Category: Non-Disney Races

Race Recap: The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

We last left off as I was settling down for an all too short 5 hours of sleep.  I didn’t sleep all that well, as I never seem to do so before races, because I wake up every hour to check the clock and make sure I haven’t overslept.  When it was finally time to get up, my adrenaline kicked in and I got all my gear on, made sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, and made sure I had everything for Team Challenge.  We had to wear 2 wristbands during the race, one for the complimentary transportation and one for the admission to the wine tasting after party.  There was also a ticket on our race bib that entitled us to one engraved wine glass…didn’t want to pass that up!

Another thing I got for this race was a PaceTat, which is a temporary tattoo that gives you what your splits should be if you want to finish at a certain time goal.  They are really cool!  More to come later on this 🙂

The night before I had heard some commotion going on outside our door, but I didn’t check to see what it was.  When I opened the door to leave, I was met by a fun surprise.  My team members had decorated my door with a sign and streamers!!  What a great surprise!

I grabbed a half of a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter that brought from home and headed down to the lobby to meet the team.  The coaches did one last review of their race tips and we boarded the bus for the 30 minute ride to the race site.  The night before, Coach Janis warned us that there is a lot of grass and dirt at the site.  There were huge storms the day before, so there could be mud and the grass was sure to be wet.  She advised us to grab the plastic garbage bags from the wastebaskets in our hotel rooms to put over our shoes for when we arrived to protect our shoes from getting wet.  Brilliant!  Most of our team did this and we received a lot of strange looks when we got off of the bus, but later while waiting in line for the bathroom in the wet grass, everyone thought we were geniuses!  It really did help to keep my shoes dry and this is a tip I will keep with me for all future races.

Garbage Bag Feet = Dry Feet

The team gathered to do some warm ups and get some group photos in before the race.  We also got to here some last minute tips from Jeff Galloway, which was really cool!  This was my small runDisney tie-in to this race.  The event was held at Doukenie Winery and it is an absolutely beautiful setting, especially first thing in the morning when we arrived.  There are horses, ducks, a large pond and of course sprawling fields of grape vines.  It is truly breathtaking.  In fact, this whole area in Virginia is a hidden gem.  I never knew there was wine country there.

Sunrise at the Winery

Team Fairfield/Westchester!

Jeff Galloway sporting a lovely garbage bag to keep warm!

Before we get to the race, I do need to comment on the bag check situation there.  This definitely wasn’t a Disney operation…  There was a table set up for bag check and the volunteers were handing out white garbage bags and Sharpie markers to write your name and bib number on the bag.  They then took your back and put it in the (wet) grass behind the table in no particular order.  Yikes!  I was so thankfully Barry was coming after the race with all of my things so I didn’t have to check anything.  This must have been a nightmare to collect at the end!

At about 6:30 am, we headed down to the starting line, which was in the driveway of the vineyard where we waited and waited and waited.  For some reason the race was delayed by half an hour.  There were rumors floating around that there were still some buses heading to the site from the host hotels, but there was no official announcement.  There were no corrals or pace markers when we got down there, so the team just picked a spot about mid-way in the starting area and waited.  Since there was such a delay, many of the runners took this time to take a bathroom break in the vineyards next to the race start.  Let’s just say that the grape vines don’t provide much coverage and I saw a lot more of some female runners than I would’ve liked!

At the starting line…waiting

We faintly heard the starting bell at about 7:30 am and began to move.  While the start was pretty disorganized, I was kind of happy about the delay because it it gave Barry enough time to get to the race.  He was on one of the aforementioned buses.  He was waiting right after the starting line and I was able to get a good luck kiss in 🙂

So here I was running in Virginia.  I started off really well and was doing a 3/1 minute run/walk combo.  I was feeling great.  The course was beautiful and I saw some fun things along the way.  I almost took a detour to the Pygmy Goat and Miniature Horse farm and I found my new home…the Black Cat Manor!!  There were also a TON of Team Challenge supporters out on the course cheering us on, which really helped.

Around Mile 2

Gorgeous Farm Country

Pygmy Goats!

I need to live here!

Yes, things were going great…until mile 5.  This is when the gravel started.  We were told that there was only about 1 mile of hard dirt road with minimal gravel.  Oh no…this was 4 MILES of gravel and the road was very uneven.  I got numerous stones in my shoes, which I had to stop and take out and this also caused a very uncomfortable blister to form on the ball of my right foot.  I have never had blisters on the bottom of my feet before, but I also haven’t run on 4 miles of gravel before so we were in uncharted territory.  By the time I got to the end of this stretch at mile 9, I was not a happy camper.  I saw one of my coaches just before the end of the gravel and she helped push me through, which was a huge help.

