What I’ve Learned Running 10 Marathons in 10 Years

January 23, 2018
10 marathons 10 years

Back in 2008 when I ran my first marathon, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be a fun challenge so I signed up for the 26.2 journey around Walt Disney World. That first marathon was less than stellar – I was undertrained and really didn’t enjoy the journey like I should have, Over the past 10 years, running 10 marathons, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the distance. Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned.

Best Damn Race Cape Coral Medal

The pain doesn’t last forever

Sure, at the time you are at mile 22, you want to throw in the towel. Its hard to pull yourself out of that exact moment and realize the heaviness you feel in your legs is going to subside. You are almost done – really and truly (just don’t let a spectator tell you that!). Know that what you are feeling is going to go away. Listen to a different song or repeat your feel good mantra in your head. If marathons were easy, a lot more people would be doing them.

Get out of your head

I realized how powerful it is to think positive thoughts this last marathon at Disney. I could have chose to just get through the race, thinking I used up my energy before the race as I navigated to the start. But I didn’t. I put in the training and effort and I wanted the reward. I really believe telling myself I could do it was half the battle.

Break up the race into chunks

I choose to break up marathons into 5 mile chunks. I choose this cadence because I take in solid fuel every 5 miles, so it just works for me. I’m always conservative from miles 1-5, get in my groove from 6-10, focus on goal pace from 11-15, dig a little deep from 16-20, and then from 21-25, its all about knowing you can do what your body is telling you otherwise. Of course, that last mile is where I just take it all in, reflecting on the last 25 miles I’ve already tackled and looking forward to crossing that finish line.

Kentucky Derby Marathon

Crossing the finish line never gets old

The first time crossing the finish line at the Disney marathon was just as amazing as crossing it 10 years later. Every training cycle poses different challenges. For me, its been navigating college course work, to planning a wedding, to raising a family. Fitting in training isn’t easy, but you have to really want it and truly work for it. Finishing this distance is always such an accomplishment.

Recovery is just as important as the runs themselves

Learning to recover is so so important. About 7-8 years ago, I was all about running.all.the.miles. I would wake up on a Wednesday morning and get in 10 miles before work, only to run a 7 mile tempo the following day. Rinse & Repeat. In that training cycle, I ended up hurt and burnt out. My back went out 9 days before the race and I could hardly walk, let alone run. Luckily, I learned from that experience. My body is not one that functions at its best at high mileage. I hardly run 2 days in a row now. While that works for plenty of others it just doesn’t work for me

Long runs are incredibly important

Really and truly, if you don’t get in your long run each week, you can kiss hopes of a successful race goodbye. You have to build that endurance to be on your feet, running for 3, 4 & 5+ hours. You just can’t simulate that fatigue any other way. Of course, there may be a week or 2 where you have to skip due to illness, but these are those times where the recovery outweighs the run itself.

Disney Marathon 11

To race fast you have to run at race pace (or faster)

You can’t just hope to run fast on race day without putting in the training during your other runs. With that said, every run doesn’t have to be one that includes speed. Learn to read your body and see what works for you. Include race pace training into your weekly running, especially long runs. Knowing what race pace feels like at the end of a long run will only help you on race day.

The whole race isn’t going to be fun

Let’s be real – there are times during a marathon where you might want to quit, especially the first handful that you run when you don’t know what to expect. For me, that was 3 marathons. It took me three marathons to really figure out the distance – how to effectively train for them, how I’d be feeling during certain spot s in the race, etc.

Disney Marathon 4

Reaching big goals is insanely fun

There is nothing like training your butt off for 16+ weeks and reaching a big goal at the end of the race. There is so much sacrificed in a training cycle, whether it is time out with friends, early morning cartoons with kids, or early nights because, hey “I’ve got a long run on the morning”. Conquering a big goal makes each one of those early mornings worth it.

What lessons have you learned as you’ve run more and more long distance races?

