Tag Archives: Walt Disney World

I Ran a Race!

Yes, you read that title correctly. After not pinning on a bib for over 7 months (the beer mile doesn’t count) I got to race not once, but twice two weekends ago! If you’re wondering why it’s been so long since I last raced, you can catch up on my string of injuries here and here. To say 2015 was a lackluster running year would be quite the understatement. But there’s no point in dwelling on the past, and I’m oh so very excited to finally write about running again.

I’ve been running somewhat consistently since early November and things have been going really well. I’ve kept my weekly mileage relatively low (I’m talking 20 mpw) and I’ve kept up with my strength training love, Refine Method. I haven’t done any speed work or tempo miles (yet), but I’m finally starting to feel like my old runner self, and it’s great! That being said, I went down to good ‘ole Orlando for the Walt Disney World 10k and Half Marathon two weeks ago with the confidence I’d be able to finish the races, but there wouldn’t be any PRs. It’s worth noting that this is the FIRST Disney race weekend I attended without an injury! And I’ve attended SIX runDisney race weekends prior to this one starting in 2011!

Finally!

Finally!

I’ll start with the 10k, since that was the race that happened first. And it started like any other runDisney race – early! The race started at 5:30am, so this meant a 3:30am wake-up call, and 4am bus ride. Since we were staying at the Beach Club resort, we had a short(er) bus ride over to the starting area in the Epcot parking lot. We arrived at the start with plenty of time to check a bag (it was drizzling on and off so we wanted to make sure we each had a dry top to put on after the race), visit the always lovely port-o-potties, and get lined up in the A corral. Going into the race, my intention was to push the pace a little, but not truly race it. So when I lined up in the corral I didn’t think much of being pretty far back. After the usual runDisney fanfare of fireworks, we were off!

The first mile or so of the race was pretty crowded. Like I said, I started relatively far back in that first corral, so I spent a lot of time trying to find open road. Thankfully after that first mile it thinned out quite a bit, and the rest of the race was much more comfortable. My first mile was around a 7:50, which was good enough for me. The next three miles, however, we were all on empty service roads, and I dropped the pace to 7:15. I didn’t feel like I was killing myself, and each time I looked down at my watch I was floored by the pace… I really didn’t think I had that speed in me after all that time off. Remembering that I still had a half marathon to run the next day and that I really wasn’t in shape, I pulled back just a bit. The rain also started to pick up as we entered the parks, so things got slippery. I ran the last two miles between 7:20 and 7:30, and crossed the finish line (soaked) in 45:51. Turns out, that’s a slight PR! I’ve only run three other 10k’s before, and the last one being in 2013, so the PR was due for an upgrade. While I know I can go much faster when I’m in shape, I’m happy that the pace of this 10k was the same pace as my current half marathon PR from 2014. It was a huge confidence booster after such a rough 2015!

Thrilled to have finished a race. Not thrilled to be soaking wet.

Thrilled to have finished a race. Not thrilled to be soaking wet.

With a little déjà vu on Saturday, I found myself back at the start for the half marathon. My plan for this race was different – I just wanted to finish! My longest run in months up to that point had been 10 miles, and after Friday’s performance I knew an “accidental PR” wasn’t in the cards for me again… which was fine! I started a few corrals back with my pal Ellen who was doing the Dopey Challenge, and we spent the first 7 or so miles together, chatting and enjoying the characters on the course and running in the dark… we even stopped for a picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle! Since Ellen was doing the Dopey Challenge, we kept our pace around 9:30’s, which was fine by me. Somewhere between mile 6 and 7, though, we got separated. Since it was still dark and the roadway was relatively narrow, I knew I should just soldier on rather than try to find her. This is where I decided to also pick up my pace. I figured I only had 5ish miles left and kept it relatively conservative for the first half, so why not. I should also mention it was SO incredibly humid that I was just as wet by this point as I had been the day before from the rain.

By mile 10 I realized that if I kept my pace, I would likely be able to squeeze in just under 2 hours. This became my new goal. I kept trucking, had a nice little conversation with a random guy who asked me how I was doing as I ran past him, and after what felt like an eternity (remember, I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in over 8 months at this point) we were in Epcot making our final loops and turns to the finish. I crossed the line in 1:59:38, achieving my mid-race goal of sub-2 hours. I was thrilled to have my race weekend over, and I was ready to cheer for the marathon the next day!

Perks of staying at a hotel on the race course... perfect spot to spectate!

Perks of staying at a hotel on the race course… perfect spot to spectate!

This race weekend was just what I needed to remind myself that even though 2015 was a sucky year for my running, not all was lost. I just need to continue to be smart as I add on mileage, and focus more on the training than the racing. Naturally with this positive turn of events in my running comes the frigid temperatures of winter in the northeast that we’ve been missing… but good thing I have lots of layers! So here’s to putting in the work this winter in hopes of finally getting myself back to racing shape for the summer and fall!

