In Which Jenn PRs In The 10K Thanks To Southwest Airlines

Okay, I know we JUST did a post about a training run of mine and I generally try to mix it up, but I had the BEST run on Sunday – all thanks to Southwest Airlines. Naturally I simply must tell you about it.

So here’s what happened: I was going to get up at 8am and run that week’s Rock ‘n Roll virtual 10k. However, a notification popped up on my phone as I was setting my alarm: I needed to check in for my flight home to Puerto Rico at 8:55am on the dot. (For those not familiar with Southwest’s seating policies, it’s first-come first-served, with boarding groups and numbers assigned by how early you check in.)

Not wanting to stop in the middle of my run to accomplish this, I got up half an hour earlier. But as I finished dressing, hydrating, etc., I realized I would still going to need to push myself a bit if I wanted to make my time cutoff.

So I did. Rather than attempt to curtail my early-run instinct to pick up the pace, I let myself go kinda fast. And then… I continued to let myself go fast. Not sprinting, but a good clip. No reining it in or pulling it back in an effort to keep the entire thing comfortable. Hell, by the last mile I was decidedly NOT comfortable, but I also wasn’t incapable. I kept the pace and my final mile was in fact my fastest.

You know what else was my fastest? This 10k! By a full minute! During training! Not a race! I have NEVER done that! I’m STILL pleased with myself!

I have to give a shout out to the excellent running weather that morning in Maryland, where I enjoyed upper 60s temperatures the likes of which Puerto Rico may well have never seen. And an extra thank you to the parking lot of the tech school behind the house, which has only one slight incline and is otherwise an ideal running circuit.

Now I am back in Puerto Rico, where it’s hot and humid and running fast can be a challenge. But I’ll give it a go sometimes anyway. As the professionals like to tell us, to run faster you’ve just got to… run faster. Pam was right all along!

P.S. A27 and A28. Boom!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Swims The Parks Half Marathon

“It’s a biathlon,” said man behind me to his running companion around mile 4. “We’re swimming AND running!”


Indeed.

Not that any of us could be surprised – the forecast had called for rain on the day of the Parks Half Marathon for at least a week. It had rained the night before. When I woke up that morning, there was a steady stream raindrops coming down – but luckily nothing torrential.

So I slapped on a ballcap and a jacket, shoved my phone in a plastic sandwich bag, and headed out into the wet.

Pat’s boss was also running the race and was kind enough to give me a ride; he’s been running Parks for literal decades and assured me that he had run it in the rain in the past and it was fine. Potentially flooded in parts, but fine. The whole course was paved so I’d only get muddy if I went off-roading.

Not that I was too worried; it could hardly be worse than the Twilighter 8K, not to mention the Wine & Dine Half 2014, or that one time I got destroyed by car backsplash. I was a little apprehensive about the PR I was hoping for, but I figured the main thing was not to slip and break a leg.

Weather notwithstanding, we took off a few minutes after the 6:45am start time in the usual starting line crush. I lined myself up behind the 2:05 pacer guy, who would’ve been harder to keep track of in the crowd except that he had a booming voice and fancied himself something of a standup comedian. After some of the usual you-can-do-it pep talk, he launched into some jokes. Sadly, I lost him at the first water stop (I like to walk them), but I kept my chin up and kept going.


The first few miles wound through some local neighborhoods before we enter the woods of Rock Creek Park (major emphasis on the creek – it was practically a river with the recent rainfall). It was a little hard to control my temperature, but I kept zipping my jacket up/down/up/down and plugged away feeling really good.

The reality of the situation hit me around mile 4: I saw a guy sitting on the side of the trail cradling his head in his hands, a medic crouching over him. He looked long and lean, and I surmised that he was one of the speedy front-runner types – and in his speed had slipped and fallen on the slippery asphalt. This taught me greater caution and I was determined to proceed with care.

This mostly played out in the puddles. Now, I wasn’t too bothered by the puddles – yes, I got wet and cold and splashed, but I was already wet and cold and splashed, so whatevs, y’know? But around mile 7 I started encountering puddles that were starting to turn into ponds. I’m talking six inches deep of water with no visible bottom. I feared that if I ran through them in the regular fashion I might catch on the uneven pavement, so I wound up high-stepping through them like some sort of demented Clydesdale. I probably lost a good 30-60 seconds in this fashion, but I also didn’t fall on my face, so I’m calling it a win.

I pounded through a few more miles, up “high five” hill (where the high-five was station halfway up and I found that VERY MISLEADING), through a water station where I randomly ran into a coworker who was volunteering, and past a couple of magnificent spectators dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible if Pixar had included ponchos in their costumes. 

I was getting tired but keeping the pace… when I glanced down and noticed that my GPS watch had kicked out. I paused and unpaused it and that seemed to help, but I lost, oh, 3-5 minutes.