Giant Gravel Hill = Hell

The last 4 miles went by fairly well.  My calves started cramping up towards the end, but I pushed though.  I was determined to finish the race in under 3 hours and I was getting very close to that not happening.  The gravel really slowed me down so I had to make up some time.  This is where the PaceTat really came in handy because I could compare the time to my Garmin and make sure I was still on pace.

As I was coming up to the end, I was surprised by an old co-worker who lives in the area and came to cheer me on.  This really picked up my spirits to get to that finish line.  Miraculously, I saw a group of my team members and my 2 coaches right in front of me and we all finished in one big group.  Coach Janis ran next to me right up to the finish line and yes, I finished in under 3 hours!  2:59:17 to be exact.  I sure know how to cut it close 🙂  I was so happy to see Barry right there at the end cheering me on and taking some great photos!  It makes such a difference to have a smiling, familiar face at the end after doing something so challenging.

Almost there!!

I did it!

Under 3 Baby!

After the race, we had to go directly to the Team Challenge tent to check in.  This is to ensure all runners are off the course and so the coaches for each team can come in.  This is also where I got my Team Challenge finisher pin and etched wine glass.  Then, my first priority was to get my sneakers off, deal with this blister and get my compression sleeves on my calves.  I found these awesome Blister Treatment bandages from Dr. Scholl’s that were phenomenal!  I highly recommend them.  After I got my legs squared away, it was time for some food.  Team Challenge hosted an after party for runners and their guests where we chowed down on burgers, grilled chicken, potato salad and fruit.  It was a great post-race spread.

Once I was refueled, it was time to check out the wine tasting!  We received these fun commemorative wine glasses that we were able to use in the wine tasting area.  There were probably about 6 different local wineries there offer a variety of wines.  I wasn’t blown away by the wines in Virginia, but it was a really good time.

Commemorative Wine Glass

Post Race Wine Tasting

Overall, this was a fun race experience.  Running with Team Challenge was an amazing and rewarding experience.  Plus, I’m really happy that I met my goal of finishing in under 3 hours.  The course was not my favorite and because of all of the gravel, I’m not sure I would return unless the course was changed.  It’s a shame because the area is beautiful and the after party was a lot of fun.  We’ll just have to wait and see.    All I know is that half marathon #2 is successfully under my belt and I can’t wait to do the next one!

Race Recap: Leading Up to the Virginia Wine Country Half

Last weekend was the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon.  As I’m sure you know by now, I signed up for the race in January as part of Team Challenge.  What I didn’t realize when I signed up was that I had a HUGE conference for work that I was managing.  For some reason the dates didn’t register as being an issue because I think I was so excited to get started fundraising for CCFA.  It wasn’t until March when it actually clicked and I started to become really nervous about what I was taking on, but at that point I was committed and had already received a significant amount of money.  I couldn’t let my donors down!

So the week of the race came and needless to say, I was completely stressed out.  I had to pack for 2 trips, this conference was looming over me, and there was a lot of car travel in my future.  Needless to say, the conference was a huge success, but it was also very tiring.  Looooong days and a lot of walking, which made my legs and feet tired.  Not good for the days leading up to a half marathon.

I left the conference early on Friday and drove the hour home to switch suitcases and say hi to my cats for a quick second…they totally missed me 🙂

Then it was off to pick up the hubs, grab some lunch and hit the road.  On my way to pick him up I realized I forgot my iPod for the race…ugh.  I don’t like using my phone for music because I like to keep the battery for photos and tweets, you know, the important things!  Luckily there is an Apple store by Barry’s job and there is also a Pinkberry, which totally cheered me up.  The detours set us back a bit and we left about an hour later than expected, but fingers were crossed we’d still make the Team Challenge Pasta Party.

My favorite!

Snazzy New Shuffle

As soon as Barry took the wheel, it was time to slap on my calf compression sleeves and stretch my legs a bit.  They felt so tired from the past 3 days and I wanted to work my muscles out for the race the next morning.  Oooh how I love these things!

