2017 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Recap

This past weekend was the 45th running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. Known as the “Runner’s Rite of Spring”, it is a widely attended race with national and international competition toeing the line for one of D.C.’s most scenic races. I ended up applying for the lottery and got selected a day after I got in for the Chicago Marathon. I’ve applied for this race in the past and have come up short, so it was a nice change of pace. After being rejected by London and Berlin (and I think something else in there), it’s nice to have a few major races to look forward to!

The weekend started with meeting up with Lauren at the expo on Friday afternoon at the National Building Museum.

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Course map. Only 31 feet of elevation change! Woohoo!
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The race directors have timing down to a T. Literally.

With regard to the itinerary above, one concept stood out in my mind: this race has a legitimate time limit: 2:20:00. When the start line closes at 8AM, runners have until 10:20AM to make it, or they would not be counted as official finishers. This gave me my race goal. Since I was in the Purple corral (last corral), we would launch at 7:53am, and I would be running with runners at a 12 to 13 minute per mile pace. Knowing I would have less than an 8-minute buffer between myself and the pace vehicles, this encouraged me to stay steady and hopefully not dawdle like I typically do during races.

I’m working to fix that last part. Promise. 🙂

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Lauren and I did some pre-race window shopping, and found that Sparkly Soul was going to be at the expo. They are my go-to headband and I have about twenty of them in my collection. We saw my friend and Sparkly Soul ambassador, Caroline, manning the booth!

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I picked up three new headbands and Lauren grabbed one. We poked around the expo a little more before I had to peace out. I then spent Saturday preparing for the race and heading to my cousin’s apartment, which was about a half hour walk from the starting area over by the Washington Monument.

One thing I forgot at home were my Honey Stinger gels. Ever since being introduced to them at the Everglades Half, they’ve been my go-to for fueling. I went to Safeway to see if they carried any, and they didn’t. I bought fruit snacks instead!


Race Day….

 

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Flat Christina!…until I found out how cold it was going to be….

 

I was up at 5:30am and out the door by 6:15am. With my corral launching so much later, I wasn’t in a mad rush to get out the door. This paid off as I read the weather report for the morning and realized it was going to be colder than previously thought: low 40’s with wind. Brrrr. Not having it. I swapped out my shorts for thermal tights and layered a jacket over my shirt, along with throwing on a Marine Corps Marathon end-of-race jacket and a runDisney Mylar blankie.

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Hair game strong, with bows and Sparkly Soul!

I started walking over to the starting area and the sun slowly coming up. I reached the area around 6:45am and walked around for a moment, getting a feel for where everything was at.

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I continued walking about and noticed two very familiar women taking selfies by the cherry blossom trees. I recognized them immediately as Malinda and Leah of Twins Run! I ran over and we all had a big group hug 🙂

 

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And, of course, a selfie! Photo cred: Malinda.

We talked for a bit about our upcoming big races (for them: Boston! YAY!), gave me some great insight on how to prepare for Chicago (build a base!), and they chatted about their experiences with the Cherry Blossom races from years’ past. We departed for our corrals after more hugs and good luck wishes.

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Purple corral!

While hanging out in the last corral, I finally got to meet Heather Mundwiler! We’re both members of Team Shenanigans and have been following each other on social media for awhile. One of my favorite aspects of running is being able to meet those that I have befriended online IRL. Always a great time!

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Right after the anthem was sung (by a gentleman who is studying at Westminster choir College…holy voice, Batman!), 7:18 am rolled around and the elite/seeded women were sent off. We stood around what seemed like forever waiting for our corral to launch. The temps were warming up ever so slightly, so I rather reluctantly ditched my space blanket and jacket. (I have a serious problem with being cold. It seems like if the temp is below 70 degrees, I’m freezing.)

7:53 comes and we were off! Woohoo!

With runners needing to submit a proof of time with their lottery entry, it was a true seeding of time. I was in a pack of runners that were literally my speed of 12-13 minutes per mile. My body wanted to run faster, but I couldn’t find a solid stretch of road to do so. I truly felt stuck where I was, even moreso than I am for runDisney events.