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Eating Through Disney: Character Dining

One of the few times I wish I had children is when I go to a character breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s always such a treat to see the kids light up as a character makes their rounds and arrives at their table (it’s kind of cute to see the little ones that are petrified of the characters, too). Since I don’t have any children and am not planning on having them anytime soon (or ever…), the next best thing is to go with friends. Even though not all of our character meals were spent with others, we still had a blast. And yes, we went to more than one – three to be exact!

Our first character experience was breakfast over at The Beach Club’s Cape May Café, with Krissy the day after the marathon! I had never been, so I was more than game to give it a try. I do remember way back when (I’m talking elementary school) having breakfast at the Yacht Club, and I’ve eaten at Beaches and Cream, but that was it. We took a bus from our hotel (Pop Century) over to Hollywood Studios (which I refuse to recognize as HS, it’ll always be MGM to me), and walked over to the resort, passing the Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin hotels on the way. We even strolled by mile 24 of the marathon, and I made sure to stop and strike a pose.

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The view these resorts (Boardwalk, Beach, and Yacht) have is phenomenal, so I made sure to snap a picture. I wouldn’t mind waking up to that view on vacation! And, being that there is an actual boardwalk and a path that takes you from the resorts to Hollywood Studios, it’s a great place to get in a run… though the last thing on my mind the Monday after a marathon is running!

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Breakfast was delicious – they had your typical breakfast fare including eggs, hot and cold cereals, breakfast meats, pastries, etc. The highlight was of course the visit from Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, who had a little fun with us at our table. The tables are covered in paper (think Macaroni Grill) and when Donald came over he wrote a note to us for doing a good job on running the races over the weekend. Then, after an interaction with our waitress, Donald came back later to write that he was #1, and scribbled out our waitress’s name! Of course, Minnie made her way back around and detailed for us that Mickey was in fact number 1, followed by herself, Daisy, and THEN Donald. We were in hysterics the entire time – I love when the characters interact and joke with you! I even noted how their handwriting was so impressive using just little crayons, and Krissy immediately said “I don’t know what you’re talking about Danielle – that’s Minnie!!” Boy do I love feeling like a kid! We had so much fun, we spent almost 2 hours there and basically closed down their breakfast service. I’d call that a success!

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Finally meeting online friends is the best!

The next character adventure took us to The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for breakfast. I’ve eaten here before (at least two other times that I can remember), for both breakfast and dinner. Winnie The Pooh was (and still is!) one of my favorite Disney stories, so I love getting to see him and his friends. I actually remember waiting in a long line to have Eeyore sign my “autograph” book the first time I went to Disney World, and when I finally got up there and handed him my book, the cast member with him informed me he was unable to sign my book due to his “paws” (apparently the character costumes weren’t intuitive back in 1992 and Eeyore’s wasn’t pen-friendly), so I took my picture, and then started to hysterically cry out of embarrassment and not having his signature. As I’ve observed in the years since, I see that Eeyore can in fact now sign autograph books – those lucky kids! But I digress…

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Aside from the characters, my second favorite part about the Crystal Palace is the atmosphere. It’s such a bright restaurant, and one that I think feels very “Florida.” In addition to the great atmosphere, I love the kid’s section they have for food, cutely named “Pooh’s Corner.” During breakfast they offer what they called stuffed French toast, but to me is more like a giant zeppoli that’s been covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture… heavenly! Like I said earlier in the post, sometimes I feel funny without any kids at character meals, but the woman at the table next to us (with two young boys) leaned over after one of the characters had come to visit and exclaimed “you two are so cute! I love it!” That definitely made me feel better about being such a big kid. We even had  visit to our table from an absolutely adorable little girl in a Tinkerbell costume. She came over to us, sat down, and just smiled. Her mom came over and grabbed her while saying “sorry honey, but Tinkerbell isn’t part of this character breakfast!” … it was so cute.

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The final character breakfast stop was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. I stayed at the Contemporary back in 1995 when my dad happened to be on a business trip to Orlando (score!) and the hotel is just as fabulous as I remembered. Of course, the selling point to a 10 year old was the monorail IN the hotel, and I still think it’s the coolest thing ever. Eating at Chef Mickey’s as a child was a ton of fun, and since I’m barely an adult (sure, my age may say so, but my actions say otherwise), I knew it would be just as fun on this trip. This was actually our last meal of the trip; we didn’t have a park ticket for the day since we had to leave at 2p, and getting to the Contemporary was easy – hop on the resort bus to Magic Kingdom, and then walk over. I can say without a doubt that this was by far my favorite breakfast buffet (and I had three on the trip!). There were a ton of vegetarian options (and just a lot of options in general), and everything was really delicious. Besides, how can you not love your meal when you’re visited by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto?!

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I’m definitely planning on doing at least one character breakfast while we’re in Disneyland at the end of the summer for the Dumbo Double Dare – I’ve got to experience the characters on both coasts!

Have you ever done character dining? Did you like it?
Where should I eat while I’m in Disneyland (I’ve never been!)?

