Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay Recap

So this is kind of funny. Literally two weeks ago the home girl Tiffany from RunningHutch.com hit me up on Facebook and asked if I would be interested in participating in the Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay, hosted by the amazing folks at A Runner’s Circle. For those that don’t know, ARC is THE premiere running store in Los Angeles. Anywho…she gave me all the details and she was forming a team. The fun thing about runners is we are basically fearless! Tiffany helped form the team and before I knew it I was on a team with three other strangers and we would be giving it our all at a relay. Neat.

From L to R: Matt Runner 4, Me Runner 1, Gillian Runner 3, Tiffany Runner 2, Mike Runner 5

Early morning in Griffith Park and we couldn’t of asked for better summer trail running weather. It was cool and overcast! That meant the climbs wouldn’t be to terrible since the heat wouldn’t be as high. We all met and laughed and discussed our strategy. We didn’t have any goal time or pace in mind…we wanted to just enjoy ourselves. All of us were seasoned and experienced runners so this was gonna be great. This was my first relay so I was REALLY excited. I was first up!

The crew in order! Boosted from RunningHutch.com

The first mile and a half was a steep climb. It was a straight shot up. By the time I got to mile marker one I was winded but kept going forward. I was the first runner out, so I wanted us to maintain a good place in the relay. Once I reached the top of the climb I enjoyed two miles of fire road and recovery. I had an even pace and focused on just staying consistent. I felt like the climb took a lot out of me, but running with Michelle on the trails I’ve learned some things that made it easier for me to handle the run. At the end of the fire road was my favorite thing…DOWN HILL SUICIDE! This is where I shine. I turned on the after burners and SHREDDED the hills going down. I blasted past at least 10 runners. I went so fast my shoe came untied. In an effort to be safe I stopped to tie it…but I was pretty mad because I was FLYING. I flew all the way down into the Old Los Angeles Zoo which is where home base was. I came down the trail and didn’t even see my team cheering me on as I came through, they were there :). Next up was Tiffany and she was in the chute ready to rock. I came in so hot I almost knocked her over! We laughed and she took off on her great loop!

Our team did VERY well! Every did an amazing job on their loop! Strong performances by everyone! We placed 12th out of 39 in the open co-ed division with a time of 4:00:49! WE KILLED IT! I was blown away and really excited! Our team had a great chemistry! Everyone was so friendly, warm, and encouraging. There was amazing communication and the energy was spot on. I would totally relay with these folks again for sure! After we got our relay batons Matt had a real fun idea to capture the moment. It looked something like this…

As you can tell…none of us could handle it we all laughed! So much fun!!! Then we took the normal people team we did it type photo of sorts…

It was a great Sunday! These guys are great!!!! Magic certainly happens when you run. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…running is better with friends…even if you just met them 15 minutes before the race HAHA!

Check out:

Tiffany: RunningHutch.com
Gillian: ThatsG.Com

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Big Sur International Marathon – The Beauty AND The Beast

Six days after running The Boston Marathon I took on the challenge of running The Big Sur International Marathon. Prior to being accepted into the Boston Marathon I signed up as a marathon participant for Big Sur. After being accepted as a charity runner, I confirmed my participation for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge (presented by ASICS). That brought me to Saturday morning, the lovely 5 hour drive to Monterey on the central California coast. Jason was kind enough to drive me up and back over the weekend so I got to rest and try to catch up on some much needed sleep on the drive. I’ve been pretty exhausted since returning from Boston (I can’t imagine why) so I’ve been staying hydrated and partaking in EnergyBits to keep myself healthy.

We arrived in Monterey around 1 PM on Saturday. The expo was pretty small compared to other expos and that was perfectly fine with me. Coming off of the Boston expo, a small expo was much appreciated. I went upstairs to Boston 2 Big Sur packet pick up which was very exciting. Now…a perk of being one of four hundred people that participates in the challenge is not only the bonus medal you receive, but an awesome ASICS track jacket that displays your Boston 2 Big Sur accomplishment. Well…due to an unforseen circumstance, the jackets were not ready. I was WAY bummed out. But the folks at the marathon and ASICS were not only apologetic, they helped to make it right. ASICS gave the B2B runners a gift certificate to mail in for a free pair of ASICS shoes of our choosing. THAT was really awesome. I didn’t expect that. Our jackets will be delivered in the coming weeks along with the shoes we select. So, thanks ASICS! I then picked up my bus ticket for Sunday morning. The race itself starts at Big Sur station in the mountains. The roads are closed to private vehicles and the only way up is by bus and it takes an hour to get up there. I received a 4AM bus loading time…what’s another early morning right?

After that I made my way down to the expo and did some light shopping. I mean what could I possibly need, I bought everything in Boston! I found some awesome ASICS gloves that I fell in love with and new nifty pouch I can use to store my fuel from the lovely folks at Roo Sports! I will review that later in the week. I picked up some throw away garments for the start line because in my sleep deprived state I didn’t bring anything to bundle up in at the start area.

After some shopping and wandering I met up with my good buddy Bart Yasso at the Runner’s World booth. Now some of you may be aware that Bart said he would treat me to coffee in Boston. We even have a hashtag #CoffeeWithBart! Well, due to both of our schedules being CRAZY we just couldn’t link up…Bart made really good on his promise and treated me and awesome follower Sarah to Starbucks across the street. That was really fun! In case you didn’t know, Bart is the best story teller.

After that we went and checked into the hotel, grabbed some lunch/dinner and winded down pretty early. I took a bath to help relax and prepped myself for the next day. I fell asleep and woke up at 3AM (joy.) I boarded the bus with my english muffin with peanut butter (NOMS), and took a window seat. Before I knew it I was asleep…again. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed sleep until last week. An hour later we arrived at Big Sur Station, the start of the marathon. It was still dark, and there was no cellular service. So I took a seat on the curb with the other participants and continued to think warm thoughts…and I think I took another nap.

