Tag Archives: Disney

Looking To The Future – It’s Time To Hang Up The Running Shoes…

In a few short weeks, I will be running my 100th event…the Red, White & Boom Half Marathon. It has been a constant event on my schedule since I started running in 2012. It seems like a fitting 100th event.

The 100th event milestone is also a good opportunity to look back on my journey and reflect on my future goals.

Over the last several month, I have had a chance to do just that. I have realized that the time has come to make some decisions about my hobbies of racing, running, and triathlon. I have come to one unavoidable conclusion.

It is time to quit.

…and I am very much at peace with that decision.

This does not mean “never again”, but racing has become a part time job that interferes with all other aspects of my life. Fitness and wellbeing need to stay. A full calendar of events, lost weekends of traveling to forgettable races for another non-PR and a shirt I will never wear…that all needs to go.

As many of you already know, my training and motivation have been…uhhh…nonexistent this season. Those who follow my blog will not be surprised by this. I tend to be all or nothing in my passions, and running has dwindled down to nothing.

Of course, I had a few reality checks lately. We lost both of our dogs to illness, we got a new puppy, I had a couple health scares (false alarms), an aging mother who is developing more health concerns, and life in general is just making its presence known. This has resulted in my workouts dropping to a couple of 45-60 minute sessions per week. I was not running outside due to cold weather, icy roads, a couple of irresponsible dog owners in the neighborhood, chronic ankle injuries, a prolonged bronchitis, and a general lack of interest in the whole thing.

Since Ironman (easily the highlight of my running career) I have struggled with dwindling interest. I have tried going back to running only. Hated it. I tried shorter events (and fewer of them). Those just seemed like chores when they came around.

I am tired of the expense, the stress and the time lost in traveling to events. Even local events are a 1 hour drive each way, plus extra time for parking and a lot of sitting around waiting for the event to start. A 5k takes up the better part of a weekend day. Don’t even get me started on the “no race day packet pickup” with the 2-3 hours of driving the day before the race.

Yep, the passion is gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy running and triathlon. I appreciate the health benefits. But this schedule of 2-3 weekends a month being filled with one thing or another has worn out its welcome.

I am also tired of having my hobby define who I am. Running is a small part of me, not the sum total of what I have become.

As a result, I will be making some serious changes.

For starters, no more traveling. It is too expensive, takes to much time, and involves too much stress.

Next, far fewer events (i.e.: practically none).

The only event that I will certainly continue until I stop running completely is the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend. It is one of the biggest and best running events in the nation, and is the highlight on the calendar every year. There is a phenomenal expo, a marathon, a 10 mile, a 10k and a 5k…as well as multi-event challenges. I can do as much or as little as want to. Also, if any event will rekindle my passion, this would be the one.

Aside from that, I will likely have a sprint triathlon on the calendar somewhere. I have the gear, and one event on the calendar will keep my bike from rotting in the garage. A bike ride in Elm Creek Park is a wonderful summertime experience, and I just need an excuse to get out there. The premier sprint Triathlon in the Twin Cities is Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon and will likely remain my triathlon of choice.

This gives me a summer triathlon and a fall race. I may do something in the spring as well, but there is no obvious must do local event. Likely, I will just sign up for something at the last minute depending on schedule, weather, and motivation. Next year, it will be the Hot Chocolate 15k in April since I deferred the event this year (due to a conflict with Star Wars).

I may run an event or two at the last minute. If the weather will be beautiful, and I have a quiet weekend on tap, then I may sign up for a race just for the fun of it. But the days of developing massive training plans, and of planning my life around races, are behind me.

I had actually made this decision before WDW Star Wars. The stress of getting flights, shuttles, hotels, park tickets, and fast passes was getting to me. When I made that decision, I felt a heavy burden drop. Knowing that Disney was my final race-cation allowed me to enjoy it a lot more (and I felt less guilty spending the time and the money knowing that I would never do this again). Fargo was likely my final out of town trip for a race. Red White & Boom may be my final half-marathon (time will tell). This made for a bittersweet weekend in Fargo, but I was at peace during that final long run.

For the rest of this year, I have a fairly light schedule (by my previous racing standards), and I do intend to see it through. I have three sprint triathlons over the summer, and the Loony Challenge (5k, 10k, 10 mile) at the TC Marathon Weekend in October. It will be a final tour of some well loved events that I will likely enjoy even more without the headache of planning for 10 additional events down the road.

I am not absolutely ruling out a return to marathon and big events at some point down the road, but this return is unlikely and would be far off on the horizon. I currently have nothing on the radar. The only thing that I feel that I am missing from my running resume is a world marathon major (Chicago or New York). The thought of training, dealing with the lottery, and hassle/expense of travel is more then I want to deal with right now, but maybe someday. Alternatively, I may just sign up for one final Twin Cities Marathon if I feel compelled to run one more big race.

Another option would be going to Boston as a charity runner. The cost of this would be huge (I doubt I would be a successful fundraiser, so I would write a check to a charity I believe in). This would be an amazing way to finish the journey, but such an endeavor would be far in the future, and only if the passion was there to warrant the time, stress and expense.

For now, the running “career” is over. It was a fun streak which included the following accomplishments (by the end of the year):

-16 marathons in 11 states
-over 25 half-marathons
-over 100 events
-10 century rides
-18 triathlons
-5 Half-Ironmans
-one 50k ultra
-2 marathons in 2 states in 2 days
-membership in Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics, Dual Agents, and 50 Marathon States Clubs
-Ironman Wisconsin
-good health, improved self confidence, and a bucket full of memories.