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Eating through Disney: EPCOT

Planning and eating are two of my favorite things, so when it comes to planning where to eat on vacation, you know I’m all over it. I especially look forward to planning meals for our Disney trips, because there are just so many options. And with all the countries they have in EPCOT, it gets tough not to eat there every single day! Since they began offering the dining plan, we’ve taken full advantage which allows us for one table service meal each day of our stay. We ate in EPCOT twice; once in Italy on Saturday evening, and once in Mexico on Tuesday night.

Since I’m newly vegetarian (5 months strong!), eating in Disney this time around was definitely different, but no less delicious! I think I struggled the most in EPCOT’s countries because I wanted to try everything, and didn’t necessarily want to hassle anyone about my dietary restrictions. But, it was easy enough and I still enjoyed my meals and of course (maybe more importantly), drinks!

epcot

In order to prepare ourselves for the Marathon on Sunday, we had an early reservation in Italy at Tutto Italia on Saturday. Italy actually has two restaurants; we ate at Via Napoli two years ago so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try their other option. I ordered myself a big bowl of spaghetti (it came with meatballs but I had it without), and loved every bite. I didn’t take a picture just because it was a bowl of spaghetti (nothing super special), but trust me when I say it was yummy. Since we were on the Disney Dining plan, our meal also came with a drink and dessert. Even though I was full from my carb loading, I couldn’t pass up Italian dessert! I ordered the tiramisu and my husband had their cannoli at the suggestion of one of the waiters. He actually came over to tell us if we ordered the cannoli, not to use a fork, because it’s better with your hands. Obviously after that humor we had to try it! He noticed us enjoying the cannoli utensil-free and was psyched to see we took his advice. You know what they say; when in Rome…

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Delicious cannoli with an awesome cinnamon plate design!

On Tuesday we had a late dinner reservation in Mexico’s La Hacienda de San Angel. We actually ate there last year, and figured we’d try our hand at a later reservation with a request to sit by the windows since the restaurant is on the Seven Seas Lagoon, where they shoot off fireworks for Illuminations. Ever since I began visiting Disney World (back in 1992!) my family has always eaten in Mexico, but up until my trip in 2011, there was only one restaurant – San Angel Inn. So I’ve been sure to keep the tradition alive and eat in Mexico on every trip (since it’s basically my favorite cuisine EVER), but vary the restaurants, which means next time it’s back to the Inn! Anyway, dinner was fabulous – we started with some melty cheese and tortillas and margaritas. Dinner was tacos with the most amazing sauce and crunchy cabbage for me, and pork for the husband. Everything was served with rice, beans, and tortillas… so much delicious food! We finished our meal just in time to enjoy the fireworks during dessert. They actually turn down the lights in the restaurants lining the lagoon, and broadcast the music into the restaurant itself – it was so awesome! I would highly recommend trying to get a reservation later in the evening (Illuminations are at 9p, so anytime after 8 works), and heading to the restaurant first thing that day to request a window seat (you can’t request it ahead of time).

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My delicious tacos!

Prior to our meal in Mexico, though, we decided to sample some beer of the world. I know that a lot of marathoners do a “drink around the world” after the race, but I know that I would never last. And actually, it isn’t just marathoners that do it – I must have seen at least 5 different groups with special t-shirts just for drinking around the world. We started in Canada, and made a stop in the United Kingdom and Germany. To save on money and not to ruin our dinners, we shared the beers and then switched to a margarita during dinner (as mentioned above). I of course could have continued with drinks in all the other countries, but didn’t want to over do it. I give credit to the people that are able to legitimately drink their way through the countries – I don’t think I could do it!

In all of my trips to Disney, I’ve eaten in most countries, but there are some still on my to-try list, including Canada, Morocco, Germany, and France. It’s hard to make reservations at new restaurants when I’ve loved my experiences at all of the restaurants I’ve tried! I suppose that just means I’ll have to keep visiting every year – such a shame.

What’s your favorite Disney EPCOT restaurant? 

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Almost Goofy

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I didn’t complete the Goofy Challenge this year. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Just like last year, we planned to arrive early on Friday morning to give ourselves enough time to head to the Expo and relax before getting to bed early. By the time I was in bed on Friday night (well, let’s be honest, Friday evening), my feet were a little sore. I figured it was just from all the walking we had done, and went to bed. I woke up on Saturday morning and noticed my foot was a little sore, but continued to get ready. As time went on, though, I started to realize things weren’t looking good for my foot – it wasn’t just tired from the moderate walking we did the day before, but instead there was a dull pain very similar to the pain I had ignored when my foot first started bothering me. After walking back and forth to my room multiple times while asking my husband what he would do, I realized it wouldn’t be smart for me to run the 13.1 miles that morning. As tears welled up in my eyes, I told my husband to go on without me. At the time, nothing could have been worse – I hobbled back to the hotel room at 3:30am, alone, with the hopes of getting that coveted Goofy Challenge medal gone. I iced my foot, and prayed to the running Gods it would be okay for Sunday’s 26.2.