And as it happened, who did I see ahead of me? Why, it was 2:05 pacer guy! As far as I could tell he had lost basically his entire pace group, but maybe they were just straggling a bit. I ran up to him and requested his mileage count, he told me we had about half a mile to go, and I… ran ahead of him. Me! Ahead of the 2:05 pacer!

So that was nice. I funneled myself into the chute for the finish line, encouraged by local cheerleaders, and headed toward the end. The clock time showed 2:04 and change as I crossed, so even though my GPS was off I knew I was making my PR anyway. My official course time is posted at 2:02:59 – just made that 2:03 cutoff!

I immediately hit the bathroom and then found my friend and fellow runner Sarah. We grabbed some watermelon from the massive amount of available post-race food and then proceed to run the 4 miles home, just like last year. I mean, it’s not like we could get any wetter.

Have you ever run the Parks Half? Just exactly how the hell am I supposed to run a half under 2 hours, anyway?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Recaps The Wrightsville Beach Marathon

And now for a tale of triumph! Comparatively speaking!


My traditional fitful pre-race night’s sleep led to me bouncing out of bed before my alarm (still got to sleep until very nearly 5am which for a runDisney enthusiast is a tremendous luxury). I quickly dressed and gathered my stuff, then bolted down some breakfast and headed out.

Race day weather promised to be beautiful, partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s, although chilly to start. My dad dropped me off at the start about 45 minutes ahead of gun time, and I wrapped myself in my leftover runDisney space blanket and walked laps around the staging area to keep the blood moving.

About half an hour before the scheduled start there was a muffled announcement; what I think happened was that the shuttles from race parking broke down or something like that? And they were delaying start to make sure they got everyone to the corrals in time. We only ended up waiting an extra ten minutes, which wasn’t too bad. A quick national anthem from a violinist, a race prayer (awww, the South!), and we were off.

At which point I immediately needed to pee. This happens to me WAY TOO OFTEN of late but I need to figure out how to better manage my fluids, but there wasn’t anything to do except hold it until I found a suitable porta potty. Meanwhile dude were stopping off to the side to demonstrate their superior aiming abilities; maybe I should just start lugging a funnel with me.

Aside from that, the first few miles were uneventful. The half and full started together, so the course was a bit crowded, but not debilitatingly so. We were directed into the local gated community, Landfall, which I thought was sort of interesting; apparently the rich people of Wilmington are okay with letting a bunch of runners clog their roads for several hours? And it seemed like they were indeed largely fine with it, as many people were out spectating.

We emerged from Landfall, and I hit the bathrooms around mile 3, where the first relay handoff was – a bit early if you ask me, but nobody did. I multi-tasked by shedding my throwaway layer and took off again.

The next area of note was downtown Wrightsville Beach, and this is probably a good time to apologize for not taking any photos. That’s ’cause my phone battery has SUCKED lately and I needed to conserve it for later if I needed to call my parents or an Uber. That being said, we never actually saw the beach OR the ocean, marathon name notwithstanding, and aside from a few piers and a lake nothing was all that noteworthy from a visual perspective. 

Where was I? Oh yes, the downtown area. We passed multiple shops and restaurants before running across a bridge and through some neighborhood areas… and then somehow we ended up downtown again? And also somehow it had turned into an out-and-back?

I saw a pace group leader headed toward me, on the back part as I ran out. I craned my neck around to see what his timing was.. and he was doing 3:40. Almost an hour ahead of me. One of the longest out-and-backs of my life.

But at least there was reasonably interesting scenery, and I was amused to see the same restaurants and shops three times in a race, not to mention the bewildered tourists who were just trying to swing into town for some breakfast. Super bonus points for the girl in the inflatable T-Rex suit, who was there for all three downtown drive-bys and gave me an enthusiastic high-five.

Points to the race organizers: at the turnaround point they had officials carefully taking note of which bib numbers were passing by, lest anyone try to cheat. Gotta keep those race results honest!

From there we cruised down some streets until about mile 8, when the half split off to head toward the finish while the marathoners (and relay folks) trudged on. Those of us in it for the long haul were directed into a pretty back neighborhood along a marina. As I emerged from a wooded trail onto the street, I was greeted by a small cheering section of locals. “You don’t even look tired!” declared a very nice man who really should’ve stuck around to see how I looked around mile 24.

A few streets over and I was hitting that halfway point, and feeling pretty solid for all that. I was a little sad not to have music (battery conservation again), so I cheered myself up by pretending I was running the WDW Marathon again. Since it’s mile 13, I said to myself, you’d be passing the Thirsty River Bar and Expedition Everest right about now. I continued to use this tool to bolster my spirits throughout the race and it even kind of worked.

Through the whole race aid stations were solid, offering water, Gatorade, and gels at reasonable intervals. Which reminds me, just before the mile 16 station I saw a girl stop suddenly and blow chunks onto the road. She apologized to me – I assured it it wasn’t necessary and asked after her status – and she assured me she was all right. I hope things ended well for her.