Looking forward, I will continue with wellness and fitness, and I will show up to a couple of events a year for the simple joy of participating. I will blog race reports for the rest of the season, but I doubt that I will have much to say beyond that. I am following many athletes here and will continue to chear for all of you from the sidelines.

To everyone who has followed my journey and who has offered support, I thank you all. You have lifted me up when I was down, shared in my successes, and have given me more then you know…

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Race Report: Disney/Star Wars Dark Side Challenge

April 15-17, 2016
Orlando, FL
Half Marathon #26
Events #95-97

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“2:21 am. In a shuttle with all my running essentials. Bib…check. Timing chip…check. Running belt…check. Garmin…check. Magic Band…check. Lightsaber…check. The list of running essentials is a little different at Disney…”
-FB post on Half Marathon morning

To me, Disney events are “experiences”, not races. With all sorts of photo stops and other distractions on the course, speed and finish time is a secondary consideration. As long as I am fast enough to not get swept, I’m happy,

The theme again was “Star Wars”. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a geek about all things Star Wars. That said, this will be my last trip to the House of Mouse. I have reached my saturation point with Disney…grateful for my experiences with no compelling desire for any more.
Registration:

Just registering for Disney events is a huge challenge. The events are very popular, and can sell out in minutes. I have heard many stories of people trying to register the moment the tickets went on sale…and they still could not get in. I was already registered for the Star Wars Disneyland races for 2016 when the WDW races were announced. They also announced a special coast to coast award for anyone running both in the same year. If I were to run both, I wanted that extra medal. The other motivating factor to sign up this yeas was that my speed had vanished in the past 18 months. I could still use some of my faster times from my 2014 season to guarantee me preferred coral placement. However, another Disney trip would be a significant expense that was NOT in the budget (Disney is very skilled at separating cash from their legal owners). With strong spousal support (thanks dear!) we sorted out a way to make it work…if I could get registered. Fortunately, there are a lot of Disney fans who are runners and there are a lot of Facebook groups out there of runDisney fans. I belong to several, and one group has set themselves up as an official runDisney travel group who can secure tickets in advance. I put in my requests and got everything I wanted. I then had to find hotels (at WDW, it is worthwhile to stay on property since nothing outside the parks is in walking distance, and there are free shuttles from all Disney resorts to and from the start/finish lines). After all that, I had to figure out “Magic Bands” for the first time. These bands are attached to your wrist and have a computer chip in them. They are linked to your credit card (allowing for easy purchases on site), are used as a room key, serve as your park admission tickets, and you can reserve dining and attraction FastPasses. Setting it up, downloading the app, and figuring my park itinerary months in advance took a lot of work (but, it did make life easier once I reached the parks).

July 14 – Expo

Straight off the plane, I headed to the expo.

Disney had lost my bib.

They had my info, my registration, and my bib number, but no bib. Took about 30 minutes to straighten out. Got a new bib (still in coral A), my 4 shirts (cotton shirt for 5k, tech shirt for 10k, HM, and “Dark Side” challenge). Once that had been sorted out, I headed to the expo. It was a decent size, but nothing overwhelming. There was a wait to get into the official merchandise area, and some things had already sold out (early afternoon on the first day!) Fortunately, my needs were modest. I wanted an official event cotton t-shirt, a few commemorative pins and I was set (I would have bought a hoodie too, but they didn’t make any for a race in Florida). Once that was done, I went to Downtown Disney to shop and eat before turning in for the night.
Ride Photos.

Disney decided to stop outsourcing race photos for the first time. They do a very lucrative business taking guest photos at their parks and the race photos got bundled with those plans. So, for one fee, I got photos from all the races, all my ride photos and park character meet and greets. I’ll be spacing them throughout the race report. I’ll start with a few ride pics…

Test Track:

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Space Mountain:

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Seven Dwarves Mine Ride:

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Tower of Terror:

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Expedition Everest:

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Aerosmith Rock and Roll Coaster:

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April 15 – Dark Side 5k

The race started at 6am. The shuttles started rolling at 4am. I was up at 2:30am. Sometimes they have some cool things to do while waiting for the race to start. This event did not disappoint. They had set up 8 character meet and greets/photo ops with detailed backdrops. The mini-sets included Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Captain Phasma, BB-8, Raptors (those tentacle monsters from Force Awakens), and Stormtroopers. With the lighter crowds at the 5k, and getting there early, I got through every line except BB-8. I’ll share highlights of each a little later. But I did spend as much time as I could at the photo ops before racing over to the starting lines.

The 5k course is pretty simple, and always the same at WDW. We start in the EPCOT parking lot, run for a mile outside the periphery of the park (to spread us out a little) before entering World Showcase and doing a lap. We then run through Future World and exit again…finishing in the parking area. The run through the park was great! Very scenic, lots of photographers, and just a few character photos (R2-D2, Chewbacca, Rebels, Stormtroopers, and a scenic shot of Spaceship Earth. The race wasn’t timed, and the lines at the photo ops were short (well, shorter then I expected them to be during the next couple of days). So I stopped at all of them. Once the fun run was over, I headed to the Magic Kingdom (mostly to check out the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride Coaster) before heading to Hollywood Studios and checking out the Star Wars themed attractions.