Before the no running decision

Before the no running decision

The decision not to run on Saturday was hard, but I think in the end proved to be the right one. I figured between the two races, I would much prefer completing another 26.2 to another 13.1, and knew if my foot wasn’t well on Saturday, there would be no chance for a run on Sunday. I took it easy on Saturday (with a trip to EPCOT I’ll recap in a food related post later), and stopped by the KT Tape booth at the Expo to get taped (I figured it couldn’t hurt). When I woke up on Sunday morning, my foot was still a little sore, but in much better shape than it had been the day before. I told my husband that I didn’t care how long it took us, we were going to finish and I was going to get at least one medal out of the weekend!

All taped up!

All taped up!

Because the race starts so early it means I have to wake up super early, which causes problems for my oh-so-temperamental GI system. I have a pretty decent routine on days when I have to wake up at a normal time (typically anytime after 6am), but when I have to wake up super early, I run into issues, despite being diligent with my pill taking in the days leading up to the race. Since I didn’t get to empty the tank before the race (just like last year), I knew we’d be stopping along the way… I just didn’t know it would be 3 times! Because I didn’t know how my foot was going to be feeling, I wasn’t worried about the stops and it slowing us down; I assumed the race would be more of a hobble than anything else.

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The start!

As the race started, the first few miles were interesting – some steps were pain-free, while others were a little worrisome. After about 5 miles and an energy pumping run through Magic Kingdom, my foot pain was no longer a concern, and I took my first bathroom break. Unlike last year, the race took us to MK early, but instead of taking us on a long trek to Animal Kingdom, we ran to the Speedway and around the track there, where I took another bathroom break. Once we were out of the Speedway and en route to Animal Kingdom, we were already halfway, which we crossed in about 2:18. At this point I was feeling pretty good, despite the rising temperature and nearly 100% humidity. I’m SO glad I decided to wear a hat!

After the halfway point I decided to break up the remaining miles based on what I knew was left – 4 miles to Animal Kingdom, 3 miles to and in ESPN Wide World of Sports (and hitting mile 20!), 3 miles to Hollywood Studios, and then just 3 within HS and EPCOT to the finish. I knew that I wanted to save a little energy for those last few miles in the parks, because they really are electrifying and fun to speed through! As we made our way into Animal Kingdom, I realized that at that point, I was feeling the best I had ever felt during a marathon… even with all the drama from the day before. With just about 8 miles to go, I knew I’d be able to finish and started to slowly pick up the pace.

Damn watermark!

Damn watermark!

By this point the sun was beating down on us, and I was soaked. I’m talking to the point where my shorts were dripping on the back of my legs – so delicious. We made sure to stop at every single station, oftentimes taking Powerade and water, so I knew I was at least hydrated and the cold sponges they handed out around mile 18 were glorious. I took my third and final bathroom break before leaving ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, and enjoyed a lap around their track and all their fields. By this point it was the home stretch, so I started to pick it up, realizing I could *almost* PR if I kept going. By this point we realized that if I hadn’t taken THREE bathroom breaks (!!) I would have definitely PRed, which helped hammer home that I made the right decision the day before. I ran into Krissy at this point and we chatted for a bit before I continued on my way. She was in such great spirits and having a great time just running and stopping to take pictures with the characters – her attitude was infectious and helped me get through those last miles! I soaked up the miles in Hollywood Studios, down past the Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk Hotels, and finally into EPCOT. I skipped the last two water stations and powered through, crossing in 4:27:06 with the announcers reading off my name!

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Number 4 done!

Of course as soon as I finished my quads started to scream, but I had no foot pain at all… go figure! I was able to spend the rest of the day in Magic Kingdom and enjoy dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. The rest of the week included zero running (but LOTS of walking!), and I’m really looking forward to getting back to it this week. I’m in the process of figuring out what fall marathon I want to run since I went with the refund for the 2012 NYCM, and I’m focusing on some Spring half marathons in the meantime. So tell me…

Any fall marathon suggestions for me?
What are you currently training for? 

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Gearing Up

This coming weekend, I’ll be running my fourth marathon, and my fifth half marathon as part of Disney’s Goofy Challenge! If you remember, I ran this race last year; it was fun, but definitely harder than I had anticipated so I wasn’t sure if I’d be giving it a shot again. After minimal persuasion, I signed up. And just like last year, I’m hoping that my fall marathon training will help carry me through the weekend’s races (don’t worry, I’ve been running A LOT since then, but October marathon training is hopefully a solid base). Since this is my third trip to Disney to run, and my 4th trip there in the last 4 years (all in January!), I’m really excited for the familiarity as well as the new changes that I’ll experience both during the races as well as at Disney in general.

In terms of the race, the marathon course is different this year, including a trip to the speedway and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. I’m looking forward to this for one very big reason – it breaks up the course! The old route spent so much time on service roads, which is not fun at mile 16 of a marathon… especially when it’s really your 29th mile of the weekend. Those service roads were what I like to refer to as “the dark times” of the race last year – I really struggled due to a lack of proper nutrition before the race… So I’m going to be sure not to have a repeat. Of course I’m also looking forward to the mile 20 party (since it’s the 20th anniversary of the race), the medals, and seeing all the ridiculous costumes and characters along the way! I’ll also be keeping my eyes peeled for Joey Fatone and Sean Astin (Rudy!), because you better believe I’ll start singing or chanting, depending on who I find!