Compression Sleeves RULE

The drive was tedious and we hit quite a few strong storms along the way, but after 6 long hours we made it.  I missed the expo, but thankfully my awesome endurance manager picked up my race packet for me.  We were also late for the pasta party and the program had started just was we got there.  We grabbed a plate and headed in to sit with my team.  A few CCFA execs spoke and got the team motivated for the race.  They also announced the top 10 fundraisers for the race and the totals were amazing!  The top fundraiser raised $30,000!

Lastly, the number 5 fundraiser from New Jersey (I wish I could remember her name!) gave a truly inspirational speech.  She has suffered from Crohn’s diseases from many years and told the very difficult story of how she ended up her.  She had me in tears at the end of her speech, but more excited than ever to get out there and run for this fantastic cause.

Team Challenge Pasta Party

After the pasta party, we had a team meeting to go over all of the details of the race tomorrow.  By this time, I was running on fumes and needed to hit the hay.  We checked into our room, I quickly got my gear ready for the morning, and set my alarm for 3:45 am.  The team was meeting in the lobby at 4:45 am sharp so I settled in for my 5 hours of sleep.  Stay tuned for the race recap!

Getting Ready for the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

My second half marathon is coming up this Saturday, and I must admit I’m a little nervous.  I haven’t been feeling myself lately.  Work is hectic, my allergies are at full blast, and I’m not sleeping well.  Not the best start to a half marathon week.

Oh did I mention work was hectic?  This morning I leave for the MGM Grand at Foxwoods for a large conference I have been working on for just about a year.  I’m there for the next 2 days prepping and then managing parts of the conference.  We have close to 400 people attending, 72 exhibitors, breakout sessions, cocktail parties…you name it!  If all goes as planned, I will be leaving early on Friday by 10:00 am.  Big thanks to my colleagues for covering me.  This is because on Friday, I will be driving (actually Barry will be driving) 7+ hours to Leesburg, VA for the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon.

So let’s see, I will be sleeping in a strange bed for 3 nights before the race, eating foods that probably aren’t the best for me, and partaking in a few cocktails here and there.  I’ve been hydrating for a few days already and I will try to make the best food choices as possible, but my will power is lacking when good restaurants are in view.  All in all, this is not the ideal situation for a race week, hence my nervous stomach.  And then there all my AMAZING friends and family who donated over $3,100 to help me run this race for Team Challenge.  No pressure there… :O

Ok let’s stop looking at the negatives and focus on some positives for the weekend that I’m really excited about.  Wine, wine and more wine.  I’ve never been to the Virginia wine country, but from what I’ve seen it’s beautiful.  Check out some pics from last year’s race.

Absolutely beautiful.  So not only is the wine country nice to look at, but there is plenty of wine to be had.  The weekend starts out with a wine tasting at the host hotel, which I will sadly not be able to make due to my late arrival on Friday.  Then there will be plenty of wine during and after the race.  That’s right, I said during the race.  I just received this in an email today about the weekend:

Wine and Music on-course? Yes, it’s true! Runners will deviate from the course at mile 6 to visit Hiddencroft Vineyards for water station #4.  Not just any water stop, there will also be a band (the Shorthill Mountain Boys) and small sample of white wine offered (Traminette, an east coast hybrid of Gewurtraminer).  

I’m not sure if I’ll partake in this, but I think it’s pretty cool that they are offering it.  Then after the race, there is a post-race wine and music festival.  All runners will get a wine glass after crossing the finish line and be able to have a glass from the hosting winery, Doukenie.  Family and friends are invited to join us for wine, food and music from two live bands!  How fun?!!

Prior to the race on Friday evening, there is a pasta dinner with Jeff Galloway.  As a Disney runner, I am very excited to get to meet Jeff Galloway since he is the official runDisney training consultant.  I also use Jeff’s run/walk method of training and it has really helped me increase my speed.  I have a lot to thank him for!  Plus I will be able to catch up with my Team Challenge teammates during the dinner, many of whom I have not spoken to in a while since I’ve missed a lot of trainings.

So it’s not all bad.  I have a lot to look forward to and I VERY excited to run my second half marathon.  My goal is to complete it in under 3 hours and I’m feeling confident I can accomplish this goal.  I just need to get through the next few days with minimal stress.  Wish me luck and hopefully I will have good news to report on Saturday afternoon!  I don’t think there is runner tracking for this race, but my bib # is 2831 if you’re interested 🙂

ShamRock & Roll 5K Race Recap

On March 4th, I ran the ShamRock & Roll 5K in New Haven, CT.  Since St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, I had been wanting to run this race since I first heard about it back in November.  I hesitated to sign up since the race was the weekend following the Princess Half Marathon since I wasn’t sure how I’d be feeling afterwards.  My legs started feeling normal again about 4 days after the half, which was also the deadline for registering.  So the taunting of a free tech shirt and the fact that the race was 10 minutes from my house beat out my soreness from the half, and I registered.

