The Dopey Challenge From A Front-Mid Pack Runner's Perspective

The Dopey Challenge From A Front-Mid Pack Runner's Perspective

From a front/mid pack perspective, multi-race runDisney weekends can really be a drain on your whole weekend if you don't prepare accordingly. It's all about setting expectations for each race before the weekend and staying disciplined to those expectations. Otherwise, the most magical place on earth may end up giving you a world of hurt.  

Dopey Challenge: Have a Playlist or Two. Or, Five!

I've been a bit quiet on this front due to as of late, I've been dedicating my time to a real, honest-to-God, legit running article that is with my editor before being published in a national environment (heh, listen to me, "My editor." I'm like a regular Meyer Berger). It was tough to dedicate my time to that and to this, so this sat still while that was completed. Now that is done, this is this and that is that. Umm, err, yes. Quite.

I'm not going to go on about my love for music and running. I've done that enough in the past. The only thing that I will say is I need it to run and give my playlist a lot of thought. More uptempo, heavier, bouncier tracks for 5ks, since I need to sprint the whole time. Slower, more thought consuming, inspirational tracks for longer races so I can set in cruise control for awhile.

Music. My first love.

Music. My first love.

So, how to approach the Dopey Challenge? Well, for one thing, my regular 5k mix has too many uptempo tracks and would drain my energy, leaving nothing for the other three (and much longer) races. So, I needed to determine the right amount of inspiration but also tracks that would keep me on an even keel. The same would go for the 10k and half marathon. The marathon is a whole other story.

I also have to mention, some of the songs are pretty bubble-gummy and ones that aren't normally on my playlist. But, with the amount of running that I will endure over the weekend, anything with a beat will suffice.

Pre-race Mix: 

This is a mix I use when milling about on race morning/in the corrals. It keeps me calm and focused. Some uptempo stuff, but mostly chill.  In no particular order:

- Appalachian Morning: Aaron Copland (The Boston Pops Arrangement)

- A Tale (Chilluminati Mix): Cirque du Soleil (It's from La Nouba but remixed version on their Tapis Rouge album)

- Love: Delerium (featuring Zoe Johnston) From the Chillout 2003 Album (I lived off of this album while in Hong Kong in '03).

- Heart's Content: Brandi Carlile

- You Can Do It: No Doubt

- Right Here, Right Now: Fattboy Slim

- Howlin' for You: The Black Keys

- Under Pressure: David Bowie & Queen

- This Heart is a Stone: Acid House Kings

- Redford: Sufjan Stevens

- Mystery: Lake Heartbeat

- Aganju (The Latin Project Remix): Bebel Gilberto

- Olympic Fanfare & Theme: John Williams

5k Mix

I need to keep it low key to conserve energy for the next days' events. But, also add in a little something to keep my effort up.

- Lost My Way: Lecrae (I don't know who this is, but the beat is ridiculous).

- Rock with U: Janet Jackson

- Bezerk: Eninem

- We Will Become Silhouettes: The Postal Service

- Theme from Iron Will: Joel McNeely

- Rocket: Mae

- Reflections of Earth: Epcot Illuminations

- Magic to Do: Patina Miller & The Players (Pippin)

10k Mix

Same idea as the 5k, but a little more diverse music.

- Carry On Wayward Son: Kansas

- From the One 2: BEEF Wellington

- Drove Me Wild: Tegan and Sara

- Theme from Iron Will: Joel McNeely

- Go Kindergarten: The Lonely Island

- I Cry: Flo Rida

- My House: Matilda the Musical Original Cast

- Reflections of Earth: Epcot Illuminations

- When Can I See You Again: Owl City

- Wild Ones: Flo Rida

- The Last Starfighter (Theme): Craig Safan

- Rock With U: Janet Jackson

Half Marathon Mix

This one's tricky, since I will be rabbiting my wife for this, so it's really her race. I just need music to keep my pacing her properly.

- A Tribute to the Film Composer: John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013) 

- All I Do is Win: DJ Khaled

- Always on the Run: Lenny Kravitz

- Anything: Mae

- Berzerk: Eminem

- Bounce: Fatty Koo

- Carry On: Fun.

- Carry On Wayward Son: Kansas

- Cowboys Overture: John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013) 

- Don't Tell Me: Madonna

- Driving the Last Spike: Genesis

- Drove Me Wild: Tegan and Sara

- Drowned World/Substitute for Love: Madonna

- Face to Face: Armin van Buuren

- Far and Away Suite: John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013)

- Fireflies: Owl City

- Fix You: Coldplay

- Flying (Theme from Hook): John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013) 