For the parks, I’m super pumped to check out the additions to Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom. Since I’m an 8 year old at heart, Magic Kingdom is my absolute favorite. I was able to score a reservation at the new Be Our Guest restaurant to celebrate finishing Goofy, so expect a review on that once I get back! Aside from the update to Fantasyland, I’m just excited to visit all the parks and go on every ride – multiple times. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Disney dining, and have a few new restaurants I’ll be checking out as well as dining in Mexico because it’s my hands-down favorite. Disney food has never disappointed (me), so it’ll be fun approaching it as a vegetarian for the first time.

And, maybe most importantly, this will be my first race (well, first two) representing the Oiselle Team! I wound up sitting out the Hangover 5k due to foot pain and not wanting to risk the upcoming races and vacation, and based on the fact that it feels almost 100%, I’m happy with the decision. I have my racing singlet, Rogas, Lori shorts, arm warmers, and sweet temporary tattoo all ready to go for two days of racing… and lots of other Oiselle shirts packed for my days at the parks. Here’s to hoping I don’t stink up my singlet too much on day one (I’m only half kidding…)!

In addition to running for Oiselle, I’m really looking forward to hopefully meet up with a lot of people I’ve connected with online. I already have plans for a character breakfast with Krissy, and I can’t wait! We started chatting via Twitter after last year’s Disney Marathon, and I’m really excited to finally meet her. So for anyone that’s heading to Disney for this weekend’s races – let me know – I’d love to meet up!

I know that running races “for fun” and taking it easy isn’t for everyone (believe me, I have trouble with it sometimes too), but this is the one time a year I really take the time to enjoy running. I mean, what a benefit to being obsessed with running – a Disney vacation (or vice versa)! I already have my sights set on the Disneyland half in September since I’ve never been to Disneyland, so 2013 may be the year of Run Disney events. I can’t wait to share the race and dining experiences with you when I get back. But in the meantime, tell me:

Have you ever been to Disney (land or world)? What’s your favorite ride? Favorite park? 
Do you ever run races “for fun”? 

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Mexican flavors in Epcot

It’s no secret that I love Mexican food, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that every time I go to Disney World, I have to eat dinner in Epcot’s Mexico. This has been a tradition my family has followed since the very first time we went to Disney World when I was 5. Whenever I go to make reservations for our trip, the Mexico reservation is the very first one I make. A few years ago they opened a second Mexican restaurant, so I decided this year was finally the year to try it.

La Hacienda de San Angel is located right on the World Showcase lagoon, and is a perfect spot to watch their nightly fireworks, Illuminations. I didn’t think of it when I made the reservations, but seeing the sun set over the water was a nice consolation prize. We started our meal with tortilla chips and salsa (a spicy chipotle sauce and a green tomatillo sauce) as we perused the menu. Since we were on the Dining Plan, we were able to select an entreé and dessert. They have a tequila bar on-site, so naturally my husband and I started off with a margarita. I had the avocado margarita (super creamy and flavorful), and he had the blueberry pomegranate (nice and refreshing). My sister settled for an iced tea since she’s only 19.

When it came to making our dinner selection, we were all stumped. Everything sounded delicious, and we wanted to try everything. Eventually my husband and sister settled on the Puerco en Salsa de Mole Negro, which is roasted pork tenderloin with mole negro sauce, served with esquites (roasted corn), sweet potato mash, beans and vegetables. For myself, I went with the Arrachera, which is top sirloin served with spring onions, tamal with rajas, cactus leaves, and beans. Our table also had two big bowls of rice and beans, as well as some corn tortillas to make our own little tacos. The flavors of everything tasted truly authentic, and my favorite may have been the black beans and tamal that came with mine.

So much food!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Danielle, you said no meat in January! You’re a cheater!.” Why yes, yes I am. I knew going into the Disney trip finding vegetarian options at every turn would be difficult – and it was. There wasn’t one vegetarian option on La Hacienda’s menu, and while I know I could have gone out of my way to request something, because I’m not truly a vegetarian, I ordered off the menu. Disney does have plenty of veggie friendly options and I took advantage of them whenever possible, but I didn’t limit myself – I mean, it was vacation after all. I’ve found the main reason why I haven’t become a full-time vegetarian is the sometimes hassle of eating out, or eating at a friend’s – I especially don’t like to make a fuss when someone else is preparing a meal for me. That may seem like a cop-out, but it’s how I approach the situation. I’m planning to go an extra week into February to make it a truly vegetarian month.

But I digress – back to La Hacienda. We can’t forget about dessert! I decided to go with an apple empanada with caramel ice cream even though I was stuffed and couldn’t bare the thought of eating more. My sister had the same, and my husband ordered a fresh fruit tamale. Even though I only had a few bites, it was delicious and reminded me of an apple turn-over. The ice cream was the star, though, with ribbons of caramel throughout the rich ice cream. Yum.

