Conquering The Year of Races

2012 was definitely “the year of races” for me. It started when I was still living in Kansas City and signed up for the Heartland 39.3 Series, which was 3 half marathons within 4 weeks. I was so nervous thinking about this challenge at first, but little did I know it would be the beginning of a crazy year of running. A few other races just kind of “slipped” themselves in my schedule and I ended up running 8 half marathons, 2 Ragnar Relays, and 6 races ranging from 5K-5 mile distances from January through October. It was fun, but busy!


I spent the late fall and early winter training for the grand finale of 2012 (which didn’t actually happen until January of 2013) – the Disney Goofy Challenge! Goofy is the half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday. Crazy? YES. Time consuming training? You bet. Worth every minute? OH YEAH!

Training for Goofy was almost as challenging as the race itself. Even though this would be my 3rd marathon and I didn’t have a time goal, it was 39.9 miles in TWO DAYS! I knew I needed to fit in some mileage and back-to-back weekend long runs to pull this off successfully. Oh, and did I mention I also work full-time, teach BodyPump and TurboKick classes 3-5 times a week, and I enjoy having a social life from time to time? Talk about a training challenge!

I gave myself 20 weeks in my training schedule for Goofy, knowing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years fell within that time and knowing that with my crazy schedule I’d need a couple “buffer weeks” to work around things. Plus I live in Iowa, and you aren’t guaranteed to have nice outdoor running weather after November!

I sat down with Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan and set up my tentative 20 week plan. I picked this one because it had back-to-back weekend runs, which I knew were going to be crucial to training. My training buddies and I wanted to do three 20+ milers as well and this plan had that too. I marked out what days I was scheduled to teach my set classes, when my friends could do long runs, and tried to work my weekday mileage and rest days all of that.

As you’d probably guess, week by week my training plan was modified. I subbed an extra class here, I cut a run short/added in a run there, my weekday mileage was a mess! Luckily, I was getting in some solid cross-training and my weekend mileage was staying fairly on plan so I still felt pretty confident overall. Plus the weather was staying fairly nice so we were still training outside for the most part! We had managed to complete a 20 mile and a 23 miler in November and were so excited Mother Nature was on our side!

Then December came and she decided not to play nice anymore.

I spent the last six weeks of training mainly on a treadmill. I didn’t get my last 20 miler in, but I did manage to get some 8 and 12 mile back to back treadmill runs in during those weeks. (Yes, those were brutal.) Honestly, I don’t think I even got my “worst case scenario” mileage in some weeks, but I did what I could. Normally, having this happen in training the last six weeks before a race would have freaked me out and send me over the edge with pre-race anxiety. But not this time!

Teaching while training was extremely difficult for me, but I think it also had a huge impact on my success. I know cross-training is really helpful in training, but I’ve always pushed it aside in the past. I even stopped lifting weights while training for my first two marathons, which is a huge no-no! Teaching forced me to cross-train, and even though it took away some of my running time, I believe it made me more balanced overall, made me confident in my fitness level, and helped increase my overall endurance.

Even though I didn’t make all my weekday mileage, I did really well sticking to my double weekend runs.  I think this was crucial in getting my body prepared to run the back to back races.  I even ran back to back half marathons in October as "training".  It wasn’t always easy, and it called for a lot of early bedtimes on Friday and Saturday nights, but it was worth it.


I knew just finishing the Goofy Challenge would be a huge accomplishment, so I tried to make that the first and foremost thing in my mind when I’d get frustrated or nervous with my training.  I was in this for the experience. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the “I race for fun!” runners, but when it comes to a Disney race – you race for fun!! Seriously. You get to run through all the parks, you can stop and take pictures with characters if you choose, there are so many people in costume, people on the sidelines, entertainment all around – Disney puts on a pretty dang good race! If you don’t go there to enjoy the experience, you’re wasting your money, in my opinion.


Key thing to remember with training: Life happens. All you can do is roll with it, make the best of it, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to the finish line.

Training for and running the Goofy Challenge was definitely the biggest physical test of my life so far, and even though it didn’t all go as planned along the way, I am very proud of my experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Okay, maybe I’d trade it for DisneyWorld… maybe.



