pictures. Another long line, so I didn't stop, but took a picture to text a friend.

After Jack, the race course was relatively unexciting. Around the 15k marker, I was getting really tired. There were no more characters, no music, and a lot of people were worn out and walking. I ran on the side of the road, in the grass, several times to pass people.

Then came a great evil unknown to me in all of my race training.



Actually, they were overpasses.

A couple in a row.

Friends, I live in South Florida. There are no hills. There are a couple of landscaping berms that put my backyard at 8 feet above sea level at its highest point. That's about it. I have no hills to train on.

So I trudged up the overpasses.

Some runners who were done and leaving the race by car honked and waved from the other side of the road. To encourage us or rub it in? Hmm....

It seemed forever until Epcot's Spaceship Earth, the giant golf ball, appeared. I was encouraged. I got my legs moving.

Close to a side entrance to Epcot, the Man-cub spotted me and called out to me, so I stopped to give him, my husband and the Junebug a kiss. I was touched they came to find me near the finish line.

There was a mile to go.

I don't know what came over me, but I ran hard and fast that last mile. I was soooo tired. Maybe I just wanted to be done with the race already. Maybe the Epcot spectators were just that encouraging. We ran under Spaceship Earth and knew the finish line was near. I passed people left and right. I don't even remember details while running through Epcot. I was in the finish line trance.

Through another back entrance, I was surprised to see a gospel choir joyfully, contagiously lifting up praises and clapping their hands. Had I become delusional or gone to heaven?

No, it was just another tenth of a mile, that .1 in the 13.1 that marks the distance of a half marathon. The big lavender finish line was ahead! There was a grandstand area of cheering fans that I assumed would have already left because we were so long into the race.

Goofy was standing at the finish line on the same side of the course that I was, and as I got closer, I lifted up my hand to give him a celebratory high-five!

And he turned away at the last second.

The dude messed up my hair when I was 13 and I finally forgave him, but now I have something new to be mad at him for. Hmph.

Dissed, I crossed the finish line but kept running like a fool. Finally, I realized no one else was running anymore, so I turned around.

I actually wasn't last!

I texted my mother, 54 days away from retirement, a picture of the medal and told her she had more endurance for working that long than I do running a half-marathon.

I'm pretty sure I shuffled across the entire Epcot parking lot back to where my family was waiting for me, and my boys ate my free box of post-race snacks.

I was sore. I was sore the next day, too.

But it was a good, satisfying kind of sore, the kind of sore that reminds you that you are alive and have a body that works. A body that once seemed pulseless but now itches to move. A body that needs care and can't be ignored.

Maybe running a half-marathon as my first race while not being a "serious" runner wasn't the best idea I've had. On the other hand, maybe it was one of my best ideas. Registering for the race forced me to train for it, and that has transformed me and given me back energy. Also, I can't think of a better place to celebrate that than at Disney World.

Now my challenge is to keep running even though I don't have a race to train for.

Unless, of course, I sign up for another race....

Monday, September 3, 2012

Now would be a perfect time for a breakdown

First, this happened:

Then my BABY turned THREE. (As in three whole years old.)

We took a little break at SeaWorld....

And had fun all summer long.

To my complete shock, suddenly it was time for KINDERGARTEN.

And then preschool.

Now I have eight full hours to myself every week.


(And I'm not the go-to-a-nail-salon type of gal.)

All I have left to say is AAAAAAAHHHHH!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day ups and downs

So, Mothers Day. I had to make breakfast for everyone. The boys couldn't get along and kept bonking each other on the head. My husband took us to the mall to have me pick out a gift for his mother. Lunch was rushed, we were late to meet with the in-laws, and dinner at the restaurant was awful.

But I got to go stroll Hollywood Beach with my guys and feel the soft breezes. I got to sleep in past 10 am. My family gave me a new suitcase and a gardening book and made me cards. Several friends or family members texted me Mothers Day wishes.

I guess I should count my blessings.

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Monday, May 7, 2012

I went to Mom 2.0 and all I got was a Dove T-shirt ... but really so much more

This past weekend I experienced the best blogging conference I've attended yet -- the Mom 2.0 Summit. It was an hour's drive away from my home, so like a nerd I drove there each day instead of shelling out big bucks to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. (Which was fabulous, of course, and I'm sure worth every cent they asked for.)

Why was this the best conference so far?

It's the only one where I got to meet The Bloggess.

Who autographed her bestselling book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which I am giving to Heather at Cool Zebras because I know she is going to looooove it.

It's the only conference where I got to party in the Versace Mansion in Miami Beach.

(See how shell-shocked I am? Thank you, Intel.)

With local bloggers.

(Caroline from Smarty Pants Mama, Lindsey from Mrs. Potts' Thoughts, Nicole from By Word of Mouth Musings and myself (and so many other Florida bloggers)

Where there was nudity. As art.

Where even the furnishings in the women's restroom cost more than my whole house.

Which necessitated buying a new outfit and new shoes that crippled me for two and a half days.

Where I was able to tell Intel that I'm the ultra Tropic mom.

Where I got to wear a coconut bra.

(With Nature's Path)

Where my photo was taken for a Times Square billboard.

(With Dove)

The only conference where I won something from Hallmark, the very people who make it their job to make you cry.