- Forever: Drake

- Free Ride: Jefferson Airplane

- Give Life Back to Music: Daft Punk

- Good Life: Kanye West

- Higher Ground: Red Hot Chili Peppers

- Hollywood Nights: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

- I Cry: Flo Rida

- Lights (Bassnectar Remix): Ellie Goulding

- Lost My Way: Lecrae

- Make Em Say Uh: Master P

- Mr. Brownstone: Guns 'n Roses

- New Map: M83

- Out of My League: Fitz & The Tantrums

- Reflections of Earth: Epcot Illuminations

- Rock with U: Janet Jackson

- Rocket: Mae

- Scream: Michael & Janet Jackson

- She Sells Sanctuary: The Cult

- Shine Sweet Free: Michael MacDonald

- Steps in Time Finale: Steps in Time (old California Adventure show)

- Test Track (2013 Theme): Test Track

- This is What It Feels Like: Armin van Buuren

- This is Your Life: Switchfoot

- The Wave: Randy Edelman (from Angels in the Outfield)

- Work Hard, Play Hard: Wiz Khalifa

Marathon Mix

Really hoping I'm still alive. This mix will be a mess of everything, but I will have a few power songs at the touch of a button if things get rough.

- A Tribute to the Film Composer: John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013)

- All I Do is Win: DJ Khaled

- Always on the Run: Lenny Kravitz

- Anything: Mae

- Back to the Future (Theme): Alan Silvestri

- Berzerk: Eminem

- Bounce: Fatty Koo

- Boys and Girls: BEEF Wellington

- Carry On: Fun.

- The Champ: Nelly

- Cowboys Overture: John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013)

- Don't Tell Me: Madonna

- Driving the Last Spike: Genesis

- Face to Face: Armin van Buuren

- Fix You: Coldplay

- Flying (Theme from Hook): John Williams (from his Film Night with the Boston Pops, 2013)

- Good Life: Kanye West

- Hall of Fame: The Script

- He Lives in You: Lebo M (Rhythm of the Pridelands)

- Hearts on Fire: Cut Copy

- I Cry: Flo Rida

- I Play Music: Rosie Thomas

- In Orbit: John Williams (from SpaceCamp)

- Kings and Queens: 30 Seconds to Mars

- Lights (Bassnectar Remix): Ellie Goulding

- Lost My Way: Lecrae

- My Body: Young the Giant

- My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark: Fall Out Boy

- New Map: M83

- Nutshell: Alice in Chains

- Party Rock Anthem: LMFAO

- Reflections of Earth: Epcot Illuminations

- Scream: Michael & Janet Jackson

- Shanti/Ashtangi: Madonna

- She Sells Sanctuary: The Cult

- Theme from Soarin': Jerry Goldsmith

- Someone to Call My Lover: Janet Jackson

- Sometimes I Can't Make It Alone: Mae

- SpaceCamp (Main Title): John Williams

- Tapestry of Nations: Epcot

- This is What It Feels Like: Armin van Buuren

- This is Your Life: Switchfoot

- To the World: Kanye West

- Wasted Years: Iron Maiden

- We Will Become Silhouettes: The Postal Service

- When Can I See You Again: Owl City

- Wild Ones: Flo Rida

- WKRP in Cincinnati (Extended Version): TV Theme

- Work Hard, Play Hard: Wiz Khalifa

- Yeah 3X: Chris Brown

What are your musical preferences for race weekend?

2013 Running Year End Review

With Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon in my rearview mirror, my 2013 racing season has to come to a close. But, there’s little rest for the weary as I’m now turning my attention to the inaugural Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in early January 2014. A bit of background for those who aren’t familiar, the Dopey Challenge is four straight days of running; starting with a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and finally, a full marathon on Sunday. I have done a lot of questionable activities in my lifetime, but this may be the most questionable ever (definitely the most insane).  However, there is a place and time to discuss that undertaking and today is not that day.

What I’d like to share today is my 2013 year-end recap, where I recount my road races and significant running events that have impacted me throughout the past year. But giving a quick thought I could say my running performance in 2013 can be summarily expressed in one word.


2013 should really just be thrown out. In 2012, you couldn’t keep me from hitting the road, however my running this year felt like a chore and miles could easily be expressed more as “meh”les. I’m sure it could have been attributed to a lot of things, like new job, new city, etc. But, at the end of the day those are just excuses and my performance is purely a reflection of my motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enthused about running and have a lot of money on 2014 being a solid rebound year. However, my priorities have shifted from quantity of races to more quality running with form, stretching and nutrition to play a bigger role in my training. With that said, I set out to recap this year and by damn it I’m going to finish it.

I should have known this year was going to go straight to ass within the first month of the year. Why? Well, let's just say January wasn't a good month for races. My first race of the year was the Warm Your Heart 5k held completely indoors in Chicago's McCormick Place convention center. The race is billed as one loop, which is correct, it's just one loop. But, the amount of twists and turns along the course would make even the boldest rollercoaster jockey sick.
This is just the first room, too!
I also participated in my first ever Goofy Challenge in Walt Disney World this month, which is a half marathon followed the very next day by a full marathon. You can read the full recap here, but I’ll also give you the brief rundown.