It was chilly the morning of the race.  The temperature was somewhere in the high 30s and it was overcast and breezy.  I actually prefer running in this weather compared to warm weather, so I didn’t mind, but I felt bad for Barry who was standing around waiting for me to finish.  I wore shorts, which might have been pushing it a bit…my legs were freezing!!

Check out my awesome shamrock Bondiband!

When we arrived at the race site, everything seemed disorganized.  The finish line was outside of a music venue called Toad’s Place and everyone seemed to be crowded around this area.  We walked around the corner to where I thought the start line was supposed to be, but there was no signage and no people around.  I was confused.  We headed back to Toad’s Place in search of water and to see what was going on.  At that point I heard someone announce that we should all head over the the starting line.  OK, and where would that be??  Tons of people started pouring out of Toad’s Place, which little did I know, was where everyone was hanging out (in the warmth) before the race.  Like a salmon swimming upstream, I made my way inside to grab a few cups of water and then followed the crowd of festive runners to the starting area.

Runners dressed up…is that a kilt towel??

We arrived at the starting line and it was exactly where I thought it was.  15 minutes prior, this area was deserted and now it was jam packed!  I got close to the front of the group since I knew I was going to be slow and didn’t want to finish last.  These smaller races usually are full of people who run faster than me!

Crowd at the starting line

A very tall gentleman next to me saw me taking that picture of the crowd and made a comment that I’ll need to get higher than that.  Unfortunately my 5’3″ size only gets me so high.  So he offered to take a picture for me of in front of us and behind us, which he said was much more impressive.  I could only take is word for it at the time.  What a generous offer from a stranger, and I wasn’t even in Disney!

Starting line from much higher above!

Behind me at the starting line

The race began a few minutes late and I couldn’t even hear the announcements they were making.  I knew we started when the group started moving.  The race went through the Yale University campus, which is very beautiful.  The historic buildings are great to look at.  New Haven can get a bad rap, but I love this city.  The course was a pretty straight out and back on a relatively flat road.  There were some gradual inclines around the half mile mark and right before the finish line (not nice!).

A nice addition to this race were electronic time clocks at all of the mile markers.  At the last race I ran with this organization back in December, the Christopher Martins 5K, they had volunteers at each mile yelling out the time from their phones.  Big improvement with the clocks!  Another plus on this race, was the addition of entertainment on the course.  There were 2 bands set up playing live music to get the runners energized.  I guess this was to be expected since the race had rock & roll in the title, but I really enjoyed it.

Once I started running I realized that this probably wasn’t the best idea.  My legs immediately started screaming and all the soreness from the Princess Half came right back.  This was going to be a long 3 miles.  I finished the 1st mile in about 12 minutes and was starting to feel a bit better as my body warmed up.  I kept going along at this pace and was feeling ok, well that was until just after mile 2.  My calves started seizing up and my psoas injury was starting to rear its ugly head.  Ugh.  I decided to slow down to walk for a little bit and give my legs a rest, but this was a HUGE mistake.  The pain just ended up getting worse  and it made finishing much more difficult.  But I pushed through 🙂

Race photo around 2.75 miles…trying to stay positive!

My goal was to finish in under 37 minutes, which clearly didn’t happen due to still being sore from the half, but I’m still happy with my time of 38:21.  It’s 1:24 faster than my last 5K (the Tangled Royal Family 5K doesn’t count) in December.  I’m still making progress and that’s all that matters!

Check out this video of my crossing the finish line.  A nice surprise from Barry after the race!


Overall it was a fun race, but there are some things I have learned from this experience.

  1. Don’t run another race (even a 5K) the week after a half marathon.  Especially if it’s you’re first half marathon!  My legs were definitely not up to this and I didn’t run the best race I knew I could.
  2. Running a small local race right after running a Disney race is a total let down.  Disney really spoils their runners with entertainment, water, and medals!
  3. Don’t push it when injured.  I should’ve rested for a few weeks after the half marathon to let my injury properly heal, but in what is typical fashion for me, I pushed it.