The Marathon: What A True Beast

Hi Healthy Happier Bear readers! I’m Meghan from Little Girl in the Big World! When Ashley asked me to share my story her marathons + moderation series I was excited, because after running Disney on January 13th, I haven’t been able to stop thinking or talking about the marathon! What a true beast it is in the most beautiful way!

My journey to the marathon started indirectly in March 2011 when I started the Couch to 5k Program. I started it just to lost weight, but when I got some encouragement from a co-worker who had run a few marathons, I knew a half marathon was doable for me. If you had told me when I stepped out the door those first few weeks that in less than two years I’d be running a marathon I wouldn’t have believed you for even a second. I hated running for all of my life up to that point!DSC01299

But after running Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon as my first half, I knew that running was something that was going to become a part of me. I could write an entire post (and I probably will at some point) on what running has done for me, and I without question wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Two of the things that are the most important to me are my relatively new commitment to a healthy lifestyle and my ability to continue pursuing goals that I set for myself even after going to college and grad school and securing a job that I’m happy with.

I’m not sure what it was that made me decide to run the Walt Disney World Marathon, but I think it had something to do with the 20th Anniversary medal and the 20-mile spectacular. I wanted to be a part of an entire event, not just a race. So after getting married in July and then having pretty serious abdominal surgery in August, I decided that I was going to make it happen. The surgery went well enough that I knew I’d be able to train after my six-week recovery period was over (I talked to my doctor, who is a runner, and she said it was fine), so I was able to sign up when the race was at 98% capacity. I just made it, and I was so 1

But what came next was training, and this is where my moderation came in. Though I definitely had to moderate social time and other activities in my life, the thing that I had to moderate the most was my mind. It has been my biggest enemy and roadblock on my path to achieving goals. It’s not that I doubt myself or that I don’t think I’m able to do something from the get go, it’s just that while I’m in the process I am constantly questioning if I’m capable of finishing a certain run or a certain workout.

My mind is absolutely what I’ve had to moderate on long runs, tempo runs, and speed sessions, because if I let myself believe the occasional negative thought that would come through my head, I probably would have stopped before I had gotten to the starting line. Because I did most of my training alone, I had ample time to think. And while I sometimes thought about work, friends, things I needed to do, my mind would frequently throw in thoughts like, “your hip is hurting! You should cut this run a few miles short!” or, “you don’t need to run this fast to go the time you want. Just slow down a little bit.” Of course I would also doubt myself sometimes as well. There would be times that runs didn’t go as well as I had hoped or things were harder than they should have been, and the idea that maybe I wouldn’t be able to run 26.2 miles. And that was when my heart had to step in.

It was really heart over mind that got me to the starting line, and ultimately the finish line of the Disney Marathon. My heart wanted to do this to prove to myself that I could. I had set a goal with my heart, and I wasn’t about to physically allow anything to get in my way. Even during the race, it was the continued battle between what I knew was true and what my mind was trying to convince me at the time. Talk about mental games! They are sure to arise during training and especially during a first marathon.725248-1064-0017s

But in the end, I did it! I ran 26.2 miles (in reality I ran 26.61 miles because of all of the weaving), I got the medal I had signed up for, and I became a true running addict. I had pushed myself to a point I would have never thought possible earlier in my life, and I did it all by letting my heart continue to believe that it was all possible. It wasn’t pretty, and the race was pretty warm. I didn’t hit my goal times, but I later learned that I probably shouldn’t have set those anyways.725258-1008-0002s

The marathon is a distance to be respected. My advice to anyone that’s training or looking to run their first would be to believe in yourself and to believe in your training. Your mind will try to convince you that you’re weak or not capable at times, but you are! I wrote a recap of some more details of the actual miles along the way, and I kept all my training on my blog. I’m already planning my fall marathon, and I’m really excited to use everything that I learned in this training cycle and race to improve myself on marathon number 2!


When Things Don’t Go As You Plan

Happy Wednesday gang! I hope you all are having a good week so far. This morning I headed back to Barry’s Bootcamp for the first time in 10 days and the intense workout was exactly what my body needed to reset 100% from traveling and partying. As of now, I don’t travel again until April when I head down to Savannah for some quality time with my family! I can hardly believe it at this point since I feel like I’ve been traveling weekly for the past few months. 

