Legacy Status

I was *so* excited yesterday to get an email from runDisney with a special early registration link for the 2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon. As I’ve written before, this is probably my favorite race.

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My Custom Race Link

The message said that in honor of being a legacy runner since the inception in 2012, there was a spot in the half marathon reserved for me. I could register before the masses (general registration opens September 20th) and simply had to click the link between September 12th and 19th.

Wow. At first blush, this was awesome!

RunDisney races have become so popular that some sell out in minutes, and there are several blog posts dedicated to strategies to gain entry.

From my experience of doing 15+ runDisney events, I’ve found that what works for me is to put several reminders on my calendar to get on the registration site about 5 minutes before registration starts, then frantically hit “refresh” until it does. The next step is to typically be placed into a queue until it’s my turn to register, which is when I type as fast as I can and hit “return.” I don’t exhale until I see the confirmation screen.

While I usually get into the race I want (with the exception of you, Wine and Dine Half Marathon, grr!), it’s always heart pounding and there are a few panicky moments when I watch the clock tick and think that this is the time that I’m not going to make it.

So, while I was excited to see this offer for the guaranteed half marathon spot, what I really, really like about the Tinker Bell series is the Pixie Dust Challenge, which is a two day event consisting of a 10k on Saturday followed by the half marathon on Sunday.

And my special link was for the half marathon only.

In the end, I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes but bit the bullet and registered. I’ll probably still try to get into the Pixie Dust Challenge next week and if that works out, I’ll query runDisney regarding a refund.

Either way, I’m running! Excited.

 

 

Run Disney Race Reports – Late 2015 & 2016 Edition

This is an extremely overdue report of three Run Disney events:

  • 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon
  • 2016 Marathon
  • 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge
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Photo via Run Disney

When I left off last fall, I was headed on a complicated trip that took me to the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon via a whirlwind trip to Dubai, which was not the most convenient – or relaxing – pre-race preparation.

Spouse was running this with me and we were slated to meet in Orlando on Saturday morning, with the race starting Saturday night. I had two flights to get there: a 17+ hour one from Dubai to Atlanta (in coach, ugh) and then a quick 90 minute jump from Atlanta to Orlando. The first leg was miserable; I was cold, uncomfortable and could not sleep. Thankfully I wore compression socks to reduce some in-flight leg swelling, but I was still pretty cashed once I deplaned.

After a quick shower and some major teeth brushing for me, we hit the expo, which was also pretty cashed. I’m usually not big on buying official race merchandise, which is a good thing because there was none left at this point.

The rest of the day involved a nap and waking up to head over to the race start. We were staying at the Swan Hotel, which was not one of the hotels offering transportation to the starting line, but it was easy enough to walk next door to the Boardwalk, which was. We arrived around 7 PM and the bus lines were long. After waiting about 30 minutes, we boarded and headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Bus traffic was also crazy; there were traffic jams and the ride took about 30-40 minutes.

The conditions when we left the resort were hot and humid, but by the time we got off the bus the temperature had dropped several degrees and the wind had picked up. There was lightning in the distance and I had a bad feeling about the race. Let me also say that at this point, I was not feeling too hot. Even after a nap I was still exhausted from the travel. My legs felt heavy. I knew the race was going to be a push for me to complete. I was focusing on Getting It Done and making it to the famed after party where racers can enjoy EPCOT until 4 AM.

We then started to see people moving from the grassy starting area towards the ESPN stadium. Tweets were coming out that the race was being delayed due to weather. We slowly walked with everyone else into the stadium, where we were officially on hold.

As more than an hour of limbo ticked by, I started to think that Run Disney would either need to cut the distance from 13.1 miles to something less or entirely cancel the race. There was no way all of the runners could complete the course AND get to the after party with enough time to enjoy it by 4 AM. Standing between hangry runners and the Wine and Dine Expo was not going to work.

Finally the announcement came that we could head out to the corrals. Spouse and I were in different ones. I had submitted a proof of time and was in corral D; he did not and was in the last one. Once in the corrals, there was an announcement that indeed, the race was going to be cut to a shorter distance. If they announced the shorter distance, I didn’t hear it, but in the end my watch said that we had done 6.75 miles, so this became a Half Half Marathon.