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In Park Character Meet and Greets:

Hollywood Studies has two Star Wars characters for meet and greet photo ops. These are Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. Unlike the photos at the races, there are not rushed. The actor stays in character and multiple photos are taken. Here’s a few highlights.

Chewbacca:

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Kylo Ren:

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April 16 – Tie Fighter 10k.

Race started at 5:30 am. Shuttles started at 3:00 am. I was on the first shuttle again, jogged to the meet and greets…to find that some of the lines were already cut off! I did get a couple, but the lines (and the crowds) were much worse today. The starting line was not in a parking lot, but on a closed highway. There were still 6 corals, but they were much larger. This race was point to point. It started outside of EPCOT, did a very short run from one side of the park to the other (no park tour today), followed by a run through a shopping/resort district on out way to Hollywood Studios. We had a nice run through there before the boring highway stretch to ESPN Sports Complex. Same characters as the previous day (much longer lines-45 minutes for Chewbacca) so I passed on most of them. They did have an Emperors chair set (from Return of the Jedi) that you could sit in (pretty cool) and speeder bikes, and a scenic shot at Tower of Terror. But, overall, kind of disappointing. They had moved all the starting line characters to the finish, and I had time to get several more photos. After that, I headed to the other two parks. Expedition Everest alone is worth the price of admission to Animal Kingdom. EPCOT disappointed. Future World has a retro-future charm that reminded me of The Jetsons. The 3 rides I wanted to see was Soaring (closed for refurbishment), Test Track (easily the worst coaster I have even been on…and basically an ad for Chevy), and Mission Space (retro dull flight simulator). However, there was a food and garden show going on in EPCOT where there were several food trucks with very good tapas style appetizers and deserts. I basically just ate my way through World Showcase. I headed back to the hotel early. The next day would be insanely early (even by my standards) and I had to get packed. I could not get a late checkout and time might be a little tight after tomorrow’s half marathon.

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Pre/Post Race Character Photos

I discussed this above. Some photos came out pretty good. Some didn’t. Here are the highlights.

Raptor:

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Stormtroopers:

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BB-8:

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Captain Phasma:

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Darth Maul:

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Jabba The Hutt:

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Boba Fett:

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Darth Vader:

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April 17 – Dark Side Half Marathon

I was up at 1:00 am. Shuttles started at 2:30, and I was on the first. Surprisingly, the lines were better. I got through Vader again, as well as Boba Fett. After that, I did not have time for a third. The crowd was bigger (12 corals today). Fortunately, I was able to use my 1:44 Half Marathon time from two years ago to get me front corral placement all weekend long (1:51 half marathon time or better was needed). Again, I counted on that preferred start to get me to the photos before the lines got crazy. It worked at the 5k, but not at the 10k. The course would follow yesterday’s 10k route until after Hollywood Studios. Then, it would take a long detour to Animal Kingdom before routing us back to ESPN. I figured that the first two photo ops would be the same as before (R2 and Chewie). I was satisfied with the photos I had of them and made the strategic plan to skip them and only wait in line for “new” characters. Surprisingly, R2’s line was short (shorter then the 5k). I could not pass that up. Then, Chewie’s was short as well, so I stopped yet again. I had lingered in line long enough by then that the course was much more crowded. Hollywood Studies had a big stage with Kylo and some Stormtroopers (stopped again). The road to Animal Kingdon was long and dull, once there, we did a big lap around the parking lot before entering the park. There were mini sets of the Trash Compactor and Wampa cave, Stormtroopers were on patrol, and scenic stops of “Everest” and the “Tree of Life” (stop, stop, stop), before the last stretch back to ESPN. When I got there, I received FOUR finishers medals (Half Marathon, Dark Side Challenge (finishing the 10k and Half Marathon during the same weekend), Kessel Run Challenge (finishing the Star Wars Half Marathon at both DisneyLand as well as Walt Disney World in the same calendar year), and Coast to Coast Challenge (finishing any Half Marathon in both parks during the same year). I snagged a couple more photos before leaving.

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What The Heck, This Is A Race Report, So Here’s A Few Words About The Actual Running…

I was undertrained (a 5k training run once or twice a week since October) and I felt it. I was very slow and not very motivated. Despite the character stops, my finish times were awful. I was having pain in my big toe (never had that before, and it would just randomly come and go), both ankles (chronic issue, and getting worse), and my left knee was feeling modestly unstable. Hamstrings were tight by the final race. Fortunately, I had a head start and a generous amount of time to finish…so I was never at risk of being swept. The weather was great for the 5k and the half, but very muggy for the 10k. I did a lot of walk breaks beyond the photo stops and aid stations. The aid stations were plentiful, and Disney did a good job keeping up entertained. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is a great event and I would recommend it highly. My finish times are awful, but here they are…

5K – no idea-it was untimed and I forgot to stop my Garmin

10k – 1:14:30
3341/12169

Half Marathon – 3:03:46
10423/18171
Final Thoughts:

So, was the event worth it? Mostly yes…but I am a runner and a diehard Star Wars fan, who also loves Disney…so it hit all the right nerd notes for me. However, the California and Florida experience were quite similar (WDW did a great job having a lot of character experiences off the course so the lines would not be cut off and people would not get swept simply for stopping for photos…but I expect DL to incorporate that opportunity next year). I really enjoyed it, but a more casual fan should be fine with either DL or WDW event. Running all the races at a weekend does allow more opportunities for character and running photos, and I would recommend doing so to most participants. The 5k (being untimed, and much less crowded) provides a great opportunity to do the Disney experience. Then, the more serious runners can just run the timed events and ignore the distractions.