My strategy was to relax for the half marathon and then race the marathon, and I thought I was in pretty good shape. On the Friday before the races, I participated in the Disney MeetUp with about 100 of my fellow runners and had an easy 3 mile shakeout run in Disney MGM (I won’t call it Hollywood) Studios, followed by an amazing meet & greet with Bart Yasso, Jeff Galloway, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Des Davila and others. 
Running Gods
Who's goofier?
On Saturday, I ran a very relaxed half marathon heeding my wife’s words of not to finish in under two hours, and finished in 1:59:57.  Following the race, I had felt fine with nothing more than the usual aches & pains associated with a half marathon. I even felt well enough to hoof it over to the Magic Kingdom for some much needed corndogs.  However, little did I know Sunday’s marathon was going to blindfold and hog tie me, spin me around 50 times, and then sucker punch me in the junk. 
13.1 done, 26.2 to go
So, come Sunday my race had started like every other long distance race, uneventful. However, at Mile Five my Achilles and Plantar Fascia decided to go their separate ways each taking a piece of my heel bone, splitting right down the middle. After a moment where I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head, I hobbled to the medical tent at Mile Nine, received some serious medical work (read: ace bandage, Tylenol and a maxi pad, the last one being a cushion in my racing flat), and then continued to limp to the finish in a somewhat impressive time given my injury. The epilogue to this story, I had to be in Boston for a job interview the very next day, meaning I wouldn’t be heading back to Chicago just yet. Therefore, I had to cobble together a makeshift splint as a triage with various items from the local CVS. I made my way to Boston rather broken, rocked the interview and then headed straight to the doctor when I got back to Chicago. 
To the victor go the spoils
This month had me sadly waving goodbye to my hometown Chicago for the waaam chowdah of Boston, Massachusetts. But, before I left I had the chance to put in two more races, the St. Paddy’s Day 5k (full recap here) and the ChiTown 10k (full recap here). I love these races since I essentially step out my front door and boom, Start Line. Talk about not wasting energy. The St. Paddy’s Day 5k is fun, because everyone runs and then drinks (although, that seems to be every weekend in the Windy City). Since I was nursing my heel fracture, I took it rather easy and just took in the wonderful sights of Chicago’s running paths. But what I remember the most was how balls out cold and windy it was. Even running couldn’t warm me up. Luckily, the festivities did after. 

So cold
ChiTown 10k was a little different as it was two races in one, a 10k and a half marathon. Although this would be my last race as a Chicago resident, I chose the 10k as my heel was nearly healed. At the beginning of the race 25 or so of us were upfront and in a pretty tight pack when we reached the Mile One marker. However, the race volunteer had accidentally sent us into a parking lot and then it was like the cows had gotten out of the pen. We all kept running, but continued to look at each other to see if anyone had any idea where we were going. After about four miles, we started to see other 10k runners coming directly at us! It turns out, the race director saw the mistake after we had passed, stopped the race, reset the course and restarted the race. We had no idea and ended up essentially running the course backwards. He ended up offering everyone a refund, but since he owned up to immediately (unlike other races, Hot Chocolate) we decided to let it pass.

Of course, we all know what happened in April with the Boston bombings (read my initial thoughts here). I had been living alone in Boston for about three weeks and had traveled back to Chicago to get my wife and meet the movers. Honestly, we had no idea what had happened since everything we had was boxed up and ready for the truck. It was only until later that day, I picked up my phone and saw I had about 50 calls, 100 texts and Facebook messages. Nearly everyone I know had reached out thinking I was either running Boston or was in the crowd, and when I didn’t return any messages (I was packing) people panicked. I still think about if I hadn’t gone to Chicago to finish packing where would I have been along the course?

Boston Strong
I also ran my first Boston race in April. The Spring Classic 5k in Cambridge (full recap here) was a few weeks after the bombings so there were a lot of smiles and camaraderie among runners. You could definitely feel relief in the air. Not only was this my first Boston race, it was also the first time I had ever run an organized race in traffic! Seriously! Early into the race I was doing about a 7:18 pace p/mile and all of a sudden, I felt this lingering presence directly behind me. Thinking it was another runner, I picked up my pace hoping to shake the guy over my shoulder. But, when I picked up the pace so did the presence behind me. Finally, I turned around expecting to see some jerk drafting off me, but instead it was some guy in a Nissan. Clearly, the marshals hadn’t paid attention and this guy found himself on the course. If that wasn’t bad enough, he started honking at us to get out of his way. Thankfully, he exited without killing anyone.
Better than any medal
This month was my first serious Boston road race experience with the Boston’s Run to Remember half marathon (full recap here). Since this was the first big race after the bombings it was a pretty emotional run for a lot of people. Even I choked up a little when running past MIT where all of the campus police were out on the road high fiving runners (for those of you who don’t know, the officer who was killed by the bombers, Sean Collier, was an MIT campus police officer). The race took us through Cambridge and the greater Boston area so it was nice for a newbie like me to get a good tour of our new home. Emotions aside, the weather was absolutely terrible with rain, wind and near freezing temperatures. Being new to the area, I didn’t really have any experience in coastal weather and overdressed. Near Mile Nine I was so hot, I had to stop and peel off my warm weather tops so I could breathe. Although, my heel issue was a huge drawback in the offseason, I still put in a near PR-worthy effort. If I would say one race went well this year, this would be it. I also recall having tough time getting to the race, which added to the prerace adrenaline and I think helped my performance. 
A terrific race
Okay, so July had nothing to do with running. But, in this month I had the opportunity to see my all time, absolute, all powerful idol, John Williams. JOHN FREAKING WILLIAMS!!!! It was at the Boston Symphony and he played all of his best film scores. It was transcendent to say the least. You must read this recap. Click here