I plodded on, beginning to feel the length of things but still in decent spirits. So far I was on track to PR – and, if I was very lucky – PR hard. I adjusted my A goal to be 4:35 or under, a new record by well over ten minutes but some quickly mental math told me as long as I didn’t slow down too much I could do it!

Mile 20 brought with it music, a pirate randomly positioned by the side of the course, an aid station – and confusion. See, I saw the 20 mile marker, took like 10 more running steps… and saw the 23 mile marker. Fearful I had missed something important (like, oh, a few miles), I backtracked just a little and asked a bystander if they knew what was going on. She assured me that I would be running the same section twice, and like that the course map lit up in my head – she was totally right and I had just forgotten. 

So I marched forward, my feet beginning to hurt a bit but enjoying the lakeside scenery. From there we wound up in neighborhoods again, some with just enough incline to make me a bit sad; but seeing as how the course had been fairly flat overall, I couldn’t really complain. 

The course split again a bit later, with those who had already completed two loops of the completed portion bearing left to head toward the finish (lucky jerks). Those of us on loop one headed to the right, and as we neared completion of lap 1 a group of volunteers gave us wristbands. These wristbands were our ticket to head toward the finish upon lap 2 as described above. As I said, the race organizers were very on top of potential cheating. And hey, free wristband!

So I made it to the final stretch, slowly but steadily pounding toward UNC Wilmington. As it always does, by mile 25 my spirits were lifting, and I actually found it easier to get through than some previous miles.

When we turned onto the UNCW campus for the final stretch I was feeling pretty spent. But the sight of the finish line galvanized me, and somehow without even thinking about it I picked up significant speed, powering past the finish line for an official gun time of… wait for it… 4:33:06. BAM. New PR by like 14 minutes!!!

And so as you might imagine I finished my tenth marathon feeling rather more pleased with myself than I probably deserved. All that running outside has paid off, people? … Oh, crud. Now that I run outside, how can I improve more? Is there, like, a outer-outside I can start running in?

Unfortunately the medals had gotten lost in the mail, so I didn’t receive one upon completion (they’re sending it to me). I did get a small reusable tote with some snacks, and there was also a runners-only room set up with additional food, including sodas, chips, muffins, and hot oatmeal. One of the pre-race emails had warned there would NOT be pizza this year, which leads me to believe that there HAS been pizza in previous years, and I was kinda bummed by its omission. Maybe next year!

The runners-only area also had a massage area, and there was a beer tent somewhere around, but I was tired and kinda just wanted the Reese’s egg and coffee I knew were waiting for me at my parents’ house. So I picked up an Uber and headed home.

And that was my Wrightsville Beach Marathon experience! I liked it – pretty flat course, good volunteer support, good location. I could do with some better scenery, but hey, they can’t all be at WDW. I would probably do it again.

ASSUMING THERE’S PIZZA.

Do you think anyone wants to take a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these pants?!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: The 2018 WDW Marathon

Mini trip report! Read all the posts in this report here.

In the immortal words of Salieri: And then, a miracle!


I love the WDW Marathon. Just thinking about it fills me with joy. But in the middle of the race I thought it might be my worst one yet… and then it ended up being my best marathon ever. Let’s talk about it! (Because you know I’m dying to.)

I woke up at the crack of 2:45am courtesy of the hotel wakeup call (which was Mickey again; I kinda missed Baymax). I dressed quickly and was out the door before 3:10am as the race guide now said we had to be on the buses by 3:30am to make our races on time. It used to be 4am, so that was new.

There wasn’t much of a line and I was on a bus and at the staging area with all speed. As per usual a DJ was trying to pump people up and it was kind of working. Dopey and Mickey and Goofy were all available for photos, but the lines were too long to bother with. And there was now a controlled line for the merch tent, so no warming up in there.

Speaking of warming up, temperatures were in the low 40s, so, brisk. But I brought a throwaway sweatshirt and top and compared to the temps of last year it really wasn’t so bad. For running it would probably be ideal; I just had to slog through an hour or so of pre-race chilliness.

The walk to the corrals felt unusually long this year but I’m sure it was the same as usual. I hit up the porta potties before taking my place toward the front of corral C. A DJ (the same DJ? I honestly couldn’t tell you) led us through some dance styles before the usual runDisney team showed up to do the announcement stuff. 

You know, it occurs to me that they haven’t trotted out Sean Astin in awhile. Is he still doing these races?

Finally it was time to start the race, and the announcers informed us they would be sending off each wave with a different Disney song from the last 25 years to commemorate the 25th running of the marathon. I hope and prayed and IT HAPPENED: as I crossed the start line, “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from Mulan was blasted over the speakers! AMAZING.


That probably made me start off too fast, but whatever – I started off the race in a lovely mood, mouthing the lyrics to myself and grinning ear to ear. We followed the usual course, passing a high school band as we ran away from Epcot and toward the Magic Kingdom. 

