The Hills Are Alive...

Hello all,

With new races right around the corner and one that will definitely have me pushing my limits both due to climbing and altitude I've been making an effort to hit the trails and hit 'em hard. Along the way I've found myself loving the challenge of trail running but it's been a struggle and I still have lots to learn!

Here are my thoughts on trail running and why I love it so much!

The Good and Beautiful

1. The Beauty - I'm going to start with the easy one to get it out of the way. Running on trails in the woods with birds and trees >>> Running on roads near smelly cars with bikers whizzing by

Trails are gorgeous and quiet. I still take my iPod with me (it's my crutch) but it's still awesome to get out into nature and just "BE". You feel super bad@$$ jumping logs and rocks and you see other hikers and runners out and most say hi! It's amazing. The beauty is the top reason to try trail running!

2. The Sense of Pride - Anyone can run on flat roads. I'm not saying it's easy but it takes another level of crazy to get out there and do some serious climbing and "deal with nature" rather than zoning out on a paved path. The climbing and the path planning are all what make trail running special. It engages the mind more and can just be fun! Sometimes I feel like a little goat springing from rock to rock. There is just more "play" in trail running.

3. It's New - There is just something great about having new goals, challenges, and discoveries and trail running has brought that to me. I've been running for 5+ years now and well this is opening up a whole new chapter in running for me. I get to explore and see beautiful vistas and feel awesome about that. Trail running just makes you feel like a bad@$$. It's crazy and beautiful and that's why it's awesome!

Some discoveries can also be made at the Ranger Huts at the trail head! Fear the beaver!!!

The Things I'm Still Adjusting To

1. The Pace - My "normal" trail run right now requires some serious climbing (about 1.5k each way) and because of this, it started messing with my head.

"Should I be going faster? Should I be going slower? Should I be walking? I'm breathing pretty hard..."

Elevation can be killer...

I know that climbing means I'm going to be slower but I'm still learning what pushes the limit and what just exhausts me and is unsafe. To say that I'm not competitive would be a lie so getting use to 12.5-14 min/miles when I'm use to 9 min/miles was a bit of a mind trip. I had read a book on ultra running (check it out: Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons) so I knew if I was breathing too hard on an uphill I needed to check myself. I also new I needed to pull in my gait while going uphill (which I'm still adjusting to). These tips are definitely helping me now but in the beginning I was making every rookie mistake in my mind.

2. Keeping Your Head in the Game - When I get tired on a run I get spacey. I just want to zone out, but you can't do that on the trails. You can to stay engaged and focus on not catching a toe or turning an ankle. This level of mental focus is taxing when on long runs and is definitely something I'm building alongside my stamina on the trails.

3. Downhill Doesn't Always Mean Fast - I'm a pretty good at running downhill on road, if I do say so myself. I learned how to basically let myself fall down the hills. On roads I power up hills and then fall down them. It's great. On trails downhills don't always afford you this luxury.

On trails there can be large rocks or stairs or tree branches or loose gravel... all of which will mean "controlled falling" will get out of control real fast. I've been learning restraint so I don't hurt myself but it takes it's toll on my poor quads. The controlled downhill is almost as taxing as a steep uphill.

So with this said, I feel like I'm finally hitting my stride (pun intended) with trail running. I love the beauty, difficulty, but ultimately the simplicity of it. I love strapping my hydration pack to my back and testing myself to run up one more hill or challenge myself to hurry up some stairs more efficiently.

I highly recommend you find a local trail and try it out one Saturday, I'm sure you'll fall in love!

I'm, like, almost a real trail runner, guys!

It's all about finding that next thing that adds beauty and positivity to your life!

Adventure is out there!

My Tips for Running at WDW

So You Want to Run at WDW?

So by no stretch of the imagination am I an expert at these races but after participating in this weekend 4 times and other runDisney weekends here are my tips, including some for those that drive to the race start!

