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Monday, March 30, 2015

Cooper River Bridge Run 10k Race Report

For the past couple of years, I have watched local friends head down to Charleston, SC for the Cooper River Bridge Run, which is a 10k that goes over the Ravenel Bridge, almost 3 miles long, across the Cooper River. It's one of the largest 10ks around and it looked like fun. Several months ago, I, along with DisBroad Amy and our friend Wendy, signed up for this race. We planned a girl's trip, and after months and months of no sleep and running myself ragged with 4 kids, it was much needed.

Amy and Wendy were coming together, and I was heading down by myself. After many traffic jams and Apple Maps routing me to the airport instead of our hotel, I finally met up with Amy and Wendy at our hotel. Amy unknowingly picked an awesome hotel, which was actually attached to the convention center where the expo was being held. The lines to pick up our bibs and swag were short and we made a quick circle around the expo. The vendors were standard, and the official merchandise left a lot to be desired, so we didn't buy anything. One thing the expo did have was FREE alcohol samples. Wine and mix drinks we were sure to hit up each spot.
Unfortunately, the fact that I've been pregnant and nursing for well over a year, just a few tiny cups of wine was enough for me to sign up for another half marathon without hesitation.
I justify this by telling myself I'm scheduled for 14 miles that weekend for marathon training, so I might as well earn a medal for it.

After the expo, we headed back to our hotel, because they were having a free happy hour before we were to head for dinner. More free drinks, shut up and take my money!
After our drinks, we headed to an awesome little seafood restaurant called Fleet Landing in south Charleston, right on the water. Our waiter Lucas paid quite the attention to detail, and we had a phenomenal meal. Or maybe it was just phenomenal to me because I eat most of my meals either holding a baby, nursing a baby or shoving baby food into a baby's mouth between my own bites. Either way, we had a lot of laughs, we ate, and headed back to our hotel to turn in for the night. While we didn't have our standard 2:30 am Disney race wakeup call, 5 am would come early enough.

And 5am did come early enough. We woke up, and got ready. My race day preparation also included having to pump, but we were still out the door by 6am, to head to the buses. It. Was. Cold. We didn't have to wait long for a bus and we were able to sit in the warmth again.
It took about 30 minutes to get to our drop point, which was quite a ways from the corrals. Just like Disney, we walked at least half a mile to get to our corral, corral B. We arrived in time for the singing of the National Anthem, although we still had a good 30 minutes or more before the race start. They had men with large American flags parachuting down, which was a cool sight to see.
Then came more waiting. Did I mention it was cold? Because it was. I sat huddled with a heat sheet wrapped around me. Thank heavens Amy was prepared and brought extra.
Finally 8am rolled around and the race was starting. By this point the sun was warming us up enough, but the jackets and blankets runners in front of us had left on the fences sure looked tempting. I resisted the urge to take strange articles of clothing from unknown people long enough for our race to begin. We started in Mount Pleasant. Right after starting we passed by some of the very few costumed runners, a Jamaican bobsled team.
Carrying a cardboard bobsled for 6.2 miles, that's dedication!

We crossed over Shem Creek. Charleston is an absolutely gorgeous city on the ocean!
We made our way towards the bridge. The bridge itself is 4km long, so close to 3 miles. The first half of the bridge is uphill, so over 1 mile going up. Add in the cold and the wind, and while the bridge itself was beautiful, and we were ready to "get over it".

While there was plenty of entertainment to be found on the bridge, one thing that was not found was a bathroom. Still recovering from giving birth to a 5th baby, this was not pleasant. When we were finally over the bridge, restrooms were the first thing we sought out. Until we saw donuts. There on the side of the road as soon as we were getting ready to turn off of the bridge and onto another road, was a wonderful man with boxes and boxes of donuts, handing them out to the runners.
This was the beginning of the AMAZING crowd support from the end of the bridge until the end of the race. Right past the very welcomed donut stop were the bathrooms. And right past the bathrooms was pizza and water. More food. A generous business over with boxes and boxes of warm pizza. We took a slice and a bottle of water. We kept on, but this is where our real fun began. Amy and I, much to Wendy's dismay, have a thing for photo ops. So I made new friends.
Amy and I showed off our hot legs.

At this point, Wendy was over our antics and so we continued on. I admired the gorgeous buildings along the way.