Around Mile 2, I got a hello from my old friend Side Stitches. (Seriously, when is this going to end?!) I slowed to a walk on the sidewalk of the Washington Memorial Bridge and stretched out. I kept on going at a more reserved pace for the rest of the race, but damn, it’s frustrating having to deal with those things.

Having started so far back, I was constantly on the lookout for the sweep vehicles. I was coming back up the bridge and saw them coming down in the opposite direction. This put a little pep into my step heading into Mile 3. Around the 5K mark, I noticed that a lot of runners were tripping and falling down; I saw at least three or four bite it around this area. Runners…be mindful of where you’re running and watch for those potholes/each other!

The first half of the race was scenically uneventful, having run the area recently for RnR DC and NAFHALF. I felt no need to take pictures, as the truly scenic parts were coming up during the second half of the race.

My pace around halfway was a 12:30 mile, and I clocked in at 1:02:32. Not too shabby. At least my miles were consistent.

At Mile 5.5 was the Tidal Basin:

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THAT was the scene I was looking for. After the cold snap that D.C. endured a couple weeks prior, there was speculation that the blossoms weren’t going to make it. But here they were!

From Mile 6 to Mile 9, we wrapped around Hains Point.

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There was also abundant entertainment and cheering:

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Go saxophones!

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During the Hains Point portion, I kept a close eye on my Garmin and my phone. I had until 10:20am to cross the finish line to be considered an official finisher. (They’re really strict like that.) I crossed the 9-Mile marker at 1:57:06 (13:01 pace). I knew I had it at this point 🙂

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Last big corner!

What you don’t see is the last hill I had to ascend at Raul Wallenberg Pl. SW to get to the finish line. Way to make you earn your medal!

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I finished in 2:10:05, ten minutes before the cutoff! Woohoo! This medal is absolutely adorable!

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I met up with Patrick and Lauren post-race. Lauren found me a discarded space blanket (she’s honestly the Queen of the Space Blankets, as Chris calls it), and we sat around, took some pictures, then trekked to Shake Shack at Union Station for celebratory burgers and fries.


Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:

This race was incredibly well-organized…all the way up ’til post-race. After crossing the finish line, I walked through the finisher’s chute, which stretched the length of 15th St. NW. There was nothing in this chute: no one handing out medals, no water, no space blankets, no nothing. You had to cross back over onto Washington Monument grounds and find the appropriate tent for medals. En route, there were tables with water, bananas, and Nature’s Valley crunchy bars. Umm…yay post-race recovery?

I did, however, appreciate that there was a hoarde of volunteers checking and rechecking bibs to ensure those that ordered medals got their medals. Thank you, UnderArmour, for manning the medal tent!

Right after I got my medal and snackies, I found Lauren and Patrick. We started walking away from Runner’s Village and tents were already being taken down and things being put away. Wow. Glad I didn’t finish any later!

All in all, this was a solid race. The weather was great (unlike past years, from what I’ve heard/read about), the course support was decent, and the medal is super cute. The course itself is flat and fast (with the exception of that last hill), and with an elevation change of only 31 feet. I would do this race again, but only after I could secure a faster POT.


Next up: my last race of the winter/spring season: Clyde’s 10K!

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The Weekly Review

Going to try something new here in the form of a Weekly Review. (Named as such until I can think of something cooler. Maybe I’ll bring back the runDisneyBelle Review…better alliteration…)

Thoughts on the Week:

-2017 is flying by way too fast. I cannot believe that TOMORROW IS APRIL 1ST. Just…wow. Where has this year gone?! I feel like I turn around and lo and behold, it’s Friday. (and this is after thinking that every day of the week is Thursday.)

 

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DC is blooming! Caught these tulips in Lafayette Park.

 

-I’m closing in on my one-year anniversary here in Washington D.C. on Monday (woooo). I’ve never been able to say that I’ve been with a company for an entire year, since I’ve spent most of my 20’s in university (that equates to semester assistantships/jobs or something seasonal in the retail/restaurant industry). I’m mentally preparing a more in-depth retrospect of my past year for Monday, so stay tuned.