I snagged a Move It Shake It stiltwalker high five before passing under the MK parking lot entrance. 


My plan was to stop for the photo op with Jack Skellington and Sally and take my hoodie off while waiting, but they weren’t there this year. Instead it was a couple villainesses. But I figured, what the hell, this is what Disney races are for – so I stopped for some pictures. The Dapper Dan behind me was kind enough to hold my Figment ears while I pulled off my hoodie.


Soon enough we were running into the Magic Kingdom proper (via the front entrance – that normally the case?). I ran down Main Street toward the castle and felt that very specific joy only the marathon can bring.


We hung a right into Tomorrowland before swinging through Fantasyland and on into Liberty Square, where I kept a lookout for JJ and Sam Eagle – but this year they weren’t out. That seemed to be a bit of a theme for this section of the race in particular. I saw no Country Bears, and Brer Fox and Brer Bear of two years ago hadn’t made their return.

During this period I kinda had to pee. This was fine; I traditionally stop during every marathon at the restrooms between Fantasyland and Frontierland. But – issue! The line for the Woody photo op stretched across the entrance. Blast. And wouldn’t you know it, that was the last real bathroom opportunity. Luckily the next set of porta potties were fairly near, and since most people had already gone in the parks there was no real line. I didn’t lose too much time. At least not as much as I lost mucking up the angles on the Maleficent float photo op.


Up to that point I was feeling gooood. Probably too good – a victim of the adrenaline and excitement that makes runners start marathons too speedily. I started the beginning of my first decline a little past here, around mile 9. Very early in the race for a wall, I know. Probably the sewage treatment plant didn’t help.

I perked up considerably on a stretch of road dedicated to extinct attractions. My hopes rose when I heard the original Journey Into Imagination theme song – would they trot out Dreamfinder? But alas, it was just part of a music loop. Some old ride vehicles met me but no lost loves.


I did run across some denizens of the late lamented Adventurer’s Club, and while I never got a chance to patronize this establishment personally I have a sort of surrogate fondness for it; I stopped for a photo. KUNGALOOSH! we all cried.


Then we were heading into Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where I got my obligatory shot with the Festival of the Lion King performers. I also stopped for photos with Timon and Rafiki and King Louis, and yes, at mile 13.1 the bar was open!


It was too early to ride Everest, so I rolled out of Serka Zong, past the Rivers of Light area and into Dinoland USA before exiting the park. While leaving DAK is of course sad, the line of spectators that hang out by the entrance is a nice pick-me-up. Unfortunately this is followed by what I now consider to be the worst stretch: the miles between DAK and ESPN Wide World of Sports.

This is where I hit my second, admittedly smallish wall. Well, it’s not so much that I hit a wall as that my morale dips. Anyway, my mood was dipping here. My IT Band was holding up nicely but my entirely right leg just kinda generally felt unhappy. My split times up to that moment, while not terrible, weren’t great, and I anticipated continuing slippage as the race progressed; I’d never managed negative splits at marathon distance. Maybe this is a universal feeling. Maybe that’s why the Haunted Mansion gravediggers are always positioned here.


Nevertheless I trudged along. There was a time when I considered the WWoS area to be the worst part of the marathon, but last year I rather enjoyed it and this year it cheered me up to a surprising degree. I stopped for a photo with Minnie but my cell phone shot sucked so we’re just gonna skip past it.

We ran on the track before hitting one of the back roads, where an entertaining DJ regaled us with some dry humor. He welcomed us to “the middle of nowhere” and then fielded suggestions about what could make the area more interesting, including a bread factory but NOT a bacon factory because that’s a slaughterhouse and that’s no good.

This might be a good time to note that one of the things I find amusing at the WDW Marathon is all the swearing. By this point in the race there were f bombs flying left and right and it made me laugh because you’d so be in trouble on a normal day in WDW. But it’s marathon so yippy-ki-yay mother******.

After a jaunt through the baseball stadium we exited WWoS – and that, of course, when you know you’re in the home stretch. An announcer had recently informed us, around mile 19, that the back of the pack was just getting to mile 8, so I was feeling pretty good. In fact, I was feeling weirdly good. The green army man barely needed to encourage me up the hill (although he did beat me to the top).

Then we were there – in the Studios! And I started to feel that feeling – the super happy giddy feeling that is not only a runner’s high but a runDisney high. By the time you get to the Studios the parks are open and random people are there to cheer you on. My leg issues had somehow worked themselves out. I was getting call outs for Figment left and right, and one guy in Mickey gloves requested a Figment fist bump.

We ran out of the Studios and onto the path to the Boardwalk, and while I knew exactly how far I had to go I was thrilled. By some great miracle, I was on track to beat my personal record. I KNOW! With all those photo stops and everything! This was filling me with wonder, and the always amazing Boardwalk area spectators were fabulous too. They were encouraging me – one lady even told me I had good energy AND looked pretty, which at mile 24 of a marathon is NOT A THING but it made me smile.