I also admired the man dressed in a full lizard suit. Again, dedication.
It wasn't far from the finish from that point, on Meeting Street.
After we finished we headed to Marion Square where they had food and beverages. I grabbed a snack and parted ways with Amy and Wendy. They wanted to enjoy the festivities(and stalk American Idol winner Taylor Hicks) and I needed to get back to our room to pump. The woes of a nursing runner.

After they finished up and I got the room packed up to leave, we met again and headed for lunch. A restaurant called the Tattooed Moose was recommended to me, so that's where we headed.
We each had a celebratory drink and lunch. Holy wow was lunch amazing. I had the Duck Club and it may have easily been the best sandwich I've ever had in my life.
Before we left, I made sure to make our mark on the very well loved walls of the Tattooed Moose.
With that, we parted ways, and I fought traffic back home, back to reality. My 3rd child was turning 4 the following day so I hustled back to get cupcakes made. Although I was only gone for a little over 24 hours, it was really refreshing.

So my thoughts on this race:
The race was well put on. We never had issues with the expo, race day transportation, communication, or any issues during the race. Given the fact that this is a large race(over 40,000 runners) and it's going on close to 40 years since it started, they've had time to perfect it. The city of Charleston is gorgeous, a wonderful destination without a race weekend(I've already told my husband I'd like to come back, with the family) and the bridge itself is stunning. The crowd support was probably the best I've ever seen. Thousands of people cheering, people handing out food along the course, lots of bands and music playing. The entertainment before the race was lacking, but this wasn't an issue after the race got started. The finish area and Marion Square could have been more organized. It was extremely crowded, and kind of a free for all. We had to wade through the crowd to get to the food. Many other races I've done are much more effective in getting post race snacks and drinks to the runners. Otherwise, I'd definitely do this race again. It was so much fun!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon 2015 Race Report

Three weeks ago, I participated in my 3rd Princess 1/2 marathon. But waittttttt, you say. I've been reading your blog, you've been struggling with any form of exercise since you had your baby. And I will nod and point to my nose like we are playing charades.

I'm going to put a big fat disclaimer first. Do not do what I did. I cannot and would not recommend attempting a half marathon with little training. Just because I did doesn't mean you should. Just don't.

So, onto the report. This race weekend was tricky for me, aside from the whole lack of training. This was my first race weekend with my family. Back in November of last year, I got the itch. The itch to do this race. My first two years running it were marked by injury, this race has always been kind of cursed for me, but it was my first half and my first Disney race, so I have a soft spot for it. With the baby being too young to leave for a girl's weekend, I knew my only chance of getting there was a family trip. Luckily my husband loves me and spoils me and was glad to oblige.

We headed down to Walt Disney World early Friday morning.
After lots of stop for going to the bathroom, nursing the baby, and hitting lovely rush hour traffic in Orlando, we finally arrived just in time to check into our resort(Port Orleans Riverside) and get me to the expo. I strapped on the baby and hustled in to grab my bib and swag.
I didn't get to spend much time at the expo(4 kids put a major damper on expo shopping), so we headed back to our resort for dinner and an early bed time.

Saturday we planned to spend the day at Hollywood Studios. It wasn't a hard park to manage and the kids had fun. My 3 year old loved the Disney Jr. show and she was over the moon meeting her favorite, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. While there, we upgraded our tickets to annual passes. Holla!!
We had a great day and capped it off with dinner at the 50s Prime Time Cafe.

I will be honest, I wasn't extremely thrilled with this restaurant. My food(the fried chicken) was good but my husband didn't care for his pot roast, and our server wasn't as into her role as others we saw at other tables. But I was able to carb up with this bad boy.
We headed back to our room after dinner, as I was planning to head to another resort with a couple of other DisBroads to stay the night, in an attempt to get a few solid hours of sleep, without the baby waking me to nurse, and so I didn't wake my family when I needed to get up at 2:30 in the morning to get ready for the race. After a shower and getting all my stuff together, I headed to the Saratoga Springs resort for a sleepover with Kristen and Suzanne.
We got to bed and my wakeup call came way too early, but I'm used to that by now. We had our coffee and got ready. Being a nursing mom, I had extra things to do, like pumping before getting ready, and packing my breast pump away into my checked gear bag, so I had it as soon as the race was over(you know you are a bad ass mother runner when you check your breast pump before your half marathon). We went with group running costumes this time and we all dressed as characters from Finding Nemo. I was Darla(she's a fish killer!).
A few of us had entrance to Race Retreat. Race Retreat is a pretty awesome tent you can pay to get into before races. It isn't cheap but it can definitely be worth it, especially in extreme weather conditions. While it was a nice treat this time, the weather was nice and it wouldn't have been the end of the world to go without it. Had it been cold or raining, it would have been worth it's weight in gold. It's a large tent with tables and chairs. There are areas you can meet characters(which I did not, because lines), food(bagels and some fruits before the race), stretching areas, private porta-potties and of course, coffee.
We got together before the race to get our group pictures.