This week’s marathons+moderation guest post hits home for me as many of the same feelings Jamie talks about are ones that I had this year when I finished Philadelphia but Bo chose to hold out for NYC 2013. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and head on over to her blog to show her some support!

Hi everyone! I’m Jamie and I blog at From Couch to Ironwoman.  My husband, Mike, and I started running using the Couch-to-5K program and relatively quickly built our way up to a half marathon only six months after we started running.  Since our goal is to do Ironman Louisville in 2014, we knew we couldn’t stop at the half marathon distance.  Last December we registered for our first marathon, the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York, and we trained for it diligently together throughout the summer.


Mike and I have trained together since the beginning.  We completed all of our training programs together: Couch-to-5K, Bridge-to-10K, our first half marathon and our first triathlon training program.  It only made sense for us to do our first marathon training program together, sure there were days when we couldn’t run together because of conflicting schedules but for the most part we were together.

On the days when we were supposed to do our “marathon pace” (which we just guessed at since it was our first marathon), I would run slightly behind Mike.  I ended up never running my goal marathon pace, I ran it slightly faster.  We ran our long runs together and suffered through some pretty horrible training runs, and celebrated the good ones.

Our 20 miler went really well for me, but Mike struggled through it.  Even though we had both had some difficult runs (19 was NOT good for me), I never had a doubt in my mind that we weren’t both going to become marathoners.

On the morning of the race, I could tell that Mike was really nervous. I don’t think that it helped that his mom was talking about running almost the entire car ride to the marathon, so I just tried to get them to change the subject.  When we got the race, we did our thing and saw two of our friends who were also running the race. Then, we all went and found our respective spots with the rest of the runners.


Although Mike and I train together, we don’t race together. He is a lot faster than me so he lined up with the 3:55 pace group and I fell back somewhere behind the 4:10 pace group.  This was a little bit faster than what we had been planning for but we both knew we felt relatively good.

A little while after 8am, we were running our first marathon.  The first 10 miles I was averaging 9:30 pace (which was a bit faster than my goal marathon pace) and that’s when I saw Mike’s parents for the first time. His mom told me that Mike was doing well, and under his goal pace too, so that made me happy.


I hit the half marathon point at 2:07 and then I started to feel fatigued.  I kept pushing but there were times when I had to walk.  At this point, I still didn’t doubt that I would finish the marathon but I knew that I might have gone out too fast in the beginning. I saw Mike’s parents again at mile 16, and his mom said something about Mike and his paces but I couldn’t understand her.

Then, at mile 18.5, everything changed. I saw this guy that looked like Mike on the sidelines cheering me on and then I realized that it WAS Mike. I was so disoriented and confused, but I asked him what he was doing. He told me not to worry about him, but since we’re married I did just the opposite. I remember motioning and willing for him to come with me, but he wouldn’t. I even said, “well then I don’t want to do this either”.

From that point on, the race was “over” for me and really over for Mike. His legs and hips had cramped up so badly he couldn’t continue.  Looking back on it now, it was the right decision, but in the moment I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to achieve what we set out to do.

The rest of the race I struggled; my paces plummeted to over 15 minute miles at times. And I probably walked more than I ran. I also stopped taking in fuel, mainly because mentally I didn’t care anymore.  The only thing that got me through was our friend Mark who saw me with about 3 miles left to go, and knowing that Mike wanted me to become a marathoner.


I finished my first marathon in 5:01:23 and I cried as I crossed the finish line. Not because I was happy, but because my training partner, my husband, hadn’t done the same. I felt guilty and I had a hard time calling myself a marathoner (I still do) for a long time.

I know that 26.2 miles is a long way and that anything can happen, but I NEVER expected anything like that.  It felt like nothing was going right and I really wanted to quit, but I didn’t.

Mike is going to become a marathoner someday, and I hope that our next marathon is one that we will remember for the good times and not the bad.  We’re registered for two marathons this year: the Cleveland Marathon and the Mount Desert Island Marathon. In fact, we registered for the Cleveland Marathon the same night after my first marathon finish. We needed redemption and we will get it.