This Runner's Trials
20Apr/159

runDisney Dopey Challenge pros and cons

Posted by runnerstrials

The winner of the Illumiseen giveaway is Erica C. Congrats Erica! I’ll send you an email.

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I’ve had a Dopey Challenge final thoughts post done since a week after I completed the race this past January. But I thought it was better to sit on it awhile before hitting publish.

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You see, immediately after the challenge, I was on the biggest running high. It was my best race experience ever, and I couldn’t wait to do it again. Even my non-Disney-loving, only-runs-because-it’s-necessary-for-triathlons husband was a huge fan of Dopey. We went into Dopey thinking that we’d be “one and done”, but the day after the marathon, Jeff started making goals for “next time”. Of course, this was music to my ears!

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That’s our cumulative time for the races on the right. I actually want to run again so I can beat him!

I had hoped that we would be running Dopey again in 2016. But Disney Annual Passholder registration came and went last week, and we didn’t sign up – and we won’t sign up when regular registration opens later this month either.

Here’s the short version why: Dopey is the most amazing race, but it’s also incredibly expensive – $586! – especially when both my husband and I want to run. Add in travel costs, hotel, meals, and it’s more than we can afford right now.

If you’re on the fence about registering for Dopey, I’d definitely suggest doing it. But if you want a little more info than that, here are my top pros and cons:

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Pros

It’s the most amazing race challenge. Dopey consists of a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday. A full marathon, in my opinion, is a huge race challenge in itself. Running a marathon after running all of those other events leading up to it is just… well crazy! Part of the excitement is the unknown. I never did any Dopey simulation runs (some people run 4 days in a row and do mini-Dopey challenges as part of training), so I really didn’t know if I would be able to complete the challenge. But that’s seriously half of the fun. As the challenge goes on, things get more serious and the nerves and excitement just keep building up, making you feel like you’re going to explode. Add in the fact that you’re in Disney with thousands of other runners, and it’s just an amazing environment and experience.

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It’s doable if you can run a marathon. I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to finish Dopey going into it. I had friends who ran it the year before who assured me that I would, but still – the unknown is scary! However, I remember finishing the marathon and thinking “that wasn’t so bad”! And it’s true – if you can run a marathon, you can do Dopey. I think holding back during the first three races – we ran the 5k, 10k, and half marathon all at an “easy” pace – and resting as much as possible between the races is key for success.

The early race starting times. I know that the crazy early start times, and 2:30 am wake-ups, seem like a con, but they’re not for Dopey. We resisted the urge to nap every day so that we’d be ready to pass out by 7pm every night. By days three and four, we had readjusted our body clocks and weren’t too tired. Full disclosure, though: at the time we ran Dopey, we had an 8-month-old and 3-year-old, neither who slept through the night for months leading up to the race. So, we were used to not being well-rested if that makes sense.

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Cons

Unpredictable weather. I prefer running in warm weather, and unfortunately it was horribly cold and windy the morning of the 5k. The 10k and half marathon weren’t too much better, but thankfully it was warmer for the full. The weather in Florida in January is so unpredictable. We participated in marathon weekend in 2009 and it was warmer than average, in 2010 when there was record lows and sleet, and in 2013 when it was miserably hot. You never know what you’re going to get, which makes costume planning challenging. I suggest bringing four throwaway layers, one for each race morning.

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You won’t know until race morning if you’ll need to run the entire race in a bathrobe!

The time of year of the race. For me, December is the most challenging month for running. The cold air settles in and I’m just not eager to hop out of bed on cold, dark mornings to go run. Add in the extra festivities and family fun that comes with the holiday season, and it’s just really hard for me to carve out time for long runs. However, I ran two marathons in November before Dopey. Even though I was feeling burnt out after those races and second guessed my decision to take on Dopey, I think already being in marathon shape before December helped me out. I didn’t feel the pressure to get in every training run through December because I knew I was in fairly good shape. When I run Dopey again, I’ll also follow this approach and run a fall marathon.