When the sun started to come up, my my what a beautiful sight. I’m not the camping type…I prefer the spa but nature is so amazing first thing in the morning. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE being out in nature and running in it, sitting in it, picnicking in it…I just don’t wanna sleep in it lol. We all started to line up and get ready to get the marathon underway. The weather conditions couldn’t have been better. No rain, a lovely cloud cover, heaven. I lined up with the 4:45 pace group. I did this knowing I wouldn’t finish with them but to keep a consistent pace the first 10 miles of the course. The race began and the first 5 miles of the course were gradually downhill. We maintained a very comfortable pace, as to not blow out before the huge mountain we would have to climb for two miles at mile ten. The scenery was just break taking.

Redwoods and other familiar trees and plants surrounded us. Open rolling hills covered in lush green plants, grazing cows, crashing waves on the cliffs in the distance. This is probably the most scenic marathon I’ve ever run. Now she is a beauty of a course, but don’t let her fabulous appearance fool you…she is a BEAST!

Arriving at mile 10 is where I took a big gulp and went for the awesome two mile climb to Hurricane Point. You are greeted by Japanese drummers (who were AWESOME) and they absolutely get you pumped up in preparation for the climb. This climb is the highest elevation gain and fastest gain on the course…you will feel this climb and it isn’t nice. I stayed focused and walked/ran the hill the best I could. I knew I had 13 miles following this hill so I needed some muscle and stamina to finish this race. I eventually made it to the top of the hill and took a minute to just appreciate not only the breathtaking views but looking behind me to see what I just accomplished. I was so happy. In front of me was the race famous Bixby Bridge. Of course I touched the mile 13 marker and made my way across the bridge. My Garmin told me I was around 2:26 at the half way mark so I was pretty pleased with myself at this point. What I thought was cool was the really kick ass pianist that you could hear as you ran across the Bixby Bridge. Really a special moment on the course.

The remainder of the course was pretty much the same. Rolling hills and lovely views for the next 13 miles as I continued my quest toward Carmel. Along the way I saw some awesome homes along the cliffs, met some great runners who were working their hardest to beat the clock, and conversed with the course support (which was amazing). This race was all about the views. That’s what makes her a beauty to behold. You can’t see awesome coastal views like this on just any course. This course is special! There were points where I got chills just looking at the colors of the rock formations and ocean foam.

What makes this course a beast is the constant hills and elevation change. If you aren’t used to that you will struggle here. This course does not hold back. For what you get in delicious candy for your eye you pay for on the hills and inclines.

All in all this course is FANTASTIC! It truly is a treat. No wonder the race sold out in under an hour! I crossed the finish line after giving Bart Yasso a high five at 5:44. I took it easy the last 5 miles. I was definitely feeling the fatigue and needed to save some juice for OC Marathon. I was already pushing it with this marathon 6 days after Boston.

I felt pretty good crossing the finish line but also had a lot of time to think while I was out on the route which is always a good thing. I find my mind is the clearest and most honest when I am running a race. Combine that with lovely sights of the central California coast and that creates a storm in my head. I have so much more to say about those thoughts and some of those I will share in a later post, others I will have to process on my own.

I hope you guys enjoyed the journey through the Big Sur marathon. I as always appreciate all of the encouragement and congratulations along the way. I try to respond to as many as I can so know you guys are absolutely appreciated and I can’t do this without you…well I could but it would suck…so you guys are 100% important to me! Thanks! Next up, OC Marathon and my Runnerversary on Sunday!

The 2014 Boston Marathon Experience

This is the story of how I was initiated into the Order of the Unicorn (yes I just made that up, go with it.) The Order of the Unicorn is an elite group of athletes who successfully meet the criteria and complete the challenge of crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If you were following on social media over the past week, then you know I was blessed to be able to run in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. My journey to Boston started on April 15,2013. That was when two bombs exploded near our finish line and shook the spirit of America and the running community. Well, luckily the running community has a HUGE resolve and unwavering spirit. We banded together in support of one another. My thought immediately when I heard the tragic news was “What can I do, I need to be there to help!” That is when I began donating to the One Fund and researching charities. I knew more than anything I HAD to be a member of the field in 2014. My spirit was pulling me to Boston. After several regrets letters from June to December, I was offered the final spot on the Boston Bruins Foundation charity team, and together we raised more than $8000 in less than 65 days. A good friend of mine Adam who was lovely enough to house me this week also was a charity runner with Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center. Katie won her entry into the big show. We packed up and headed to Boston!
I landed on Thursday afternoon in Boston and Katie was waiting for me in bag check. 3 baggage carousels and a cup of Dunkin coffee later we were picked up by the awesome Adam.

Hugs were exchanged and I could tell at that moment that this was going to be an unforgettable weekend. Our first stop, the Newton hills…lovingly called Heart Break Hill…I’ll get to that. Adam showed us the hills we would be running over on Sunday and the famous Newton firehouse.

Newton Firehouse Selfie

We even took selfies in front of the Johnny Kelley statue! I was inspired already. Oh I almost forgot to mention, when I left home it was in the 80s, I got to experience weather in the 30s…no thanks. After our brief tour we made our way to Union Street Grill where we met up with Dani and I had my first Samuel Adams 26.2 brew of the weekend.

Linz and Dani

This stuff was so good! We were joined by fellow so cal running pal, Julie. We shared laughs and talked about our weekend plans. After a great dinner and several beers, we headed to the #CorralG Mission Control Center…also known as Adam’s house.  We settled in and headed to bed, we had early mornings every day in Boston.

Friday was gonna be awesome. Jen landed in Boston. We fetched Jen around 8, then headed to Mike’s Pastry in the North end…canollis!!!!!!

YAY Jen is here!

After delicious morning pastries we headed to Boylston Street. We made a stop at the Boston Public Library to view the Dear Boston exhibit/memorial of last year’s events. That was a very beautiful, touching, and moving experience. Last year in Boston I had the chance to see the Copley Square memorial before it was moved, so this was very touching and well put together.