The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and they certainly don’t rush you. At every restaurant we had a reservation for we arrived a few minutes early, and they were always ready to seat us. It was such a nice change of pace from restaurants around here where despite a reservation, you still wind up waiting. I’m definitely glad we decided to take a bit of a risk and book our traditional Mexico dinner at their new restaurant – it was a delicious change of pace.

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Disney’s Goofy Challenge!

When my husband and I ran the Disney half marathon last year, we became aware of the Goofy Challenge, and it’s popularity. We thought that maybe 2012 would be our year to complete it, since we were planning to run a marathon in late 2011. What is the Goofy Challenge, you may ask? Well, the Marathon weekend consists of a 5k on Friday (run mostly by families and young children), a half marathon Saturday, and a full marathon Sunday. The Goofy Challenge requires you to run the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday – you must fully complete both in order to receive the coveted Goofy Challenge medal.

Without really thinking about the strain the race would put on our bodies, coupled with an actual trip to Disney World where we planned on visiting each of the parks, we eagerly signed up for the event over the summer. We all know how our training cycles went for the marathon, so we felt less than prepared for the event. Secretly we hoped that the training and completion of the Philly Marathon a mere month and a half prior was still around, and would somehow propel us to the finish line.

Race Day 1 (Half Marathon) started just as it did last year, at about 2:45a. We awoke quietly (my sister was staying with us and we didn’t want to wake her), ate what little food we had with us (Larabar, half a bagel, and some fruit), and were on the bus to the start at Epcot by 3:20a. We arrived to the finish area, and began our trek to the start, about a 20 minute walk away. While it was by no means cold, it was chilly. Thankfully we brought mylar blankets from a previous race in an attempt to stay somewhat warm. Once we got to our corral (I was placed in C and my husband dropped back from A to run with me), we took a seat to save our legs.

The race itself was uneventful, since we had run it before. The only minor event was when I got shoved in the tunnel right by the Contemporary Resort by a middle-aged man. Usually runners are a decent bunch, especially in the happiest place on earth, but this guy was not. Both my husband and I yelled out to him and he just shrugged his shoulders and kept going. He’s lucky I didn’t face-plant. We were constantly checking our pace and having to tell one another to slow down – we wanted to run Saturday’s race as controlled as possible in hopes of saving some of our legs for Sunday. I did wind up having to take a bathroom break at around mile 8, which was the first time I’ve ever had to stop during a race. You can thank a well-timed Crohns flare-up for that fun. Thankfully I was quick, and we were back off for the final leg, finishing in 2:15. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, but we were confident we ran slowly enough to finish on Sunday without any major issues.

Since our trip wasn’t very long, we went to Animal Kingdom AND Magic Kingdom after the race on Saturday. While most people were probably relaxing and soaking their feet, we were using and abusing ours. I definitely paid for it on Sunday.

Race Day 2 (Marathon) started just like the day before. This time, though, I was exhausted and really wanted to just stay in bed. I definitely didn’t eat enough before the race – I think it might have been me being tired, not paying attention, and thinking that I wasn’t going to exert myself in the race, so I didn’t need it. I don’t care if you’re sprinting, jogging, or even walking 26.2 miles, you need proper fuel. I learned this around mile 18.

The first half was uneventful as the course went through Epcot and Magic Kingdom, where we had been the day before. I did have to stop for a bathroom break around mile 3, and I had a feeling that wouldn’t be my only stop. By the time we were halfway, the sun was out and it was STRONG. Most of the second half of the race was spent running directly into the sun. Since I’m not someone that runs with a hat/visor or sunglasses in races unless it’s 100+ degrees in the summer, I ran most of the second half squinty-eyed. This is where things went downhill.

Gettin’ my squint on

From about mile 14 to 21 I wanted to quit. It was mostly on back roads and boring – plus the temperature was creeping up. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely didn’t eat enough, and that played a major role. I gained a little momentum when we were in Animal Kingdom thanks to all the shade, but as soon as we were back out on the service roads, it was back to Negative Nancy. If my husband hadn’t been next to me making me take a Gu here and there and telling me we were doing great, I probably would have cried. I was just so exhausted and my feet were starting to really hurt. At about mile 19 I felt a huge pop on my right foot, and realized the gigantic blister that had been forming since Saturday morning burst. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. There was a moment of panic where I thought I’d have to stop and wouldn’t be able to run on it, but after a few minutes the pain seemed to go away, and I was able to run normally again.

After another bathroom break at about mile 21, I somehow caught a second wind. I don’t know if it was standing there moving from side to side in the shade that gave me the break I needed, or if it was knowing I only had about 4 miles left, but I decided to just go. After running about 10:30’s the whole race (and my two super awesome bathroom breaks), we picked it up and ran the last 4 miles ranging between 8:30 and 9:15’s. We were picking off people left and right that had passed us miles ago in what we like to refer to as our “dark moments,” and we both felt GOOD. A smaller blister popped at around mile 24, but I had no intentions of letting it slow me down. We flew through Hollywood Studios, through the Boardwalk Hotel, and the next thing we knew, we were making our final lap through the World Showcase in Epcot for the finish. We crossed the finish line hand in hand, at 4;58.