 

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Meanwhile, in running land…

 

Welcome to Marine Corps Marathon Lottery Week! This is a pretty suspenseful week as marathon hopefuls put their names into the abyss in hopes that they get picked to run The People’s Marathon (also known as The Marathon of the Monuments). Above is my “The waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” face.

So I waited and waited some more. Thursday was MCM Notification Day (aka “Break Your Refresh Key Day)…

And there was celebration! I am SO happy to have been picked for the 42nd MCM, and for good reason: it was my first marathon. And it was also the marathon where I got my first DNF in 2015. It is going to mean SO much to exact revenge on the course that did me in. Must do. Can do. Will do.

 

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It is also Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler weekend!! Also known as the Runner’s Rite of Spring, the CUCB 10M draws runners from national and international fields, with large prize pools and fast times. The CUCB course, which will take place in D.C. around the Tidal Basin, Rock Creek Park, and Hains Point, is super flat with an elevation change of only 31 feet at most, so there will be exciting racing within the elite field. There will also be a 5K run/walk after the 10 Milers have taken off. There will be roughly 16,000 participants (almost like a runDisney race!), and hopefully the remaining blossoms haven’t fallen off the trees yet. Temperatures are projected to be in the low to mid 40’s on race morning with sunshine (which is like a heat wave compared to Rock ‘n’ Roll DC a few weeks ago), so we should be good to go!


 

Congrats to the MCM Class of 2017! Let’s get out there and rock it! And good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Anything notable happen to you this week?

 

‘T’was the Night Before The MCM Lottery…

And here we are. The night before MCM lottery.

If this is your first time attempting this lottery, congrats! You’re one of us crazies!

One of us. One of us…

In all seriousness, the Marine Corps Marathon lottery is a day of epic suspense. Starting at noon, the process will begin. It will go a little something like this:


If you are selected, the above will apply.

1 & 2. A pending race registration transaction WILL APPEAR FIRST. Keep an eye on your bank account.

3. It may take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours for the acceptance email to hit your inbox. Don’t panic. There are a TON of runners that registered for the lottery. I didn’t get my email until almost 6pm in 2014 (my first MCM).

4. Celebrate! You’re gonna run a marathon! 🎉🎉
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this process takes awhile. Pack your patience. If you haven’t gotten notification in the first couple hours, don’t get discouraged. Keep checking back periodically.

Good luck, runners! I hope to be on the course with you! 🖤❤️💛

Cherry Blossom Season

After a cold spell here in DC last week, it was speculated that the treasured cherry blossoms that surround the Tidal Basin and other areas would not bloom. While some blossoms didn’t reach the poofy white stage and died off as a brown color, many did pull through! Woohoo!

The weather on Saturday was perfect for bloom watching. I am usually anti-DC on the weekends because it’s way too crowded, but I made an exception to walk about and take some pictures. Enjoy!





Here’s to hoping they stay relatively intact for the Cherry Blossom 10M next Sunday! 🌸🌸

Hot Cider Hustle 10K Recap

Caramel apples. Hot apple cider. Who doesn’t like running for delicious treats?!

In my quest to get into faster-seeded corral for Glass Slipper Challenge weekend and to continue with my Goofy Challenge training, I signed up for this here Hot Cider Hustle 10K a few weeks ago in October. I mentally had a goal of going sub-1:00, or as close to it as possible without destroying my body, as the Everglades Half is my next big race in two weeks.

The night before the race I had a minor body-image freak out as I tried on several different versions of outfits. I felt like everything I was wearing was squishing me in places that weren’t supposed to be squished, and I felt disgusting. To top it off, I was starting my period. #FemaleRunnerproblems  -__________-

I finally settled on my donut Sparkle Skirt, running tights, lots of pink accessories!, Athleti-tec hoodie and VSX sports bra. The hoodie was thin enough so I could just wear that and the bra and be fine. I’m not an advocate of wearing the race clothing ON race day (especially finisher/”I did it!” shirts)…but at this point, I wanted to be comfortable and not die. (Spoiler alert: it was a perfect combination.)