 

The 2018 Walt Disney Marathon: Recap

January 9, 2018
Disney Marathon 9

Man oh man, this race was one I will never forget. I experienced the highest of eyes and the lowest of lows, all in a few hour period. Let’s start from the beginning. It’s along one, so get ready.

Early last year, right after signing up, my friend Meg sent over a link with a great offer for lodging for the race. We opted to stay at the Hilton Bonnet Creek, as the hotel is pretty much on Disney property and they have a marathon weekend package, geared at making the participant’s life a little easier. There are cheer squads, pre-race snacks, a concierge to help with questions, and most importantly, transportation to and from the race. My family stayed back in Tampa, and planned to head to Orlando the morning of the race.

Disney Pre Race

With a 5:30 am start time, , we had to be ready to go by 3:30am. Race day traffic is insane so you want to give yourself plenty of time to get there. The last bus left at 3:45am, so we were downstairs and ready to go! I grabbed my pre-race coffee and we hopped on the bus. It was nice and warm in there, so we were pretty happy to spend some time being protected from the 41 degree temps outside.

We were on the bus for about 15 minutes, going all over the place when we literally passed right by our hotel again – hmmm, strange – bad sign #1. We were now going in the right direction, headed to the runner drop off at Epcot. We pulled up next to the Swann and Dolphin resort and immediately stopped in grid locked traffic – there were 3 lanes merging down into one, with no one directing the traffic. I remember looking at my watch and it was 3:57. Around 4:10, the driver put the bus in park to deal with an issue with the bathroom door locking from the inside, with no one in it – bad sign #2. When he came back to his seat and tried to move forward, the bus was giving him an error. It wouldn’t move an inch. OH SHIT.

For the next 30 minutes, the 17 runners that were on board went from antsy, to concerned, to straight up pissed. It was getting closer and closer to the time the corrals closed (5am) and we had to get to the start. The driver kept telling us he wasn’t opening the door. We had to stay put. After multiple attempts of everyone asking, begging, & pleading (accompanied by many less than stellar words) to get off the bus, the driver finally opened the door so we could disperse. Good riddance.

Everyone who was on the bus scattered, knocking on people’s windows to hitch a ride. With traffic still at a standstill, I opted to start running toward the start, along with a few other. I made it about 12-15 minutes before a nice gentleman named John picked me and another guy up to bring us to the start. He was running the full for the first time and was nice as can be. I am forever grateful that he grabbed us, as the start was even further away than I thought. I would never have made it in time.

When I hopped out of his truck, I had to continue to run to the starting corrals. Since I had done this race back in 2008, I remembered there was quite a hike from the parking lot to get to the start, so off I went. I finally landed in my corral at 5:14am, just 16 minutes before the start. Luckily, the corrals were not truly closed at 5am, so I was able to wiggle my way through the crowds pretty easily. I looked down at my Garmin and saw I already had taken over 5000 steps so far. Awesome. Running 3+ miles before the race even started was not in my race day plan.

Disney Marathon Start Line

At that point, I had so many thoughts running through my head. Am I going to have to give up on my 3:30 goal, right from the start? How was I going to run an 8 minute pace after expending so much energy already? Between the mental frustration and the physical effort, I was already feeling tired. Then, I snapped back into reality. I sure as hell didn’t wake up at 4am for the past 3.5 months to let this happen. I was giving this race my all, crappy pre-race or not. I was prepared to slay this race, and that’s exactly what I set out to do.

Once the gun went off, I was off with the rest of the A Corral to conquer 26.2 miles in the happiest place on Earth. The first mile was a little slow since the crowds were so big, so I knew I’d have to make up some time. After that I knew the next few miles always fly by, but even more so when its dark. I took a quick pit stop at mile 4, and continued on, taking everything in. I saw Lightning McQueen and Mater and immediately thought of my son Grant and how much he would love to see those two! It was the perfect way to make me smile. I was very focused on my pace, since I really didn’t want to start out too fast. I think running the 3 miles before the race helped to hold me back a little bit, as 7:50ish was really comfortable right now.