A collection of shoes left at the Copley Square Memorial last year turned into art

Once we finished there we walked across the street to the Old South Church. I had been following the Marathon Scarf project online for a few weeks so I was excited to see that the church was open and scarves were being distributed to runners that passed by. We stopped and thanked the church for their wonderful efforts and received our scarves and blessings. We got to pick our scarves and I love mine.

Katie and I selecting our marathon scarves

Special thanks to Pamela from CT for creating such a wonderful gift especially for me. I totally teared up.
After that we headed to the Hynes convention center. I knew INKnBURN was unveiling a secret item at the expo and whatever it was I wanted it. It was the exclusive windbreaker. I was in love instantly.

After that, I made a stop over at the Skechers booth to see what all the hype was about the Skechers GoRun 3…that shoe is pure magic! I hope to pick up a pair soon, and I will tell you all about it. I made a point to stop and say hello to some of my pals, you know Jeff Galloway Bart Yasso.

Before I knew it, we headed upstairs for the moment of truth…packet pick up. I got really nervous and anxious at this point. It would become real at that very moment. I would be picking up my bib number which would identify me as a participant in the race. Boston is a big deal, so imagine how I felt sweating standing in line.

I’m on the guest list.

I am surrounded by veteran Boston marathoners in their jackets, picking up their packet like this is their neighborhood 5K. It is VERY intimidating being among athletes with such a pedigree. This race attracts the best of the best from around the world. What I will say is that every person I spoke to was nice, warm, and welcoming. They even wanted to share their stories. It was my turn next. I handed the wonderful volunteer my ID, signed my packet pick-up card in my Runner’s Passport (which is one of the coolest things ever) and received my bib! I didn’t know what to think or what to say.

What shock looks like

I was just overcome with emotion and happiness. I hurried over to watch Adam get his bib and exchange a hug with his dad! Katie obtained her bib and came over shouting “OMG OMG OMG” repeatedly, then we had a photo shoot…because that’s normal.

After the expo, we made our way over to my friends at RunKeeper. They were having a special Open House for those that signed up. They had great refreshments, beer, and I got to meet so many great people from the team, like Erin! Many people participated in the scavenger hunt, we made it in time for the awesome gathering and watched the prizes get distributed. RunKeeper is a solid operation with great folks, I always enjoy getting a chance to work with them. Jason met us at RunKeeper and I was happy to have my marathon support with me…lord knows I couldn’t have done it without him but let me not get ahead of myself. After RunKeeper we hopped in the van and made our way to Wahlburgers! This was my second time going there so I already knew what kind of delicious food I was in for. While we were waiting to be seated, a Bostonian woman walked up to us and asked if we were running the marathon. We said yes, she extended her hand and thanked us for being in Boston. She then described where she was on April 15th, 2013 and how the tragic events affected her, her family, and friends. She got teary-eyed and gave us all hugs. Hearing those types of stories and seeing those type of responses from people affirmed for me that we were doing the right thing not just for the running community, not just for the City of Boston, but for the American people who are still coping with this. We sat down and enjoyed a delicious dinner. I even got the chance to reunite with Lizzie from Team #RunDisney, I hadn’t seen her since Wine and Dine of 2012 so this was special. A great Friday night indeed.

Saturday came and it was time for the B.A.A. 5K. What a chilly morning that was. We made our way into Boston and parked near the Boston Common, which is where the race started. We connected with various friends behind the t-shirt pick up tent and conversed for a a few moments. There were lots of smiling faces that morning. Plenty of marathoners (myself included) were using this 5K as our shake out run prior to the marathon. We lined up in the corral and made our way around the Back Bay of Boston. We ran the 5K in 33 minutes. I felt great afterwards! After the race, lovely TRD friends Angela and Matthew were gracious enough to let us use their nearby shower to freshen up before continuing with our broadcast day. They were only two blocks from Boston Common so this was quite spectacular. Nothing like a hot shower on a chilly April morning that’s for sure. After we showered we made our way to The Baseball Tavern down on Boylston for the Marathon fundraiser that Adam and I co-hosted. Adam did a wonderful job coordinating everything so major hats off to you!

We enjoyed some lovely food and beer and I got to meet some pretty awesome folks. After the event we headed over the bridge to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, Fenway Park! We had GREAT seats for the Red Sox game.

Fenway Selfie

The tickets were a part of the fundraiser so this was pretty cool. I enjoyed a Fenway Frank, another beer, fried dough, and of course singing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs. Jen was also sitting next to me and felt it would be funny to steal my phone from me. You can’t blame me for wanting to keep all of you in the know! Lots happened this weekend HAHA! After the game we went back to the expo (ya know since it was on the way back to the car) and picked up a couple last minute things we thought about. We also spent some time at the Saucony booth checking out the Find Your Strong Boston wall collage. It turns out I was in the collage 7 times! HA! I win! After a day like this you can imagine we were pretty tired so we made our way back to Adam’s.

Easter Sunday was upon us. It was the first day we got to kind of sleep in. And I say kind of because some of us were planning on heading into the city. Adam stayed home with his beautiful baby girl Caitlyn and enjoyed a day of rest. Jen, Katie, Jason, and I headed into town. Since we were in town I took this opportunity to take some pictures at the Finish Line. It was so humbling and awesome to be able to sit on the finish line with a smile on my face knowing that tomorrow I would own it and become a Boston Marathoner. I kept the picture to myself until I finished the race. After that we made one last trip to the expo for last minute fuel and items for the race. I packed poorly and didn’t have my normal fuel. Thankfully EnergyBits was expoing and had some packets they hooked me up with. I got my supplemental fuel items so I would be stocked and ready to go. My fraternity brother recently moved to Boston and we met at the Thinking Cup for a few hours of catching up and humor. I had just seen him a couple weeks ago, but it’s always nice to have a chat with someone you don’t see often. Jen had to take off to get ready for her volunteer shift at the pasta party. We would meet up with her later on. After coffee and tea, we met up with Angela and Matthew and headed to the Pasta Party which takes place at City Hall. The line was wrapped around the block. Literally. You would swear that Oprah was there giving away bags of money…although I would have waited for that…the struggle is real. After some deliberation we decided to join the line. I personally am glad we did. The pasta was pretty delicious and there was Sam Adams Summer Ale on draft! I have to give it up to the BAA and the volunteers! They really made the pasta party a really fun event with awesome energy!