Let’s jump to August and my next big race, Disney’s Dumbo Double Dare Challenge in California (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3). The race was held at Disneyland and comprised of a 10k on Saturday and then a half marathon on Sunday. I had never run a west coast race and was happy it was somewhere we could spend a few extra days. The highlights of the trip were plentiful and can be read in my full report here; I’ll just focus on a few for this post. I think the biggest challenge was how to run two competitive races in two days and not kill myself on the first day. A lot my training had been consecutive day runs, but seldom, if ever, were they both at race pace. I figured if I could maintain an easy 9:30 pace for the 10k I’d have plenty of gas in the tank for the half marathon the following day. Not to mention I had been sidelined two weeks up to the race with a terrible ankle pain (which felt strangely like a stress fracture) limiting my training. So on race day, I queued up with my wife and friends in Corral E and set about an easy pace, essentially stopping to smell the roses if you will. The course started out in the surrounding Anaheim area, but quickly moved into California Adventure winding backstage, out past World of Color with its fountains glistening in the brightly hued colors of the show lights ablaze.  Heading through the exit gates of DCA, the course then took us all about the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland, which I really enjoyed since all the east coast Disney races have very limited access to its Magic Kingdom. We even traveled backstage and the castmembers were ready, cheering us on. Some even had signs celebrating us runners. As short as it was, I really enjoyed the race. 
The expo was a marathon in itself
The half marathon was a bit of a different story. Granted, a half marathon is a relatively long distance to cram into Disneyland’s small campus, so I understood it all couldn’t be contained on property. I also applaud the Disney for trying to keep the race fresh by funneling runners through Angels Stadium at the midpoint mark. However, the rest of the course was a mix of industrial complexes and major roadways making the race rather boring once we passed the gates of the magic and into Anaheim proper. Not to mention, the whole weekend was hot, like fry a runner on the sidewalk hot, which really affected my races. 
I have no idea where all of those medals are
While not the greatest races, this was far and away our favorite trip of the year. I participated in the MeetUp on Friday, finally met some great friends face-to-face, saw old friends, experienced Trader Sam’s, and had great experiences all over DLR. We are already talking about plans to go back as soon as possible. 
@SeeSharpRun @ConnieKos @JennRunsDisney

This month was bittersweet as it took me back to my hometown of Chicago for the Chicago Marathon (full recap here), one of my favorite races on the planet. It was bittersweet not just because I miss that city, but also because my wife would be missing the race for the second year in a row due to injury. At the expo (quite possibly the best expo in the country), I ran into some Twitter friends and had a great conversation with Bart Yasso about running motivation. Thanks to the year’s previous performance, I moved all the way to Corral C, which is a huge deal, at least to me it is. Sadly, my training and performance did not meet the expectations for that corral and I finished with a measly four-hour time. Next year. Next year.
Tough to earn

Bart Yasso - the man
My final race of the 2013 season is the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Orlando (full recap here). This race is my absolute favorite race of them all. I love running at night and doing it through the parks is the icing on the cake. This year was extra special since my wife and I had some dear friends running their very first half marathon. I think this is the perfect first half marathon, since being at night, there’s less outside stimuli to distract and you really have to focus on your running to succeed. I’m also a little impartial since this race was my first half marathon back in 2011, some 38 races ago. I love the whole aspect of the race – get a group of crazy runners to run in the dead of night, traipse some of the best sights in the world, and then get wasted until 4am. Win! Sadly, for the third straight year, my wife wasn’t feeling so hot and we had to retire to our room at the Boardwalk before the party ended. Someday we’ll crack the issue. Again, a lack of training put me on the slow path to finish, but no matter since I had such a great trip.
Love this race.
That's a wrap!
I think what’s most evident about my running performance this is due to a lack of training. But, while the lack of training may be the most transparent theme, I think the underlying issue was I didn’t enjoy running as much as I used to. Nearly every time I approached a training run, it was because I had a race in the near future and had to improve my time. Rarely was it because I just wanted to get out there and run. In fact, looking back over the year’s training I had noticed my times were best when I ran after a bad at the office or other stressed related experience. You know, it brings to mind something I’ve heard in reference to fighter pilots. Some get so transfixed on a target, they lose their peripheral vision and end up in a way worse situation than if they just looked at the whole field of battle. I guess that could be said with my running this year. I was so fixed on race after race after race, I missed sight of what’s important and burned out too early.