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As I stated, I had a great time, but this will be my last big trip for a long time. They are just too expensive, too much stress planning, and too much time away from home. I am driving to Fargo next month for a Half Marathon (3 hour drive and an overnight star at a Super 8). After that, I will be staying a little bit closer to home…

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Another “A” Corral!

My 2014 continues to pay dividends! With a 1:44:03 Half Marathon finish at the end of that season (how on earth did I do that), I find myself at the front of the line for the Disney/Star Wars Half Marathon/10k/5k races!

Of course, I will not be able to use my 2014 finish times for much longer. My spring 2015 races would have landed me in corral C. My current finish times would place me in corral F.

Sigh. The joys of aging…

So, one last time, I will get to enjoy starting at the front of the pack.

For the Disney/Star Wars races, this is actually a big deal. They have character photograph stops on course. The lines get really long and they do get cut off. Starting early makes it much easier to hit these stops (especially since the speedsters tend to be more concerned with their finish times then these photos), the lines are much shorter and are less likely to be closed.

Should be a great weekend!

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Looking Ahead To My Spring Races…

Compared to previous years, my spring calendar is sparsely populated. This is a good thing since I was waylaid in my training for SEVEN WEEKS with a bronchitis that just would not go away.

I got sick right after the DisneyLand Star Wars HM. I am just now feeling about 100%. During those 7 weeks, I did some infrequent spinning on the stationary bike, and I went for just…ONE…run. That was the Valentine Day 5k…and it kicked my butt. It was on one of the coldest days of the winter and my lungs were not up for the challenge.

In the last week, we got some early warm weather, and I decided that I would go out for an easy 10k. Well, when you have done a total of 5k in 7 weeks, the words “easy” and “10k” should not be used in the same sentence. I was slow. I also managed to (slightly) injure myself. My hip was throbbing by the end of the run, and I felt a little bit of plantar fasciitis setting into my foot the next morning. Since then, I have limited my runs to 5k, and something aches after every one of them.

This does not bode well for my next race. It’s a 10 miler, and it’s this Saturday. I have never been worried about such a short distance (at least, not since I started running in 2012), but my run fitness is just not there. Unfortunately, the weather will be miserable as well (mid 30’s and rain). It is a part of the race series that I am running this year and I don’t want to sacrifice it. So, I will go into it as a long training run and focus of not doing myself any harm.

After that, I have a string of 3 Half Marathons at about monthly intervals before I start my summer triathlon season. I am not too worried about these. If I can pull off the ten miler, I should have little trouble adding an extra 5k over the next several weeks.

First up is the Walt Disney World/Star Wars 5k/10k/HM weekend. That should be a blast. A month later is the Fargo Marathon Weekend. I am scheduled to run the 5k and HM. I had strongly considered bumping it up to one last Full Marathon but the lack of training (and how I was feeling after running a 10k) would make this incredibly stupid. Pity, since the race is supposed to be great, it’s a pancake flat course, and has great bling (they even have a medal for the post race pub crawl!), it would also have added one more state to my marathon list, and they allow a full seven hours to finish the race.

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Love this bottle opener “medal”!!!

Finally, I have the Red, White and Boom Half Marathon on July 4th (annual tradition race for me, and the third race of my series). After that, my long races are done for the year. I have a few sprint triathlons over the summer, then a 5k/10k/10 miler combo at the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend to finish the season.

Once I finish my last HM of the season, I will have to re-evaluate my future in running races. I have the start of plantar fasciitis and IT band issues. My chronic ankle injury is misbehaving, my knees are not happy with my runs, and my motivation isn’t there. The next few races will likely help me decide my running future. But one thing is certain, Disney and Fargo will be my final destination races for the foreseeable future. To much time and money to keep up all of this traveling. Knowing that these will be the final trip actually has me looking forward to these instead of dreading these events. But, for now, I have to get through this weekend’s 10 miler. Hopefully the cold rain clears out a little earlier then predicted…

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Race Report: DisneyLand/Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

January 15-17, 2016
Anaheim, CA
Half Marathon #25
Events #90-92

Learning to run with a lightsaber…

Well, I like Disney, love Star Wars, and I have a passion for running. So, when I first heard of this event, I knew I had to run it. Prior to that, I was undecided about returning to Disney (expensive, time consuming, exhausting). I enjoyed doing races at both resorts in 2013, but figured that I had the experience, and saw little point in repeating it. This event was a game changer. It includes a 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon in 3 days. There is a similar related event just announced for Orlando (“The Light Side” at DisneyLand, and “The Dark Side” at Walt Disney World). Each weekend includes a challenge medal for the 10k/HM combo, and a different one for running races on both coasts. I signed up for all of it.

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Leading up to the event however, I was physically and mentally burnt out. I had competed in too many events last year and didn’t have a lot of fun. My last race was on Halloween and took a much needed sebaticle . I planned to train, but life got in the way. My dog got really ill and passed away recently. During the last several weeks, she needed 24/7 care and exercise was the last thing on my radar. I had gained some weight (not the good kind) and had to go on a strict diet a couple of weeks before Christmas. Finally, I had a health concern that popped up which ended up needing a whole bunch of tests and specialists appointments. Looks like it was just a false alarm, but it did take up a lot of time and additional mental stress. Finally, we got a beautiful new puppy. With all of the chaos (and my lack of training) I almost had to cancel the trip. But, with some creating schedule changes (and a VERY understanding and supportive spouse), I was able to rearrange my schedule but keep this event on the calendar.