The snackage bags they gave us afterwards were quite fantastic! I was very happy. After Jen’s shift we headed to the car. Tomorrow would be the day. Race day.

I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. I woke up excited. I woke up anxious. I woke up ready for the moment. We were all getting ready for our day, discussing logistics, eating our fuel filled breakfast items and headed to Hopkinton. Adam lives closer to the start line than he does to Boston Common so we elected to get dropped off at the bus shuttle in Hopkinton. We cleared security and were dropped off at the Runners Village. We continued int he opposite direction to One Ash Street. Does that address sound familiar? It’s because it is the corner where the start line of the Boston Marathon is. It is also the location of the Boston Athletic Association.

We were invited to hang out in the same building as the BAA and enjoy some breakfast and comfortable seating before the race. EPIC. We were able to go downstairs and we had FRONT ROW seats to the wheel chair, elite women, and elite men start. THAT was a treat!!!!! I mean I saw Shalane and Meb less than 5 feet from me!

ELITES! Front row seating!

After the start of the elite men we made our way to the corral chute. This is the fun walk where everyone can discard their warm up clothes and begin fueling up. I ran into Kelly and fellow INKnBURN ambassador Melissa on the walk. After a quick potty stop I turn around and see Dani! Of course we run to each other and exchange a hug and take a selfie. Before we knew it we were all corralled for the start. I turn to my left and there is Jeff Galloway ready to run his race!

That was a really fun and energizing way to begin the morning in the corral. Before the wave got underway I looked at Katie and Adam and we just gave one another the biggest group hug ever.

Then we we crossed the start line. Everything became real and this surge of life altering energy shot through my body! We paced ourselves and took it easy and maintained around a 11:20 pace. The last thing we wanted to do was burn out to early especially since the first part of the course is downhill. It’s easy to go out and blow out in Newton around Heart Break Hill. I have to say that the architecture of the buildings in the Boston suburbs is just BEAUTIFUL! So many great brick buildings with so much history. I had an idea to take a selfie at every town sign…I mean why not. From Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick (which felt like we were there forever), Wesseley (where they apparently have moneeeey), and Newton around mile 16. It was really awesome to see the Chambos, Jason, and Jen throughout the entire race course giving us lots of support and cheering! I know it meant a lot to Adam, Katie, and myself! Now let’s talk about Newton. The weather on race day was in the low 70s. Being from So Cal I am used to running in this weather, in fact I love it. But something was different. Boston has a little thing called humidity. Newton is where Heart Break Hill starts. HBH is not just one hill…oh no…its a series of 4 gradual inclines. It starts at mile 16 and you aren’t done until mile 20.

HBH is certainly named properly. Around mile 18 I experienced one of the worst cramps of my marathoning career. I had to lay down and stretch it out and it made me real nervous. Luckily, I was able to work it out and continue on without medical assistance. Katie was right there and encouraged me the entire way. That hill will try to break your spirit! I didn’t let it at all!I stayed focused and made my way to the top of those hills! I meant what I said earlier…I will not let Boston beat me! The Boston Marathon is a historic marathon and it is to be respected. Giving up or not giving it your all wasn’t an option for me, especially on a year like this.

One of the most amazing this about this race is the course support from the spectators! The streets are lined from start to finish with SHOUTING fans! They were cheering for US! No one was left out or forgotten! What I found most touching was when spectators would call us by name and thank us for running and being there. Since the Bruins are in the playoffs and I was wearing my foundation tee, I got lots of BRUINS! shout outs…that was so much fun! I love Boston!

As we entered the final stretch of the race passing Fenway Park and the Citgo sign we knew we had done it. In less than 10 minutes our lives would change. We turned right on Hereford Street and tears started flowing immediately. We held hands as we walked up Hereford, turned the corner onto Boylston and saw the finish…queue more tears here. Katie found her parents on Boylston and Angela and Matthew were right behind the mile 26 sign and greeted us with hugs and congratulations! I personally needed that extra boost. We held hands and the announcer called all three of our names as we crossed the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon. Then we hugged and cried some more trying to figure out what just happened. WE RAN THE BOSTON MARATHON! We did it together! We gave a new meaning to the tag line #WeRunTogether.

We reunited with our family and friends after getting our medals and some snackage. Jason greeted me with my Boston Marathon jacket and all was right with the world. I had done it. We had done it together.

The entire experience of running the Boston Marathon is insane. It is a complete journey and not one thing can be missed. I raised $7500.00 for the Boston Bruins Foundation in 60 days, I am now well over that minimum thanks to all of you. Knowing that those funds will go to needy children is priceless. This race is bigger than any single person. It is a community of people that banded together to heal a city and a country. The race was amazing and the experience unforgettable. What I love most is that I was part of healing the community. I was part of providing resources to children that need them so badly. I made a difference. I touched someone’s life. That made it all worth it. Thank you to all of you again for your support and for cheering me on through the entire journey from start of fundraising to finish! I couldn’t have done it without YOU and I am forever grateful.

***Photo credits to Katie, Adam, Kira, and Jen!***

2014 ASICS LA Marathon – Redemption

What an amazing experience! As I mentioned in a previous post, this race had a couple of objectives I wanted to meet. First being, I wanted to best the course. Last year I ran the Asics LA Marathon in 5:24, this year I beat the course with a 5:19…which had all to do with heat and cramping but we will get there in a second. The next objective was to use this marathon as my training baseline for the next 6 weeks as I prepare for The Boston Marathon. As a charity runner, I know I’ll start in the back of the pack, but I still want to ensure I have a strong performance. I am pleased to report that both objectives were successfully met. So, let’s talk about this race shall we?