Then we ran into Epcot, where some incredible genius had decided to replace the usual Epcot background music with Disney songs – and as I entered the park “Go the Distance” from Hercules was playing. Delightfully apropos!

But next… oh, man, I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. Next was “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, my Song of the Training Cycle, and it was perfect. My brain practically turned over in my skull, such was my ecstasy, running through World Showcase to the song I had daydreamed my race to so many times. My throat convulsed and I nearly cried. I DIDN’T, but wow. That feeling. Such a good feeling. This is why Disney gets all our money, people.

Mulan had no line in the China pavilion and I normally would’ve stopped for a photo, but I had a PR in my sights and I was feeling fabulous; there was no stopping now. We did make eye contact, and she called out that she liked my Figment ear helmet. See? Best race ever.

I ran out of World Showcase and down the bridge, past Spaceship Earth as the song faded out, replaced by “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin. Then between the gospel singers, the finish line in sight… and I punched it, high-fiving Chip or Dale or maybe an imposted chipmunk who even knows because I WON THE RACE AGAINST MYSELF. 4:47:44, kids! That’s a PR of like 9 minutes! At the WDW MARATHON where I stop ALL THE DAMN TIME!!!

I was so happy. SO HAPPY. And I must’ve looked freakin’ happy, because as I was intercepted by the runDisney media team and briefly interviewed about my race. I’m not sure where it’ll appear if anywhere, but I’m sure I sounded like an idiot. There was a joyous tremor in my voice as I spat out words of praise at a mile a minute. 

I’m gonna stop here because as per usual I am longwinded as hell. Needless to say this race was AWESOME. I’ll never consider not running it again!

Up next: my time in the finisher’s village and some roaming around Disney Springs.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Has An Excellent Parks Half Marathon

I didn’t mention this half much in advance of my running it, and here’s why: I didn’t want to jinx myself. I’ve gone into races with fanfare before, bellowing about how I was going to crush it, and wound up crushingly disappointed. Which is guess is tangentially related, but not really what I’m going for.

Well, the Parks Half went great. But I don’t feel 100% good about it. Run with me.

I woke up to a near perfect race day: morning lows in the mid-50s with a predicted high of the low 70s, meaning a brisk morning perfect for running. I jumped out of bed, gathered my race stuff, and picked up a ride from Pat’s boss (he was also running the race and lives close by and he kindly offered, which was nice).

The course was different from the first time I ran it, so we had a little further to drive – all the way down to Shady Grove. Pat’s boss graciously dropped me off by the start line and I did my usual thing: porta potty stop, Swedish Fish snack, dancing around in a giant throwaway sweatshirt because I’m cold.

I found my fellow runner/friend Sarah and we chatted a little before race start, which was pretty unceremonious – if there was a pre-race anthem or announce we couldn’t really hear it. At the last minute I decided to take one more quick bathroom jaunt. I was unable to pee then but immediately wanted to five minutes later and basically the rest of the race. Oh well.

Anyway, the race started and we took off down the road. The first mile or two was in residential neighborhoods that quickly gave way to a trail around Needwood Lake. This portion in particular was a little hillier than I would like, especially in contrast to the downhill start of the old course, but thanks to my hill training I was fine.

Once we left the lake area things started to flatten out helpfully, but otherwise the course wasn’t terribly interesting. There were a few stretches of spectators, including two dressed as pirates and one as Mr. Incredible. I did kinda like this bridge:

Past the bridge we made it back into the eponymous county parks that comprised the whole of the former course. It was a little weird remembering seeing the same stretch but at a completely different point in the race; I was constantly experiencing strong deja vu with the caveat that it all should’ve happened earlier.

This unfortunately meant that the famous Silencer, a hill that’s not terrible but not NOT terrible, came several miles later in the race, which of course isn’t what you want. But a group of children had renamed it High Five Hill and offered such with off-brand Mickey gloves, so that was good for morale.

For almost all of the race I hung with the 2:10 pacer, and that mostly worked fine. The vast majority of our miles came in under 10 minutes, which was great, although maybe if I hadn’t needed to pee I could’ve been faster…? What can ya do. Regardless, around mile 11 I picked up a little speed and left the group in the dust. It was passin’ time! (And time to be passed, but they can’t all be winners.)

Now comes the bit I feel uncertain about. My GPS watch showed just under 13 miles when I turned the corner and saw… the finish line? Usually my GPS clocks MORE mileage than a half, so I was totally taken aback when I finished the race and saw 12.98 on the screen. Only .12 off, but still. Mind you, it’s a legit course, and I know that GPS isn’t 100% all-the-time reliable, but it makes me a little uncomfortable with my PR…

Oh yeah, my new PR! My originally record stood from my last Parks Half, and it was 2:10:21. This time around I blew past that number with an official finish of 2:06:46. Is that right…? I mean, I did almost match my old PR on a very hilly ZOOMA course, so maybe…?