Personally, my exhausted legs and I were ok with this turn of events. Many, many other runners were not.

Since I was fairly early in the corrals, I didn’t get caught up in a lot of foot traffic, but Spouse did. I think I finished in about 1:07. I waited for him at the finish and he crossed nearly an hour later. His corral started about 40 minutes after mine, which accounted for most of the time but he also reported areas that were so congested he had to walk.

We’d taken advice from a lot of other bloggers and brought fresh clothes for the party. By the time we hit EPCOT it was after 1 AM. Neither of us was particularly hungry, which was good since the lines at most of the booths were loooooooong. We both had an artisanal wine and cheese plate and I had a sushi roll from Japan, while Spouse waited in line to get a beer and something from Germany. We made it to nearly 4 AM and were able to walk back to the Swan Hotel via the International Gate, and then we promptly collapsed. The one thing that I did right about this trip was to NOT return home on Sunday; we gave ourselves an extra day and came back on Monday. On Sunday we slept late, ate lunch and spent a leisurely day together, followed by dinner at Il Mulino. We came home on Monday without a hitch.

Considering everything, would I do the Wine and Dine again? Probably. However, if you follow Run Disney events you would know that they’ve changed it to a morning race and added a 10k, plus a 10k/half marathon challenge option. It’s also a moot point for this year since I was shut out of the 2016 registration, which filled with lightning speed like always.

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Ironically, I have less to say about the 2016 WDW Marathon than the Wine and Dine, even though it was essentially four times the distance of the latter.

2016 was my fourth time on the course, but it was my friend L’s first marathon and that made it really special.

The week leading up to the race held an unexpected event for me: my 94-year-old grandmother died. I spent most of the week helping with arrangements and then attended the funeral in Wisconsin on Thursday.

L. and I met up in Orlando on Friday – two days before the race – and hit the Expo. Most of it was the same as before except that we had to go to a different area outside the stadium to pick up our wristbands for the Race Retreat (side note: whenever possible, spring for the Race Retreat; it’s totally worth it).

On race day we were up and out the door before 3 AM. Transportation was smooth and we waited in the Race Retreat tent until it was time to head to the corrals. Even though it was her first marathon, L. had posted some amazing half-marathon times and was placed in corral D. I was in G, so we split up at the start and before I knew it, we were off.

I knew this wasn’t going to be my best marathon (it turned out to be my second worst), especially since the week leading up to the race was really stressful. I took a short walk break after 8 miles and then spent the rest of the race taking unscheduled walk breaks every 30 minutes or so, usually for about two minutes at a time. I did a lot of bargaining with myself to get to the next mile, run through one more song on my playlist, etc. 

Eventually I reached Hollywood Studios, which is my favorite part of the course. The last five or so miles of this race always seem to go quickly for me, especially since the crowd support along the Boardwalk is so strong. I rounded my way through EPCOT and crossed the finish line in 4:59, which took a push at the end to squeak in under the five hour mark.

As I mentioned above, this was my second-worst marathon time. (Worst was my second marathon, which I trained for while I was postpartum and completed when my daughter was less than eight months old; the finishing time was 5:03). This was also my ninth marathon, so I am not new to this rodeo. While I am a lot older than I was the first time I did this race (January 2006; 4:24), I also determined that I need to get leaner and train differently to improve my running. This is something I’m working on now. L. was more successful in her race.

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L. and I met up in the Race Retreat tent after we finished. Due to her faster time and earlier corral placement, she’d been done for about 45 minutes by the time I staggered in. After a ten minute massage and a giant plate of breakfast, I was feeling like a human again and we headed back to the Swan Hotel, where we were staying. L. showered and left less than an hour later, so I was now on my own.

One really interesting thing happened: I got to see the end of the race. From the hotel balcony I had an eagle eye view of the course, right where the path leading from Hollywood Studios crosses the bridge to the Swan and Dolphin. There were still a lot of runners out there, and I decided the best thing I could do was to go down and cheer them on.