I arrived at Dodger Stadium dark and early in the morning wrapped in a mylar blanket…a lesson learned from last year for sure. Daylight Savings Time had just happened earlier in the morning so I know that most of us were feeling the effects of loosing a precious hour of sleep…especially before a marathon. Before I race I went and sat inside the stadium and just mediated on the day’s game plan. I focused on my goal, on the course, where the trouble spots were last year, strategized on how not to repeat the mistakes again, and what to do if my body responded in a specific manner. I really should do this more often because I think it really worked. I was locked into a battle mode unlike anything I can remember. I hopped in the corral and found my friend Kenny who was running his very first marathon. I gave him some words of encouragement and cautioned him about some interesting parts of the course. Before we knew it, we were off. We eased up to the start line, I started my music and we were off to Run LA!

I took the first 5 miles really easy. I didn’t open the engine all the way. Downtown Los Angeles is literally on a hill…which means when you run down from Elysian Park (where Dodger Stadium is), down toward Chinatown and into metro Downtown you’re running hills the entire time. The landscape really isn’t as flat as it appears. So I made my way through, smiling, and laughing. Just before mile 5 I feel a tap on my shoulder, it’s Brian from Pavement Runner.com! Love that guy! He was pushing for his sub 3:30 and looked happy and was in the zone! Seeing a familiar face from your blogging circle is always great!

Taking on the hills of Downtown LA in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall

Once we left Downtown, we headed towards Silver Lake. Silver Lake is a bohemian cultured neighborhood in Los Angeles best known for it’s eclectic culture, great food, and art. Portions of this are downhill which are fun. It’s one of my favorite portions of the course actually. I had to duplicate the photo from last year in front of the iconic Sunset Junction sign!

What’s Up Sunset Junction!

From there our journey continued towards Hollywood. We turned onto Hollywood Boulevard and made our way past the historic Pantages Theatre which is home to Los Angeles’ Broadway theatre shows (and it’s beautiful inside), and down the street a mile to The Hollywood and Highland center, home to The El Capitan Theatre (for my Disney freaks out there) and the now Dolby Theatre which is where the Academy Awards are held every year. I am telling you, if you have never been to Los Angeles and want to sight see and see everything in 26.2 miles…this is the race to run!

How do you NOT stop for a Beyoncé billboard!?

This is about the half way mark. I am feeling excellent at this point. I am well fueled and hydrated (thanks to EnergyBits, Skratch Labs, and Orange Mud) so I kept going. I made my way to Sunset Boulevard and ran. I took it easy here because last year I realized that Sunset actually has a gradual incline…which means you basically are running uphill slowly. You don’t really notice it until after. So I dialed back a little. We entered West Hollywood which is always an adventure and mile 15 I still feel strong. I kept moving. Next up was Beverly Hills. This is where I knew things would start to get interesting. I felt strong coming through the fabulous shops and stores of Melrose…you know the types Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Valentino, etc. No celebrity sightings, but I did slow down to window shop. I think I need to go back and get that awesome messenger bag I saw in the window at Prada.

Labels of Love!

We turned the corner and made our way to Century City. This is about the point last year where I lost it. I felt tight, but nothing I couldn’t stretch through and continue my journey. Apparently, at mile 19 one of my awesome readers was waiting for me with the first ever See Sharp Run signage! Funny story, I stopped and took a stretch break on the other side of the street from where she was standing just past the mile marker. Hilarious! But I loved the sign and loved the fact that she thought about me! THANK YOU JENN! Really really sweet of you.

Jenn rocks and wins all the prizes

I kept moving onto mile 20 where I ran into my home girl Erica who was there with the awesome Pasadena Pacers running club…no really they are incredible! Erica blew me away! She met me with a bag of pretzels in various varieties, refilled my water bottle and ran with me and gave me some epic words of encouragement. Mile 20 is where I lost it last year, so having her there was the perfect placement…thank you Universe and thank you Erica for playing pit crew and for being so awesome and encouraging!

Erica! Captiain of the #TeamSharp pit crew for LA Marathon

I made my way through the Veterans Affairs hospital successfully and turned on the thrusters to get to mile 22. By this point the sun was in FULL effect. Thank the unicorns I was wearing a hat and had my hydra quiver. I took to social media and wanted to let all of you know what was going on. My splits were amazing, I felt great, but cramps and lack of salt in my muscles made for a crazy afternoon. I was forced to slow down and adjust my run/walk intervals to 1/1…which I was completely fine with. Since I had slowed down, I had time to do the math in my head. I knew that my chances for my PR were shot at this point…and I was perfectly fine with that. I also knew that if I stayed on pace I would beat my course time. That was motivation! I wasn’t going to allow this course to defeat me. What was interesting, is I didn’t have a ‘Grumpy Cat’ mile this race. I was REALLY happy and in amazing spirits the entire time. I wasn’t defeated. I wasn’t bitter. I wasn’t hungry! I did extremely well.

All authentic smiles!

I also took the time to really have an honest conversation with myself about if I was ready to take on Boston or not. I am. My cardio endurance is where I want it. I can maintain the run/walk interval that Adam and Katie are training at with no problem at all, so that is a plus. My area of opportunity is strength training. I need to build some strength in my back and quads. If I can do that and make that my focus, I will be in amazing shape for races to come! So, once that was established I was REALLY happy. I love progress.

I turned onto Ocean Avenue home of the finish line and saw that real big bright orange Asica LA Marathon arch and started to tear up! I had done it. I didn’t get defeated and I felt prepared and accomplished. All of you helped me get through it and celebrated me along the way and for that I was grateful. I crossed the line at 5:19:15. I couldn’t be happier. I also earned my Marathon Maniac status!  Say hello to maniac #8887! Next up, let’s get ready for Boston! PS: to all of you that purchased miles for charity…THANK YOU!