A lot of Star Wars fans get REALLY into these events. They make some very elaborate costumes that they can somehow still run in. I had no such aspirations (or talent for that matter). So, instead, I limited myself to one small prop…a lightsaber. The saber was red, lightweight, collapsible, and would light up. This worked out well and became fairly easy to run with and pose for photos on the fly. It was a fortunate choice since Disney tightened up costume regulations shortly before race day…banning toy blasters and many of the more elaborate costumes.

The weather was forecasted to be quite pleasant, but I had to bring a lot of running options. It would be partly cloudy to mostly sunny, but could be cool in the mornings (how cool fluctuated quite a bit). I had to bring every combo from shorts/t-shirt to thermal tops with tights, and a light jacket/windbreaker. Good thing I did since I used all of it…

I arrived in LA (loved the warm weather compared to Minneapolis) on Thursday morning and I got a shuttle to my hotel (just across the street from the parks). Finally, I was able to go to the expo and packet pick up. I picked the best time to go, and was in-and-out pretty fast. The included shirts were great (3 long sleeved running shirts for the 10k, HM, and Rebel Challenge) and a t-shirt for the 5k. All were nicely designed and good quality…the 10k was exceptional!

After I had my gear, I went to event merchandise. There were huge line ups earlier in the day, but the wait was down to 30 minutes or so by the time I arrived. They still had everything in plentiful supply from what I could see. All of the race merchandise (aside from the participants shirts and finishers medals) had a very retro (late 70’s-early 80’s) vibe to it. I usually am not a fan of retro…but it always seems to work with Star Wars. I had planned on only getting a few race pins (pin collecting is a very Disney thing). I have been getting a lot better about avoiding all of the race swag (since I run so many races) but I am still a sucker for anything “Ironman” and anything Star Wars. The gear was so unique that I caved-in and I did get a few (ok, several) souvenirs in the end. I then proceeded to get some food before heading back to the hotel and getting some rest.

This event is mainly in the parks, but the first 3/4 miles is around the perimeter with some stretches that go “backstage”. I was concerned that the line to get character photographs would get really long, and getting a ton of photos was my top priority. I was fortunate to be in the front canal and decided to sprint to get to the photo stops (I find the faster runners are more interested in speed then this type of diversion, and hoped to get to the first before the lines got long-it worked!)

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The first stop was Chewbacca. Got the pic and carried on to some of the others…some characters from “Rebels”, R2-D2/C-3P0, BB-8 being the highlights.

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It did seem like there were very sparse photo stops on this race and hoped that this would improve as the weekend continued. Overall, it was a fun (untimed) run in very nice (but slightly chilly) weather conditions. The medal was “meh”…expected for Disney 5k events…a soft plasticky rubbery thing that kids can’t inflict damage on each other with.

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I headed back to the hotel, showered and went off to DisneyLand. The park was fun but it got really crowded in the afternoon (I got almost all of my rides done by then. I also got to have a meet and greet with Chewbacca and Darth Vader!)

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The day concluded with an amazing parade and fireworks display. As I was heading home, I saw on FB that Elton John was performing a free concert in front of the castle for an upcoming TV special. I ran back to try to get a glimpse…and that was all I got. He only sang about 4 songs and we were packed together like sardines. I ended up getting a decent angle…when he got up and waved goodnight to everyone! I did hear him sign a few times while trying to move about, but it was a just a tease. I will have to watch the special when it airs next month….

I was up (again) at 2:30 am for the 10k and I had the same plan as the previous day. I was again in Coral A, and would sprint to the first line…this time 1.5 miles away. I was not as successful this time due to the longer distance and that there were a lot more runners (10,000 instead of 5,000).

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The first stop was for Boba Fett. Cool! But, when I got to the front, I was told that the photographers camera malfunctioned and it was cell phone photos opportunity only. That was an indicator of how my morning would go. Chewbacca and C-3P0 were on bathroom breaks (it was nice to get a pic alone with R2), and BB-8’s line was insane.

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The selfie stop with Stormtroopers was abruptly stopped when I got to the front of the line. They did have some cool movie scene stops (trash compactor, Wampa cave, Speeder Bikes).

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Also, there were some nice photo stops in front of Cinderella’s Castle, It’s a Small World, and Paradise Pier-all were beautifully lit up for the event.

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The event finished with a great medal of an x-wing fighter…and with my lightsaber falling apart (it was that kind of morning).

Finish Time – 1:12:09

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After the race (and a shower), I headed off to Disney California Adventure. This day had turned out much warmer (shorts/t-shirt for the race compared to tights and thermal top for the 5k). I was tired and I cut the park short when the crowds started building up. I did have one more order of business that day. I had re-reviewed my registration information and I had forgotten that I had pre-ordered (and pre-paid) for some souvenir merchandise. So, back I went to the expo and packet pick up. While I was there, I took advantage of a trading card maker (where I could pose with a lightsaber in front of a blue screen…a star field is then placed behind you and the image is printed in the general design of a trading card…but the size and shape of a 4×6 photo). It could instantly be uploaded to FB and other website. I ended up getting three of them and was really pleased with how these nice little freebies turned out. After that, I was done for the day…and was asleep by 5pm.