There was a ton of food and water and other stuff at the finish line, but I had a different plan for my post-race activity. I found Sarah and we proceeded to… RUN HOME.

More on that in a later post. In the meantime, I really hope my GPS just suffered a brief hiccup because I want the PR.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Week In Review: 9/12

Greetings, friends! I come to you as the humble bearer of a brand new personal record in the half marathon. Hotcha!

But more about that tomorrow. For now, let’s check in on the training log:

Sunday | ran 5.54 miles outside in 60 minutes
And then I saw Counting Crows and Matchbox 20 at Jiffy Lube Live! Gotta say, while I’m waaaay more of CC fan, MB20 had far superior showmanship. Rob Thomas knows how to present.

Monday | ran 5.48 miles outside in 60 minutes
Humid, but I wanted to front load my training at the beginning of the week so as to have plenty of rest days before the Parks Half.

Tuesday | walked 2.17 miles outside in 35 minutes; 70 minute ballet class

Wednesday | ran ran 5.48 miles outside in 60 minutes

Thursday | walked 2.07 miles outside in 35 minutes; 70 minute ballet class

Friday | walked 2.11 miles outside in 35 minutes

Saturday | rest, mostly
I did a little bit of ab work but hardly anything worth noting. Then it was off to bib pickup for Sunday’s half. It’s a local race but one with a pretty far reach, and the sports store where the hold pickup was mobbed. It was way too crowded to do any shopping, but I did snag an old race pint glass for $1. Sure, it’s for the year before I first ran it, but $1!

And in amusement park news, I just snagged a Groupon for tickets to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, so look for that recap coming in a month or so. It’s dive coaster time!

Roundup:

easyWDW continues full coverage of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival and I want it all and I don’t get any and I’m very jealous and sad. 🙁
Disney In Your Day begins to report back on the festival as well.
Jambo Everyone visits one of my favorite WDW bars, Nomad Lounge in DAK.
The Disney Tourist Blog parses out the differences between visiting WDW at Halloween vs. Christmas.
Disney Adulting takes a deep dive into the history of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Has A Disappointing Marine Corps Marathon

I don’t know. Maybe I jinxed myself. But I can tell you exactly why I posted about my marathon PR bid last week: I thought for sure it was going to happen.

Oh, no question. Hadn’t I trained better and harder? Hadn’t I carefully avoided injury? Hadn’t my 20 miler gone a million times better? Hadn’t I set myself for pre-race success, with several days of sports drinks and multiple alarms and a determination to run the whole bridge? I mean, last year was a laughable comedy of errors! This year HAD to be my year! CLIF STILL HAD THE 4:45 PACE BANDS FOR ONCE! Was that not a sign???

Well, kids: it wasn’t.

It all started off auspiciously enough: Metro being what it was, Pat’s boss (who was also running) offered to drive me to one of the shuttle pickup spots in exchange for my navigation assistance. I woke up on time. He met me on time. The shuttle line was loooooong, but I still made it to the start line with a good hour to spare. I lined up where I belonged. I waited patiently. And when I started… I was slow.

Like, National Capital 20 Miler slow. Trail slow. Like, at the start of the race I should be reining myself in and still about a minute faster out of adrenaline why the hell am I going so slow. I didn’t feel bad – no pains or fatigue – I just had no snap. No crackle. NO POP AT ALL.

And that could probably describe the first, say, 17 miles of the race. There were bright spots of course, like running through Georgetown where a band was playing Billy Joel’s song about being a lunatic, which I enjoyed; and the spectators are always great. I met up with Pat on the mall and that cheered me up considerably. But I was clocking snail miles.

Quick interlude because I don’t know where else to put it: I saw like six dead rats on the course, squashed as roadkill. Which is odd seeing as how the roads are closed prior to the race. Did someone bring a box of dead rats and toss them as every few miles as they ran?

Anyway. I came to my traditional sticking point: the 14th St bridge that must be beaten or be swept! This long monstrosity had slowed me to a walk two years in a row, but this year I was determined. No more. I was going to run it. Barring water stops, I was going to run this whole marathon!

And I conquered that bridge. I ran it as planned. I stared in the face of every incline and refused to blink.

It might have been a bad idea.

At this point in the race, three things started to happen. The first to set in was a new one for me: dehydration. Temperatures were very VERY unseasonably warm for DC – the high for the day was 78. And as the sun rose in the sky, so did my thirst. I was taking a Gatorade and two waters at every water stop and wanting more a half mile later. I even took a mini cup of beer from a spectator, which is not usually the sort of thing I want during the race but at that point I was ready to accept just about any cold liquid.

The second problem to hit was my GPS watch. Despite its previous battery track record of making it upward of 5:30 (albeit on its last legs), it died on me at about the 4:15 mark. Now I had no feedback regarding my times, be they per mile or overall.