Therefore in 2014, I’m going to get back to basics, remembering what it’s like to enjoy the run and care less about what place I come in. For races, I’m still going to train hard and you probably won’t see me at as many. But, the ones where you do see me, I’ll be more than ready. I know it will be hard to employ this strategy immediately with Dopey on the horizon, but I’m going to approach that weekend with a different perspective. It will definitely be more about having fun and throwing in some running to even it all out.

So, that was my 2013. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have safe and happy holidays. I'll see you at the Start Line in 2014. 

Run fast, run smart.

Happy Holidays!

DLR Half Countdown Post #4: Last Minute Details

By now, you should be ready for the race and this week is all about low running and heavy carbing up. 

If you haven't read my other posts, check them out here:

Post #1: Keeping Calm Before the Race

Post #2: What to Pack

Post #3: Conserving Energy at a Destination Race

Also, if your friends are looking for sign ideas: Race Sign Ideas

This final DLR post is dedicated to the remaining odds n ends that you may want to think about before hitting the road to hit the road. 

The Expo
I love race expos and Disney puts on some of the best in the biz. Since they have something for everyone, they are also notoriously tightly packed and navigating them can be difficult. If you absolutely need the pick of runDisney branded merch, it's best that you get there on Day 1 right when it opens. We don't collect any rD stuff (save for the magnets), so we usually go on Day 2 and by then, most of good rD stuff is gone (well at WDW races it is). If you want to enjoy all the sights and sounds, I recommend you pick up your bib/shirt/bag first and then work the aisles (also, if you want to switch shirt sizes you'd better get there early too). 
If this is your first time or 50th time visiting an expo, the biggest takeaway from visiting is nothing new on race day. That means all the cool stuff you just bought at the expo should probably stay in its bag (unless you are just replacing things you are used to such as gels, headbands, etc). Apparel is a big no-no.

The People 
runDisney enjoys a large, passionate fan base, many of whom will be holding meetups all over Disneyland property all through the weekend. Check out a few blogs, Facebook and Twitter to see if there are any you want to join.
Here are a few running groups to investigate, look at their websites or Facebook pages to get itineraries. Stop by and say hi.
Team runDisney FB Page
Pacebook Running Club

The Location
This race isn't in the middle of nowhere, it's at Disneyland! There is so much to do outside of running, make sure to experience it. Sure, there are usual E-ticket attractions to see, but take some time to just walk around and drink it all in. I, personally can't wait for Trader Sam's, Mr. Toad, Carsland, Blue Bayou, Fantasmic and the Matterhorn, just to name a few. Make sure to wear comfy shoes, though!

There you have it, gang. Keep your eye out on my Twitter posts in the coming week for the chance to win some great prizes.

Enjoy the races. Run fast, run smart!


DLR Half Countdown: Post #2: What Should I Pack?

Okay, gang, we’re a little less than 3 weeks out for the big races in Anaheim. Last week, I told you how I keep myself calm and focused when stuck in the sea of runners, otherwise known as the Start corrals.

But, today I wanted to talk about what to bring to make sure you remain focused on your running goal and not where to find running socks the day before the race starts. Let me also say there are a lot of bloggers out there giving similar advice on the matter. To that, I say check them out, too. Look at folks’ different perspectives, but also look at the similarities to aid in your decision. 
So much stuff. And that's just running gear!
While running may be the simplest of sports, ironically runners bring tend to bring the most crap, since we are so particular. Destination races are tricky, since you have to be prepared for anything and everything without over-packing. My wife and I are no exception. I will check, double check and triple check the weather in the days preceding a race, but inevitably I won’t trust it and dump my running drawer into my suitcase.

“To carry on or not to carry on?”

By all means, carry on! The airlines these days just aren’t what they used to be and the last thing you want is your favorite pair of racing flats to end up in Fargo, North Dakota when you need them most. You don’t have to carry it all on, but your race day attire should never leave your side. Here’s the running gear that goes in my carry on:

1x half marathon racing flats (I’ll wear my back ups on the plane)
1x running socks
Running belt (a game day decision)
2x headphones (I HAVE to run with music)
Garmin 610 + charger
2x compression shorts
1x running shorts
1x singlet
iPod shuffle + charger (See why)
iPhone + charger

My "can't run without" gear + iPhone (not shown)

Although, I will be running a 10k and a half marathon, in a pinch I could get away with most of the same gear. 
And since a lot of my readers are of the female persuasion, I asked my wife to share her carry on gear to give you ladies a sense of what she brings (she pulled rank and removed her run-dies from the picture). 

