My First Half Marathon

As many of my readers know, the half marathon I was supposed to run in January wound up getting cancelled due to inclement weather so I was able to defer my registration to a different race. Well I’m happy to report that I finally was able to run my official half marathon with RunDisney last weekend, the Star Wars Dark Side Half, and it was a pretty awesome experience! In this entry I would like to regale you with tales of my training and meeting my goals and finishing my first official half marathon. I was able to run my first half with my godmother, Suzanne, and one of my oldest friends, Sarah, which was a great way to stay distracted and have fun for two and a half hours while running.

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Here’s just a preview of some of our shenanigans. 

For my last half, I did a novice training program by Hal Higdon that was really good for me given my starting point. The unofficial half I ran, I clocked in at around 2:53 which is pretty decent for a first go at running 13.1 miles. This time, since I was already pretty well trained from January (I picked up about 3 weeks after) so I wanted to try a different plan and settled on another Hal Higdon plan, the HM3 (for more experienced runners). Despite the fact that it would only be my first “official” half marathon, I felt pretty good after the last round of training that I was ready for a tougher program. I found it to be a great program and only had a couple of missed training runs in the 3 months and that was including a week where I was sick. I was also challenged by an article on the internet to run a 5k in under 30 minutes, which I finished in 28 and definitely attribute to my awesome training.

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28:05 – that’s right stupid internet article I AM in shape! 

Now let’s get on to the real exciting stuff, race weekend! For all RunDisney races you have to attend their running expo to pick up your bib and shirt before your race. They have tons of exhibitors set up at the Wide World of Sports selling various running accoutrements and health related stuff. There was even a booth set up by Celebration Hospital that had a body composition scan you could do for free and in just a couple of minutes.  Suzanne and I decided to give it a shot and I was thrilled with my results! After 8 weeks of bodyweight training (and several prior months of lifting) I apparently have 72 lbs of skeletal muscle mass and 18.7% body fat (despite my BMI being closer to 24). Based on this information I’m in the “fitness” category of body fat percentile and pretty close to “athlete” which of course gave me a huge boost of self-confidence which I assume helped me run my heart out the next day.

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Getting my body composition scan done, fancy machine and all. 

Now on to the actual race, which by the way starts at 5:30 in the morning, and required a bright and early 3am wake up on my part. So after sleeping about 4 hours (because nerves sometimes don’t let you fall asleep), we three lady warriors trudged to the bus stop at 4am to sit around in our corral for a while before it was our turn to run. Now it should be made clear that Sarah (who I’ve known for 20 years because we’re so old now) ran this race after having only 3 weeks of training and also one week of it being sick. Suzanne is a seasoned pro at running, she even finished a full marathon in under 5 hours earlier this year. And right in the middle you have me, who has been running for 18 months and trained the full 3 months for this race. But we stayed together for most of the race, Suzanne keeping me at a pace on track to finish in under 2 hours and 45 minutes, and Sarah kicking ass alongside us until about mile 9. I had my half marathon playlist in one ear to keep me motivated and Suzanne encouraging me and pushing me to go hard and stay on track in the other. One last motivation for me was knowing my dad & Suzanne’s son Hayden (one of my best friends and only 12 years old) were waiting for us at the Boardwalk around mile 12 to help push us through to the finish. I started getting emotional around mile 10, but after seeing them and getting to hug Hayden I couldn’t help but cry a little.

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Suzanne & I still leaping around mile 11, and hamming it up. 

I consider myself very lucky that Suzanne joined me in this race and volunteered to stick with me and pace me for my first race. Without her help I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to meet my goal and finish in under 2:45. Almost every time I wanted to walk or take it easy for a bit, I thought about keeping up with her and wanting to achieve my goal and kept running. Plus we took some amazing pictures together on the race course that I’ve already framed in my apartment and make me laugh every time I see them. I would like to one more time acknowledge the fact that she was placed in the C corral, her best ever, and she came all the way back with me in corral G so that we could be together. Thanks to her and a little bit of my training, I finished the race in 2:33:16 – far under my 2:45 goal going in. Throughout the race I didn’t have any issues until I was sprinting to the finish and my calves started cramping up. So what you can’t see in my finish line photo is the Charlie horse like pain searing through both of my calves, luckily I’m good at hiding my discomfort. I’m happy to say that after plenty of walking, a shower and a stellar breakfast at Olivia’s Café, I was all better for my day at Hollywood Studios and was able to enjoy wearing my medal proudly around the park.

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My finish line photo, feeling very triumphant and not at all like my calves are on fire and seizing up. 

For my first half marathon, I could not have had a better experience. RunDisney may not be perfect in their organization, but I had a great first race at the Dark Side half marathon and would most certainly do another in the future. I’m thinking my next goal might be to complete the dark side challenge, which consists of running a 10k on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. 19.3 miles in 2 days doesn’t sound so rough right now, but ask me again by the time next year’s race rolls around. For now, I’m going to keep running 3 days a week, bodyweight training 2-3 days (more on that soon), and working on my nutrition. At this rate, I’ll never stop working on being the best I can be- which isn’t such a bad position to be in.

