Sunday, September 25, 2011

Earning My Tiara - Part V: Finishing Touches

Yes, 3 months of training may sound daunting, but all the hard work is really done in the first 2 months. The last 3 weeks are a time to coast a little and maintain. My longest long run was on Feb. 5 (11 miles…yowza), and then it was all a walk (nay, run) in the park from there! It was time to start making final travel plans and packing.

Traveling for a race can be stressful, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. It’s always a great idea to stay as close to the race as possible. Going to DisneyWorld is a whole other experience. The race started at 6am, but with all the activities and logistics of getting everyone to the start area, we had to be on a shuttle from our resort by 4am. Obviously, normal shuttles are not running at this hour, so it was definitely worthwhile to stay at a host hotel that would provide shuttles in the middle of the night. We really didn’t need to rent a car since we were taking the Magic Express from the airport, and even so, with much of the race run on the streets, many of the roads were closed. Since neither Kelly nor I had really been to DisneyWorld since we were 5, the odds of us knowing our way around were slim.  Disney offered a lot of host hotels at varying price points. I was tempted to stay at the Grand Floridian or Wilderness Lodge, but at almost $500/night, I just couldn’t justify it. We tried for the Port Orleans resorts, but they were sold out, so we ended up at Caribbean Beach. 

The other piece of planning was what to wear. For most races, I would say to wear something comfortable that you’ve worn for long runs and that you know works for you. You don’t want to be mid-race and discover any mystery chafing! That being said, have you seen the costumes people wear for Disney races? Let alone Disney Princess?! As much as I’d love to do a training run in a tutu and tiara, sometimes you just have to take some chances. Speaking of the tutu, seriously, who has a tutu hanging around the house? I don’t, and I certainly couldn’t justify buying one just for the race. So, against my better judgment, I headed out to Michael’s. I thought a tutu couldn’t be that hard to make. I didn’t find any tulle, but I did find some pink ribbon with shreds of tulle hanging from it that I thought could pass. I bought some and sewed it to the bottom hem of a pink running shirt so the effect was like having a very short tutu. I also found a cute rhinestone iron-on princess crown for the front. From the time I signed up for the race, since the beneficiary was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I always knew I wanted my mom to somehow be with me on race day. So, I bought a pack of iron-on letters, planning on writing “For Mom” on the back of the shirt. When I got the letters home, I realized that there was only 1 “M” in the packet (for $7…really?). So, I used a “W” upside down. Kelly kept saying “For Mow” but she said she only noticed because I pointed it out.

Full disclosure: I’m a super planner. So, I started my packing list about a week before the trip. That way, I have plenty of time to think of things that I may have forgotten initially. I also utilized a “Color Notes” app on my phone that allowed me to jot down things I thought of at any time, even if I was away from my notebook. After all the preparation you’ve done for a race, you certainly don’t want to get there and realize you forgot something like socks (or a sports bra, like a co-worker of mine did!). So, even if you’re not normally a planner, this might be one time to give it a try.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Earning my Tiara - Part IV: Ice Princess

It was actually strange in the beginning that the workouts were only 2-3 miles. They were over so fast, and it was much shorter than the normal amount of time I would spend in the gym working out. But, I also knew that just starting to rack up miles was really important, so I made a conscious effort not to overtrain those first few weeks. Now I understand why people say they gain weight when they start running!

The only redeeming quality of training in the winter is that there's not much else to do that time of year, which eliminates excuses like, "Oh, it's such a nice day, I'll go play tennis instead." But at the same time, there is a whole other set of excuses (in "whine" font): "It's negative 30 degrees outside." "There's an ice storm." Blah, blah, blah.

But seriously, it gets dark so early, and there's usually some form of frozen water on the ground here, and it doesn't take a genius to determine that darkness + snow/ice = DISASTER. So, my weeknight workouts had to be done on the treadmill. Seriously, I don't know how people use these on a daily basis. There are not enough words in the English language for how much I hate the treadmill. They're nowhere near as fun as they look on the OK Go video! It takes me longer to prepare for a 3-mile run than the actual run itself. First I have to time my trip to the gym just right so that I can be running during a TV show that I really like.

Once I've pinpointed the exact right time to get to the gym, I have to also be equipped with an iPod and magazine to keep me busy during the commercial breaks. And to make matters worse, our treadmills at work (although first...MAJOR props to my company for even having a fitness center, and making it free for all of us to use!) are up against the front wall of the cardio area, and the TVs hang directly above the treadmills, so you can't even see them. You can get one by a window if you're lucky so you can look into the hallway, or you can stare squarely at the wall. Riveting...especially after more than 2 minutes. It is incredibly clear why people say that they get bored running!

I quickly decided that I would either be unsuccessful, or at least incredibly grumpy for 3 months, if I had to do all my workouts on the treadmill. Because of the early darkness, I had no choice during the week, but one Saturday morning, I got all bundled up for a 4-miler outside. First off, running tights? Awe.some. Like full-body Spanx! Nobody loves that feeling of upper-thigh jiggle you get with running shorts. Anyway, much to my surprise, I didn't get that horribly painful cold-air-sucking throat lump I expected. The outdoor run was actually somewhat invigorating. From that point on, I did all my weekly long runs on Saturday mornings outside.

This worked out nicely since it was hunting season (seriously, when is it not?), and Adam was up and out of the house early every Saturday anyway. I could take my time on my runs and not be in a hurry to get back home. It truly became my “me” time. Even better was the feeling I got at the end of my run, knowing that I had the entire weekend ahead of me. With the crazy amount of snow we got this year, I have to also give major props to the City of Olathe. Even when the roads were still snow-covered (plowed, but not clean enough to run on), the Indian Creek Trail was perfectly cleared and safe for running. Part of why I’m successful running outside is this trail. It follows the creek, so it winds through the woods, providing great deer (and coyote…which I thought was a wolf…shut up.) sighting opportunities and shade in the summer.

I have to give a shout-out to Adam at this point, because at the beginning of my training, I warned him that for the next 3 months, I was going to have to make running a priority. He obviously didn't mind what I did on Saturday mornings, but even I have to admit that it made me a bit of a stick-in-the-mud on Friday nights. I wouldn't have more than one drink (so this is why people lose weight when they run?), and I wouldn't come anywhere near anything fried. Not that we eat that way all the time, but also part of the training process is learning what foods and habits work well with your body...and liquor and fried foods pre-run do NOT work well for me. That's a mistake you'll make only once. But the good news is that by the time the race rolled around, I knew exactly what to eat and when in order to feel good.