The missus' gear.
1x running shoes (she's not as shoe crazy as I am)
1x running socks
1x headphones
1x iPod + running armband
Garmin 210 + charger
1x running shorts
1x singlet
1x sports bra
Sports tape
Travel deodorant
1x Sweaty Band
1x Road ID

"Check that stuff!"
Now, all the extra crap we tend to check in our bags. While still essential, if it were to get lost I wouldn’t be SOL on race day.

1x 10k racing flats (I'm pretty particular about my shoes, but most folks can get away with 1 pair)
3x running socks
My RoadID
GU gels/Honey Stingers
Band-aids, Tylenol, Bio-Freeze, Ace Bandage, Body Glide
1x compression shorts
1x nubby ball
1x travel roller stick
4x running shirt
2x running shorts
Bathing suits
Comfy shoes for after the race/walking around. I have these great Chaco Kolb flip flops that are amazing. Expensive, but my arches are well supported.

If you forget anything or your luggage gets lost, remember Don't try anything new on race day! Buying stuff is great at the expo, but be careful! If it's tried n true things like GU or similar, you're probably okay. Shoes, shorts, shirts, new foods, bras, run-dies tend to be a bad decision. 

As I mentioned at the top of the post, use this as directional advice as well as other folks' posts. But, at the end of the day you have to be comfy, so pack what you need!

Hope this helped and happy running!

Overcoming the Funk: Help Me Get My Running Mojo Back!

As I sit here, writing this week’s post (weekly?), it will have been about 8 days since I have gone out on a run. Sure, I may have walked 500 miles around Disney World last week, but for all intents and purposes, not one structured run. This is really odd, since I usually put in about 5 runs a week (if I’m not injured or having a post-race rest), but lately my motivation, well has been…..nonexistent.

I know I need to get out there, I have a slew of major races on the horizon like the Disneyland Half Marathon & 10k, Chicago Marathon, Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and the tortuous Dopey Challenge in January. The urgency to get ready is real it’s just nothing, nada, zip, zilch, no go. I’ve been racking my brain trying to understand the reasoning and I think I have it down to a few reasons (although, this is nothing more than fruitless attempts to find rationale and not the sheer fact I’m being lazy). 

"Meh." Source: Internet

Weather: Hey, I know it’s summer. Suck it up! Any runner will tell you summer running sucks, but you endure. I see the rain outside or look at the temperature and go, “Eh, I’ll go in the morning tomorrow.” Which, once tomorrow comes, the snooze button just looks so tempting I have to indulge.

Location: As I get more accustomed to my new city of Boston, I’m finding it’s really not that conducive to running (just like how no one here will rent to dog owners, yet everyone has a dog). The path along the Charles River is broken or mismatched concrete and on one side of it you need to stop every half mile for a stoplight. I guess I was really spoiled by the long stretches of Chicago’s Lakefront path, where you could just go and go without stopping.

Lack of Races: Boston also doesn’t have a lot of road races in/near the city. We haven’t gotten a car yet (no one has a car in Chicago so we didn’t need one), so any races in surrounding suburbs are out of touch. I used to do one race a month, now it seems like 1 race every 2-3 months. I’m the kind of person who needs that race motivation to get serious; otherwise it’s just running for health, whoop-dee-doo.

What’s the Point?: As mentioned earlier in the post, we went down to Florida last week to see friends and family. While there, we went to Disney World and I couldn’t help but notice the amount of electric “Rent Me” wheelchairs that were in service. I understand these are invaluable to those who truly need them, but clearly there were a plethora of those who didn’t require any help (we saw one lady get out of hers to get in line at the turkey leg cart). It really struck me in a way that I can’t shake. If other people don’t care about their health and we as a society enable them milk the system to their advantage, why the Hell am I running 50 miles a week. Heck, maybe I should just by a Hummer and buy a house next to a fast food restaurant. This should be motivation for me to work harder, yet it’s had some kryptonic effect on me.

Running Has Gotten Boring: Yep, I said it. Running has gotten boring. I’ve been through slumps before, but this is different. Music that once got me motoring is now flat and my feet seem heavy. It used to be on my runs, someone would pass me and I would get a little flame within to say, “Go get that guy.” Now, it’s like “Meh, I’m good.” This is the scariest of them all, as I really do love to run and participate in this passionate community of runners.

Perhaps, this is all some kind of pity party and I should just put on a pair of one of my many running shoes and kick myself in the ass to get out the door.

So, I’m asking you, running community to help me get my running mojo back. It’s somewhere out there, stranded on the side of the road, a blown-out tire without a pump. C’mon guys, be my pump (is that weird?) Tell me if you have ever been in a running funk and how did you pull out of it. New music, mental techniques, heck, I’ll even listen to astrology charts if it works.

Help me get back out there and enjoy the miles.