So happy to be done!

If you had told me even two years ago that I would complete a HALF marathon, I would have said no way. After I ran my first half marathon, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to do it again, let alone double it. Then somehow I ran a marathon. And then a mere month and a half later I decided to run a half marathon and a marathon in the same weekend. They were far from “good” performances, but this past weekend was just about finishing, and keeping it as enjoyable as possible (both during the race and after). I wanted to be able to say I did it, and I did! Next up is just enjoying running and keeping the solid base I have going. No grand plans for big races as of yet, but I’m sure I’ll get antsy and sign up for something soon.

Phineas and Ferb!

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Halfway Happiness

For those of you that remember, back in October I started my own little Happiness Project, outlining the next four months. I guess you could say it was like doing my resolutions early, and differently. I’m not a big resolution person, because it’s usually a way for me to set myself up for failure. I find myself with grandiose ideas and plans in my head, but usually too lazy to actually carry them out. Creativity seeps from my pores – I just need someone else to carry out the projects for me.

Anyway, December was the month of running. I wanted to run as much as I could, regardless of the distance  in preparation for the Goofy Challenge next weekend. I realized that there was little I could do to prepare myself for running 39.3 miles in 2 days, but I figured running as frequently as possible would help give me a confidence boost. I log all my mileage over at DailyMile, and am happy to report that I ran 4 times a week every week in December as promised, except for the week of Christmas. BUT, I ran 5 times the week before – so that evens out, right? Without doing any super long runs (longest was 16 miles), I was able to log my heaviest mileage month in awhile. I’ve steadily been going up since October, and hope to keep it that way.

Yes, I opened presents post sweaty run. These sweet socks will totally keep me running through the winter!

My plan is to keep my mileage relatively even throughout January, and then try to pick things up a bit come February for an April half marathon. My husband has his eyes set on a full marathon in early June, but I’m not looking for another marathon until next fall. Hopefully, though, I can keep my  mileage respectable and run closer 4 hours instead of 4:30 next marathon. But we’ll see – I just need to keep myself injury free.

January has started, and that means it’s a new goal – going vegetarian. My husband giggled at me on New Year’s Day when I moaned that I wanted pudding, but wasn’t allowed to eat it because of the gelatin. I quickly ran to the pudding asile of the grocery store to discover that instant mousse is an acceptable treat. I plan on attempting to satiate my pudding craving with some mousse in the near future. It might seem odd for someone that loves burgers so much to try out a vegetarian lifestyle, and especially just for one month. Eating less meat is something that has been on my mind for awhile, and I figured this little project would be the perfect opportunity to give it a shot for a month. Who knows if I’ll continue it after January or not, but I will have at least given it a try.

(source)

I already have a ton of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks in my possession, and have already made so many delicious things from Oh She Glows, Post Punk Kitchen, Daily Garnish, and other veggie friendly blogs. If anyone has any other great resources for recipes (especially things to eat for lunch) that would be great! I’m looking forward to a month full of veggies, beans, and grains. To be honest, that’s most of my dishes these days anyway, but forcing myself not to cop-out and have something easier (usually involving meat) should be interesting. Since I’m the cooker of the household, I am still going to prepare any meat related dish my husband wants – I’ll just leave the meat out for myself. But, since I am in charge in the kitchen, he doesn’t eat much meat anyway. It should be an interesting month!

So I’m halfway there – I baked my way through November and ran my way through December. January will be meat free, and then February will hopefully be the month of yoga. Who knows what will be next, but I’m enjoying these little monthly goals.

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I Ran Disney

For as long as I can remember, running always intrigued me. Somehow, though, I wound up a swimmer throughout high school and college. Being a part of a sport that allowed me to work individually while also contributing to a team was just what I needed as someone who is internally extremely competitive. While I could have continued swimming in a Master’s program, and haven’t yet ruled that out, I decided to take up running after college. I’ve been running now for about a year and a half, and just completed my second half marathon.

The idea of running a half and/or full marathon seemed to be more of a dream than a reality. When I started running, my focus was just to run a 5k. My first race wound up being a 4 miler, and even though I struggled, I was hooked. Running is a funny sport, at least for me, in that I feel like I always need to be one-uping myself. This means increasing the milage I race. I ran my first half marathon in April, and it was awesome. I had stumbled upon the Disney Marathon before I had even started running, and it was always a goal of mine in the back of my mind.

When my fiancé and I planned a trip to Disney with a group of friends for the very same weekend of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I just knew we had to sign up. It wasn’t really possible for us to run a full marathon yet, so we opted for the half. Training started out well, and as we all know, I had some serious injuries that put me on the back burner. First it was my ankles and Achilles, and then it moved on to my shins. Come race day, though, those pains were gone. Instead, I was left with serious pain on the top of my left foot, and in my left knee. These pains I think were just due to overcompensation for all of the other injuries my left leg was sustaining. I’m still having some trouble walking pain-free because of my foot, but hopefully the next three weeks off will help!