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We 3 Amazonians conquered the 13.1 mile course, and I’m super proud of all of us! On to the next adventure! 

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Life Is Like Photography- Sometimes We Develop From The Negatives

Well my faithful readers, I have some disappointing news to share with you. I was unable to run the Disney half marathon last weekend, as it was cancelled due to inclement weather. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but after 13 weeks of training for this race I was pretty upset to not be able to run on Saturday morning. Because the race was cancelled (for the first time in RunDisney history) we were offered several options as repayment for the cancelled race including park hopper tickets, a Disney gift card for the cost of the race, the chance to run the full marathon the following day, or the option to defer and run another RunDisney in the next 2 years. I chose to defer to another race so this weekend I have to email RunDisney with preferences for what race I want to run and hopefully I will get my chance to run a half marathon later this year.

While this was a pretty big bummer for me, it gave me the opportunity to learn some lessons about myself personally and physically. The biggest revelation was the fact that I was absolutely crushed when I found out I wouldn’t be able to run the half marathon. If you had told me even a year ago that I would be so disappointed that I didn’t have to run 13.1 miles, I would’ve probably laughed in your face. It really is amazing how much can change in a year- last January I was just finishing up the Couch to 5k program and this year I finished up a half marathon training program. It took quite some time, but I consider myself to be a real runner now and that’s something I’m really proud of.

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These photos were taken to serve as memories of my first half marathon weekend. Now they show me how excited I was to run 13.1 miles- something I never thought possible. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t actually get to run the race, everyone who was signed up was able to get their finisher medal either at the Wide World of Sports or in the mail. Seeing as how I was going to the runner’s expo that day anyway, I decided to pick mine up in person. When I received my medal, instead of feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride in what I had completed I just felt empty and hopeless. I had this incredible medal that I had done nothing to get, it felt like getting a participation trophy for softball and it didn’t feel good. I decided not to wear my medal to the parks, as I had intended to after running, because I hadn’t earned it. One of my friends pointed out to me that I should think of it as the reward for losing 100 pounds- because I hadn’t done anything big for myself after the accomplishment. That made me feel a lot better, but I still want to earn my medal. So this weekend I intend on going out and running 13.1 miles on my own, so I can really say I’ve run a half marathon and put the 13.1 magnet on my car without guilt.

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The excitement was palpable- just hours before the disappointing news. 

The other really good thing that came out of this weekend was that I was able to meet and chat with Jeff Galloway, the Olympic runner and trainer. My godmother wanted to meet him so I joined her to wait in line after exploring the expo. I introduced myself and shook his hand and Suzanne decided to be a proud godmother and brag about my weight loss to Jeff. He really took an interest in my story not only because of my substantial weight loss, but also because I decided to do this in my early twenties instead of waiting like so many others do. He took down my information, we took a picture together, and he said he would email me about mentioning me on his website. So that was a pretty cool opportunity! I don’t really tend to bring up my weight loss or brag about it unless someone else brings it up to me first, because I don’t want to seem like the total narcissist that I actually am. But when an Olympian acknowledges that what I did was impressive, it does make me feel pretty accomplished.

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Me with Jeff Galloway! It was so great to meet him! 

Hopefully in the near future I’ll be posting about my excitement for my next half marathon (cross your fingers that I get in)! Despite the disappointment I faced this weekend, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do some self-reflection and hopefully I’ll be able to set some new goals for a future race.

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Some good things did come out of Saturday- like this cuddle party with my Godbrothers! 

Why You Should Be Playing Pokemon Go- For Fitness Reasons

By now I’m sure all of you have heard of (or are hopefully playing) the latest craze, Pokemon Go. I have never before endorsed a video game as being good for you, but this one really seems to be good for your health. For those of you who have been living under a rock since the app’s release on the 7th, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game you can download on your phone or device. It allows you to go out into the real world and catch Pokemon for your collection. One of the more fitness-related aspects of the game is that you get eggs which require you to walk a certain distance to hatch and get you a new Pokémon. The eggs vary in distance between 2 and 10 kilometers, and you actually have to walk to hatch them you can’t drive (if your speed is too fast it doesn’t count). It’s been a great way to get people out of the house and active.

As you all know I’m fairly active most days anyway, as my fitbit motivates me to get steps but since I downloaded Pokemon Go I have walking well over my 10,000 steps a day. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m very competitive and driven to beat others so this has become a bit of a mild addiction for me. While normally being addicted to a video game would be a bad thing, this one gets me outside and walking so it actually leads to positive outcomes most of the time. My drive to catch more Pokémon and level my current ones up has become so fierce that I’ve had to run home in the rain because I refused to quit for the day before I caught a certain number of pokemon.