TAKE THAT LOS ANGELES!

runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Recap

What a weekend this was for sure! After coming back from Dopey weekend, I was feeling very good physically and mentally. I made it back to So Cal, got back into the groove of life, and was ready to take on another 19.3 miles with the Tinker Bell 10K and the Tinker Bell half marathon! I actually had a roller coaster of a weekend! So I won’t waste to much time with that an intro, let’s dive right in!

Thursday I made my way to the expo at the Disneyland Hotel! I figured Thursday would be a great day to go! Especially in the evening, hopefully the crowds would be gone! I was right! But let me step back! I received a text from the lovely Vicki, who blogs over at Scoot-A-Doot and she totally surprised me and told me she was in town for the race…as a participant! I was over the moon! I absolutely adore this girl!

Vicki went with me to pick up my bibs and handle some business over at runner relations. We laughed the entire time! She really is awesome! Vicki took off to catch some Z’s, so I went to the expo to poke my head around and see what was happening! I picked up my tee-shirts and ran into running pal Tracy who was volunteering! After that, I made my way over to Sparkle Athletic to grab some sparkle for the half marathon. Real Men Sparkle after all! I knew that my girl Kelly would hook me up and make sure I sparkled right! I secured my gunmetal sparkle visor!

@AccordingToKelly from Sparkle Athletic is just AWESOME

I ran into some other awesome people at the expo! Then I made my way to the runDisney merchandise area! I will say this…the expo was run 100 times better than Disneyland Half’s expo last year! I was thrilled! Very efficient. Very well organized. Hats off to the coordinators! I headed home and wouldn’t return to the resort until the 10K on Saturday Morning.

Yes that is an A. runDisney made a boo-boo! 

Saturday morning I arrived to Anaheim ready to take on the 10K! I was a bit chilly but that’s to be expected for 5:30 in the morning in January, right? I mean it isn’t snowing or anything but we were in So Cal. I met up with fellow gazelle Joe who was in town to spectate the 10K and run the half marathon! I love hanging out with this guy! He’s crazy fast…and well…just crazy! He’s AWESOME! We decided to run the half marathon together!

Hey, it’s Joe!

Throughout the morning, I received tweets from other great runners who were participating in the race that wanted to make sure that we could connect and say hello! Before I knew it, we were off and running! The first people I ran into are a couple of my favorites, Tracy and Dawnley the mother daughter duo that represent Team Run#3rd! I always LOVE seeing these two! Always so warm and always smiling!

Love Tracy and Dawnley

I continued my run through Disneyland and even encountered another online friend, Fiona! I have been chatting with her for some time, and she always makes me laugh so it was awesome to get to bump into her and meet her in real life. She was also spectating the 10K and was gearing up to earn her wings on Sunday.

The rest of the race was pretty great! I love the route that runDisney chose when they designed this race. A majority of the race was actually on Disney property which was pretty awesome. There were probably two miles total that were on the streets of Anaheim. Overall, this was an awesome race! Now there is a huge catch here for me. After coming off of Dopey the prior week, at the finish I immediately felt my energy levels deplete! I really did my best not to over do it on the 10K, but I guess my body had other thoughts. Immediately post race I didn’t stop to say hello or see ya tomorrow to anyone. Sorry you guys. I made a direct line to my car and drove home. I finished up some chores around the house, climbed into bed and vowed never to leave it again. I was literally physically drained. I am now calling this the Post Dopey Hangover. I am absolutely sure it was a combo of running the Dopey Challenge, flying, working, then jumping right into Tink weekend without any real break! I always say listen to your body, and my body basically told me to stay in bed and don’t ever leave…well until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning was half marathon day. At this point, I was still feeling the effects of the Dopey Hangover, but I didn’t think about it much! I was more excited to be able to run with Joe! I’ve never had the opportunity to run with Joe let alone hang out with him much (mainly due to our paths just crossing at different speeds) so this was going to be a treat. I arrive to the corral and find Joe in his #TeamSparkle skirt, visor that matched mine, and his St. Jude Hero singlet…oh and fairy wings. I knew at that moment that this race was gonna be a blast! His energy was through the roof!!!

Ohhh Joe…

Before we knew it, our crew was underway on our 13.1 mile trek through the Disneyland Resort and the city of Anaheim! This was a fun experience because we literally stopped for every single character stop. And I mean every single one. We decided this race was just going to be about fun, laughing, encouraging other folks while we waited in line (Joe is a pro at that), and taking all the random selfies!

The gang is all here!

Fast forward to mile 6 which is where we leave the resort and head onto the streets of Anaheim, the crew had to stop for a photo with the awesome folks from F3 – Further, Faster, Forever (of which I am a member) for our awesome photo!

F3!

At this point, extreme fatigue had set it. I realized I was basically done for the weekend! I dialed ALL the way down and ended up walking a majority of the rest of the way. I mean, I ran when I could but that Post Dopey Hangover came in full effect. I was literally mentally and physically exhausted. I had officially done too much. I recognized this, realized what was going on, and mitigated to avoid serious illness. I got some nutrition into my system and hydrated like a mad man. I didn’t feel faint or like I was going to puke or anything, but I knew that my race weekend was done. That was okay with me. It’s not like I didn’t just run 48.6 miles the week before. This is another important lesson in listening to your body. I felt fine when I walked, but running caused some interesting sensations in my abdominal region…cramps but not really. So I took it easy. I knew the finish wasn’t too far so I focused on enjoying the walk and celebrating that I just ran Dopey and I just added on another 19.3 miles! I was proud! I ran the last .1 into the finishers chute, got my selfie with the boss mouse and crossed the finish line! I had earned my second pair of wings AND my coast-to-coast. That was pretty awesome!