Have you ever had a less than stellar race experience?

Christopher Martin 5K Recap: My First Cold Weather Race

About a month ago, I ran my first 5K since I started my half marathon training.  It was in New Haven, CT on a frigid December day.  The week prior to the race, I was watching the temperature drop and was beginning to get nervous.  I had never run outside in very cold temperatures and I didn’t even have the proper clothes!  I’d only been training for 2 months at this point and it had only been on the treadmill.  I needed to get at least one cold run in before this race.  My biggest concern was being able to breathe in the cold air.  I kept having horrible flashbacks from gym class in middle school when we’d run laps in the winter and my lungs would burn from the cold.

Awesome Shirt

A few days before the race, I went and tried on a few different cold weather shirts to run in.  The winner was the fitted ¼ zip top from Under Armour.  This is an amazing shirt – it is incredibly warm, but allows your body to breathe on long runs.  Oh and the sleeves are extra long with thumbholes – I love any shirt with thumbholes!  I also got a light pair of gloves, which I found out later aren’t really needed.

The day before the race, it was about 35 degrees out so I decided to do a quick one-mile run to test out my new gear and see how my lungs would hold out in the cold air.  The run went really well and my lungs didn’t burn like I thought they would.  I was also surprised at how warm my body got even in the cold weather.  I was sweating after a mile!  I felt better about my comfort level in the race and that I wouldn’t die of frostbite.


So race morning comes and I’m asking myself why I’m doing this.  I mean really, who gets up at 8 am on a Sunday to run 3.1 miles in 28-degree weather?  Only crazy people, right?  Well I sure felt crazy at the time.  I had my usual pre-run snack of half of a whole wheat tortilla with almond butter and a banana, got myself all bundled up, and we were off to the race.  My awesome hubs kindly drove me to the race and was ready to cheer me on.

When we arrived at the race, we had to park about a half mile away from the starting line, which was a good warm up walk for the run.  The race was a good size, with about 2,500 people participating so there were a lot of cars in an area with little parking.  The restaurant Christopher Martin’s was sponsoring the race and they had a large water tent set up, which was much appreciated and located in the sun, so I spent my time there warming up.  Dunkin’ Donuts also had a truck there providing prerace snacks.

About 5 minutes before start time, I left my sunny spot and got into the race corral.  I got in close to the front because I was nervous about being at the back of the pack.  My adrenaline was pumping and I was ready to get moving.  They counted us down and we were off!

Starting towards the front ended up not being such a great idea once the race started.  I was running way to fast in the beginning to keep pace with the group.  I realized this after a few minutes and really took it down a notch.  I knew that if I was going to finish this race on two feet and not crawling on all fours, I had to keep a pace that I was comfortable with.  I also found that since I was running faster than normal, I was breathing much harder and my nose felt like it was completely frozen because I was taking in so much cold air.  I finished the first mile in 11:58, which was the fasted mile I had run to date, and I was still feeling pretty good at this point.  Surprisingly I was getting really warm despite the super cold temperature.  I took my gloves off and kept going for another half mile or so before I took a short walking break to catch my breath.  For the rest of the race, I did a walk/run combo every quarter mile at around a 13:15 min/mile pace.

As I was getting closer to the finish line and could see the race clock, I really picked up the pace.  I had never finished a 5K distance in less than 40 minutes and I was determined to do it.  And guess what, I did it!  39:45 minutes to be exact.  I thought I was going to pass out after I crossed the finish line because I was running so fast, but it didn’t matter – I did it!  I accomplished my goal, and I did it a full 8:35 minutes faster than the 5K I ran 2 months prior!


This was my first non-Disney race and the experience was very different.  Where were the fireworks?  Where was the entertainment?  Where was my finishing medal?  The atmosphere was much more serious and not as lighthearted as the Disney 5Ks are.  But even without all of those Disney extras, I still had a great time.  I must really be starting to like running.

Amazing hubs found me after the race and greeted me with my choice of water and Gatorade.  He also moved the car right across from the finish line so I didn’t have to make the long walk back.  Best. Ever.  I stretched a bit, drank a ton of water and headed home for a post race meal.

This race was a great experience and kick started my serious half marathon training.  It gave me the confidence to run outside in the cold, which I had been very nervous about before this.  There is another 5K in the beginning of February that I’m going to get in before the half.  Next goal: less than 38 minutes.  Is it possible??

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