These things were not helpful. But even less helpful was my body. Sure, I was experiencing the standard discomfort that comes with running a marathon, including foot soreness and a touch of stiffness. I expect that, though. I can power through that. The real issue was, quite suddenly and sincerely, the base of my spine; or, to be more specific but self-diagnosing, I believe it was where the base of my spine meets my pelvis. For no foreseeable reason, it decided to start hurting.

So I did the unthinkable but ultimately, probably, the wise thing: I stopped and walked a bit. But this wasn’t how I wanted it to go down, so I tried to do some intervals. As soon as I started running, there it was – SPINE PAIN. It felt like it desperately needed to be cracked but couldn’t, instead sticking me with not a stabbing pain but a definite, disconcerting twinge. I would run a couple steps, then stop and walk again. Luckily I only had like a mile and half left at this point, but it was not good for my morale, especially since I had no idea how long I had been running (thanks, GPS battery).

I did know Pat was waiting for me just beyond the tunnel before the finish, and leading me to him was a beautiful downhill section. I tightened my core, leaned slightly in the direction that lessened my spine discomfort, and started running again.

Luckily this loosened me up a bit, and after a quick cheer-up kiss from Pat I headed for the finish, even managing to run up that awful hill. As I came upon the finish the announcer said my name, which was nice, and after a quick high-five from the Marine Corps bulldog mascots I passed under the wire.

I was allowed to download this specific image for free.
Only this one. Gee, thanks.

I was okay. It was okay. Except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t the race I had wanted at all. A very nice Marine put my medal around my neck and asked me how I felt. “Like I could’ve done better,” I said like the ingrate I am, and he kindly comforted me with the fact that I was finished and also not dead or broken, which is true. Hey, no matter what I ran a marathon, right?

Pat made this same point. And to be honest, I wasn’t disappointed in myself. I hadn’t made any huge mistakes. I hadn’t done anything overly dumb. I had trained hard and tried hard.

No, I wasn’t disappointed with myself. But I was generally disappointed. I didn’t cry or anything, but I couldn’t quite keep the wobble out of my voice as I described my experience to him. I was so sure it was going to be my day and here I was, SLOWER than I had been in my past two outings.

Here’s the thing, though. As it turns out, I wasn’t actually as behind as I thought I was – only about 40 seconds slower than my previous neck-and-neck times. If my GPS hadn’t failed and I had known that, I might’ve pushed myself. I might’ve shaved at least a few second off my time after all. On the other hand, though, had I pushed, would that have escalated my spine issue into a more permanent problem? I don’t know.

I’m not sure what went wrong, to be honest. It might’ve been the warm weather, leading to my subsequent hydration problems. Maybe I didn’t taper enough. Maybe I have a low-level cold. No idea what’s up with my spine, although thankfully it hasn’t given me any post-race trouble worth noting. All I know is that I thought that I had this PR in the bag, and I whiffed it, and I’m sad.

You know what makes me happy, though? Walt Disney World! And you know who’s headed to Walt Disney World? ME! This Saturday! For the Wine & Dine Half Marathon! Which may or may not be terrible due to having run a marathon just a week prior but whatever because DISNEY!

And in other news, I’m in the market for a new GPS watch.

Did you run the Marine Corps Marathon? How did your race go? Pat says his boss said he had a bad race too, but maybe yours was better? Tell me your hydration secrets!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Tackles Marathon #5 On Sunday

Okay.

So.

This Sunday is the Marine Corps Marathon.

This is my third one, so I should not be nervous.

I am not nervous.

I am NOT nervous. I know I can do it.

In fact, I feel more confident going in than I ever have before. Injuries? None! Training? Solid! 20 mile prep race? Not bad! Weather? Unusually warm which most people won’t like but I’m into it and no rain predicted so far! Course changes? May even trick me into a morale boost!

I think, maybe, there might be a PR in it for me.

Just maybe.

Therefore: am I nervous about running this marathon? Not really, no.

Am I nervous because I want to run a PR? Yes.

And that’s where I am going into this race.

Wish me luck!

Are you running the MCM? Where’s your head at?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is Ready To Kick Butt This Race Season

Here’s an interesting idea: I think I may be in a position to crush my race season this year.

Okay, maybe crush is too strong. Squash? Cause to buckle? Apply a lot of pressure to? Anyway, I think I’m the best position I’ve been since my running career began.

I made my summer productive; I got my training in. I hear the Navy-Air Force Half is pretty flat, and after my reasonably good performance in the ZOOMA Annapolis Half O’ Hills I almost wonder – is a PR afoot?

And no more lackluster 14 miler to lead into my 20 mile run a la last year! Nope, this time I smoked a 17 miler and am ready to kill this year’s National Capital 20 Miler.

That of course leads directly into my performance at the Marine Corps Marathon. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon, with its mere one week of buffer time between, does raise some potential complications, but by that point I’m cruising through a runDisney race and who cares how fast I am, right?