Mile 1-4

The first park we made it to was the Magic Kingdom, right at mile 5. Cinderella’s castle is so beautiful all lit up and I couldn’t help but smile so big when I saw it. We went through Tomorrowland, I gave Buzz Lightyear a wave, and then we were headed right through the castle. Frontierland was next and then I think we headed out a side entrance.

Disney Marathon 1

 

Disney Marathon 2

We ran past the Grand Floridian and some other resorts and now I was really in my groove. My goal pace was right on target and I was feeling great 7 miles in. I had taken in water and Gatorade twice by this point , and then a pack of fruit snacks I brought with me for fuel. I tend to take something from each aid station in marathons, alternating Gatorade and water, and then only water when I eat anything solid. Its worked really well for me in the past and this time was no different.

Miles 5-7

There were a lot of highway miles ahead now, and I knew I would need to focus for about 5 miles until we got to Animal Kingdom. There were a lot of character stops along the way, so I took it all in, passing each one and just giving them a quick wave. I wasn’t stopping for any character photos if I was going to be reaching big goals!

Mile 8-12

Animal Kingdom came and went pretty fast. I enjoyed getting a peek at the World of Avatar, since I hadn’t seen it yet. It was really impressive and I can’t wait to get back! I felt good at this halfway point and did a quick assessment. Up to this point, all of my miles except for 2, were sub 8. I was feeling good and had zero thoughts that I wouldn’t be able to get to my 3:30. I had a lot left in me and considered picking it up a bit. Given the pre-race fiasco, I wasn’t sure how much I’d have left come mile 22+, so I decided to keep it conservative. My current pace was what I was going to have to hold. Right around that point, I gave my husband a quick call to see if they had made it to Epcot. I knew traffic was crazy and since they drove over from Tampa, I wanted to check. They were all set and ready, just spending some time between the monorail and Epcot to keep the kids entertained!

Disney Marathon 3

 

Disney Marathon 4

 

Disney Marathon 5

I had a lot of highway time in front of me, as I knew the Wide World of Sports was up next, but not until mile 18. I checked off each mile from 13-18, hitting my pace with no issue. I wanted this PR. So bad.

mile 13-18 splits

For me, mile 18 is when a marathon really begins. The first 18 miles tend to be a warm up. The last 8 mile stretch is the time that sets a long run and race apart from each other. My previous marathon experience has taught me this exact lesson. Everything can change after this moment – only if you let it.

Running in the Wide World of Sports completely brought me back to my college racing days, as I ran both cross country and track meets on that same course. I mind was definitely occupied during miles 18-20, so that was a really nice break from thinking about what I had left to do.

Disney Marathon 11

Mile 19-20 was the first time I was starting to feel a little tired. I kept a close eye on my legs, making sure I wasn’t slowing down, or trying to speed up. This was not the time for either scenario. Holding that pace was what really needed to happen. 8 minutes and under, check (but just barely).

Mile 19-21

Mile 22

I find that miles 21, 22, & 23 are the toughest of this course. You are running from the Wide World of Sports to Hollywood Studios and there is an uphill at mile 22, taking you from one highway to another. It’s just enough to feel the increased elevation, but not enough to fatigue your legs entirely. This is where the mental part of running is so apparent. Knowing that hill was no biggie was just as important as actually running up it. I couldn’t afford to slow down. I was literally seconds away from running a sub 3:30 or not. Watch check – I was just over 8 minute pace. Yikes. Knowing I was sub 8 for most of the race made me realize I could afford a couple extra seconds per mile from here to the end of the race. Just not too many.