The half marathon race was on Saturday, so we headed down on Wednesday to enjoy a few days in the park beforehand. In retrospect, if I ran the race again, I’d prefer to head down later, and only spend one day in the parks, as I think all the walking contributed to the pain I felt during the race. However, being that I had so many injuries during the race cycle, I planned to just run this race to finish. Of course my competitive side tried it’s hardest to keep me going as fast as I could, but the second half of the race was just a little too painful, and my logical and rational side took over (good thing).

Wrapping up all my injuries

The race started early – at 5:30a. My fiancé was in corral A, while I was in corral B. The race had 27,000 registrants, with just over 23,000 that actually crossed the finish line. We had a wakeup call of 2:45a, and we were out the door by about 3:15a to catch the bus to the start line from our resort. Once we got there, we wandered around a bit, had a few Gu Chomps and a last few swigs of water, while also taking a bathroom break. From there, we shed our clothes, checked our bag, and headed to a big group of people, waiting to be allowed to make their way to the start.

Once we got to the corrals, fiancé and I said our goodbyes, and I anxiously stood in corral B. Before the race, they announced that a group over in Iraq would also be joining us, as one of the soldiers who ran the race last year was deployed, but his wife was there in Orlando to run with us. Of course, pulling on my heart strings, I had to wipe the tears away as they were able to get a satellite connection and they gave their pre-race good lucks. After that, there was a brief hello from Al Roker (who I saw when I passed by!) and other members of the Today show, that were also running. My fiancé’s corral started just after the wheelchair start with fireworks and all. About 10 minutes later, it was my turn!

I started slow, realizing the potential for pain was high, and I wanted to try and hold it off for as long as possible. Because of my lackluster training and the fact that my feet were sore just from galavanting through the parks, I kept a steady pace just under 9 minute mile almost the whole way. By about mile 6, though, the pain started. First it was my foot, then it was my knee. I managed to keep shuffling along, with the pace of each mile going up and down, sometimes still under 9 sometimes well over. Even though I was in pain, the miles still flew by. The second half of the race had some serious hills. The worst was somewhere between mile 10 and 12, where it was not only up hill, but also on an on/off ramp loop. With knee and foot pain, not being on a level surface was torture. As I saw people running by with knee straps, I was envious, thinking how nice it would feel to have some serious pressure on my left knee. Aerobically I was doing just fine, and could have pushed myself a bit more, but knew that wasn’t possible with the pain. So, I tried my best to distract myself with the surroundings, reading the different signs, checking out the spectators, and just overall enjoying the experience.

Running through Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom

Despite the pain, once we got back to Epcot, I knew it was go time. We took a loop past Spaceship Earth and to the Christmas Tree (they left the decorations up), and back out to the parking lot where I asked my tired and sore legs to push it one last time. Somehow, despite my lack of training and injuries, I managed to finish in 2:03:45, a mere minute and a half slower than my first half last April. I couldn’t be happier! I can only imagine what my race would have been like if those pains weren’t there, and even more so if I had been able to train properly. I’m really looking forward to April’s race, as I will hopefully have a successful training cycle. I’m definitely hoping to break 2 hours, maybe even 1:55!

After I crossed the finish line I got my Donald Duck medal, grabbed some water, was handed a mylar blanket, and tried to hobble around to keep my legs from tightening up. I called my fiancé, who had finished in a blazing 1:33:05! We reconnected and had our picture snapped before catching a bus back to Port Orleans, where our friends were anxiously awaiting our return. We didn’t skip a beat, hopped in the shower, guzzled some more water, and headed to Epcot for the day. After a full day in the park, we had a celebratory dinner at San Angel Inn in Mexico – yum!

Fiancé and I with our Donald medals!

On Sunday, we had the opportunity to cheer on some of the full marathoners as we headed to Animal Kingdom to start our day. We first passed them while on the bus, and I tried my best to send mental cheers. From there, I was happy to see them both in and outside the park, so we all stopped to cheer them on, and my fiancé took some pictures. The craziest part, was that there were people running the full marathon that were shouting out congratulations to us for finishing the half (we were wearing our medals)! I love how friendly and congratulatory/cheerful runners are. I really couldn’t believe there were people only at about mile 18 of their full marathon saying “congrats!” and “great job!” to us – they were the ones deserving the cheering! For the rest of the trip, we were constantly passing people with their full marathon Mickey medals, and others with their Goofy challenge medals (meaning they ran both the half AND full). It was then that both my fiancé and I realized we can, and will, run a full marathon. The hardest part will be finding a race to run. Since we’re getting married in September, it might be hard to train for something only a few weeks after the wedding and honeymoon. But, we’ll see! If anyone has any recommendations for decent marathons for first timers in the general Northeast (I’d say maybe no more than a 3 hour drive from Central NJ), I’d love to hear it!

So for now, I’m going to let my little legs (that are growing, thanks to the milage!) rest for a few weeks, and then get back at it – slow and steady of course. But I can now say I finally ran Disney. Maybe in a year or two I’ll run the full marathon… maybe even go Goofy!

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