I think this was the first time I’ve been a spectator, not a runner, at a race. It was so much fun. I was waiting to see the legendary Balloon Ladies (the last people to start the race and the pacers for the course cut-off), but I missed them. I did see the course close as bikers and Disney people put cones across the path.

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The end of the race

I would definitely do this race again.

My final recap is the 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge, which is part of the Tinkerbell Half-Marathon weekend.

Photo from Run Disney

Photo from Run Disney

This is absolutely one of my favorite races and something I look forward to every year. 2016 was the fifth anniversary of the event, and I was in the Legacy Runner group.

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A list of the Legacy Runners that was at the Expo – and I’m on there!

Being a Legacy Runner gave me a special bib and a gift, which was a small mirror. I was oddly touched by it all. I’d also forgotten that I’d sprung for a warm-up jacket when I signed up – a departure from my usual avoidance of buying official race merchandise ahead of time, which I consider a bad omen because I am superstitious like that – so I was pleasantly surprised to receive it at the Expo. It was soft, fit like a glove, and I wore it several times during the weekend and since.

For the Pixie Dust Challenge, there is a 10k on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. This year I was staying at the Sheraton, which is about a 15 minute walk from the starting line (one of the reasons I love this race is the easy accessibility of the starting line, as well as the many real bathrooms to use pre-race). When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was raining. Not just sprinkling, this was full-on rain. I scratched my plan to walk to the starting line and decided to take the shuttle bus. This almost turned out to be a huge mistake. After waiting with several other runners for 20+ minutes for the bus, it finally arrived and we were dropped off on the far side of the park. There was still at least a 10 minute walk to the starting line from there. Fortunately, the rain had cleared by then so I was able to stay dry, but I reached my corral (B) right as the Star Spangled Banner was being performed. This was a bit too close for comfort.

The race had a slow start. Many runners were cautious on the still-wet pavement and I had a hard time getting through congestion for the first 1.5 miles. My usual 10k goal is to finish in less than an hour, but I wasn’t sure that I would make it due to the slowdowns. At the three mile mark, though, my watch said 32 minutes and I decided to push it to the end. I finished in 59 minutes and change, so this worked out.

Conditions were much better on Sunday. I was still doing some bargaining in my head. I decided that it would be ok if I walked a bit, but I needed to steadily run at least the first half of the race. When I got to the six mile mark, I also knew that there was a really boring part of the course coming up from miles six to nine. I was feeling ok and decided to keep going until mile eight and then consider a walk break.

When I got to mile eight, I discovered that the Red Hat Ladies and their awesome crowd support were stationed there this year instead of in their usual spot outside of Downtown Disney. These ladies gave me quite a boost and I quickly went through miles eight and nine.

At mile 10.75, I decided that I would take that walk break, so I did for about three minutes. Next I decided that I would take short breaks in miles eleven and twelve, but when I reached 11.75, I felt good enough to skip them and kept soldiering on. I finished in 2:09, which is also not my best half (1:54) but not my worst.

This race also racked up some serious bling, especially since I’d also signed up for the virtual She Rocks race and used the half-marathon to complete the distance.

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The medals are (left to right): She Rocks, Tinkerbell 10k, Tinkerbell Half Marathon, Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast (for completing races in Florida and California in the same year).

Not counting Castaway Cay 5ks, I’ve now completed 16 Run Disney events. It feels slightly dorky to admit that, but hey! There are worse habits to have.

 

Run Disney Pixie Dust Challenge 2016

Yesterday registration opened for the 2016 Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend, which is slated for May 5-8, 2016, at Disneyland.

I really wanted to participate again in this race, since it’s the Fifth Anniversary and I’d be five-for-five in running.

I also wanted to do the Pixie Dust Challenge, which is where you run a 10k one day and a half marathon the next.

But here’s the problem: Run Disney races have become so popular that they usually sell out, and quickly.

Case in point: the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon sold out in a scary half hour. 

I managed to secure two spots in the Wine & Dine for Spouse and myself, but it involved setting a reminder alarm, panicked screen refreshing, etc.

So yesterday I was prepared for the worst. 

With a full roster of A.M. duties, I tried to efficiently pace my day so that I could carve out a niche of time right when registration opened at 11 A.M. Central.