Mile 22-23

Once I got into Hollywood Studios, I was ready to be done. My legs were so tired and I could really feel that I had already covered the 26.2 mile distance. There was no way in hell I was slowing down now – I only had 3 miles left – a simple 5k. If I slowed down now, I’d lose my PR and my sub 3:30. I wanted this big finish so bad and knew there was only one thing left to do – haul my butt to the finish, see my family waiting for me, and get that gorgeous medal. It was as simple as putting one foot in front of the other through Epcot. 8 minutes and 8:03 for miles 24 & 25. I had this. I knew it.

Mile 24-25

For those of you who follow my on Instagram, I shared the race on my stories through the race. This was when I grabbed my phone in Epcot and I very confidently exclaimed I was “going to PR this baby!”.

Disney Marathon 5

I knew it. I was there. This mile was the cherry on top of this whole journey. I took my head phones out, as I do at the end of every marathon, and just enjoyed these last few moments on the course. 7:56 for mile 26. That’s what I needed.

Mile 26

I turned the corner and saw that finisher’s chute. I had talked to my family at mile 24.5, and they told me right where they were. I looked for them and saw two sweet little boys giving their momma the biggest smiles and waves, along with my husband, and my sister, who flew down to see me race. I lost it. My happy tears and huge smile were flowing.

Disney Marathon 6

 

Disney Marathon 7

 

Disney Marathon 8

The finish line was just yards away. I threw my arms up in the air as I crossed the finish line, grateful for the ability to have run this race at all. Starting the morning not knowing if I would even make it to the start, to crossing the finish line with a minute + PR and an amazing Boston Qualifying time, was a storybook ending. It’s only fitting that it happened at the Disney Marathon.

Disney Marathon 9

I grabbed my medal, my mylar blanket and a special 25 year anniversary gift (Mickey ears!!) and made my way to see my family. The last 3.5 months of early mornings, tired legs and mile after mile were all so well worth it. I finished with an official time of 3:29:37 – a perfect 8 minute per mile pace.

Disney Marathon Finish

 

 

Disney Marathon 11

I hobbled my way to the car with my family (nope, did not hop on a bus back!) and have never felt so fulfilled. I’m hanging my marathon hat up until this time next year, when I start training for Boston 2019!

Disney Marathon 9

What a day. What a marathon. What an amazing race. I guess its true what Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Its the not the destination, it’s the journey.”

End of 2017 Update

December 19, 2017

Summer and fall both came and went, and now somehow we are a week from Christmas. So much has happened between then and now, most notably an amazing family wedding, marathon training, and two kids who are getting so big, so very fast. Here’s a very quick update!

My twin sister got married in September up in Cleveland, Ohio and it was just amazing. It was the perfect weekend of family time and celebration. We spent about a week up there, on the tail end of evacuating from the hurricane, so it was quite an adventure. We all had a blast and are thrilled to (officially) have a new member of the family.

Emily's Wedding 2

Emily's Wedding 1

I’m training for the Disney Marathon and just finished up the big build with a trio of 20 milers. I am shooting to go for anything under 3:35, with my top a goal of a PR, which would be just under 8 minute pace. My long runs have been right around the 8:15-8:20 mark, so its definitely going to be a lot of work. I’m really looking forward to tackling my 10th marathon at the same race I finished my first marathon!

22 mile long run

Marcus has taken a big interest in photography and has really been perfecting his craft. He’s been slowly taking on clients and the images he is producing are amazing. Of course, he takes so many pictures of the kids so we have an amazing collection thus far. I am thrilled to have all of these wonderful images for so many years to come. He’s also taken to gardening and we now have an amazing garden he’s really put a lot of himself into. We’ve been getting some tasty green beans, greens, & arugula and are just about to get some more food to harvest!

Christmas 2017 Family Photo

Davis is 18 months old and absolutely thriving. He started daycare back in August and is learning so many new things each and every week. He is running around like a crazy man, knows so many words, and has a personality that can’t be touched. Exhibit A:

Davis upside down

Following in his big brother’s footsteps, he loves trucks, trains, buses and cars and helps to point out any that he sees. If something doesn’t quite go his way, he lets us know quickly. His temper is one we are quickly learning has a very short fuse, but luckily, he doesn’t hold on to those tantrums for long at all. We let him have a moment to collect himself, and everything else tends to reset itself pretty easily.