  1. Go in the Last Hour or so of the Expo on Any Day - Most people say “Go early to the expo” and while that is great advice, this applies more to the die-hard “I need merchandise” group. If you just don’t want crowds and are okay with not getting the pick of the limited merchandise, go late. I’ve gone in the last hour of both the WDW Marathon Weekend and the Princess Weekend expos and literally, you walk right up and get your stuff. It’s super easy. This year I went at 7 on Wednesday to get merch and there was literally no one in the Official runDisney Store in the packet pick-up pavilion. It was empty. 
  2. Go to the Expo with a Game Plan – Look at the vendors and decide before hand what you want to get and see at the expo. Do you want to try out compression socks? Figure out where those vendors are. Want to get a Sparkle Skirt? Yep, find them on the map first. It helps immensely and as someone who gets overwhelmed easily at expos, it helps to keep me focused. I usually do a lap around just to see if anything catches my eye, but it helps if you have and agenda before going into the expo. 
  3. Bring Layers – Florida weather in January can be unpredictable, so bring it all. I always over pack for this weekend, but I’d rather do that then get to race day feeling less than confident in my clothing choices. Also, cooler temperatures can mean moist air and when that gets on your skin you might feel a bit cooler. For me extra humidity also means that my sweat just rests on my skin because there are few breezes to evaporate it. Keep this in mind when planning race attire. 
  4. Follow runDisney’s Driving Instructions – Even if you know how to get around property like the back of your hand, follow the driving directions in the Official race Program. Roads get closed and it’s just not worth the hassle and stress of getting stuck. 
  5. Get To the Race Early on Race Morning – Again the same as above, give yourself an extra 20 min, so you don’t have to stress out if you hit traffic. If you are catching a bus, also give yourself some extra time. Plus, there are plenty of people and entertainment to keep you company while you wait! 
  6. Parking at Epcot? Stay Left – If it’s a race at Epcot, stay to the left as you drive into the parking lot. If they have 2 lanes turning into the parking lots, the left lane will park closer to the start/finish area. 
  7. Take a Picture of Where you Parked – In the morning, walk to the end of your row, pull out your phone or camera, and snap a picture. Presto! You will not be wandering around like a nomad after the race! This is also just good advice for when you are visiting any parking lot that is huge. Post-race you do not what to wander around because you’ve lost your car. You get their super early, run a ton, and then afterwards you may have runners brain, so this helps to ensure you remember where you parked. 
  8. Bring A Camera – Even if you don’t plan to stop, you never know if you are going to find that “don’t miss” character photo op. This happened to me at the Princess Half Marathon, they had a group of princes ready to take a pic and I had no camera.
  9. Find Your Fun – The most common piece of advice is “Don’t try to run for a PR at Disney, just have fun!” however, fun is a subjective word that can mean a lot of things to different people. For me, racing is the fun part of a race. Pushing myself to see where my limits are. I get to the end of races where I stopped for characters and did a bit more meandering and I don’t feel like I necessarily got my money’s worth. If you want to take pictures and chat with friends, do it! If you want to race but stop for a few choice photo ops, do it! If you want to PR, do it! I’ve done all 3 of these options and have had fun at all of my runDisney races. Find your fun in the race and don’t feel like you aren’t getting your money’s worth if you don’t stop for every character or other photo op. 
  10. Have a Plan B – If you are traveling to the race, like many of us do for runDisney races, have a plan B. Many people say to only pack a carry on, but at least wear or have your sneakers with you on the plane. If there is something you can’t race without, keep it on your person for your entire travel. If you are meeting others in your group at WDW, send them your race packet pick-up authorization forms, just in case. This past year at the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend, I had to pick up my stuff on Wednesday for Dopey, but since I only have limited time off from work, I wasn’t arriving until Wednesday morning. Then enter the polar vortex craziness meant I got delayed until 5:30, which for me is too close for comfort to ensure I could pick up my race stuff. Luckily my parent’s had all the forms they needed to pick up my race stuff so it all worked out. Think about the largest points of failure and try to come up with a plan B.

Hope these tips help! Happy running!