I gotta be careful though. Can’t get cocky. Can’t get injured. Can’t overextend in one race only to blow another. And above all: I cannot sleep through my alarm.

The Navy-Air Force Half is this Sunday, everybody. Wish me luck!

P.S. I AM KNOCKING ON ALL THE WOOD RIGHT NOW.

How are you feeling about your race season?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Recaps The Parks Half Marathon

I was standing under an eave watching the rain come down when Pat picked me up to take me to the Parks Half Marathon start line (have I ever mentioned that my boyfriend is the best ever?). This would seem an inauspicious beginning, I needn’t have feared – it was to be a perfect day for running.
The Parks Half begins at the Metro station in Rockville, MD, about 15 traffic-free minutes away from where I live. It’s a small-ish affair, run by a county road running association, and there’s no big expo or anything. Still, it’s enough of a local running community institution that it attracts a decent crowd, and all your basic needs are there – port-a-potties, water stops, med tents, pacers.
I found my friend Sarah while walking to the start area, and we took a moment to consider our start time. The Parks half has no corrals, but you can get an idea of your preferred placement based on where the pacers are standing and then groups are released in waves. 
I had originally planned to locate the 2:15 pacer, but I didn’t see that sign. I DID see the 2:10 pacer, and despite the fact that this was rather a stretch for me I figured what the heck, why not go for it? Sarah was uncertain about this pace herself but decided to stick with me.
Important Plot Point: up to that moment my PR for the half was 2:14:39.
The race starts with a small road portion that is almost all downhill, and our pacer warned us not to use up too much juice too soon therefore. I managed to stick with her for the first two miles before losing her (and Sarah) and the first water stop. From then on it was back to status quo: on my own!
It was also time for the trail. The course winds through the various parks of Montgomery County, including Rock Creek Park and the Capital Crescent trail. I wouldn’t describe any of it as hilly, but it definitely wasn’t completely flat; early on in the course was High Five Hill, which was not too long but fairly steep. Those who successfully made it to the top were rewarded with high fives from kids wearing white Mickey gloves. Naturally this made me feel much more at home.
On that note: there wasn’t a ton of entertainment on the course, barring a smattering of spectators and unofficial acts (shout out to Captain Jack Sparrow and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible!). But there was a pianist, so that’s new, I guess?
Aside from that, you’re running through woods and past parks. Interesting note: none of these are closed. This means that a lot of people there to use the park are confused, and also there were people out for training runs on the same trail, generally going in the opposite direction. I didn’t witness or hear about any collisions, though, so I suppose that’s all right. 
The last two miles or so are a verrrrry gradual uphill, known as The Silencer. I actually didn’t think it was that bad, as the upward incline was reasonably gentle, but it was certainly long. I can’t say I had much left in the tank and The Silencer wasn’t helping, but I was also aware that my GPS watch was telling me good things and it was NOT quitting o’clock. I kept it rolling and – lost pacer or no lost pacer – finished at 2:10:35. This is per my watch, as the official times aren’t out yet, but still: PERSONALLLLL RECORDDDDDDD.
Get a load of these split times!
Mile 1 9:50 Mile 8 10:05
Mile 2 9:34 Mile 9 9:43
Mile 3 10:03 Mile 10 9:46
Mile 4 10:22 Mile 11 10:11
Mile 5 9:57 Mile 12 10:01
Mile 6 10:02 Mile 13 10:02
Mile 7 9:52 Mile .1 1:07

Hardly super speedy by comparison to many and I’ve still got a lot of work to do if I ever want to get in on this whole “negative split” thing people like to talk about, but pretty consistent. Not too shabby for me!

I wish I could compare these to my previous PR split times, but alas, during the Tinker Bell Half I forgot to start my watch until a quarter mile or so in. 
Finishing came with some snazzy premiums, including a nice fleece head wrap and a medal that doubles as a bottle stopper. Top that, runDisney!

There was water at the finish, but sadly no Gatorade. 🙁 There was also a ton of free food if you were willing to stand in line for it, but it was all lunch food. I do not want Italian sausage and pasta with marinara at 9:30 in the morning, thank you very much. Pat picked me up and we had breakfast at Tastee Diner with his boss who had also run. WAFFLES FTW.
And then we walked home, because the race finish was in downtown Bethesda and THAT’S WHERE I LIVE. Request: all races should end where I live from now on.
So yeah! That was a very successful race for me. But here’s the thing: I didn’t at any point feel GREAT. It wasn’t a super tough slog or anything. I felt mentally and physically strong. But at no point was I like, WHEEEE! I’M RUNNING! I’M A BEAST! I was definitely working the whole time. Add to that the fact that the course was not 100% flat and I am pleased to say that I am cautiously optimistic that this is not the end of PRs for me. Marine Corps Marathon, I’m coming for you. Whaddya say to 4:45?
Jenn is running the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon for the Diabetes Action Team. Will you help her earn her bib while fighting diabetes? Click here to make your tax-deductible donation.


Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!