Tink and Coast to Coast

Although, I felt like crud at the finish, I met some familiar faces and made another bee line to my car. I was officially ready for a bath, some water, and a much deserved rest! Overall, I had a great weekend of running. It was an awesome challenge to go back-to-back but luckily Tink Half moves to Mother’s Day weekend in 2015 so that temptation goes away…although I am hearing rumblings that another race may take it’s place? Who knows…that’s what I am hearing in the streets. Anyway, runDisney rocked it! I had a blast! Next up, Surf City USA in Huntington Beach! See you there! But before I go… look at all the blinnnng!

Sharp’s Final Thoughts on the Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Well folks, it’s time. Most of us are either on our way home or sitting in the airport awaiting our flights…which is exactly what I am doing. As a side note before I get started…I scored power plugs for my phone and laptop! SCORE! So many of us participated in the runDisney Walt Disney World weekend (which again is really a week). This consists of the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon. Many of us took on various challenges. I met a lot of people who did their own make-shift ‘East Coast Dumbo Double Dare’ by completing the 10K, followed by the half marathon. Others went Goofy, and some even went Dopey. I am officially Dopey! Horray! So what did I think and how do I feel?

Well, at this point I have VERY minimal discomfort. I kept my 5K, 10K, and half marathons very easy and utilized a consistent Galloway run/walk technique all weekend, adjusting my intervals as I needed to ensure comfort. So this made for muscles that were not overworked or strained. I survived with no injury thank goodness. I also did my best to enjoy all of the fine cuisine Walt Disney World has to offer, but did so responsibly knowing I had races in the morning. Not a whole lot of junk food this weekend.

So that brings me to what I personally thought was the hardest part of the weekend for me…the 5 early wake up calls. All from waking up early to make sure I got the newest New Balance runDisney shoes, to ensuring I made to to my start corral in enough time. I honestly think the 10K was my worst day. I was so pumped up and had ALL the adrenaline in my system during the marathon. I knocked out last night though. I am sure all runners thought it was an awesome treat to be able to sleep in past 4AM this morning haha!

This challenge is just as much of a mental challenge than it is physical. You need to be in the zone ALL weekend in order to make this a success. You have to be focused during all of your distances, you need to fuel properly, and you need to get as much rest as possible. Thank goodness for EnergyBits which gave me energy AND the vitamins I needed to keep from getting sick! I brought a whole bag with me and took two servings every day!

What didn’t I like? I didn’t like the early morning wake up calls at all. It was hard to know I absolutely had to be up and out the door. There is no grey area here, you don’t want to miss your bus or miss your corral. I also thought the price for this challenge was steep. The medals were beautiful, the tech tees this year were much improved from last year, but is it just me or did it seem that the character stops were sparse? Had me scratching my head all weekend. I absolutely got an amazing value for all the entertainment and amazing course support that was present, but I still think this may have been a little on the steep side. Also, just as note to other runners…do not say the following phrases to someone ‘Oh, you just ran the half?’ or ‘You just ran the marathon?’ Just because someone didn’t take on a challenge doesn’t make their journey or their race any less important. I heard a lot of that this weekend. I am absolutely sure that no one had malicious intentions and I’m sure many of this was done in a joking manner so I don’t want this to turn into a finger pointing session, but honestly, every distance should be respected. 26.2 and 13.1 is nothing to turn your nose up at. So, I say all this to say congratulate all of your fellow runners out there! No distance is too short! GO YOU as Cigna would say. Encourage one another!!!!!!!!!

What did I love? THE MEDALS! The medals are GORGEOUS! Personally, the Goofy is my favorite! The tech shirts were absolutely much improved from last year. The designs and the material were beautiful! Very happy. The course support at the aid stations and water stops was spot on! The volunteers as usual were amazing! The expo pretty much remained well stocked all weekend. I went back and only couldn’t get one thing I forgot which was my Dopey hat. I loved the virtual queue line for the New Balance shoes. I know my perspective is a little different because I was first in line on Wednesday, but I thought that was a very efficient way to queue up people wanting to get their shoes. Now for those folks that bought ALL the shoes to sell them….I won’t get into that.

Wrapping it up!

I know that each of you gave it your best effort out there! I know that many people learned a lot from their performance! I know there were some challenges. But I know that we all learned something. I love coming to Walt Disney World to run! It is honestly one of my favorite things. Not only do I get to see some amazing people, and reconnect with new folks, but I always have (no joke) a magical time. It’s more than theme parks for me. It’s about being in the moment and letting the spirit and magic remind you that you are alive. Being able to run around the world (as I call it) is such a blessing. Some people never get a chance to leave their home state, and I get to travel all over the country to run, smile, and write about it. It is a reminder that I am blessed enough to one run on my own strength and get stronger, and two that dreams can come true. If you ever have turned the corner of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and seen Cinderella’s castle for the first time, you know that it is such an experience. Running past it with spectators cheering for you gives me chills. I love the feeling, the spirit, the energy, and the magic that runDisney can create. If you choose to do this challenge I caution you of the early mornings, and not only encourage you…I am telling you you need to be TRAINED UP! This challenge will eat you up if you let it. 48.6 miles is a long way, and the distances get greater every day. The weather in central Florida is also quite unpredictable. We got it all! Rain, humidity, sunshine, overcast, puppies! Sunday however was such a blessing! Perfect running conditions! So, train for the distance! Make sure you get that long run in and cross-train so your whole body is strong and ready for the challenge. All in all, this was a great experience. I am on the fence if I would do it again next year as there are some other races I have my eye on, BUT I am not saying no. There is a chance I may be back for marathon weekend next year, but we will see what the year holds. I had a blast this weekend, and now Saturday and Sunday…the Tinker Bell 10K and Half Marathon await. Which means, Coast to Coast 2014 gets picked up on back-to-back race weekends! Let’s see how this goes!

Thanks for joining me on this journey! There is so much more to experience, see, and run through! I hope you continue to join me on these amazing journeys! No two runs are ever the same and there is always something to learn! I have a long way to go, but I enjoy every step! Here’s to the magic! See ya real soon!