Davis 18 months

Davis has earned the nick name “Monkey-Do” as he wants to do absolutely everything his big brother does, to the T. He is so much more of a risk taker than we are used to and makes sure we all know about his daring outlook. He is my little cuddle bug and I am so very blessed to have this little guy in my life.

Davis park 18 months

Grant is just a few months shy of turning 4 and I am amazed how grown up he is getting. He says the funniest things and is an incredible communicator. I am shocked daily at his sentence formation and ability to really have a conversation.

Grant 3.5 years

He is always on the move and continuous to live for trucks. When I asked him what he wants Santa to bring him, all he spits out is anything with an engine – cars, semi trucks, and cement mixers, of course.

HX0A2752 (1)

He has so much love for his little brother, even though Davis may not want to show it externally as much 😉

Davis and Grant hugs

Grant loves to go on runs with me now, and is always asking to hop out of the stroller to join me. He usually makes it a block or two, and then throws in the towel. I’m teaching him slow and steady is the way to go, and he is slowly learning. I just love that he enjoys something I love so much, and am even more excited that it is something he has chosen to take interest in. I guess the hundreds of miles he has spent in the stroller has had somewhat of influence thus far 😉

I hope to be able to post a bit more regularly come 2018, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself to make it happen. These little boys take up most of my time and they are definitely my priority! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Marcus and Mary 2017

 

A Long Weekend in New York City

August 15, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, we headed off on a great trip to New York City to celebrate my father in law’s 65th birthday! Over a year ago, he came up with the idea to treat Marcus, myself and my sister in law to a fun trip to celebrate his milestone birthday. He came up with the idea of a long weekend in New York (sans little ones), and we were all sold!

Mary and Marcus NYC Summer 2017

We arrived early on the Friday after July 4th and didn’t leave until Monday, so we had a really nice, full 3 days to explore. We stayed at an Air BnB just a few blocks from the Flatiron building, so our location was fantastic. We were just a couple of blocks from the subway, so getting around the city was no problem at all!

Here are my favorite highlights of our long weekend. By the way, the amazing photos are compliments of my husband Marcus. He did an amazing job!

Walking the High Line

This was our very first stop after grabbing lunch after we got in on Friday. It was a little over a mile from where we were staying, so it was super easy to get to. We enjoyed some time just strolling and people watching on the old rail way line. It was quite busy when we were there, so the next time I go back, I’d love to catch some time up there right when it opens in the morning.

Highline flowers NYC

Running in Central Park

Getting to run in Central Park was a must do on my list, and I was lucky enough to be able to do it twice! On Saturday morning, Marcus woke up with me and we up that way – he grabbed a Citi bike and I ran from our apartment.

Mary Central Park 2017

It was a little over 2 mile to get to the park, so from there, we just started exploring a bit. He had to stay on the main path since bikes aren’t allowed in the inner areas of the park, so he ended up ditching his bike in favor of taking more pictures on foot. We came up on the reservoir, so I was sure to grab a couple of laps while the sun was coming up. It was gorgeous! My run rounded out just over 8 miles, which was plenty, given our sight seeing schedule for the rest of the day!

Central Park Reservoir

We went up to Central Park again on Sunday and I opted to stay on the outer loop and get in the full 10k. My legs were trashed from so much walking the day prior, but I just couldn’t give up running in 67 degree weather in July. It was such an amazing treat!

Brooklyn Bridge Context Tour

If you enjoy tours when on vacation, I can’t recommend Context Tours enough. They aren’t the big group, herding cattle, can’t hear a thing the guide is telling you kind of tour. There were a max of 6 people who could be in our group, and since there were already 5 of us from our family, we had a nice private tour.