In My Ears

Yes, I haven't posted in awhile. New city, new job, blah blah. Let's all just move past it.  There's a lot I want to talk about and will get to it in due time, but tonight I want to continue my series on good, check that, great running tunes. If you haven't read my first post on some great tracks, you can read it here The Importance of Music When I Run

I gots ta have the music!

Music is just as important to me as my racing flats. Being a musician, I have a deep connection to it and need it to do my best. The songs I recommend may not do anything for you, but for me they make me fly. Here are some tracks that have been recently rotated in my race mix:

1. Workin' Day and Night: Michael Jackson
From 1981's "Off the Wall." Uptempo and filled of funky grooves. Sure, the guy was batshit crazy, but he made Thriller. Thriller.
Grade: B+

2. Good Life: Kanye West (feat. T-Pain)
Two things I hate, Kanye West and AutoTune. Why do I love this song? More importantly, why do my splits improve 18 seconds when this song comes on? Someone figure that out and get back to me.
Grade: A (hush hush)

3. Give Life Back to Music: Daft Punk
Opening track of their new Random Access Memories album. This song is the balls! It lays down the smoothest grooves that set your mind on aural cruise control, letting your legs just run. It certainly doesn't hurt that the drummer on this track is legendary studio legend, JR Robinson. You may recognize his drumming from MJ's "Off the Wall" and "Thriller." Thriller
Grade: B+

4. This is What It Feels Like: Armin van Buuren (feat. Trevor Gutherie)
Wanna have some fun? Powersong this betch right when you think you have nothing left in the tank. You're welcome.
Grade: A

5. Viva la Vida: Coldplay
Sure this song is a little played out, but Coldplay to white people is like new car smell. You absolutely love it, but have no idea what it's made of. I just tap my feet and move on.
Grade: B (something made me want to type and A, but I fought it off)

Hope you enjoy the tunes in this brief post. Next week, I'll have some good material on recent races and all the crazy runDisney stuff that's been going on. Stay tuned!

Disney World Introduces Offical Dopey Challenge & New 10k!

Well, the worst kept secret is now official. Starting in 2014, Walt Disney World will be adding a new challenge and a new race, a 10k, during the WDW Marathon Weekend in January.
Are you Dopey enough to run 48.6 miles?
From RunDisney's blog:
"The most magical miles on earth just got a little more… challenging, but only in the most exciting way of course! The 2014 Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna® will feature the brand new Dopey Challenge, a four race event complete with six, that’s right, SIX finisher medals to take home!
Runners may feel a little Dopey and even a bit Goofy at weekend’s end, but after all, they will have finished 48.6 magical miles!  The Dopey Challenge will start with a 5K on Thursday, the inaugural Walt Disney World 10K on Friday, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Saturday and cap off the weekend with the Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday. Those who register for the Dopey and complete each event will not only earn four race medals, but will also take home the Goofy Challenge medal and the all new Dopey Challenge medal.
With the addition of the Dopey Challenge comes a whole new race, the Walt Disney World 10K.  The timed 6.2 mile course will be hosted at Epcot® on Friday morning. Minnie Mouse will join the likes of her pals Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy as the inspiration for the 10K medal.
You can join in on the fun when registration opens April 9, or sign up early with the Runner’s World Challenge on April 2. There are limited spots for both the Dopey and Goofy Challenge, so be sure to sign up to receive an email reminder for registration launch to reserve your spot at the starting line!"

Walt Disney World® Marathon
  • $160 by June 18, 2013
  • $175 between June 19, 2013 and August 13, 2013
  • $190 on or after August 14, 2013
Walt Disney World® Half Marathon
  • $160 by June 18, 2013
  • $175 between June 19, 2013 and August 13, 2013
  • $190 on or after August 14, 2013
Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge
  • $340 by June 18, 2013
  • $370 between June 19, 2013 and August 13, 2013
  • $400 on or after August 14, 2013
Walt Disney World® 10K
  • $95 by June 18, 2013
  • $110 between June 19, 2013 and August 13, 2013
  • $125 on or after August 14, 2013
Disney Family Fun Run 5K
  • $60 per participant
Dopey Challenge
  • $495 by June 18, 2013
  • $525 between June 19, 2013 and August 13, 2013
  • $555 on or after August 14, 2013
runDisney Kids Races
  • $15 per child
Mickey Mile
  • $30 per child
Race Retreat Packages
  • $120 Half Marathon Package
  • $120 Full Marathon Package
  • $200 Goofy's Challenge Package
 So, who's up for a little running in January???????

Race Etiquette: Racers & Organizers, We're All in This Together

As much as we all want to run the perfect race, inevitably there will be race day obstacles that will require us to modify our strategies. On some occasions, the race day changes are beneficial (i.e starting early to account for extreme heat), but for the most part, they are usually a hindrance that have the potential put us in a bad race mentality. 