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Finally, Sunday had arrived. I was again up by 2:30 am…trying to repair my lightsaber (I got it back together, but the light didn’t work consistently-but I would not need it for much longer). There was another meetup, but I did not stay for the group photo (trouble flagging down a photographer that morning with all of the chaos).

To be honest, this was the race I was least looking forward to, for several reasons. The first is that DisneyLand is such a small resort. They really struggle with finding a way to keep all runners on site for the 10k, and they don’t even try for the Half Marathon. At mile 4.5, we would be ejected from the parks with no photo stops until the finish. It would also be the most crowded race by far (14,000 runners) and I had to finish the race in a reasonable amount of time. My flight out of town was in the early afternoon, and I had a vey tight itinerary. I had done very little running in the past 3 months and I had not completed a 13 mile run since October. I was certainly feeling the lack of training as my legs were already very sore and heavy from the first two events and from all the walking I had done at the parks and at the expo. Finally, I (correctly) assumed that we would have a rerun of all the same photo stops as the past couple of days. I was right about all of it. My legs were sore and leaden. All the character and movie scene stops were the same.

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This was good and bad. I was able to review most of my previous pics from the first two races and sort out which ones I wanted to re-do. Boba Fett was my only priority (unless there were new characters).

imageI did stop for Chewbacca and the movie scenes.

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I skipped all of the droids. There was only one stop for an in park scene (Cinderella’s Castle).

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After 4.5 miles, I left the park for the long dull finish. I tossed the lightsaber (no more photo stops and it was broken anyways). I was doing some mental math, and getting to the finish line as fast as I could was getting critical. I had burned more time then I had expected in the parks and my legs were dead. The volunteers were great, and there were a lot of cosplay characters around mile 9. Some of their costumes were absolutely amazing! If I had more time, I would have stopped for a few photos.

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Finish Time – 2:44:48

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I got back to the park later then I feared. I ran past the finish, got my medals, I had a few very quick finishers photos taken and sprinted out of there. Fortunately, I was able to make very good time back to the hotel. Once there, I quickly finished packing, got a quick shower and was even able to get my free (and fast) breakfast before my airport shuttle arrived.

So, was it worth it?

Mostly yes.

It was a lot of fun. The events were well run, the bling and the shirts were great, and it is always fun to explore the parks…but everything was familiar from 3 years ago. The photos mostly turned out great. But the limited number of character stops was a major let down. No Vader, no Kylo Ren, no Stormtroopers, no Yoda, no other Bounty Hunters, and no Disney Characters dressed up in Star Wars costumes. Apparently, most of these had been present last year, but there were too many bottlenecks and long lines. As it was, most lines still got cut off early and many who were not in the front coral did not get any chances for photos with anybody. Still, it was a fun opportunity to geek out with thousands of fellow runners who are also Star Wars nerds. I got an armload of bling and gear, tons of photos, a getaway from the cold weather, a mini-vacation, and some great memories. I am absolutely looking forward to the Disney World event in April. Since they have the “Dark Side” theme, they should have some Stormtroopers and Sith Lords. I hope they have more photo stops since it will all be on Disney property…and the parks are more spacious allowing runners to be there even when the park gates are open.

The weekend was a nice break, and will hopefully motivate me to get training a little bit more regularly. I don’t know if I will try to stretch Fargo to a full marathon (or register for any full marathons in the future) since I was reminded this weekend that half marathons hurt (when not properly trained) and I don’t feel like I have it in me anymore to go further. But, I do know that the Disney World trip will be my last Disney race. It does feel a little repetitive after the Disney events of 2013. I think that, one more weekend, and I will have my fill for a lifetime…

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The Downside of “Bling Motivation”…

I run for bling…

Well, not exactly. I run for health and fitness. I run to relax, to have “me time”, to help keep my weight off, and because I just enjoy doing it.

I run RACES for bling.

Sure, being surrounded by other runners, challenging myself, finding new courses, getting some awesome photos, and setting a new PR are all awesome too. But, all else being equal, the races with the coolest bling will get my registration fee.

Unfortunately, the race medals are not always available for review upon sign-up, and I am going on hope and faith. Sometimes, that will result in disappointment and missed opportunities.

I picked Pittsburgh over Fargo last spring. Pittsburgh had some amazing medals in recent years. Fargo didn’t. So, Pittsburgh ended up with pretty boring bling in 2015, and Fargo may have fad the coolest marathon medal of 2015. Bummer.

The only negatives about Ironman Wisconsin in 2014 was that Mike Riley did not call me an Ironman, and this thing…

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I mean, seriously, what is that?

My latest disappointment comes courtesy of Disney (they have started to produce some pretty awful bling of late…like a medal of a slipper?). I love Star Wars, so I had to sign up for the new Disney Star Wars races. There are 2 weekends. DisneyLand (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Rebel Challenge (HM/10k combo). Here’s the hardware…

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The HM medal is a reproduction of the “Medal of Bravery” given to Han and Luke in the final scene of the original Star Wars-A New Hope. This is an inspired idea (even if the medal looks bland and generic…it is a geek out item for fanboys like myself). The Rebel Challenge medal looks nice. X-Wing is a cool design but looks a little out of place next to the others (but othe ships were planned for WDW SW to go with it).

Overall, a mixed bag of bling, and was hoping for better at WDW. It was announced that the medals would feature the Death Star and Millennium Falcon! It was also announced that there would be another 5k, 10k, and  Half Marathon, along with a Dark Side Medal Challenge Medal (10k/HM), and Kessel Run Medal for doing both the DL and WDW events! Awesome! Sign me up!