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This is the rain-soaked face of addiction. My first day playing, and was totally worth the extra cardio to catch that Eevee. 

One of the greatest things about Pokemon Go is its ability to get people outside and being active who never would have considered doing it before. I’ve read so many stories online about people who are very overweight and never had motivation to go outside now walking several miles in a day because of this game. Pokemon Go has had a huge effect on the gaming community, who typically are known to spend much of their time inside playing on consoles or computers and has been able to get people outside and walking. I’ve seen several internet memes and jokes about things like this being the way Michelle Obama is getting our youth to be active, or how Pokemon Go is causing pain in people’s legs from walking for the first time in years. While those are said in jest, in truth the app has had a pretty positive effect on the level of activity in millennials and people who normally wouldn’t be outside.

Pokemon Go has not only encouraged people to get outside, but has also made them interact with others. At Pokestops (locations where you can stock up on free items like pokeballs), you are able to set up a “lure module” which draws Pokemon to the location. However people are finding that when they set up lures, they’re also attracting a number of people to the area. People who already have one thing in common and aren’t afraid to interact with people who share in their nerddom. I read a great story on reddit over the weekend about a girl who got a date thanks to Pokemon Go. She experiences a lot of social anxiety and hadn’t been interacting with others much since her devastating break up earlier this year, while waiting for the servers to come back up she started chatting with a nice guy about the game and they added each other on social media and then she asked him out. This app really is bringing people together and out of their shells more than anything I’ve ever seen before.

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A huge group turned up at the Sydney Opera House to play Pokemon Go, Australia was the first country to get the app. 

The other night, my friend Will and I decided to go adventure around UCF campus while it wasn’t so oppressively hot outside. It wasn’t a total surprise to see hundreds of other people with the same idea, but it was certainly a pleasant one. While we were walking around people were shouting out locations of rarer Pokémon and asking for help finding ones they couldn’t seem to get. Will and I were lucky enough to stumble upon a couple of Lickitungs, Hitmonchan, and Squritle while we were there plus catching a number of others and we managed to walk some 2 miles while we did it. That’s the great thing about this app, it’s a total distraction from the fact that you’re getting exercise and makes it fun!

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Just a small group of the hundreds of people on UCF campus at 11pm on a Tuesday night. 

If any of my readers have any fun Pokemon Go stories to share or want to discuss their collections or anything having to do with the game, feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear about how this app has affected you!

We Are #OrlandoUnited

After the events at Pulse on Sunday, it has taken me a while to compose myself enough to gather my feelings and thoughts into a coherent statement. As a member of the Orlando/Central Florida family I feel as though I need to take a moment to talk about the tragedy that occurred on Sunday. I spent a lot of time going back and forth about whether or not I should say anything about what happened, I didn’t want to get too off-topic from the core of this blog but then I realized that I’m the core of the blog and I’m a member of the community affected. If you feel the need to unsubscribe from my blog or stop following my journey because of this, that’s fine but I wanted to share some of my feelings.

I have lived in Orlando for 7 years now and I rarely ever felt unsafe, but as many others did I made the incorrect assumption that bad things don’t happen in my community, they happen to other people. I am not a member of the LGBT community, but so many people close to me are and so the attack on their community hurts too. I have family and friends that very well could have been at Pulse on Saturday night and I am so thankful that none of them were there. For the 49 people who lost their lives and the additional 53 that are injured, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. They are the people we need to remember, not the one selfish person who decided to obtain weapons solely for the intention of killing and harming others. I prefer to think of the people who were taken from us senselessly, not the one who did the taking and thank reporters like Anderson Cooper for doing the same and not mentioning the shooter by name.

In this time of tragedy, I am so very proud of my community for standing together this week and committing to helping out. The amount of people who have gone out to donate blood is absolutely astounding, I plan on joining them later this week (once my doctor says I’m cleared) and to continue to have an ample supply of blood when needed. Seeing those who couldn’t donate making the decision to donate food and water to those waiting in line, or places like the Chick Fil A on University Blvd that opened on Sunday to send food to those people makes my heart burst with pride for our city. Or the amazing corporations, businesses, and people who have donated money to the fund to help the victims and our city, there’s really being progress made for the cause. Everyone has come together in the wake of this awful event and made a stand together.

I don’t want to take any sort of political stance here, as this is a blog about fitness and weight loss and overall well-being. It’s simply not my place. That being said, I hope that once the smoke clears from this horrific incident we are able to make changes to keep our country safer, to keep my community safer. There is going to be a lot of rebuilding ahead for my city and I hope it heads in the right direction for making real change. I look forward to being a part of the rebuilding and continue to make Orlando great. We are Orlando United, we are Orlando Strong.

For those in the Central Florida area, look here to help or get help.

For those elsewhere who want to help here’s a more general list.

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Karen Hallion, one of my favorite artists, drew this in the wake of the tragedy. I think everyone could use a hug.