These obstacles are most noticeably inflicted by our fellow runners who are too tuned into their own race strategies to be cognizant of others, or runners who are so new to races they aren’t familiar with the unwritten runner’s code of etiquette. Not to be left out, race organizers also need to ensure they are doing their part to make sure everyone feels comfortable (to some degree) when the gun goes off.

To see what irks runners the most, I conducted an extremely unscientific survey (Twitter, Facebook, Always Running Forward website), asking runners what peeves them the most? As you read on, see if you agree or if you even have been guilty of some of the items listed.


1. Corral JumpersDefined as racers who did not qualify for a specific corral who weasel their way into a faster one to start early.
This is my absolute biggest pet peeve! If you didn’t earn it, you shouldn’t be there. Organizers set corrals to make sure runners are racing with people who have similar skills, thus a smoother overall race. Corral jumpers clog the system, forcing runners to serpentine and even add the potential for accidents. Just don’t do it!

2. Walking – Before you blow a gasket, I don’t want you to think the issue is with walkers overall, everyone getting out on race day is already a win. In fact, Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of systematic walking during a race. The problems arise in where and when walking occurs. A few examples kept rising to the top of the list:
            a. Stopping without notifying racers – If you have to stop and walk, make sure to move out of the flow, raise your hand up, and gradually slow down. Some runners will even yell, “Stopping” to alert folks behind you. C’mon, do you really want a runner ramming into you at Mile 21? Probably not
            b. Walking wideWalking wide refers to more than 2 walkers side-by-side or in the center of a race path. Races, typically don’t have wide paths (we’re spoiled with Disney races), so when there are more than 2 walkers side-by-side, it gums up the race and is a real potential for injury. Runners may have to jump on the median, or even slip outside the course to get by. If you have a group together, please start farther back in the race to where it’s more manageable for everyone.

3. Stopping at a Water-Aid StationDefined as the act of going to the first volunteer and stopping immediately. It’s extremely dangerous to do this, there a ton of runners coming in behind you and the area is most usually very slippery. If you need to stop, by all means do so, but work your way through the aid station and then slow down/stop near the end to make sure you and other runners are safe.

4. Taking More Than Your Fair ShareDefined as overindulging in the post-race goodies. Bagels, bananas, Powerade, cheese spread? (Disney), all provided after a race to keep runners moving after a long race. Yes, the costs for these are included in your registration, but a lot times there is just enough to go around. You are not going to be the last person to finish, so please remember that before you grab 4 bagels and 3 bananas.

5. Attitude – I can’t believe this even showed up on the list, but I guess I’ve seen a few. The absolute thing I love most about running is it’s a “low attitude, high camaraderie” sport. When you PR, folks are genuinely excited for you and bummed when you had a bad race. If you fall down, someone will help you up and they aren’t going to care what your shoes look like. People race the course and race themselves. That’s what matters.

So, that’s the runner-to-runner pet peeve. What about races themselves? Well, I also received some great feedback on race organizers and runners’ expectations:

Race Organizers

1. Inaccurate Race Length – If a race is advertised as a 5k then it should be 3.1 miles, not 3.2 or longer. A lot of runners use races for qualifying for other races and need them to be precise. USATF certify your race.

2. Poor Communication – Both on the front and back end. Make sure racers know of any last minute changes before the race and then keep the lines of communication open after the race, especially if there are major concerns. For instance, a race organizer here in Chicago had an absolutely abysmal race. They had poor bib pickup, lost racer’s times, even had multiple racers for one bib. When runners took to social media to express their frustration, the organizers took too long to respond and when they did, their message was more or less, “Sorry, stuff happens.”  It peeved a lot of runners who vowed not run that race again, myself included. Runners are social people, be social with us.

3. Poor Bib Pickup/Expo – If we can get our bibs fast, we’ll probably stick around and spend some money. Make packet pickup smooth and create a fun expo atmosphere. The Chicago Marathon has a terrific model.

4. Goody Bags – I think we can all agree a lot of the stuff in goody bags goes to waste. Organizers should consider e-bags, which contain waste (and production costs) and force the runner to decide what’s most important.

5. Oversold Races – Organizers know the course, they should know how many can safely navigate it. No one wants to run shoulder to shoulder for the entire race.

So, those are the top instances as defined by the running community. While the post was many about peeves, there is also some praise that needs to be called out.

Spectators: The more the better. Who can deny the best feeling in the world is turning onto Main Street USA and seeing the amazing group of spectators cheering you on?
Names on Bibs: Runners like when spectators call out their names during races. It certainly helped me during my last marathon.
Great Courses: Disney owns this one. But, if you don’t have a billion acres of theme parks, think about scenic areas in your region that may be fun to run.
Great Races: For every bad race there seems to be 100 good races and we don't want to forget that. If you are getting good feedback, keep doing what you are doing.

Are there peeves or praise that I have left out? I want to hear about it. Post feedback below, Always Running Forward Facebook Page, or Twitter (@disnyrunr24)

Happy Running!