The price tag. Unless you’re local to the Orlando area, Dopey is a racecation. In addition the steep registration fees, you have to pay for travel and at least 4 nights stay in a hotel, not to mention food, park tickets, and goodies from the expo. You’re literally forced to make a vacation out of Dopey. For many runners, this means bringing the kids along, which adds to the cost. Dopey literally costs thousands of dollars! In my opinion it’s worth it once (if you can afford it), but this is what’s stopping us from doing it again in the near future.

My biggest tips for Dopey are to take it easy at the parks, resist the urge to nap so it’s easier to go to bed earlier, and expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather. And have fun! Dopey was hands down my most fun race experience ever. I’m so excited for everyone who is taking on the challenge in 2016!

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For more on Dopey, check out these posts:

Registration for runDisney Marathon Weekend opens April 28, 2015 at noon EDT. Don’t hesitate to sign up. Dopey will sell out quickly. If you want to run any of the 2016 marathon weekend races, be at your computer before noon.

15Apr/1550

Illumiseen LED reflective belt review + giveaway

Posted by runnerstrials

If you run at dusk, dawn, or overnight, I have a great product to share with you today! This is now my go-to illumination device on morning runs.

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Illumiseen contacted me awhile ago to review their LED reflective belt. Once I read a little bit more about the belt, I jumped on the opportunity to try it.

I regularly run at dawn. When I was marathon training last summer, I started some long runs hours before the sun was up, so I literally ran in the pitch dark. Since then, I’ve tried a few reflective products to help me see or keep me illuminated. One thing that really caught my eye about the Illumiseen belt was that it comes with a rechargeable battery.

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I just plug it into my USB charger and volia, it’s charged! This is huge. I love some other illumination products I’ve tested, too, but the batteries die so often that it’s a pain keeping up with them (I’m talking about you, Knuckle Lights).

I also love how bright this belt is. It makes me glow from all angles.

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From the manufacturer's website:  “Thanks to the 3M Scotchlite™ reflective material and custom-designed fiber optics it reflects oncoming light AND gives off a powerful beacon in the dark.”

In the above picture, the LED light is turned off. With the switch of a button, you choose if you want to run with it off, completely on, or blinking on and off. I usually run with the light off since I start my runs only about 20-30 minutes before the sun rises. It’s not that dark, so I don’t need full illumination.

Here’s a comparison of what the belt looks like off vs. on:

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It’s really bright!

I was most nervous that this belt wouldn’t be comfortable. I do not like running with things around my waist or shoulders – I have never found a fuel belt that I like – so I didn’t know how I’d do with the Illumiseen belt. But it surprised me! The belt is adjustable. At first, I adjusted it to fit around my waist, like in the above picture, but it bounced around too much there. So, I moved it lower to around my hips. The snug fit bothered me for a couple of minutes, but then I quickly got used to it and forgot it was there. I’ve worn the belt on runs up to 6 miles so far, and it’s always been comfortable.

If you don’t like it around your waist, you can also drape it across your shoulder. Or double up with two belts!

Green and Red

photo courtesy of Illumiseen.

The Illumiseen belt comes in three colors: green, red, or blue. It comes with a money back guarantee, and can be purchased on Amazon. Or you can win one right here!

Illumiseen has generously offered to give one of you guys a belt! Simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. The giveaway will be open until Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm Eastern. I will contact and announce the winner next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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13Apr/157

2015 Charlotte Racefest 10k race recap

Posted by runnerstrials

On Saturday, I ran the Charlotte Racefest 10k. I only decided to run the event a few days ago, and I’m so glad I signed up!

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I ran the half marathon at Racefest back in 2012, and I remember the race being a lot of fun and really hilly. But I surprised myself and set an unexpected PR. Spoiler alert: that’s basically what happened this year, too!

This was the first race that I’ve ever gone to alone, which is crazy. Jeff offered to bring the kids and come cheer me on, but with the 7:30 am start time, I planned on leaving at 6:15. I also planned on leaving immediately after the race so I’d be home to feed Hadley by 9. So, it just didn’t make sense to wake the kids up so early and set them up to be exhausted all day long.