And we began our lonngggggg walk to our corrals. I was in corral E but fell back to G to hang with Patty and Julie,  because I would be doing a lot of walking, I decided to stick with them. It was nice because for the past two years, I've run completely on my own, which made things rather boring. Hanging with these girls would not be boring.
We waited our turn and set off, marching to the beat of our favorite NSYNC member, Mr. Justin Timberlake(although I was always a JC Chazez girl). We maintain 15:45 second intervals and it was a nice pace. I felt decent.
The weather was nice, it wasn't as warm and muggy as it had been in previous years. We got through the first several miles and got to Magic Kingdom. Even having done it twice before, it's still an awesome feeling coming into this park and rounding the corner onto Main Street USA, towards the castle.
We got to Tomorrowland and started seeking out bathrooms. We found bathrooms and I found Prince. This man was my absolute favorite part of this race. His costume and sign were perfection. I was obviously still very committed to my braces.

After the bathroom, I tried my hand at the sword(no luck).
And then we hit the castle.

We got past the castle and through Frontierland.
Then it was out of the park, 6 miles in. It was time to what I like to call the doldrums of the Princess 1/2 Marathon. The calm period of the race that seems to trap you. The rush that is Magic Kingdom is over, the course narrows and you have a lot more trouble moving. People ignore common runner courtesy and basic safety practices. The crowds are gone, until you pass by the Grand Floridian Resort are, and after that, you hit the stretched of road from miles 8-10 where you are just ready to be done. By this point, my legs were starting to feel like lead. I wasn't hurting luckily. Patty ran ahead while we stopped and waited for the princes.
From that point until mile 10, things dragged by. They've always dragged by during this stretch, trained or untrained. Finally, we hit the on ramp after mile 10. I saw this.
So I did. I was ready to be done. To be honest, the worst part at that point was not my lack of training, it was my lack of nursing. Any mother who has nursed knows, if you go past due and don't feed something, whether it be a pump or a baby, well you don't just stop filling up. You keep making milk. Here's a big dose of truth. My breasts were full and like boulders and it painful. I caught up to Patty heading up that on ramp and this is when I decided it was just time to go. I needed to get to the finish line, where my baby and my breast pump were going to be waiting. I decided to go ahead, no more stopping and running as much as I could. The sun was out and it was warm. I hit mile 11 and headed towards Epcot, knowing I was in the clear in terms of being swept, which was a relief. I was texting my husband to make sure he would be at the finish. I had grand ideas of having my family there in the weeks leading up to the race, but now all I could focus on was getting to the baby.

I finally made it into Epcot. This picture sums it up. Hot. Sunny.
I made the long march to the Seven Seas Lagoon and back around. Past the choir(which always makes me tear up a little) and to the finish. I finished the race in 3:42, which was actually a heck of a lot faster than last year(pregnant and injured). I found my husband(and the baby) and headed back to Race Retreat, as they have a private bag check. They also had food. It was quite the site. Carrying a baby, barely able to stand, stuffing sausage patties in my face while trying to keep the grabby 6 month old from stealing my grub. I got my bag and headed to the baby station tent. One thing I want to commend Disney on is their placement of a baby station tent right outside of the finish area. While I certainly wasn't the only nursing mother on the course, I'm sure there weren't tons of us. But they thought ahead and had a place for us to nurse/change/care for our babies right outside of the finish area. I hurried in and nursed the baby. Sweet relief!

We were spending the day at Epcot, so we went back to the van so I could get myself together a bit more before heading to the park.
So my thoughts on the race. One thing I noticed this year was that Disney cut way back on the on course entertainment. Character stops seemed fewer. A lot of the supporting cast entertainment was missing. But as usual, it was amazing to finish. My lack of training left me feeling wiped out after the race. After I got out of Race Retreat, holding my bag and my baby, looking for my husband, I could no long. I just couldn't even. I literally sat down on the ground and couldn't get up. I did have a bit of hip pain that lasted for a few days, as well as pain in one of my feet. It wasn't horrible but my lack of training was obvious. This picture sums up how I felt after the race.
Lesson learned, train!