The medal designs were released yesterday…

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Whole lot of dull monotone gray going on. The Tie Fighter looks amazing for the 10k…and is easily the best of the bunch. The Kessel Run Challenge medal (Falcon) looks like it was designed by a 6 year old. The Dark Side Challenge Death Star looks like a garbage can. I guess the HM medal is supposed to be Darth Sideous, but it looks like a gray lump of coal on a string…
I suppose that they may look way better in person, and that I am just getting way too picky in my old age, but I did expect better from Disney and was hoping for something truly exciting for all of the cost, time and expense involved.
Dont get me wrong, I am still very much looking forward to both weekends. The races and mini vacations will be amazing! But I was hoping for something just a little bit more amazing…

 

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The Offseason Finally Begins…

My last race of the year was on Halloween. My legs were beat up from a very heavy running season, including 3 marathons in October. My plan was to take a week off, then move back to “offseason” mode.

The weather had other ideas.

For once, we had a very mild fall. It is Thanksgiving day in Minnesota and we have not yet seen snow. I could not let the mild weather pass. I would be trapped on the treadmill any day now. As long as I could, I would run outdoors.

The weather has finally become chilly…cool enough to make me think twice about going out the front door. I will still do it (until the Mercury drops too far, or the roads start to get slippery), but indoor training is becoming more appealing.

I visited my local indoor pool for the first time since August, and swam a mile yesterday. Nothing has changed. It never gets easier, harder, faster or slower. The only change I noticed from intense training years ago was endurence improved (since I will be limiting myself to sprint triathlons again this season, it will not be an issue). I felt really good.

I also got back on the bike (currently perched on the trainer in front of the tv). Again, it was the first time since August. That didn’t feel so good (never does after a long break). Legs were jello, and my butt hurt after 5 minutes…

I have done a couple of short treadmill sessions (hate that thing), and I will work my way to the elliptical and indoor track soon enough.

I thought about doing a Turkey Trot yesterday morning, but I am burnt out on races. The thought of driving across town, parking, getting my bib for a 10k just didn’t appeal to me at this point. I will keep the schedule empty until the season starts with some Disney events in January.

And my “never again” on marathons is already wavering. Fargo half is in May. The thought of bumping it up to a full has crossed my mind. The event should not sell out and I can make that decision at the expo if my spring training permits…

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The Year In Review/The Year In Preview

The final events of 2015 are behind me, and the running season is now complete. This a good time to reflect on the season that was, and to plan for the future.

2014 was an incredible success. I completed an Ironman and I had crushing new PR’s at almost every race distance. I was engaged and excited by my training (but I did get a little burnt out on cycling). Overall, it was an incredible season.

2015 could not live up to that year. In the end, the season was a mixed bag. I had scheduled a season that was almost as bold as my 2014 campaign. I decided to go easy on the bike, and to focus on the run, and likely attempted a little bit to much.

On the bike, I cut way back to just over 300 miles (compared to 3000 miles last year). The result was that I started to look forward to cycling again! I competed in 4 triathlons…all of them sprints. It was a lot of fun and I was able to be more competative then I had been in longer events.

Running was another matter. I registered for too many big races, including 5 marathons and one ultra-marathon. I recall being in my start coral at the Pittsburgh Marathon (second marathon of the year) and thinking “I don’t want to be here”. That made for a long season. I was committed to it, but I was dreading it as well. Many days, I wondered if I would even be able to just get through it. Somehow, I completed it all. There were no DNS or DNF this season (and I have never had one). Along the way, I finished my first 50k, my first back to back marathon, and my 15th marathon in different 10 states. I have qualified for membership in the Marathon Maniacs (jumping from level 1 to level 4), Half Fanatics, Double Agents, and 50 Marathons States clubs.

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However, my enjoyment of the long run had faded, and they have become a chore. I was going through the motions when training, and it showed in my speed. I was slowing down at all distances…especially in the marathon. I finished the season with three consecutive marathon “personal worsts”. During this process, I came to realize that my days of running marathons would soon be over.

My priorities are changing. My days of “ultra”-anything are behind me. Huge events that take months to train for, and packed schedules with a race every weekend have taken their toll. I still love to run/bike/swim, but I need balence. I am moving away from being a “competative” runner. I will never qualify for Boston or get up on a podium…and that’s OK. What I want is health and fitness. I want this to be fun. I want to participate in a few events that excite me, but doesn’t require endless hours of training. I want some balence, and not have one (or more) events eating up every single weekend.

I want to be a recreational athlete.

With that in mind, I have put together my 2016 race schedule. It still ended up being a lot busier then I wanted, but a big drop off from this year. There are no marathons. There are four half-marathons and two 10 milers. It has a big running event in the Winter, Spring, and Fall, as well as a few triathlons in summer to keep me engaged. I signed up for a local series at the last minute (Summit Challenge) which has made the year busier then planned.

2016 Race Schedule:
January-Disneyland/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Rebel Challenge). 3 events in one weekend. I can’t imagine a better event for me. A few days at Disney in the middle of winter, lots of Star Wars geekiness, and a bit of running. Can’t wait for this one!

February-Valentine 5K (Summit Challenge)

March-Hot Dash 10 Mile (Summit Challenge)

April-Walt Disney World/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Dark Side Challenge/Kessel Run Challenge). The sister event to the January Star Wars series. This may be my last big destination race for the foreseeable future.