I arrived to the race site, Southpark Mall, around twenty to seven. I had no issues parking. Racefest and the Southpark Turkey Trot that we do every year both start and end at the mall. I love it because there is so much parking, and you don’t have to arrive too early.

I picked up my packet at Dick’s, headed back to my car to get ready, and made my way over to the start to use the bathroom 40 times before the race began. It was actually nice being alone. I’m glad that I didn’t have to worry about the kids, and could just chill out. Since I had no goals for this race but to “have fun”, I was super relaxed as I waited at the start. The weather was also perfect. Mid-60s, overcast, and humid. I’d much rather run in hot than cold, so the weather was great for me.

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10k runners started on the left, half marathoners started on the right.

Most runners were doing the half. I made my way towards the front of the 10k runners, and overheard a woman tell her friend that her goal was to run the 10k at a 7:15 pace. I had no pace goals before that moment, but I decided that I wanted to try to keep up with her as long as a I could.

All of a sudden, we were off!

I was really excited at the start and felt great. The first mile or so is down Barclay Downs, a really pretty street. I kept repeating to myself “keep it slow, keep it slow, keep it slow”. I typically do better when I start off slow and speed up. But today, I was definitely going out too fast. At mile 1, I heard my Fitbit app tell me my time and I cringed.

Mile 1: 7:07

Grrr. I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace the whole race, but I was feeling pretty good, so I couldn’t justify slowing down. The second mile was a little hillier, but not too bad. Towards the end of this mile, I passed my 7:15 pace “friend”. I felt like that wasn’t a wise move, but again, I couldn’t slow down when I felt fine.

Mile 2: 7:08

The third mile is when we turned onto Providence Road and the hills started to get to me. I know that I majorly slowed down on one of the steeper hills, and I debated throwing in the towel and keeping the pace “easy” for the rest of the race.

Mile 3: 7:30

But the nice thing about 10ks is that it’s such a short race! I was suffering, but I was also already halfway done. Once the road was flat again, I tried to push as hard as I could to make up for the time I lost on the bad hill during the previous mile.

I was also thirsty. I meant to carry a squirt bottle of water with me, but I forgot. I didn’t want to stop at any fluid stations because I usually walk through aid stations, and I didn’t want to take a walk break and lose my momentum. But I needed something. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and tried to drink on the run, but it didn’t work! I was covered in Gatorade. Oh well.

Mile 4: 7:07

After mile 4, I realized that we’d be finishing the last two miles on the half marathon course. I remember those final two miles from the half I ran three years ago. They were so hilly, and I remember thinking that my legs were going to fall off. Ironically, the only other time I thought my legs were going to fall off was exactly a year ago this Saturday – when I was having leg labor with Hadley! I laughed out loud when I realized the timing. Why not try to make my legs fall off again, right?

Mile 5: 7:09

I knew the last half mile to the finish was all uphill, but I forgot about the humungous hill that happens earlier in the sixth mile. I was doing a fairly good job of pushing through the pain until that hill, but then I totally gave in. I walked for about 10 seconds. I was definitely succeeding in feeling like my legs would fall off! I told myself to regroup and finish strong up the final long hill to the end.

Mile 6: 7:25

When my Fitbit tracker spoke to me, it said “6 miles in 43:xx”. I did the math quickly and realized if I booked it, I could come in sub-45. A sub-45 minute 10k has been a goal of mine for so long. To be honest, I thought a 45:xx time was possible today, but I never imagined that I was in shape to break 45 minutes – especially on this challenging course. I ran as fast as I could to the finish and saw the seconds ticking. I knew I had it, my sub-45.

Last 0.2: 6:52

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Time 44:46 (7:12 minute/mile pace), good enough for a PR and second in my age group!

I was so, so happy – and in so, so much pain! After not following a training plan since last fall, I could not believe that I set a PR. I’m so glad I did this race because it lit a fire under me to set some long-term running goals.

And, because I’m a cheeseball, I loved that my legs felt like they were on fire exactly a year after I had leg labor. It was the perfect way to end a really exciting year of postpartum running. I feel so fortunate for everything that I’ve accomplished on the running front this past year. A huge thank you to my sweet ONE year old (!) for making that possible.

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