At 11:01, I was at my computer and headed to the Run Disney site.

I was prepared for what happened next, which is that I was directed to a queue to register. Sometimes this queue takes up to 20 minutes, and you need to be ready when it’s your turn.

I was in line less than a minute, though, and quickly got directed to the registration.

By 11:03, I was in the Pixie Dust Challenge. Score!

Curiosity got the best of me, though, so I kept refreshing the registration page during the day.

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By 11:30 A.M., the Pixie Dust Challenge was 70% full.

By 11:50 A.M., the Pixie was 75% full and the half marathon by itself was 50% full. The 10k was 70% full.

Day’s end showed the Pixie at 80% full and the half marathon still clung at the halfway mark.

Today, the Pixie is at 85% capacity, the half is still at 50%, the 10k is sold out, and the 5k is 99% full. The kids’ races are sold out.

So, how do you secure a spot? I still haven’t figured it out 100%, but here are a few tips I’ve learned over time:

  • Sign up for a Run Disney email reminder. They’ll send you a message about a week out from registration.
  • Set multiple alarms and reminders for registration.
  • Go to the website early and keep refreshing until registration opens.
  • Sign up for an Active.com account ahead of time (it’s free), so the entry can be pre-populated with some of your information (address, age, etc). This considerably speeds up the registration process.
  • Don’t forget your Active.com password! This happened to me once and it took several attempts for me to get it right. This time, I was ready.
  • Have your credit card in hand. They want payment at the time of registration.
  • Follow Run Disney on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. They’ll often have extra reminders there, too.
  • Consider buying an annual pass to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members get a two week head start on registration. Lucky them!

 

 

 

 

 

Pixie Dust Challenge Recap

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Yesterday – Mother’s Day – I completed the inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge, a two-day, 19.3 mile event from Run Disney.

Event one was a 10k on Saturday morning, followed by a half-marathon on Sunday.

Earlier this year (February, to be exact), I did a similar thing in Florida, so I felt like I had the drill down.

Just like Florida, Saturday was colder than Sunday, less crowded, and overall, I liked the 10k courses better than the half-marathons.

It’s easy to see why, though: by the time you realize you’re running, you’re well into the 10k, and then it’s over before you know it. Since the course is shorter, there’s also much more running time within the theme parks than in the surrounding streets, which of course is a lot of fun and a great distraction.

I didn’t check my official time yet, but my watch said my 10k time was 57:29, which is pretty typical for me. I could have gone a bit faster, but I was nervous that I could flame out on Sunday if I went out too hard on Saturday, so I held back a bit.

Here’s a shot from the starting area at 5:30 AM Saturday, plus a post-race nap I took in front of a fire in the lobby of the Grand Californian hotel (20 minutes of heaven).

 

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On Sunday, I felt better than I expected. The course is honestly a bit boring in the middle and I’d planned to take a short walk break around mile 8 if I needed it, but I didn’t.

Soon I saw miles 8, 9 and 10 tick away. When I got to 11, I knew I would be done in less than twenty minutes, so I kept moving forward.

Again, I didn’t check my official time, but my watch said 2:05 when I crossed the finish line. I felt strong.

And on to the bling!

I actually got four medals this weekend, but you can only see three above. I left the 10k one in my hotel room. After finishing the half-marathon, I got the medal for that (far left), one for the Pixie Dust Cahllenge (middle), and then a Coast to Coast one (pink, on right), for completing half-marathons in both Florida and California in the same calendar year. The middle one was my favorite!

But, the truth is that while I loved participating in these races and felt strong – which I think is really critical to share with my kids – I missed them terribly. I made a mistake in not bringing them with me, especially since it was Morher’s Day. That fact was poignant and I was envious of other women whose kids were cheering for them and hugging them in the reunion area. I’d like to rectify this next year, if possible.

I couldn’t get home fast enough.

P.S. I bought this rainbow unicorn hoodie from Raw Threads because, well, it’s a rainbow unicorn and totally hilarious. Also, I was cold!

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Mother of the Year

Well, I’m giving this post that title with more than a little sarcasm, since my overall mothering has been pretty sub-par as of late.