May-Fargo Half Marathon and 5k. The Fargo Marathon has a great reputation and has been on my short list of “must do” marathons. It is also “almost local” (just a three hour drive up I-94). Since I am no longer running marathons, this “must-do” is unlikely to ever get done. But I can still race the “Go Far” challenge by combining the Half Marathon and 5k. The bling last year was amazing and it sounds like they will revisit the same design this year. I get the big marathon expo and event feel without having to run 26.2 miles. It also fairly cheap trip needing just one night motel stay and gas.

June-open

July
-Red, White, and Boom Half Marathon (Summit Challenge)
-Lifetime Minneapolis Sprint Triathlon. I really like the Lifetime Triathlon series, and Minneapolis is my favorite course. I look forward to this event every year.

August
-Lifetime Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon. This is the other local Lifetime Triathlon. Not nearly as good as the Minneapolis race, but it is nearby and a lot of fun.
-HITS Wacconia Sprint Triathlon
-Minneapolis Duathlon (postponed from 2015)

September-open

October-Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Loony Challenge. The TC Marathon is one of the biggest races in the country and the biggest running event in the Twin Cities. This allows me to participate in multiple races, get to the expo, race with the corporate team, and finish the year with a bang. It gives me guaranteed entry into the 10 miler (bypass the lottery) as well as getting an armload of bling.

November-open

December-open

Looking way ahead to 2017, Disney, Fargo, and Summit Challenges all fall off the schedule. So I will likely add one or more MN running series races to the calendar, continue doing the local Lifetime Triathlons, and run the Hot Chocolate 15k that I deferred this season. If I am itching to run a marathon, I might toss my name in the hat for New York or Chicago lotteries (both are world marathon majors), and a part of me wants to run a major before I give up marathons for good. But, I suspect that my marathon days are truly behind me. As far as travel goes, I suspect the Disney runs may be my last “destination” races (unless I get around to Chicago or New York), although I may do one overnight “semi-local” (Fargo, Winonna, Duluth, etc) race a year just to keep things interesting…

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Marathon Taper Begins…

Yesterday, I completed my final long training week of the year. I ran 6 out of  7 days with a long run if 21 miles followed the next day with a 15 miler. I totaled just over 60 miles for the week. Today, I plan on a final bike ride of the season (which will get my cycling total to just over 300 miles…a far cry from the 3000 miles last year). This weekend looks perfect for back to back “long-ish” runs at 12 miles each (hopefully) and then mostly 5-10 k runs until the Twin Cities Marathon and I-35 Challenge.

I was getting burnt out with the training, so getting these last long runs out of the way is a huge relief. The finish line is in sight for the season and I am finally confident that I will actually get there.

I am already getting excited for the DisneyLand Star Wars Half Marathon. I bought a light up lightsaber to carry with me for the photo stops (my wife already thinks (knows) that I am a complete dork, but I am sure that reading this will make her cringe…). Still trying to decide on the second Star Wars race in Disney World in April. If I run that, I would skip the Disney 25th anniversary marathon. Decisions, decisions…and, with registration coming up fast, I won’t have long to decide.

Until then, I need to focus on a few more training runs before marathon madness hits in a few weeks.

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Can Anyone Loan Me A Few Thousand SAU’s (Spousal Approval Units)???

I first came across the term “Spousal Approval Unit” (SAU) on Facebook while triathlon training. The concept is that Triathletes (especially Ironman wannabes like me) have a very expensive and time consuming hobby that can be VERY selfish. This can lead to some marital discord (ie: when I would only show up at home long enough between training sessions to plunder the savings account and sign up for another race). The concept of the SAUs is to understand that you (the athlete) need to engage in some give and take to make a marriage successful. As a triathlete, you are going to be doing a whole bunch of taking and you better start keeping track of how much and make some kind of effort to set up a re-payment plan (both personally and fiscally).

Think of it as a home equity loan from the bank. You better have a financial plan set up to repay the loan before then bank forecloses. Most of us think that we are paying the SAU debt back aggressively while we are just barely making the monthly payments (and then borrowing more).

I thought SAUs were a joke.

Then I did an Ironman.

It is very easy to get very wrapped up in that and get very self centered. Fortunately, I have a very loving and supportive family who encouraged my dreams, and let me be successful.

So, post-Ironamn, I made a promise to myself that I would cut back on the travel and the expenses for the next few years.

Then, the DisneyLand Star Wars Half Marathon came around. I love Disney and I am a total Star Wars geek. I “needed” to run it. I justified it to myself that it would be my one and only big running trip of the year. Everything else would be local. Just like that, I made a big withdrawal on the overdrawn SAU line of credit.

So, of course, Disney just announced a second Star Wars race (this one in Florida) to complement the one in California. Three more races, five more medals (including a special Coast to Coast medal).

Lets be clear, this mental balence sheet that I am tracking is something in my own head. My wife is very loving, generous, and supportive and does NOT keep track of every purchase and race registration. But I keep a mental log to make sure that I am not being overly abusive of that generosity. I just know that there have been a lot of withdrawals over the last few years, and I need to stop making such large and frequent SAU cash advances. I can’t even think of a way to justify this new one (and I am trying hard not too…)

So, if anyone has a few thousand extra SAUs floating around, I could sure use a donation. Alternatively, anyone know a good 12 step program for running or Disney that might help???

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