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My stomach was a wreck, as was my mental state. I was frustrated and upset, and the slow Metro on Saturday morning didn’t help, either. I did arrive with plenty of time to spare, which was great since it was at least a half-mile trek to the starting area. The weather was all blue skies and sunshine with a slight chill in the air.

The pre-race area was out in the middle of a huge parking lot adjacent to RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. I could clearly see that this race course was not going to be the most exciting: a loop-to-loop course, all in the parking lot area. Woot.

At least there were puppies near the gear check area, and all over the place 🙂 :

Around 8:50, we started lining up. This race is similar to the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, where it’s an honor system: faster runners are in the front and slower runners/walkers are near the back. I lined up somewheres in the middle (always a safe bet).

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The gun fired at 9:00 and the race began. the weather was chilly but the sun began to peak and it warmed up a bit. I held a steady, even pace for the first little bit, relying on my Hamilton music to keep me in tempo. My first mile was 10:01 (which, I do believe, is the fastest mile I’ve ever had in a race. Woohoo!)

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Up ahead of this was the loop into mile two, and straight into a ton of sunshine with no shade relief. This was a pain as I didn’t have sunglasses and wasn’t expecting to be blinded by the light, literally.

Another huge pain of this race? Runners randomly stopping to walk in the middle of the course without signaling. That’s a surefire way to get hurt, or to hurt someone else. I spent a lot of time dodging people in the first couple of miles and knew I was wasting energy by doing so.

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Around mile 2-ish.
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Here we go loop-de-loop.

This loop course was a first for me. By the above pictures, you can see it’s not the most fun course in the world. BUT…it was flat, with little to no elevation change. There was one water stop (slightly out of view on the above picture to the right), with Gatorade on the first lap and water on the second lap. I had to pee desperately on my second loop around, and saw three portapotties off in the distance around this area. SO grateful!

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Speaking of second loops around, it got really quiet really fast. 1500 runners had signed up for the 5K, 700 for the 10K, and 300 for the 15K. My first 5K split hovered around 34:00 (which is a split PR for me!).  It was nice to take my time on the second loop, to slow down when needed, and to experiment with pacing. I had several Hamilton songs ready to go, such as “Washington on Your Side” and “The Election of 1800“…all Nightcore versions. (Nightcore music is sped up and sounds like chipmunks singing.) Running in tempo with these really set me up for an even pace. (For example, I found that in WOYS, which is 2:12, I could cover a quarter of a mile and not feel winded.)

Despite a boring course and fighting cramps and peeing, I still wound up with an official 1:16:58 PR,  which is a seven-minute improvement from February’s Enchanted 10K! Woohoo!

No medals for this race (boooo), but a brand new mug for my collection! (Yaaaay!)

I submitted the POT update for GSC weekend. Here’s to hoping for a higher-seeded corral!


This race was full of firsts for me, including this…

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This caused so many headaches…

Since this course operated on a loop, the finisher’s chute offered instructions on how to navigate. If one was running the 5K, great! Go straight. Those on longer distances, step on the first timing mat for your split, and follow the cones on the left to get back on the course. For some reason,  many runners didn’t adhere to these instructions and found themselves either shortening their distances or lengthening them, intentionally or unintentionally. This caused such a snafu at the end, that the awards ceremony didn’t happen for those in the 10K and 15K distances. The results had to be tabulated by hand (since some 10K/15Kers would have had blazing fast splits), and other than the overall and 5K winners, awards weren’t handed out right then. I also didn’t get my results until later on in the evening when they were posted online (hence the one-second change between -my Garmin and the official time.)

If you’re going to run a looped course, know what distance you’re going to run and stick with it. It’ll cause a lot less stress with the timing and scoring department later on, and be honest if you want to go up or down with distances! It’s almost like banditing a race if you’re intentionally racing a shorter or longer distance than what you’re registered for.


Next up: Everglades Half Marathon racecation!

Run For the Badge 5K Recap

I’m branching away from my meticulously-detailed recaps to bring you a Reader’s Digest version of my most recent race, the Run for the Badge 5K. Held on the streets of Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 15th, this race benefitted the National Law Enforcement Memorial fund, and brought runners from 47 states and three countries together (along with many more through the virtual version).