If you’re keeping up at all, I’ve been on three trips in three weeks, most recently coming home from California for less than 24 hours, only to turn around and go back to a different city in California (San Francisco —> L.A.).

The first two trips were for work, but the last one was definitely for fun. I decided to participate in the Disney Tinkerbell half marathon for the fourth time, and this year there was a new race: the Pixie Dust Challenge, a 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday. Total: 19.3 miles.

The first three years of this race, it was held in January. Year one (2012), the race was two days off from my 39th birthday. I can’t even remember how or when I decided to do it this way, but I traveled alone for a long weekend, and I had a blast. I stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, which is a beautiful, sprawling property with immediate access to Disneyland. It was my first trip to Disneyland and I felt like a kid. The course was fast and fun, and the whole thing was so great that I had to do it again.

Through a weird twist of timing, the race was pushed back one week the second year, and so I ended up being 39 twice when I ran it. Year two, since I was heading into 40, I decided to celebrate by doing a Coast to Coast challenge, which nets you a special Run Disney medal on top of the regular finisher’s medals.

For leg one, I ran the Disney marathon in Orlando (my third time on that course), and then – less than a week later – turned around and headed to Disneyland with my family, as well as my sister’s, to complete my second annual 39 year old Tinkerbell half-marathon. There were eight of us for a long weekend, and it was a great trip. We stayed again at the Grand Californian and spent Saturday and Sunday (post-race) at the parks. My kids loved hanging out with their older cousins (my sister’s two sons), and it was absolutely awesome to have someone cheering for me at the finish line, which almost never happens since most of my runs are solo.

Last year, I came alone again and couldn’t get into the Grand Californian (full), so I decided to stay at the Park Sheraton (about a half mile away) and collect some Starwood points as a bonus. The hotel was a lot less expensive than the Grand Californian and while it wasn’t as nice or as convenient, it was ok.

This year the race was moved to May.

Now I feel this weird legacy to the Tinkerbell half-marathon, and I had it in my head that I wanted to compete five years in a row, if possible.

So here we are in year four.

Getting to Anaheim was also a challenge this year; the flights would only work for me to be able to pick up my race bibs if I came in on Thursday night, so I did.

But that meant the sub-24 hour home visit before heading out.

Both kids pleaded for me to stay home. Heart officially broken.

I was already 99 percent sure I would cancel and live without my stupid self-imposed Tinkerbell streak, but Spouse stepped in and said Everything Would Be OK, and I should go.

So I did.

I’ll post about the races later, but I’ll stop here to officially thank my Ever Patient Spouse, who really is Dad of the Year. Thank you for this Mother’s Day!

Ipad artwork from Trixie:

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Running in the Happiest Place on Earth

Today and tomorrow, I’m running in the Glass Slipper Challenge, back-to-back races (10K on Saturday and half marathon – 13.1 miles – on Sunday) that are part of the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Both events are at Walt Disney World and are part of the Run Disney race series. These two races will be my seventh and eighth Run Disney events, respectively. Since I already ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January, I’ll also (hopefully) get a special Coast-to-Coast medal for running races in California (Disneyland) and Florida (Walt Disney World) in the same calendar year. (Why do I do this? Well, I am a huge, shameless sucker for bling and love a challenge).

The first race I ever participated in was the 2006 Walt Disney World Marathon. I’d always wanted to run a marathon, but never had the time or confidence to train.

In June 2005 I finished my OBGYN residency and moved from Colorado to Texas to start my fellowship. Before leaving Denver, I’d been running a lot with my friend W, who first invited me to run a half marathon with her.

Even though I’d been a runner since my high school cross country days, the longest distance I’d ever completed was eight miles. But W and I started running together several times a week, and the miles would fly by. Soon we were able to churn out nine miles, then ten, then twelve. We ended up finishing two half marathons before I moved.

Fast forward to Texas, July 2005: I was awed when a new acquaintance casually mentioned that she’d done the Disney Marathon four times. She highly recommended it for a newbie, as there is a lot of support along the course and plenty of novelty to keep your (fatigued) spirits up.

I signed up the next day. 