Brooklyn Bridge Summer 2017

It was a 3 hour walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge, which started in Manhattan, took us over the bridge on foot, and ended in Brooklyn Heights. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable and it was really fun to see a part of the city I hadn’t had much exposure to before.

Brooklyn Bridge Summer 2017

Dinner at Bobo

Marcus and I treated his dad and his dad’s fiance to dinner at Bobo on our second night, and it was hands down one of the top 5 best meals I’ve ever had. It’s located in the West Village, so it was in another area of the city I hadn’t been to before. We had some great wine, I had a superb duck dish for dinner, and the service was stellar. I really can’t say enough good things about the restaurant.

Dinner at Bobo

World Trade Center Memorial

The memorial was an absolute non-negotiable for my trip to NYC. I hadn’t been there before and I am very glad that I went. We did not do the tour or actually go under the pools to see the ruins of the old towers, but we did experience the etched names in the marble, the somberness in the air, and the rushing of the water that seemed almost deafening at times.

World Trade Center Memorial 2

We did so much more than the 5 experiences I listed, but this post would get way too long if I recapped the whole trip.

Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Heights

Thanks again to my father in law for treating us to this great trip! It was a much needed break from grind and a fun time to get away from Florida for a few days!

Happy First Birthday Davis!

June 6, 2017

Sweet Baby Boy, Happy Birthday!

I can’t believe you are already a year old! My how time has flown this year! You are now a babbling, crawling, food flinging little boy and I wouldn’t have it any other way! You daddy put together an amazing video to commemorate the past year, and I absolutely love it! Check it out!

I sure love that he makes these videos for you and Grant, little man. It is such an amazing way to document these fast flying days!

We celebrated your birthday at our house with our closest family and friends. It was such a beautiful day and was truly the perfect way to rung in your first year! You crawled around, ate some yummy tacos, and of course had some cake to smash. You weren’t sure what to do with it at first, but once you figured it out, you ate the whole cupcake! It was pretty adorable.

Davis 12 months

We went and had your one year check up, and you are growing perfectly! You weighed in at 19lbs on the nose and are 29.5 inches long. You fit comfortably in 9 month clothes and size 3 diapers, and have been wearing some size 3 shoes. We had to go buy you your very own sneakers, since you are so much smaller than Grant at the same age. You two are so very different, and I just love it!

We’ve noticed your persistent personality shining through these days, as you let us know what you want, when you want it! You have this face you make when you are whining and it cracks me up. You squish your nose and make such a sour face. It’s just too much!

Davis 12 months_2

You are crawling around and pulling up on absolutely everything. You want to walk so so bad, but you can’t seem to gain enough stability to actually keep yourself up right. I’m sure you will start any week now, and our lives will change (again!). As soon as you start to walk, you will be able to go to school with your brother. You’ve been hanging with your two grandma’s, as well as Ms. Dawn, during the week. I know they are really going to miss you once you are in school full time, but I am so excited for you! Hanging with other kiddos your age will be so amazing for your development!

Davis, you are a crazy man at the park! You love watching the big kids play and no longer want to just swing the whole time. You usually have two hands in the dirt and consistently throw (and eat!) the dirt and leaves. Getting dirty at the park is probably your favorite thing!

Davis 12 months_4

You and I are still going strong with breast feeding and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. It is a nice part of the day where you and I get to just hang. You haven’t shown any signs of weaning yet, and I am a-ok with that. The health benefits are far too valuable for me to justify stopping. I’d love to get you through a few months of school before we wean you, k?

Davis 12 months_3

We still spend tons of time at the pool, between swim lessons and the JCC up the street. You absolutely love the water and just kick your feet and flail your arms whenever you are around it, including bath time. You are the epitome of a water baby, that’s for sure!

Davis, thank you for letting Daddy and I share this wonderful first year with you. You are such an amazing addition to our family, and I couldn’t be more proud to be your momma.

Davis 12 months_5

Love you so much, sweet pea!