Chris convinced me to sign up a couple of weeks before race day. It was very chilly, but a great day overall to break out the thin blue line gear.

(Picture one: Sparkle Skirt, Brooks MCM ’15 jacket. Picture 2: Sparkly Soul, and a bow that Chris’s mom made for me!)

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(Chris and I. I love his shoelaces! Plus, his Garmin matches with the black and blue theme.)

 

T’was a chilly morning. Temps were in the low fifties. Perfect running weather.

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(I joked that this was a .01 gratification run, since we had to go through the finish line to take the first turn onto the course.)

The gun fired at 9:00AM and we took off down the road and around the corner. The course was very flat, save for a hill at the beginning (and the same hill at the end when we looped around to the finish):

There were a couple of issues with the route, in which the runners would be dodging each other at intersections where the course looped out-and-back and runners would be running into each other as they rounded the corner to the next section. There was one water stop at the halfway mark, which is normal for a 5K.

Personally, I was running a great race at the beginning. Chris and I ran a steady pace and felt decent as we ran in the shadows on the buildings around us. Around halfway through the first mile, my good ‘ol friend Side Stitch came back in full force. My projected 9:00/mile went out the door as I clutched my obliques and slowed down. Chris was right there with me as I threw a partial hissy fit; I was overheating and felt ugly and out of shape. He boosted me up and continued to do so throughout the entire 3.1 miles. I also noticed that my heart rate was skyrocketing into the 190’s. Not necessarily a good thing. I took note of when my Garmin told me these warnings and slowed down accordingly.

I was really hell-bent on getting a sub-:30 5K, but as we ran down the final stretch (“No walking breaks!”-Chris) and around the corner, I realized that being able to finish strong regardless of how crappy I thought I was racing earlier was more important. img_1298

I stopped my Garmin, and realized I had PRed with a 35:50! That’s a seven-minute improvement from March, when I was running the RnR DC 5K on a damaged knee and finished in 42:07.

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Finished almost in the top 100!

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Chris educated me on the fact that the medal is roughly the same size as a law enforcement badge. Genius!

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Post-race munches. Hell yeah, fruit snacks!

I can always count on Chris to keep pushing me to the next level. Our fraternity motto is “Strive For the Highest” and I’m constantly reminded how much I CAN do with a lot of faith and a little pixie dust. I’m so proud to call him my Big Brother and to have celebrated his birthday by running with him. 🙂

 

Brace Yourselves…Fall Race Season Is Coming.

It’s just about that time of year again: the air begins to cool (unless you’re up here in D.C. and you’re still sweltering in 90+ degree weather), kids are going back to school, the leaves begin to turn, and pumpkin spice begins to dominate the shelves.

Oh yes, one more thing…

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IT’S TIME FOR RACING SEASON!!!

I don’t know about you all, but the relentless sunshine and humidity has wreaked havoc on my initial training plans for this summer. Some days were definitely better than others, and I relished the cool, cloudy days. (I found myself ironically doing my longest mileage on the hottest days with the worst humidity. Ha.) Just like back-to-school season has a sense of newness with an aura of new beginnings and a clean slate, I consider September the start of the new racing season; this past weekend was the Disneyland Half/Dumbo Double Dare weekend, along with Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach. From there, a whole slew of races and their shiny bling will be dominating our social media feeds until probably…mid-April-ish, after the Boston and London Marathons?

I’m rather excited to get started on my journey. I feel more like a legitimate runner with the lineup of races that I have on the horizon. I also got a terrific steal on a Planet Fitness membership…$99 for an entire year! You seriously can’t beat that! 🙂

I kickstarted this upcoming lineup of races back in August with the virtual National Park Series 100th Birthday race/#NPS100VRC. Props to the Virtual Running Club for heading it up! There were three options and I chose to run the 5K. My time may seem super slow…but I did have a lot of speed bursts throughout my time on the treadmill, and that I really can run up to 8 mph.