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Day 5 – WDW Marathon

It’s really funny. I really didn’t know how I was going to do today. I woke up extra early feeling pretty rested and fueled after my trip to the Pasta in the Park party (which I will recap later). I think I was just anxious. The marathon distance always intimidates me. 26.2 miles is absolutely nothing to laugh at, especially in Central Florida where the weather is unpredictable. Thankfully, I had the most amazing marathon today! Yes, it was the #CorralG anniversary today, and I love those kids very much! It will always have a place in my heart and can’t be replaced! Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up just a bit.

I’ll make this quick. This is the marathon distance which will round out the Dopey Challenge races. We have run 22.4 miles up to this point, so I can only imagine that most runners were beginning to if not already experiencing muscle and mental fatigue. Myself included. I hung out with Jen and Jessica in the start corral this morning. We were absolutely excited to take on the distance, but like I said nervous. We have all trained and have become better athletes since last year, so for most of us this was a test! The fireworks went off and Mickey Mouse sent us on our way!

I was in pretty good spirits. The weather was spectacular! A much appreciated change from 2013’s 85 degree weather with 97% humidity! Today was cool in the mid 60s with little humidity! Conditions were amazing. The first 8 miles were the same from the day before so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what was coming. And then this! Faith Dority came up and tapped my shoulder and said hello! Some of you may know Faith as the newest Disney Parks Mom’s Panel as our runDisney specialist! This was pretty awesome! She had a smile on her face and a dream in her heart, which was to crush the Dopey Challenge! We began chatting and said ‘Hey, you’re alone, I’m alone, let’s run together!’ And that is exactly what we did! We met at the Magic Kingdom toll plaza and the rest was history! Faith and I clicked immediately. We decided we wanted to run 4/1 run walk intervals, and we would do that until we needed to modify! We felt strong and encouraged. We were even joined by Mary Jo (@MoJoDisney) for a while! She is equally as fun and matched our energy!

Fast forward to the Magic Kingdom! We basically blew threw the place! We were on a mission. We didn’t stop for too many photo stops. Mary Jo was awesome enough to take our first milestone photo! We decided to take and share photos from our major milestones such as mile markers and park icons! Selfies at that LOL. We were in front of the castle here.

Of course we have our phones in our hands LOL

I ran into my Corral G sister Jill spectating in front of the castle! I gave her a huge hug she gave me some encouraging words, and Faith and I sped out of the Magic Kingdom. We kept our steady pace as we made our way to the Walt Disney World Speedway! I was really happy they did not remove this portion of the race (it was added during the 2013 marathon). We ran around and enjoyed looking at all the classic cars and of course laughing. I don’t think there was one point where we weren’t smiling now that I think about it.

Speedway

We flew around the speedway and made our way onto the back roads of the resort. I find this portion of the course a little boring, but Faith kept me entertained. We exchanged stories, chatted, and just enjoyed each other’s company! Next stop, Animal Kingdom! Before we even entered the park, we were met by small farm animals…and the cutest thing happened. THEY HAD MARATHON RACE BIBS! I thought this was the cutest thing ever! The animals were sweet and just so precious…and they had race bibs with their names! CUTE! CUTE! CUUUUTE!

His name was Fleming LOL
Milestone photo was taken in front of Expedition Everest of course! We didn’t ride because we were just in the groove of our running and wanted to keep the momentum! But of course, there’s always time for a selfie. Although, I am not sure the Yeti was all that interested.
Ain’t nobody got time for no Yeti
After Animal Kingdom was a highlight for sure. The halfway point, mile 13.1! Faith and I had been doing a good job of monitoring our Twitter feeds for our official split times so we could stay on point for our finish. So once we crossed the timing mat, we did this again! We were very pleased with the consistency of this race! So we continued with the 4/1 intervals onto Osceola Parkway and made our way to ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Once we reached mile 16 we were beginning to feel the fatigued so we adjusted our intervals to 2/1. This worked out worlds better for the both of us. We were both able to run strong and recover during the walk break without compromising our pace or time. We ran through ESPN Wide World of Sports and enjoyed a run and even enjoyed a banana. Then before we knew it… BAM MILE 20! Where are these miles going????

At this point, I started getting excite because mile 20 only means one thing…10K to go! So we turned off of Victory and back onto Osceola and we see, stop, and have a moment with the official training consultant for runDisney…Jeff Galloway! He was running the race and also had quite the smile on his face. This means that a photo was absolutely necessary. He even complimented me on my camoflaged style gymboss timer!

Hey Jeff!

We continued our intervals and modified based on highway inclines. We made our way to Hollywood Studios! We are feeling great, especially since we got chocolate :)! We made it happen! Let me just say, Faith is really great at motivating and helping folks finish! I wanted to slow down, and Faith encouraged me and helped me get through the discomfort! I felt WORLDS better this year, but encouragement is always great! First, Kat helped keep me focused during the 10K and half marathon, and Faith was amazing!

Hollywood Studios

We flew down the boulevard at Hollywood Studios and this is where we turned all the way up! We made our way to The Boardwalk and this made me so happy! I mean, that means I am just moments away from the front door of Epcot!

A wonderful view from Disney’s Boardwalk

Faith saw her family right in front of the Beach Club Villas! This was so sweet! She gave her children and her husband hugs and kisses and they were so encouraging! I loved it! So at this point we were ready to finish this thing up! We kept our intervals strong! Jill again met me in the UK in Epcot! There is nothing like seeing a friendly face in the crowd that is there to see YOU! Warmed my heart. We continued to run around the world and made our way into Future World! We were so happy and felt the emotions growing! We did it! We made it to Spaceship Earth!

And then…

We ran passed the choir and made our way to the finish line! We crossed the finish line around 5:02 which was amazing! We gave each other a huge hug and were over the moon! It was an incredible experience!

Faith, thank you so much for being so amazing! I had an amazing time today! The race wouldn’t have been the same without you! It was an amazing experience! Our faces when we got our Dopey and Goofy medals! Just incredible!

Tomorrow, I will recap my thoughts on the Dopey Challenge as a whole! Thank you for following me and my adventures!