Mom 2.0 Summit was the ultimate blogging experience for me so far. I feel so lucky.

And crippled by those shoes to the point of wondering how I might accessorize with a cane.

But mostly lucky.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You didn't think I could let World Penguin Day just slip by...?

You know my boys love penguins. Scratch that, they are obsessed with penguins. Plush penguins come out of the bedrooms with the boys when they wake up in the morning, most days the penguins go to school or on errands, and the boys play with them all day and take them back to bed with them at night.

This is no small thing.

There are 25 penguins in my house.

I counted.

And each one has a name.

That doesn't include the penguin figurines, or penguin T-shirts (seven) or penguin blanket. There's a rockhopper penguin notebook and pen set from SeaWorld. We have nine or ten DVDs about penguins -- some real, some animated.

And the books! Holy moly, the books. We have everything from Sandra Boynton's Your Personal Penguin (including the song, which we've memorized and performed in the Man-cub's preschool class) to 365 Penguins to Pierre the Penguin to 10 Little Penguins and many more. Nicole tipped me off to another Sandra Boynton penguin masterpiece, Penguin's Lament, performed by John Ondrasik from Five for Fighting.

We've had missing penguin scares a few times. And sadly, we have lost a couple penguins. Then the whole colony mourns.

Our penguin love knows no bounds.

I know the stuffed animal adoration stage doesn't usually last.

But in 10 years, when we look back at pictures of the Man-cub and Junebug as little boys, we will see many photos of them holding and playing with their penguins and say...

"Huh. Our penguin collection was so small then!"

Friday, March 30, 2012

How to avoid cooking

My stepmother had me cooking from the time I was six years old. Oh sure, at that time she just gave me an Easy Bake Oven, but I know her designs from the beginning were to pretend cooking was fun so I would eventually take over and she wouldn't have to cook any more.

From helping to can summer vegetables to preparing the cakes she would professionally decorate and sell, to pulling all-nighters when my stepmother eventually started her own catering company, I was her sidekick in the kitchen.

All of that training paid off now that I have a child with multiple food allergies and have to come up with ways to feed him that don't involve nutrients via IV.

Occasionally, I've posted my recipes here (and now I post recipes here) because when I find something good, I like to share it.

But as much time as I spend in the kitchen cooking most of my family's meals from scratch, I confess sometimes I really just don't want to even look in the kitchen's direction.

Even for someone who volunteers to take meals to people after they bring home a new baby or have surgery, there is such a thing as cooking burnout.

It happens.

So here are my tips to avoid cooking dinner.

1. Use leftovers. No matter how weird a combination you have. Scrounge through your fridge and cabinets and serve whatever is there. It's OK if all you have are stale freezer pancakes and a can of beets. Dinners like that will make your family appreciate it even more when you actually do cook.

2. Shuffle things around in the kitchen. Your family might actually think you are cooking when you aren't. Of course, eventually the jig will be up and you'll have to put food on the table, order takeout or tell everyone to fend for themselves.

3. Use restaurant gift cards. No lie, I have a stash of them. In my kitchen. Both my mother and my husband's are so good about mailing us gift cards for Big Name Restaurant That Offers To-Go Meals. If you don't have a family member who likes mailing you restaurant gift cards, then get sneaky and swap gift cards with a friend. ("Hey! Look what a friend gave me! I think we should put this to good use.") Or buy them for yourself. (Note my stepmother doesn't send us restaurant gift cards. She thinks I should be ever cooking.)

4. Distract your family. "Let's look at the stars!" "Let's go for a bike ride!" "Wow! Bedtime already?" "I think I might be contagious and should go lie down." Maybe they will forget about dinner altogether.

5. Remember there is always cereal. In our house, organic and gluten-free.

Oh, and? My husband thinks cooking is heating something in the microwave and making popcorn. So he's not much help in the kitchen. He has been known, however, to bring home a meal from Whole Foods, which is just as good as tip #3.

If you're the family cook and facing burnout, there is hope. Just be creative outside of the kitchen and take the night off. You deserve it.

What other tips would you add?

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Friday, March 16, 2012

An appeal

Dear James Farr, Creative Genius Master of Everything Cool,

Your Trains-formers videos are more awesome than a robot fighting machine that also makes cotton candy riding a mag-lev train to a space station in a galaxy far, far away.

It's a sad day in Sodor because my two-year-old (whose morning routine includes requesting, in his words, "Thomas Prime") and five-year-old couldn't see their cherished movies due to HiT's copyright claim. ("This is really going to aggravate a number of legal departments!")

According to my sons, here is a list of things that are awesome:

Racing trains and cars
*James Farr videos featuring Vector*
Disney World
Hot dogs (both shaped like light sabers and fantastically delicious)
Knocking things (and each other) over

You can see that you are very, very close to the top.

I don't suppose I could plead, beg, flatter or buy the chance to have your supremely perfect Trains-formers videos??? We didn't even know about the fourth movie you made with Lady until today, and we can't even watch it.

Our family will always think you and your team are awesome no matter what, but it sure would make our millennium to be able to watch your movies again.



PS I wish my comic-book-artist-wannabe little brother had turned out more like you. Instead, he stopped sleeping on Spiderman sheets at 30, shelved his creations, got a degree in history, and became an EMT.

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