I am very much looking forward to getting this 3D ranger hat medal!

 

My IRL running schedule will be the busiest it’s ever been. Here’s the current rundown for the next six months, with possible additions along the way:


September 18th: Navy/Air Force Half Marathon (#NAFHALF)

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Running through the nation’s capital has always been a treat; there’s so many things to look at, you definitely won’t get bored on the course! I’ve been looking forward to the NAFHALF since I signed up for it way back when. The course map eerily reflects the Marine Corps Marathon route, so 95% of the terrain will be insanely familiar. I feel like this will give me a decent advantage. The projected weather, however, is calling for scattered storms and a high of 82 degrees. I really hope the heat and humidity hold off until after we’re done.

I’m still chasing my first sub-3:00 half marathon (current PR: 3:06:48 from PHM ’14), and am hoping to use this race as a POT update for Goofy Challenge weekend in January.


November 19th: Inaugural Everglades Half Marathon (#EvergladesHalf)

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Chris and I have a goal to complete each of the Vacation Races, which take place at National Parks. There are currently nine, and we decided to get a jump start on completing our mission by signing up for the Everglades Half! This will be Chris’s first half marathon; I’ll be playing pacer while he plays tour guide. (He’s a Floridian with extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna, and all things National Parks related.)


January 7th and 8th: Goofy Challenge (WDW Half Marathon and WDW Marathon)

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I told myself in the beginning of the year that I would be kicking my fitness up a notch, and what better way to do so than to train for one of the toughest runDisney challenges? For those that are unfamiliar with Goofy, it is 39.3 miles over two days. 2017 will be special, in which the half marathon will be the 20th anniversary edition (bring on the special bling!). I originally wanted to sign up for the half solely, but something inside of me said, “Go Goofy!” After having such a blast at the WDW Marathon this year, I decided to give it another go around. Plus, Chris and I will also be running the WDW Half together! (We’re going to focus on the half as a legitimate time race.)

A word to the wise: 39.3 miles is definitely not something to screw around with. I’ll be following Hal Higdon’s Dopey Challenge training plan, and it just so conveniently begins for me on September 12.  The first long run of that week is…a half marathon (aka NAFHALF)! How perfect!


February 22nd and 23rd: Glass Slipper Challenge (Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon)

Fifth PHM, fourth GSC, and a potential Belle theme. As much as I wanted to say no to this challenge this year for a variety of reasons, the thought of being so close to legacy status excites me. The development of my PHM Survival Guide last year gave me a closer attachment to this race weekend as I connected with so many runners over the topics covered.  I definitely want to come back and have a better performance in 2017; major stomach issues kept me from achieving my A-goal PRs in 2016.

(And no, Chris is not running this one with me. Haha.)


March 11th: Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon

RnR D.C. was my first ever race in this series, and trust me, I fell in love with it. Not only was it my first 5K ever (and first time being a pacer!), but it was also my first race expo volunteer experience.  Rock ‘n’ Roll really knows how to put on a great performance. I truly look forward to completing more of their events and eventually going for Hall of Fame status, probably in 2018.

Speaking of pacing, this will be Chris’s first FULL marathon! It’ll be my job to make sure we don’t die on the course; the course cutoff is at 5 hours and 30 minutes, or a 12:35/mile. (Rather quick for an RnR marathon, but D.C. has strict road close/open times.) If all goes well, we will also be running the Marine Corps Marathon later in 2017.


The only race that I have a TBD on at the moment is the London Marathon. I put my name into the Goblet of Fire…errrr, the race lottery, way back in May. I’ll find out in October if I get to begin my World Marathon Majors journey!


By looking at this list, you may think that I’m way over my head. A 10K, four half marathons, and two (possibly three) fulls in six to seven months?

Like most runners, I’m crazy.

But you know what else? It’ll also make me accountable for my training and nutrition. If I am to come out on top and be successful, I have to be more diligent, dedicated, and disciplined. After all…

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What is on tap for your fall/winter racing season? Any specific goals that you’re trying to achieve?  Will I be seeing you at any of these races?

 

See you at the finish line!

*~*Christina*~*