The Disney Marathon takes place every January, usually on the second Sunday. It winds through four of the WDW theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Disney characters line the course and many runners stop for a photo op with Mickey, Goofy or a favorite Princess or Villain.

My goals for my first marathon were fairly straightforward:

  1. Finish the race
  2. Finish the race without humiliating myself in some way
  3. Just keep running

And I did it! I was so happy. I finished in 4:24:24, which isn’t setting any world records but was plenty fine with me.

Since then I’ve done the Disney Marathon two more times, plus four other marathons and about 15 half marathons. I like to always be training for something, because I really need that tangible goal to look forward to. And did I mention how much I love the bling?

Friends, please keep me in your thoughts and mentally send best wishes for fresh legs, fast feet and good races this weekend!

Lean and Mean for 2014

Hmm, what should I eat?

On Sunday night, I got home late from a weekend trip to run in this race (more below), and I found myself staring into the refrigerator and silently asking that exact question.

But notice: “What should I eat?” is very different from “What do I want to eat?”

Want: M&Ms. Tortilla chips. Pizza delivered to my doorstep.

Should: Well, really just about anything else than what’s listed above.

I know this. I do. But like most people, I wax and wane on how stringent I am in applying this template.

I really admire my friend Amy, who is a dietitian and fitness/wellness coach. She is very inspirational and always walks the talk. When it comes to clean eating and healthy living for her whole family, she’s got it going on. Thankfully she includes me in a wellness group and often sends poignant quotes, ideas or recipes (even for feeble me!) my way. Thanks, Amy! I really strive to apply her 80/20 principle, which is to eat well 80% of the time and leave 20% for (responsible) indulgences. The main problem is that if I am honest with myself, I’ve spent more time in 20/80 mode than 80/20.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also been able to catch up on some magazine reading during my two cross country flights. A few blurbs got my attention. One was from the back page of this month’s Self (or was it Fitness? Sorry). I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist was that a friend of a celebrity asked said celebrity – known for her famously fit body – how she did it. Answer? She exercised for health and well-being, but what really made a difference is that when it came to diet, she didn’t cheat. Ever. Celebrity: “You know how you are doing really well and then you go on vacation or to a special restaurant and you go all out? I don’t. Ever.”

A second essay that spoke to me basically said this: Yeah, we all know it and don’t want to admit it, but 90% of how you look is what you eat. My good friend D. and I were talking about this point last week. D. recently completed a fitness evaluation and was – on the eve of a milestone birthday – deemed supremely fit for his age and was significantly leaner than when he previously did the eval five years ago. His numbers were enviable. How did he do it? Exercise was a key component, but he also changed the way he eats, particularly portion size and not stuffing himself to the point of discomfort. (Me: Guilty, Your Honor).

So where does this leave me? As I mentioned above, I ran the Tinkerbell half marathon at Disneyland (part of a series of races sponsored by Disney, which I will extensively post about in the near future) on January 19th. Conditions were perfect, the race went well, I felt strong and the miles quickly flew by. I was #1055 out of 11,490 runners.

But – I was six minutes slower than last year. Granted, last year I was slightly younger and in better shape, but I also weighed about 10 pounds less. Reportedly, every pound lost can yield 2 seconds faster per mile, so 10 lbs x 2 seconds x 13.1 miles = Nearly the whole time deficit. Ugh. To top it off, every pound lost also results in 4 pounds less stress on the knees, and mine have recently started complaining after more than 25 years of running. Double ugh.

So it’s time to do something about it. Here’s my plan:

  • Weigh myself every day. Numbers don’t lie!
  • Drink at least 64 oz of water every day (if you recall, one of my New Year’s Resolutions).
  • Almost entirely avoid alcohol (I already started doing this back in November for other reasons, and I feel great. I used to love a big ol’ glass of wine at night, and at first, I missed it – a lot – but now, not at all. And I sleep a lot better).
  • Continue to run, add new types of exercise, including stretching and some basic body weight exercises (think lunges and push ups) every day.
  • Here’s the hardest one for me: Be accountable for portions. Document calories. Budget them. Spend and save where appropriate.

Not really sexy, but it’s sensible. Now please excuse me while I fill up my water bottle.